Results tagged ‘ International League ’
Way back in 2010, when I decided to visit as many MLB and MiLB parks as I could and start The Ballpark Guide, my first stop was in Rochester. (If you want to read my first ballpark visit blog entry, you can do so here. Just excuse the wonky formatting.) In the years since, I’ve thought fondly of Frontier Field and always looked forward to returning. I got back to Rochester for another visit last summer, but when I was planning my current 13-day baseball road trip, I couldn’t resist starting out at Frontier Field.
Leading up to this trip, there were many reasons to be excited about returning to Rochester. First, the overall selection and quality of food is the best I’ve encountered. Second, I think Frontier Field is beautiful; it’s one of my favorite places to watch a ballgame. Of course, before I got to kick back in the sun and enjoy something tasty to eat, I had to cross the border. Ugh:
It’s a long weekend back in Canada, so the traffic was ridiculous. I sat within sight of the border crossing for 45 minutes before getting through, and then it was clear sailing all the way through to Rochester. If you’ve read this blog for some time, you’ll likely recall that I like seeing a few sites in each city I visit, time permitting. One spot I wanted to check out this time is Rochester’s High Falls, which looked cool online and isn’t too far from Frontier Field. Although it’s not exactly Niagara Falls, it’s a neat scene and worth visiting when you’re in town:
In fact, it’s just a short walk from the ballpark. Here’s the view from the opening of the walkway leading toward the bridge over the falls. As you can see, the ballpark is in the distance:
I always wander around whenever I get to a ballpark, and even though this was my third trip to Frontier Field, I stopped to take this panorama by the front gate:
I think you’ll agree that it’s a beauty of a ballpark. One neat feature that I hadn’t noticed in the past — or perhaps that’s new — is some old seats from, I’m guessing, Silver Stadium:
Silver Stadium was the home of the Red Wings from 1929 to 1996. In fact, I plan to check out the site of the old stadium today before tonight’s game.
As usual, I took a walk around the perimeter of the ballpark but this time, I didn’t go nuts with photos. I’ll just share this one:
I’m a sucker for modern brick parks, as I think they do an awesome job of paying tribute to the history of the game. The wrought-iron bars and old-style lights really give you an feel of what a park might’ve looked like several generations ago.
During this visit, the Red Wings were providing me with a media pass, so I wanted to get in early and check everything out. A quick thanks to Tim Doohan for the pass; Tim was with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last season, and provided me with a pass during my visit there, too. Instead of going straight up to the press box, I went down to field level and saw that Rochester had just started hitting:
As you’ve seen in the past, I enjoy trying to collect a baseball from each park I visit. Getting in early means that I technically could’ve snagged a dozen BP home runs and foul balls, but I didn’t think that was very fair. So, in a move that might make you ballhawks’ heads explode, I tossed balls back onto the field when I found them. While walking through the seats and across the grass behind the outfield fence, I came across several balls. Some were partially hidden:
And others were easy to see:
Watching BP is one of my favorite experiences in baseball, and I prefer it at the minor league level. Instead of standing in a crowd of screaming fans at an MLB park, MiLB parks are virtually deserted during BP. I always make a point of sitting near the field and just taking it all in. One of the cool things about being in the park before it opens is seeing sights you wouldn’t otherwise see. For example, here’s a member of the visiting Durham Bulls hanging out with Red Wings pitcher Caleb Thielbar during BP:
And here’s Rochester manager Gene Glynn talking on his cellphone in the stands:
Back to the ballpark itself: As you no doubt know if you’ve been to Rochester, it’s impossible to miss the Kodak building, which looms just across the street:
Much of the area beyond the outfield fence is closed off during games, but given that it was still open, I walked through the grass and watched some BP with this view:
The area around the Rochester bullpen was lined with lilacs, and I thought this made for a neat photo:
After walking around the entire park and watching a lot of BP, I decided to go up to the press box to check out the view:
It wasn’t long before I noticed these guys standing below me:
What the heck? I began to see more and more guys dressed like ballplayers from days of yore, so I quickly went back down to field level and it felt like I’d stepped onto the set of Field of Dreams. It was an odd juxtaposition. When I looked the left, this is what I saw:
But when I looked to my right, here was the scene:
When the Bulls wrapped up BP, it became clear that these old-timers were getting ready to play a game. Their umpire, who doubled as an announcer for the curious fans who entered the ballpark shortly after the historic game began, provided some clarity. The players were playing a short exhibition game with 1866 rules — no gloves, underhand pitching from 45 feet and no balls and strikes. It was fascinating. When the umpire called a batter to the plate, he yelled “striker to the line!” The umpire, dressed in black, is below:
As much as the 1866 version of the game was different, it was neat to see how much today’s game is similar — despite its evolution. I think guys today are thankful for the gloves, though. Imagine fielding a line drive with your bare hands.
Just as the game was wrapping up, I returned to the press box to meet up with Chris Fee. I got to know him a bit on Twitter a couple years ago when he was writing for the Bus Leagues Baseball website, and now he’s doing a bunch of Red Wings/Twins stuff for Twins Daily. It’s always neat to finally meet someone you’ve conversed with online, and Chris is a good guy. Give his Twitter account a follow and you’ll be glad you did. We blabbed baseball for maybe 15 minutes before I went back to field level to watch the warmups, which had begun after the clock struck 12 on the 1866 game. Here are a couple Bulls you’ll probably recognize:
That’s Shelley Duncan, who’s played more than 300 games in the bigs and Tim Beckham, the 2008 first-overall draft pick.
I wanted to take another full lap around the field before the game began in a few minutes, but the outfield was blocked off. As I turned to head back toward the third base line, a baseball caught my eye. It was stuck in the fence directly behind the visitor’s bullpen. Since the gates had been open for nearly an hour, I didn’t feel bad about grabbing the ball.
Once the game began, it didn’t take me long to seek out something to eat. I consider two items from Frontier Field as among the 10 best things I’ve ever eaten on my travels, but I was determined to branch out on this visit. I returned to the Red Osier concession stand but instead of getting the delicious sandwich I enjoyed last year, I got the R.O.B.B. sandwich — double roast beef on a salt and caraway seed bun with au jus sauce and plenty of horseradish:
It was absolutely delicious and I can safely say it’ll crack the top 10 when I redo the list in the off-season. Wow!
As for the game, I was especially excited to see prospect Wil Myers. Prior to the season, he was ranked fourth overall by Baseball America and MLB, and it’s always neat to see a top prospect in person. I grabbed a seat behind home plate with this view:
The view, however, was better than Myers’ results throughout the game. He went just 1-for-5 and left three runners on base.
One guy who isn’t struggling is Wings first baseman Chris Colabello. He went 2-for-4 to boost his average to .350. He’s also got 11 HRs, 31 RBIs and an OPS of 1.059:
By the fifth inning, I can’t stay I was hungry, but I was hoping to find something else to eat. I don’t normally eat desserts at ballparks, but I’m always intrigued by Frontier Field’s crepe stand, so I decided to get an order of crepes with ice cream, fresh strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream:
Again, absolutely incredible! It didn’t taste like ballpark food; if I’d received it at a decent restaurant, I would’ve been more than happy.
Once dessert was down, I snapped this shot of the nighttime scene and the Kodak building in the background:
And then moved behind home plate where I enjoyed this view for the rest of the game, which Rochester won 11-6:
Funny thing about baseball — Rochester cruised through much of the game, leading 11-0 at one point. In the eighth, Durham’s offense went nuts and scored six runs. By the end of the once-lopsided contest, the Bulls had outhit the Wings 12-11.
Yesterday’s visit just reaffirms how great Frontier Field is. I’m already looking forward to getting back there later today for the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game. It features a bunch of retired MLB legends, and promises to be entertaining.
I’ve said before that there’s nothing like the first ballpark visit of the season, and while that’s true, I’m always extra pumped for my first extended road trip of the year. Already in 2013, I’ve been able to hit four games — a doubleheader at Syracuse’s NBT Bank Stadium and a pair of Blue Jays games at Rogers Centre. If you click this link, you can see a list of everywhere I’ve been and also bring up my blog entry about each visit. Those trips were the appetizer to the main course that is my May road trip, which begins on Friday.
I’ve taken road trips in May for the last couple years. In 2011, I visited nine parks in 11 days and in 2012, I went on a grueling seven-park, four-day trip. The schedule I’ve come up with for this year will be my longest road trip to date but one that is sure to be awesome.
Here it is:
Friday, May 17: Durham Bulls at Rochester Red Wings
Rochester’s Frontier Field is the first ballpark I visited after starting The Ballpark Guide in 2010, and while the park has sentimental value to me, it’s also one of my favorite places to watch a game. Geographically, it’s a logical starting point for this trip, and I can’t resist stopping there again.
Saturday, May 18: Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game in Rochester
As you’ll see, I’ll end up spending a couple days in Rochester and will be lucky to attend the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a number of MLB legends up close. Some of the game’s all-time greats, including Johnny Bench, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Trevor Hoffman, Reggie Jackson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Schmidt and Ozzie Smith will be playing. As excited as I am to see those guys, I’m most excited to see Fred McGriff, who was my first favorite ballplayer back when he played for Toronto in the ’80s.
Sunday, May 19: Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians
I’ve been to Cleveland’s Progressive Field three times since 2010, and consider it one of my favorite places to visit. But, as you’ll see later in this post, this won’t be my only chance to see the Indians at home.
Monday, May 20: Bowie Baysox at Akron Aeros
I’ve seen Bowie play at home and Akron play on the road, but haven’t yet visited Akron’s Canal Park. I don’t know much about the home of the Aeros, but do know about one notable concession item. The Three Dog Night is a hot dog stuffed in a bratwurst stuffed in a kielbasa, all loaded on a bun with sauerkraut and mustard. I guess I know what I’ll be having for dinner.
Tuesday, May 21: SWB RailRiders at Columbus Clippers
My visit to Columbus’ Huntington Park will be for a 10:35 a.m. game, which means May 21 will be an early morning. More importantly, Columbus will be the eighth International League team I’ll have seen play at home.
Wednesday, May 22: West Michigan Whitecaps at Dayton Dragons
It’s been a couple years since I ventured into Midwest League territory; back in 2011, I got to five Midwest League parks. I’m sure that Craig Wieczorkiewicz, the Midwest League Traveler, will have some tips for me about Dayton’s Fifth Third Field. (Coincidentally, I’ve also been to Toledo’s Fifth Third Field and West Michigan’s Fifth Third Ballpark.)
Thursday, May 23: Pawtucket Red Sox at Louisville Bats
Louisville promises to be an exciting stop on my road trip. In addition to seeing the Bats play at Louisville Slugger Field, I also plan to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum and, as a huge boxing fan, the Muhammad Ali Center.
Friday, May 24: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park looks like an awesome place to watch a game, and I’m looking forward to catching the Cubs in town for a pair. As an added bonus, this game will have my first fireworks show of the 2013 season and pre- and post-game hitting by the Long Haul Bombers. (Look ‘em up.)
Saturday, May 25: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
Whenever I’m visiting a new MLB park, I like to catch two games, if possible. I’ll spend my second Reds game checking out whatever I missed the day earlier, and I’m excited to get an MLB Network backpack, which is the giveaway of the day.
Sunday, May 26: Fort Wayne TinCaps at Bowling Green Hot Rods
Visiting Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field is one of the best ballpark experiences I’ve had so far, but this time, I’ll be seeing the TinCaps on the road in another Midwest League showdown. The Hot Rods are managed by Jared Sandberg, who playfully heckled my photo-taking exploits last summer. The team also includes big-time prospect Taylor Guerrieri, who I saw pitch last year at Fenway Park.
Monday, May 27: Kannapolis Intimidators at Lexington Legends
The Legends were a focal point of Katya Cengel’s book Bluegrass Baseball, which I read over the winter. Her chapters on the South Atlantic League franchise painted a picture of the club and the ballpark, and I’m excited to check both out in person. Lexington will be the fourth SAL city I’ve visited since 2011.
Tuesday, May 28: Greensboro Grasshoppers at West Virginia Power
And speaking of the South Atlantic League, I’ll visit Charleston, WV, to watch the Power host Greensboro on the penultimate day of my road trip. I’ve seen Greensboro once before (back in June of 2011 in a very memorable game) but have never seen the Power. I like the look of the team’s concession menu and the park looks great, too.
Wednesday, May 29: Cincinnati Reds at Cleveland Indians
Why am I making a second stop in Cleveland on this trip? Two words: Social Suite. The Indians have invited me to watch their May 29 game from the Social Suite, which is a Wi-Fi-equipped suite in which a handful of baseball fans and social networking types use social media to share their experiences. I’m absolutely pumped (and honored) to be checking out Progressive Field from this vantage point and will have more details as they become available. It should be a real highlight and I’m considering live blogging the day to share the entire adventure with you. Anyone else watched a game from the Social Suite? I’d love to hear your recollections.
So, a pretty good-looking two weeks, huh? And when the sun sets on my road trip …
… I’ll have seen 13 games in 10 parks in 13 days. This means that by the end of the road trip, I’ll have seen 75 games at 49 parks since starting The Ballpark Guide in 2010. Wow!
I’ll be tweeting through the trip and blogging as close to daily as I can manage. I’ll be staying in some neat hotels and checking out some cool tourist attractions, too. To keep on top of my travels, please follow me on Twitter. And if you enjoy following my adventures or have used The Ballpark Guide to improve your baseball road trip experiences, please consider making a small donation to support my trips. Otherwise, I really appreciate your hits on my website and blog.
Four more sleeps ….
Opening Day is the day that most baseball fans circle on their calendars each April, but for me, the day I think about the most is the day of my first live game. When I started The Ballpark Guide in 2010, my first game didn’t come till July. In 2011 and 2012, it was May. This year, however, I wanted to get a game under my belt early, as I’ve got some great trips planned for the spring and summer.
For the last month or so, I’ve been eyeing yesterday’s Syracuse Chiefs doubleheader at NBT Bank Stadium against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. As I wrote in my previous blog post, the Chiefs are the closest MLB/MiLB team to where I live and since visiting in 2010 for a game, I’ve wanted to get back to the Cuse. And though the forecast was calling for a high of about 46 degrees and a chance of rain, I decided to chance it — after all, 46 degrees and a little rain is better than the ice and snow back home, right? Fortunately, I didn’t see more than a few drops of rain on the drive and by the time I got to the ballpark, I was pleased to see this sign:
(It’s much better than the sign I saw when I tried to watch the Chiefs in 2011.)
After parking, I decided to walk away from the stadium to take some shots of this little train platform, appropriately named Chiefsville:
I also wanted to check out the far end of the giant parking lot in front of NBT Bank Stadium. As I walked across the lot, I turned around and took this panorama:
And then I took this shot:
Why? Well, before NBT Bank Stadium opened in 1997, the Chiefs played at MacArthur Stadium, which was located on this site. Minus a three-year window, it was home to the Chiefs between 1934 and 1996, so you can imagine the long list of stars who played here. Although there isn’t a plaque marking the area (at least there isn’t one that I noticed), it’s a neat spot to visit.
Next, I went up to the pavilion in front of the home plate gate to capture the park’s new sign and name:
The NBT Bank Stadium name is new — the name was changed in the off-season from Alliance Bank Stadium. As I’ve said before, I love the look of this ballpark from the outside. I’m a sucker for brick ballparks and the turret concept is cool:
Although I was tempted to grab my media pass and dash inside the park to wander around, I decided to take a little more time outside. I wandered to the corner of the parking lot beyond the right field corner of the field, followed a winding path up to a set of train tracks, wandered along the tracks and balanced on a rail while I took this photo:
OK, time to get inside. I picked up my media pass (thanks again, Chiefs!) and stopped to look at a historical display honoring a bunch of former Chiefs …
… before I hopped in the elevator and rode up to the concourse level. It was just after noon, and with nearly an hour until the gates opened and nearly two hours until first pitch, the concourse was very quiet:
In fact, so too was the seating bowl:
Obviously, with a doubleheader on the schedule, batting practice wasn’t in the cards, and with the cold weather, only a handful of guys were out on the field — all from the visiting Lehigh Valley IronPigs side. You can barely see them in this panorama:
While I was walking around, I noticed a familiar name on a sign — the Ramada Syracuse is not only the hotel I’d visit after the game, but it’s also the official hotel of the Chiefs. I’ll have much more on the hotel later in this blog post, but for now, it was cool to see this sign:
As I continued to walk around and take photos, I got a Tweet from the Chiefs, who’d been Tweeting with me over the last week or so leading up to my visit. The person behind the team’s Twitter account, Desiree Ellison, said she’d give me a tour of the park! Desiree works in the team’s marketing and promotions department, and as I soon found out, she’s a big-time baseball nerd — and I mean that in a completely complimentary way. (It takes one to know one, right?!)
Anyway, the first thing we did on our tour was go out on the field, which is something that never gets old:
We went into the Chiefs dugout where I snapped this picture of the helmet rack:
And, after turning 180 degrees, I took this shot showing manager Tony Beasley’s view:
Then, it was down the third base line to the home side’s bullpen …
… and even the sod farm behind the outfield fence. (I’ll spare you the photo I took of sod growing, but I thought it was neat.) Next, we went into the bowels of NBT Bank Stadium to see the indoor batting cages, which were quiet:
And then up to the press box, which has this view:
See the video board?
It was installed last year and I think you’ll agree it’s a huge upgrade from the board that was in use when I visited Syracuse in 2010.
The tour continued to the second deck, where Desiree showed me her favorite vantage point:
I’d use this spot throughout much of the game, as you’ll read soon enough. The tour was awesome; it’s always impressive to not only learn some interesting facts about a park, but also wander through some behind-the-scenes areas. Thanks so much, Desiree!
After the tour, I decided to check out the team’s souvenir shop, which is notable for having a working train ride the rails above your head:
There was a bit of a group of people in front of me, and after I snapped the photo of the train, I looked down and realized I was standing face to face with Chiefs (and former Toronto Blue Jays) pitcher Jeremy Accardo! He was signing autographs in the team shop so I got him on my game program:
By this time, both teams were out on the field, so I jetted down to field level to take in the sights. I like this shot of Syracuse’s Yunesky Maya, who started game one, warming up in the bullpen:
As I said earlier, it was a chilly day. In the sun, it was all right, but in the shade, it was very cold. It didn’t take long to notice how different guys were keeping warm:
But Syracuse infielder Mike Costanzo had a more traditional method of keeping his hands warm:
I spent the first inning in the lower seats along the first base line with this view:
As you can see, the park wasn’t exactly full, but on a cold day that coincided with the final round of the Masters, some people might’ve chosen to stay at home on the couch. (Mini rant: The Chiefs are the closest affiliated team to my home and if they were closer, I’d be at the ballpark all the time. Support your home team, people! There’s nothing better than live baseball.)
By now, it was after 2 p.m., I’d been up since 6 a.m. and at the park since 11 a.m. I was hungry. Desiree recommended the Pops Special hot dog, so that’s what I went with. It’s a hot dog loaded with mac and cheese, and while I had a similar item back in 2011 at Nationals Park, I was anxious to try it:
The hot dog itself was absolutely the best dog I’ve ever eaten at a ballpark, and while the mac and cheese was a nice touch, it wasn’t quite as flavorful as I’d have liked. Still, it was a delicious meal and it’s something I heartily recommend. I neglected to pick up any utensils, so I ate it without — it’s a good thing the upper deck was so quiet, as I would’ve undoubtedly disgusted any fans around me. Seriously, though, it was very tasty. The NBT Bank Stadium dog was good enough that I’d be interested to eat a plain dog with traditional toppings.
After eating, I moved to my right a little and hung out on a second-level group deck that Desiree recommended and that was empty during the game. I can’t argue that it’s a prime spot — especially given that foul balls were flying in and around this area during the first inning alone, before I got up there. From here, you’ve got not only a nice panoramic view of the park, but no obstructions for photos. Granted, you’re not in the first row at field level, but lots of my shots, including this one of Lehigh Valley starter Ethan Martin, turned out well:
My quest for a foul ball, however, wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped. It was a standoff; I refused to relocate elsewhere, as Murphy’s Law would dictate that as soon as I left the section, a foul ball would land in the area. But in the fifth inning, Canadian Pete Orr came to bat for the IronPigs and fouled off a Yunesky Maya pitch that went off the facing of the suite next to me, bounced twice on the concrete and then into my (winter gloved) hands:
Mission accomplished! I decided to spend the game’s final innings (remember, doubleheader games are only seven innings each in the minors) at field level, and I found a spot next to the Lehigh Valley dugout with this view:
I don’t often sit in this spot at ballparks, but from here, I had a neat angle for shots like this one of IronPigs reliever Jake Diekman:
Diekman didn’t fare too well during his appearance — he went just 0.1 innings and gave up three walks, and when he was pulled, he walked back to the dugout entrance just a few feet to my right with a strange sense of calm. Once inside the dugout, however, he slammed his glove against the bench and didn’t seem too happy as he sat there. The visitors won 5-2, and during the 30-minute break between games, I was on the move again. By this time, I was pretty cold. I’d dressed warmly, but just being outside for that length of time was taking its toll. As I walked around to stay warm, I was glad to find this:
OK, so it didn’t provide refuge from the cold. Actually, I don’t know what it provided refuge from. But it gave me a chuckle.
Before long, the teams came out to warm up for the second game, and I went over to the Syracuse bullpen to watch the warmup of Ryan Perry, who got the start in game two for the Chiefs. I saw him pitch back in 2011 with the Tigers at Comerica Park, so it was neat to see him again. As he was warming up, I could see a colorful tattoo sticking out from beneath his glove. I couldn’t tell what it was from where I was standing, but now that I can enlarge the photo, it looks like a skeleton version of the MLB logo:
I decided to sit in the sun for a bit to get warm, and given that it was shining bright on the first base-side seats, that’s where I ventured. From here, I had a clear view to the plate and could take pictures like this one of Jeff Kobernus, who actually hit a single on this non-textbook swing:
Being in the sun warmed my bones a little, and it wasn’t long before I wondered if I could get a foul ball during the second game; I figured it’d be quite the feat to get balls in games one and two of a doubleheader. I went back to my prime foul ball territory, and in the fifth inning, a foul ball flew back toward the suite level, where it bounced around and landed out of sight. I estimated the ball to be about six suites from where I was standing, and since no one was rushing out from those suites (or any others) to retrieve the ball, I wandered over but the ball had disappeared. I looked for a few moments and wondered what the heck had happened. Then, I noticed that the concrete wall in front of each suite has a drainage hole at the bottom. Could the ball have magically found the hole? I couldn’t tell, so I looked over the fence into the gutter below, and this is what I saw:
So, I blindly reached my hand through the hole into the cold water, felt around and came up with this:
After the Chiefs led the entire game, Lehigh Valley scored late to tie the contest 2-2 and force extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Chiefs third baseman Jimmy Van Ostrand got up with the bases loaded and hit a walk-off single:
It was a very full and entertaining day at the ballpark, and as I walked out to my car, I turned and took one last shot of the sunset hitting NBT Bank Stadium:
Fortunately, I didn’t have to drive far to reach my hotel. Remember how I mentioned the Ramada Syracuse earlier? It’s less than three miles from the ballpark, making it the perfect choice for Chiefs fans — no trekking downtown and no driving out to the suburbs to find a hotel. It’s also within sight of the junction of I-81 and I-90, which made getting on the road this morning super easy. I’ll definitely stay here during future visits to Syracuse, and I think it’s the best choice in town for baseball fans. I didn’t have a chance to use the hotel’s on-site amenities, but it’s got a restaurant, as well as a pool and athletic center — perfect for burning off the extra hot dogs you ate at the Chiefs game!
After seeing where the hotel was, I decided to find a supermarket nearby. There’s a Wegman’s about five minutes away, and I always enjoy hitting this brand of store when I’m on my trips, so I made the quick drive to load up on some snacks for the night. If you want something closer to the hotel, Subway, Burger King, Denny’s, a pizza place and an ice cream parlor are all within walking distance. If you need an extra reason to choose this hotel, it’s ranked fourth among Syracuse hotels on TripAdvisor.
When I got back to the Ramada, I took this photo from the outside …
… before heading to my room which was thankfully nice and warm, but also large and inviting — king-sized bed, couch, coffee table and desk, which is where I sat to work on this blog post. I waited till morning to take this shot, which shows the how roomy the room is:
I managed to get about 1,100 words of this blog post written Sunday night while watching Sunday Night Baseball, and checked out just before 7 a.m. this morning. After loading up the car, I took a an early-morning shot of the exterior before hitting the road:
But wait! There’s a little more. If you remember this blog post, you’ll know that when possible, I enjoy checking out collegiate baseball fields. Instead of seeing a collegiate field, though, I stopped at Duffy Fairgrounds, a park in Watertown, NY. Built in 1938, the park has been home to a long list of teams, including the Watertown Pirates (1983 to 1988), and later the Watertown Indians (1989 to 1998), of the New York-Penn League. The park had a classic grandstand, as you can see here:
If you’re wondering, guys including Sean Casey, Brian Giles, Moises Alou, Orlando Merced and Jay Buhner played here during their stint in Watertown. And in 1988, the Watertown Pirates had a 21-year-old first baseman named Tim Wakefield, who hit just .189, began pitching the following season and eventually rode his knuckleball to a pair of World Series titles with the Red Sox. Neat, huh?
One more side note: I was stuck in a long lineup at the border waiting to cross back into Canada, and at one point, I looked out my window and saw this, which shows I was sitting exactly on the line between Canada and the U.S.:
Also, when the border guard asked my reason for being in the U.S., I explained that I’d watched the “Syracuse Chiefs Triple-A baseball team playing a doubleheader.” He responded with: “A Double-A team playing a tripleheader?” I’m guessing he’s not a baseball fan.
Now that my first road trip of the season is in the books, I’m already looking forward. In fact, I’ll have a big announcement this week! As always, you can follow me on Twitter and visit The Ballpark Guide. Your traffic on my website helps support my trips.
As far as I’m concerned, the only thing nearly as great as going on baseball road trips is planning them. As soon as the MLB and MiLB schedules are released each year, I spend hours coming up with a number of road trip plans and even a few day trips. I live several hours from the nearest pro ball team, but in the past, I’ve taken day trips to Syracuse’s Alliance Bank Stadium, Vermont’s Centennial Field and Rochester’s Frontier Field. Day trips make for a heck of a lot of driving, but they’re a fun way to kick off the season and get me even more primed for the longer road trips just around the corner.
All that said, I’m very excited to reveal my first game — or more specifically, games — of the 2013 season. On Sunday, April 14, I’ll be in Syracuse to watch the Triple-A Chiefs host the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. And to make things even more exciting, it’s a doubleheader! Since I launched The Ballpark Guide in 2010, I’ve been to two doubleheaders, both of which were in 2011. I saw a Washington Nationals twin bill at Nationals Park and a Lake County Captains doubleheader at Classic Park. But I’ve never been to one in Syracuse, which has a park with a unique design that I think makes it one of the sharpest-looking ballparks in the International League:
Even though I’ve only been to one home Chiefs game, I’ve always wanted to get back to the ‘Cuse. In fact, I tried to kick off my 2011 road trips with a day trip to Syracuse that resulted in a rainout, which you can read about here. Then, last year, I stopped at Alliance Bank Stadium to take a couple photos, including the one below, before continuing on to the rest of my road trip:
Anyway, beyond getting a double dose of baseball to kick off my 2013 season, I’m extra excited to return to Syracuse to document the recent changes to the ballpark. In the off-season, the Chiefs changed the name of Alliance Bank Stadium to NBT Bank Stadium. Of course, there will be new signs to photograph but as it’s been a while since I was inside the ballpark, I’m curious to see what looks different inside. I’m excited to say the Chiefs are hooking me up with media credentials for the game, so I should have an awesome opportunity to explore the park and share a lot of cool photos and stories here on my blog, as well as provide more details for fans on my website.
The forecast for the game is looking darned cold — Weather.com says the high for the day will be just 46 degrees, which might make this unofficially the coldest game I’ve ever attended. But as long the rain stays away, you won’t hear any complaining from me. I’m excited to get in to NBT Bank Stadium before the gates open, scout out some areas that I didn’t see during my last visit, eat a few items off the concession menu, take a ton of photos and just generally hang out in a ballpark for eight-plus hours. As always, I plan to provide Tweets about my adventure throughout the game.
If you’re in the Syracuse area, are planning to visit NBT Bank Stadium on April 14 and want to say hello, leave me a comment below, send me an email or follow me on Twitter. And as always, please visit The Ballpark Guide to help plan your own baseball road trips and support mine. And if you really enjoy following my baseball adventures, please consider making a small donation to keep the road trips going! If you’re a Chiefs fan but won’t be around on April 14, feel free to get in touch to provide any tips about NBT Bank Stadium. Any must-eat concession items? Cool places to see? I’m open to all suggestions.
Immediately upon completion of the Futures at Fenway experience, I hopped into my car and began the hour or so drive to Pawtucket, RI. Although it might have been logical to stay the night in the Boston area, I was taking in a Pawtucket Red Sox game on Sunday afternoon, so I decided to get right to where I needed to go.
This meant two nights at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Smithfield-Providence, which turned out to be great. The hotel was packed because of a couple events in town, but I didn’t hear a peep; nice, especially given how exhausted I was after touring Fenway Park for so many hours. The next morning, I awoke and took this shot of the outside of the hotel …
… as well as these images of my room:
The room was perfect. I was in a suite, and although traveling by myself, it was nice to have room to spread out, especially given that I was staying for two nights. I’m also 6’3″, so small rooms tend to make me feel a little claustrophobic. None of those feelings here! The room was equipped with two beds, a living room area, kitchen area and a desk, which I used to catch up on blogging and Twitter messages. And as I’ve said in the past, given that I’m Canadian, it’s always a treat to be able to watch any of the ESPN feeds when I’m staying at a hotel in the U.S.
One last word on the hotel. From a baseball fan’s perspective, it’s a perfect place to stay. It’s only around 20 minutes to Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium, and there are a number of places to eat and shop less than five minutes’ drive from the hotel. It’s also very close to the highway, making it quick and easy to access.
The PawSox, as they’re often called, were playing a 1 p.m. game against Buffalo in a continuation of the series that included the game at Fenway. As I packed up and got ready to make the short drive, I realized that since I’d gotten up, I wasn’t feeling that well. It’s easy to say I’d caught some sort of bug, or perhaps my system was in shock from the sharp contrast of the cold air conditioning of my car or hotel rooms and then the hot sun of these stadiums, but the reality is I wasn’t eating very well or getting enough sleep on this trip. Yep, I’d come down with a cold.
I virtually never get sick, so this was a real drag. I didn’t feel the worst I’ve ever felt, but it was one of those deals where I needed to blow my nose every 34 seconds. Not fun. So, with my pockets stuffed full of Kleenex, I made the drive to McCoy Stadium and arrived around 11 a.m.
The first thing I did was pick up my media pass, which is one of the nicest passes I’ve gotten so far on my adventures:
And before I entered the park, I walked around and took in the sights. McCoy is an older ballpark, and given that the Pawtucket team has been affiliated with the Boston Red Sox since 1970, there are tons of cool Red Sox displays to see. I can see visiting McCoy Stadium being a bucket list item for any die-hard Sox fan, simply because of all the displays. If a guy in recent memory came up through Boston’s system, he almost certainly had a stop in Pawtucket. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a banner featuring my favorite current Red Sox player, Dustin Pedroia:
By the time I made it to the main gate, I was impressed at the length of the line. Likely because of Pawtucket’s affiliation with the BoSox, the fans here seemed very serious and passionate:
Toward the back side of McCoy Stadium, the team has its International League division championship banners on display:
And just below, are the parking spots reserved for the coaching staff. Here’s the spot belonging to pitching coach Rich Sauveur, for example:
After wandering outside for a bit, I decided to head in and get out of the sun — and load up on some napkins at a concession stand, as my Kleenex supply had dwindled quickly. One of the neatest things I saw was a huge wall display honoring the longest game in professional baseball history, which took place in 1981 between the PawSox and Rochester Red Wings:
The stadium’s team shop was selling a book about this game, and the wall display was absolutely fascinating. Imagine a game that long? It was actually played over three days and actually involved some Baseball Hall of Famers. Who? Wade Boggs suited up for the Red Sox and Cal Ripken, Jr., was playing for Rochester in those days.
The box score for the game was absolutely hysterical. Ripken went 2-for-13 and Boggs went 4-for-12, but there were some guys who had horrendous luck. It was a bad time to play center field, apparently. Rochester’s Williams went 0-for-13! And Pawtucket leadoff hitter Graham went 1-for-14. A combined 1-for-27 from center field — yikes!
As you might have seen above, there’s a giant scoreboard-style box score painted along the bottom of the wall. It’s far too wide to capture straight-on in one shot, but I think this angle looks neat:
Before the park began to fill up, I went out to the cross-aisle and took the shots that make up this panorama:
Notice anything about the relationship between the first level of seats and the field? Perhaps this photo will demonstrate things a little better:
As you can probably see, the field is way below the seats. You can see some suites located to the right side of the dugout, but otherwise, the fans are well above the action. How do you get any autographs? We’ll get to that a bit later.
I took a quick trip up to the press box, which you can see to the left side of the panorama above. Here’s the view from up here:
Then, it was time to visit the team shop. Despite the age of the stadium (it opened in 1942), the team shop was spacious and modern. There were lots of neat things to see …
… and my favorite area was a rack with game-used Pawtucket jerseys. Here’s one worn by Mike Cameron:
So, any ideas on how you’d get an autograph from a player around the dugout? You go fishing! I saw many fans with long lengths of rope and buckets; just fill your bucket with a baseball or card and a Sharpie, and lower it to your favorite player. In fact, the stadium’s team shop sells autograph fishing kits. This picture will give you a better idea of how it all goes down:
I’ve got to admit that my legs were still a little sore from all yesterday’s walking, so I decided to go to the outfield bleachers and chill for a few minutes. The game hadn’t begun yet, but I took a bit of a breather out here:
And, yes, blew my nose a dozen or so times.
It was out here that I learned that the Pawtucket Red Sox frown heavily on rowdyism! Egads! Scoundrels!
Soon enough, Buffalo starter Jeurys Familia, who I saw pitch last summer at Binghamton’s NYSEG Stadium, came out to stretch. There’s a great open area down the first base line, and that’s where I stood to watch him get ready:
The visitors’ bullpen is in the right field corner, so it wasn’t long before Familia was warming up. I was right there to take some shots and appreciate his power from my spot roughly three feet behind catcher Lucas May:
How close was I? Check out this shot of May’s left foot:
When the game began, I went to the nearest concession stand and perused the menu. I didn’t want anything too obscene, given that I was feeling crummy. So, I settled on boneless chicken wings. I made the mistake of picturing the boneless wings that you get in a sports bar or even see on a KFC commercial, but I was pretty far off. I realize that “boneless wings” are a man-made idea to begin with, but all I got were dry chicken nuggets. Blah:
They were so dry that I went back to the concession and got some honey-mustard dipping sauce, which improved things dramatically.
After an inning or two in the bleachers, I went back to the first base line, which is the only place in the park that puts you at actual field level. From here, I had this view:
And as soon as I took this panorama, I got as close to home plate as I could so that I could take a bunch of action photos, which is something I really enjoy doing.
Here’s Buffalo’s Fred Lewis, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays for a stint:
Pawtucket outfielder Alex Hassan, I think:
Shortstop Jose Iglesias:
Outfielder J.C. Linares, fouling off a pitch:
A close play at the plate:
And, finally, Andy LaRoche showing some poor form chasing this pitch:
Next, it was over to one of the viewing decks on the tower on the third base side:
And then, thanks to my media pass, a seat directly behind home plate:
Remember Lucas May, the catcher I watched warming up? I managed a pretty decent shot of him making contact from my next vantage spot, on the first base side:
I spent the rest of the game doing the same as I’d done for the last few hours — checking out the game from different locations. And while I really felt miserable, there’s nothing that acts as a cure as well as being out in the fresh air and doing something you enjoy.
After the game, I went back to my hotel, grabbed some groceries at a nearby store and relaxed for the evening. Time to recharge my batteries a little, as there were still lots of places to see on my road trip!
Finally, the day of my first visit to Fenway Park was here. But this visit had a twist. Instead of seeing the Boston Red Sox, I’d be attending the seventh Futures at Fenway day, which features a pair of Minor League games for affiliates of the Red Sox. The premise is the Minor Leaguers will get to play a game at Fenway and the fans will get to enjoy a full day of baseball for relatively low prices. This year, the two Boston affiliates in action were the Short-Season A Lowell Spinners and the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.
I’ve wanted to go to this event since I first heard about it a few years back, and the timing here could not be more perfect. I’ll be checking out the BoSox on August 21 and 22, but beforehand, I get the opportunity to explore Fenway Park without it being absolutely packed.
Nearly everyone I’ve talked to about going to Fenway Park says to never consider driving. Instead, they say, leave your car in the outskirts of the city and take the train in. I decided to drive right down to the park for this event, however, because I knew it wouldn’t be as busy as a Red Sox game and it was Saturday morning when I got to town. It turns out that driving was perfectly fine on this day, and despite all the parking lots charging $25 and $30 for the day, I managed to park about a block away for just $10. This was the view from the lot, and you can see the famous Citgo sign that’s visible from inside Fenway:
After a few seconds of walking, I rounded a corner and this was the scene before me:
It’s hard not to get pumped just reliving the experience through these photos. It truly was amazing to see Fenway Park standing before me for the first time.
It seemed like I was the only person in the area without some sort of Red Sox garment, so I quickly stopped at the first team shop I saw and bought a Fenway 100 cap, which incidentally knocks off two items on my to-do list for the trip — get a new cap and get something with the Fenway 100 logo.
It’s a crappy photo, but here’s a shot of me with the cap as I’m standing at the mouth of the legendary Yawkey Way:
Now, I should say that I’m not going to go nuts with the photos in this post. Well, maybe a bit, but considering I took nearly 400 and I’ll be at Fenway twice more this week, I need to practice some moderation. A bit about Yawkey Way: It’s a street along one side of the ballpark and it’s full of cool things to see and do. One side is basically a humongous merchandise store and the other side has food vendors. It’s open before the game, but a short while before the park’s gates open, everyone is cleared out of Yawkey Way and it’s blocked off. This is done so that after you enter the park, you can go out to Yawkey Way and still get back inside when you want. It’s basically an extension of Fenway Park.
The side of the ballpark is lined with World Series banners:
And as for that merchandise store I mentioned? It’s as big as a warehouse and sells anything you could ever want if you’re a Red Sox fan. This is just one part of the store:
The part I liked best was a back room full of memorabilia, including game-used bats and jerseys, signed baseballs and so much more. They even had Fenway Park bricks for sale for $75! Some of the displays were set up like locker stalls:
I spent a fair bit of time browsing around the store, and then exited back onto Yawkey Way and took a shot of my Futures at Fenway ticket, which is cool to add to my collection:
Next up was a stop at the bleacher bar (I got IDed on the way in!), which is a bar basically under the outfield bleachers. I just wanted to go in and take a photo of the field, and that’s exactly what I did:
I took two giant laps around Fenway Park, taking photos along the way to document all the sights. It was amazing just to be there, next to the building that is arguably the most famous in all of North American sports. I found it neat that while I’m sure the park is structurally sound, there are a lot of spots that have plenty of character, like this corner of the building:
I also saw the Howard Johnson hotel next to the ballpark, which looks run-down. But it’s noteworthy in that it’s the hotel that Ben Affleck visits while planning the Fenway Park robbery in The Town. If you watch the trailer in the link I just provided, you’ll see the exact same curtains as those on the ground floor of this photo in the scene with Affleck at the 2:05 mark:
OK, one more movie trivia thing. At exactly 1:59 of the trailer, you’ll see the team shop in the following photo in the background:
Eventually, the area around the park started getting crowded, although I’m sure that I’ll soon learn this crowd is nothing like that at a Sox game:
On my walk around the park, I got a bunch of photos of the back of the video board, which is decorated with the Fenway Park 100 Years logo:
Finally, about an hour before first pitch, the gates opened up and I was in! As soon as I entered, I didn’t get the same overwhelming feeling that is easy to get at a lot of parks. It was more of a, “I just want to see everything” feeling. As I wandered, I took shots of many of Fenway’s trademark sights, including the retired numbers:
The press box:
And, of course, the Green Monster:
And the Green Monster with me:
The entire time I just had this feeling of, “I can’t believe I’m here.” I don’t tend to like people who tell me that I “should” go do something, but if you’re a baseball fan and haven’t been here, I’ll just say that you’ll love it. I wasn’t sure if it would completely meet my expectations, as I’ve wanted to come here forever and it’s easy to build something up in your mind. But it was way more than I expected.
Futures at Fenway had a Star Wars theme this year, so you’ll see a number of Star Wars-related photos throughout this post. There was a pre-game parade of Star Wars characters, too. It was made up of kids in cute costumes and adults who, well, wear Star Wars costumes. You know the type. (Let’s just say that several hours after the parade was over, I still saw many of the adults marching around the concourse in full costume, looking sinister.)
Soon enough, it was time for the player introductions, and I happened to be just on the visitors’ side of home plate, so I took this panorama to capture everything:
As expected, the Sox had a nice tribute to Johnny Pesky, who’d died the week before. This was the first game at Fenway Park since his death. I didn’t get down to check out Pesky’s Pole, but I hope to do that in my follow-up visits to Fenway. He was honored on the video board in center field:
In keeping with the Star Wars theme, Darth Vader threw out the first pitch — only he did so from atop the Green Monster. The next photo isn’t the greatest, but here’s what the scene looked like:
I think he was using “the force” to throw the pitch, which traveled all the way to the wall behind home plate. (He may have been aided by the string to which the ball was attached.) It was all very funny. As you can see here, the ball is zooming past the managers and umpires exchanging scorecards. It’s in the air, too, although it somewhat looks like it’s on the grass:
As the game was about to begin, I found a great spot to sit — the Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck in right field. As you can see below, areas like this one were nearly empty during Futures at Fenway, which gave me an awesome opportunity to move around and check things out. I sat at a table right above Ted Williams’ number nine:
I had the video boards just to my right …
… and the bullpens below and to my right:
The starting pitcher for Lowell was a rookie named Brian Johnson, a 2012 draft pick. It wasn’t a very good day for the poor guy; on just the second pitch of the game, he took a line drive to the face off the bat of Hudson Valley’s Joey Rickard. It was a scary sight, and about the last thing you ever want to see at any level of baseball. The game was delayed for several minutes while Johnson was attended to …
… and eventually carted off:
He sustained multiple fractures of his orbital bone, but had no signs of a concussion. Let’s hope he heals as quickly as possible. You feel for anyone who suffers this injury, but to have his Fenway experience end so prematurely is sad.
After a couple innings, I continued my exploring. There’s an awesome pavilion area in the outfield that is not only lined with concession stands, but also has bricks donated by Sox fans and players’ hand prints, just like in Hollywood. Here’s longtime Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek:
All my walking had definitely worked up an appetite, and given that I was in a big concession area, it was the perfect time for lunch. I settled on a steak and cheese sandwich with peppers, onions and hot sauce (a Philly cheesesteak by any other name, although perhaps anything with Philly in its name wouldn’t sell well in Boston):
And I couldn’t resist a souvenir cup of pop, which meets my soft drink quota for the next, oh, year or two:
I ate my lunch down in the right field bleachers, and if you’re able to peek past my giant cup, you’ll see the crowds weren’t bad at all. Once I’d eaten (but it would take me probably 45 minutes to drink all that pop) I went back up to the Bud Deck where I took a self-portrait:
I absolutely loved this spot that I’d found, so I hung out here (and in another bar-style area nearby) for much of both games. I didn’t want to go nuts with exploring, because I’ve got two more chances to do so. As I said earlier, I had a close-up view of the video board, where I saw that Lowell’s Matty Johnson looks old and wise …
… and Hudson Valley’s Justin O’Connor is sporting the latest in batting helmets:
Midway through the game, I resumed my trekking around and saw a bunch of neat historical displays, such as framed replicas of every Sports Illustrated featuring a Red Sox player on the cover …
… and wall with plaques recognizing a number of key moments in the team’s history:
I also ducked into the State Street Pavilion bar behind home plate (I didn’t get IDed this time!) and took a shot of the view …
… as well as of the bar itself:
Afterward, I went over to the left field corner, right near the entrance to the Green Monster seats. I looked back into the right field bleachers and was delighted at what I saw:
The Lone Red Seat was open! I’d been keeping an eye on the seat all game, and it was always occupied. And although I was literally the farthest away I could get, I set out on a “walking with purpose” route that took me right to the area. When I got there …
… success! The Lone Red Seat is one of Fenway’s must-see sights. It’s represents the longest home run ever hit in the park — a Ted Williams blast in 1946 that landed on the fan in the seat, exactly 502 feet from home plate. The fan, whose straw hat was “penetrated,” according to Wikipedia, reportedly said, “How far away must one sit to be safe?” Awesome.
I occupied the seat for a half inning and shot this panorama from one of the most famous seats in all of sports:
I tried to get a shot of myself in the seat with the red showing, but most of the images just show my crotch. I shall not be posting them on here.
Or will I? BWA HA HA!
For those of you still reading, here’s what the Pesky Pole looks like from afar:
I’d love to sign it, but need to find out whether fans are actually allowed to, or do they just sign it anyway? I imagine it’s the former, as you’d think the ushers would be on top of things if it wasn’t permitted.
For the last three innings of the first game, I found a seat down the third base side to take some action photos. I’ve got to say that Fenway’s ushers were remarkably helpful/easygoing. Maybe they’ll be more vigilant during Red Sox games, but on Saturday, they were great.
Here’s Lowell’s Matty Johnson stealing second:
And Hudson Valley’s Dylan Floro, who got roughed up but hung on in a very exciting ninth inning:
Final score: Hudson Valley 6, Lowell 5:
Boy, we’re at nearly 2,200 words and I haven’t reached the second game of the doubleheader yet. Fortunately, I didn’t take as many photos during the Buffalo Bisons vs. Pawtucket Red Sox game. By 5 p.m., which is roughly when the game began, I’d been at Fenway Park for more than seven hours, and I was ready to just find a quiet area, get off my feet and enjoy the game. So that’s exactly what I did. I’ve seen the Bisons play twice in the past, including this season, but I’ve only seen the PawSox in action once — way back in 2010. (Although I’ll see them again on this trip.)
First, though, I went back out to Yawkey Way before the second game …
… toured through the team shop again:
And then stood in the concourse while the Spinners passed by on their way to a post-game autograph session:
As the Bisons and Sox were starting to warm up, I watched the action for a few minutes from the right field seats:
But once the game was set to begin, I went back up to the roof deck in the right field corner where I was literally the only spectator seated in the area. I watched the entire second game with this view — although, technically, the popcorn level went down steadily and the souvenir cup eventually went into my backpack so I wouldn’t have to think about how much soda I’d had today:
I took a handful of photos from this spot, but most are pretty similar to others through this blog entry, so I’ll leave you with one final shot:
The entire Futures at Fenway experience was phenomenal. I highly recommend it to everyone, whether you’ve been to Fenway or not. It’s a great way to get accustomed to the park without giant crowds or huge expense. And speaking of crowds, I’d be seeing the Red Sox at Fenway in just a couple days. But in the meantime, there were stops at the home parks of two of the teams involved in the Futures doubleheader — Pawtucket and Lowell.
On July 17, 2010, I made Rochester’s Frontier Field the first ballpark I visited since coming up with the idea for my website, The Ballpark Guide. This past Thursday, almost exactly two years later, I made a nine-hour round trip to visit Frontier Field again. This time, I was joined by my photographer friend Ryan, who visited Centennial Field in Burlington, VT, with me last summer. So, the photos you’ll see below are a mix of his photos and mine.
It’s my goal to eventually visit every MLB and MiLB park, which means repeat visits aren’t normally on the agenda. But ever since that first visit two years ago, I’ve looked forward to returning to Rochester. The ballpark is absolutely incredible, the food is amazing and the team has been extremely helpful and kind to me since the start. If those aren’t good reasons to go back, I don’t know what is.
Ryan and I met at 5:30 a.m., set the GPS for Rochester and drove for several hours. Although I’m always excited on every baseball road trip, I get even more pumped up when approaching the park, and as we drove through Rochester, we could see signs for Frontier Field. Eventually, we were able to see the ballpark’s red sign in the distance:
We had extra reason to be excited for this trip, because the Rochester Red Wings were giving us media passes and a pre-game tour before the park’s gates opened. A special shout-out to the team’s director of marketing Matt Cipro and account executive Derek Swanson, who were immensely helpful leading up to (and during) our visit. I’ve had a number of tours of different parks in the past, and they’re great because they give me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the park and all its features.
This game was unique in that the Red Wings weren’t playing. As you may know, Frontier Field is also being used by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees this summer, as their home field, PNC Field, is under a major renovation.
Instead of parking in the main lot, we were able to drive straight into the VIP lot, because Matt had put my name on the VIP list. We parked here:
And then, Ryan got a photo of me wearing the new T-shirt I made up for this visit:
The VIP lot is also where the players park, and it’s always fun to check out some of the nice cars, including this Jaguar:
We parked about 9:25 a.m., and with our tour with Derek scheduled for 10 a.m., we had a bit of time to wander around the outside of the park and take some photos. We checked out the view from the main lot across the street:
The empty pavilion in front of the main gates:
And a Red Wings sticker on a light post in the parking lot:
I normally travel alone, so documenting everything can be a lot of work. Luckily, as I was taking some shots of the side of Frontier Field …
… I glanced over to my right to see Ryan capturing the visiting Charlotte Knights:
The team had just pulled up in a coach and was heading toward the door that would take them down to the clubhouse:
After the players disappeared, we continued walking down Morrie Silver Way, parallel with the bricked side of Frontier Field. I love this park’s old-school feel, and I looked up to capture this shot that I really like:
(I think it looks neat in black and white.)
When we reached Plymouth Avenue North, we could turn and look through the outfield gates to see inside the ballpark:
There’s something really cool about seeing an almost-empty park but knowing it’ll be hopping in a short period of time. We continued along the outside of the fence behind the outfield fence …
… while I kept a watchful eye out for any baseballs that might’ve been hiding in the grass from the previous day’s game or batting practice. (Fortunately, I didn’t find any. And when I say “fortunately,” it’s because I’d have faced a moral dilemma about climbing the fence. Just kidding. Sort of.)
Then, we turned back and passed by the outfield gate again …
… and made our way back down Morrie Silver Way toward the front of the park:
The pavilion in front of the gates was still quiet, and since it was a couple minutes before 10, we went into the park’s office to meet Matt and Derek. Soon, they arrived and Matt gave us our passes. Instead of a traditional media pass, we were given premium-level tickets to allow us to sit anywhere, as well as photo passes that would get us anywhere we wanted to be.
Derek led us out into the cross-aisle behind home plate, where we began our tour. There’s a wide cross-aisle that wraps around Frontier Field, and a huge opening directly behind home plate. It’s a perfect area for trying to catch a foul ball, as evidenced by this sign:
The tour quickly went down to the field:
No matter how many times I get the fortune of standing on a professional baseball field, it never gets old! From there, we went up the tunnel behind home plate…
… through the hallways around the clubhouses and training rooms and rode an elevator up to the suite level:
The entire time, Derek was telling us cool stories about Frontier Field, its history, its operations and pretty much everything you’d ever need to know. You could tell he loved his job and enjoyed taking people on tours.
We made a quick stop in the press box:
And then went to check out some of the suites. Although the suite common area, shown above, is enclosed, you access the suites via a walkway that you can see in the eighth photo of this post. As we walked along the suite level, I noticed the Rolls-Royce suite, so I couldn’t resist commenting on it:
Without hesitation, Derek pulled out a key, opened the door and led us in. We went out to the box seats on the suite’s balcony, and I took this panorama:
The next suite we entered was the biggest in the park, and roughly three times the size of most of the other suites:
From this suite, we could see some of the Charlotte players warming up down the first base line:
And I also took a panorama to show the beautiful skyline beyond the outfield fence:
Derek explained that unlike a lot of MiLB parks, Frontier Field’s outfield isn’t overly cluttered with billboards. It’s mostly left open, which affords fans a great view of the cityscape. See the tan building behind the right field foul pole? There’s a cool story surrounding it. The Red Wings were affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles between 1961 and 2002, and when Frontier Field was built in 1996, it was built with the same field specs as Camden Yards, to give players a Camden Yards feel before they made it to Baltimore. The ballpark was placed so that the tan building could represent the B&O Warehouse, which is one of Camden Yards’ signature sights. Cool, huh?
Our tour took us all along the suite level, and in addition to seeing the indoor suites, we also checked out the open-air suites at each end. After going as far as we could on the third base side, we changed direction and went all the way to the Hardball Cafe, which is down the first base line. It’s a giant, open-air suite for groups of 100:
While there, a bottle of Red Wings wine caught our eye:
By now, Derek had spent probably 45 minutes with us, but still wanted to show us more. We went down to field level and out to the group picnic area behind the right field fence, where groups can eat here:
And then stand above the right field bullpen and watch the game or move to the seating bowl. We also saw the park’s most unique suite, the Power Alley Grille, which is enclosed in glass and situated in right-center:
And the most comfy seat in the house, just to the left field side of the outfield suite:
We then passed under the batter’s eye, which has a neon advertisement that is turned off during play and on between innings, which I think is really smart:
I can’t resist showing these unlit and lit shots taken once the game began:
And under the 25×35 video board in left field, which is the largest screen in the county:
(See the Empire State Yankees logo on the screen?)
In all, Derek spent about 75 minutes with us and gave us more information than I could’ve imagined. It was amazing of him to spend so much time with us, especially as the start of the game drew close. Thanks again, Derek!
Because we’d covered everywhere in the park during our tour, we decided to check out a few more sights and then grab some food in time for the first pitch. We made a brief stop at the team shop, where I enjoyed looking at the game-used bats, including this one used by Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart:
An area recognizing former Red Wing Cal Ripken, Jr.:
And this shot, which shows some of the engraved bricks that make up much of the open area down the third base line:
You’ll notice the Red Osier concession stand in the background. Last time I visited Frontier Field, I had an excellent bowl of gourmet mac and cheese, but many fans weren’t shy about telling me that I missed the park’s best item — a prime rib sandwich at Red Osier. I love beef, so I got an original Red Osier sandwich, added a bit of horseradish and documented the evidence before devouring it:
It was absolutely delicious. The meat seemed like actual prime rib, rather than brown-dyed mystery meat. I could’ve eaten three or four of these things. It was that good, and I definitely recommend it. Remember that top 10 list of the best things I’ve eaten at ballparks? Let’s just say I’m going to have to revise it in off-season to include this sandwich.
While I washed my prime rib down with one of my ballpark favorites, a cup of freshly squeezed lemonade …
… Ryan mowed through a Buffalo wing chicken steak sandwich, which he said was delicious but spicy:
We watched the first four innings from the first base side. There’s not a bad seat at Frontier Field, but I love sitting on the first base side, as you get a perfect view of the historic Kodak building towering above the field:
While here, I took shots of my ticket and pass, as I always do:
The game was entertaining; 15 strikeouts in total, and two Yankees gunned down at home. On one of them, the runner was out by so much that when Ryan snapped this picture of the catcher waiting with the ball …
… the runner wasn’t even in the frame yet! But a second later, he was:
In the third, after a close play at home, Knights manager Joel Skinner took exception to the call and emphatically protested his case. It was one of those “I’m going to stay out here and complain until you throw me out” arguments, and that’s exactly what home plate umpire Chris Ward did, as you can see in this three-shot sequence that Ryan captured:
One of the notable players to see was former Chicago Cub Kosuke Fukudome, who signed a Minor League deal with the Yankees less than a week earlier, and was suited up for Empire State. After he walked early in the game, Ryan snapped his photo …
… and Fukudome appeared to wave at Ryan. It was hilarious and odd.
I wanted to grab something else to eat before we switched seats to the third base side, and I settled on a white hot dog, just because I was curious:
Had I been blindfolded, I wouldn’t have known the difference between this dog and a regular one, although it’s not something I’d likely try again. I don’t know if it was just this one or all white dogs in general, but this one had a spongy consistency that I wasn’t crazy about.
We spent the rest of the game on the third base side, and were able to capture some cool player shots, including Empire State catcher (and occasional Yankee) Francisco Cervelli:
Charlotte starter Matt Zaleski, who got the loss:
Corban Joseph, who I noticed was using a Sam Bat:
(I mention his bat because I toured the Sam Bat factory a month or so ago, which you can read all about it here.)
And Ramiro Pena:
The weather throughout the entire day was perfect. It was overcast and in the mid-to-high 70s from the time we arrived to the time we left:
One hilarious thing the gameday staff did late in the game was show solo fans on the video board while Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” played. It was funny enough that I laughed right out loud at some of the images:
The Yankees won 2-0 …
… and we wandered around for a few minutes after the conclusion of the game, stopping to check out the Red Wings Hall of Fame wall, which is extensive:
I’m definitely glad to have made a return visit to Frontier Field, and while I don’t know when I’ll get back again, I’ll definitely enjoy it when I do. Thanks to Matt and Derek for going out of their way to make our visit so memorable.
I’m planning a road trip for about a month from now, and I’ll post details about it soon — probably sometime next week, once the details are ironed out. As always, please visit The Ballpark Guide to not only read comprehensive ballpark guides, but also to support my travels. Thanks!
On the morning of Thursday, July 19, I’ll be hopping in the car when it’s still dark out and doing something that’s a symptom of my baseball obsession — driving about nine hours round-trip to watch a three-hour baseball game.
And I can’t wait.
I’ll have an announcement about my next big baseball road trip before long, but in the meantime, I’m excited to share that I’ll be visiting Rochester’s Frontier Field in a little over a week. Almost two years ago to the day (July 16, 2010, to be exact), I visited Frontier Field, and it was the first ballpark I went to since launching TheBallparkGuide.com. Here’s a panorama I took during that visit:
Since then, I’ve been to more than 30 other parks on my travels.
So, why the return trip to Rochester? Well, there are several reasons. I absolutely loved the entire Frontier Field experience when I visited two years ago, and since Rochester is within day trip-distance for me, I’ve decided to go again. Although I normally travel solo, I’ll be joined on this trip by a friend who is also a photographer, and he’ll be helping me out by taking photos for my website. Last year, he visited Vermont’s Centennial Field with me, and you can check out a blog post about that visit here.
One of the unique things about this visit is that the Rochester Red Wings won’t even be playing. The Empire State Yankees (formerly the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees who are spending 2012 as a travel team) will be the home team, and they’ll host the Charlotte Knights.
I’m hoping to get a chance to be interviewed on the game’s radio broadcast to talk about my website, as I’ve done at other parks earlier this summer, and I’m also really looking forward to enjoying some of Frontier Field’s food. I’ve been unabashed in saying that Rochester’s ballpark has the best overall food quality and selection of any MiLB park I’ve visited. Last time, I had the buffalo chicken mac and cheese …
… and it was delicious. This time, I’m hoping to try a few other things, based on some recommendations from fans. (If you’ve been to Frontier Field and have a food recommendation, please post it in the comments below.)
I may post a few goals prior to this trip, as I’ve done in the past, but either way, it should be a great day.
Thanks for reading!
Now that I’ve blogged about meeting Frederick Keys outfielder Jeremy Nowak, which was the highlight of last month’s baseball road trip, I want to review the 10 goals I made for myself before hitting the road.
In all, I did pretty well, especially considering there were a few hiccups along the way that impacted my ability to cross off some of the goals.
Here’s the recap:
1. Get tours of five of the seven parks
The first stop on my road trip, May 21 in Lakewood, was rained out, so tours at five of seven was skewed from the get-go. That said, of the six games I attended, I did get an official tour at four parks and some great help/advice at the other two, so I’d say I achieved this goal.
2. Get 10 baseballs
The short answer is that I finished with six baseballs, which falls slightly short of my goal. But hang on. One game was rained out and of the other six, only two had batting practice. So, I’d say that six balls in six games is good, considering I try to average a ball a game. Here they are, including two International League balls from batting practice at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field, an NCAA tournament ball from Wilmington, two Carolina League balls from Frederick’s Harry Grove Stadium and, at bottom, the Jeremy Nowak home run ball:
3. Get a game-used item
If you read my recent post about Jeremy Nowak’s home run ball, you’d agree I knocked this item off my list of goals. Hard to imagine a cooler game-used item! The runner-up is a game-used item that I picked up in Wilmington, which I’ll blog about later this week.
4. Get autographs from Wally Backman and Ryne Sandberg
This one was a wash. Why? Because I got media passes for all the games I attended, including those in which I saw the two legendary MLBers. And as you can see on the bottom on one of my passes (and they all say this), passholders are prohibited from asking for autographs:
5. Find a food item that gets into my top 10
As a reference point, here are the top 10 things I’ve eaten on my travels. It’s close, but I think I’ll bump off Classic Park’s pulled pork nachos and replace the #10 slot with the crab fries at Trenton’s Waterfront Park. They weren’t quite as good as I thought they might be, but they were unique enough to sneak through the backdoor into the 10th spot:
6. Be interviewed during a game broadcast
Check! This happened twice and both times, it was really exciting. I was interviewed on the Wilmington Blue Rocks broadcast by Jeff O’Connor and the Frederick Keys broadcast by Adam Pohl. And in case you missed the pictures I posted about those interviews, here they are:
7. Get 50 autographs
In the same vein as the attempt to get Backman and Sandberg to sign, this one is a no-go. But I’ll call it an N/A rather than a fail, because I didn’t ask for a single autograph.
8. Buy a hat
Oops! There were a couple times I wanted to get a hat and just didn’t pull the trigger. The first was at the rained-out game in Lakewood. I think the BlueClaws’ hats look neat, but given the cancellation of the game, I wasn’t able to get one. Secondly, I wanted to get a Keys hat at Harry Grove Stadium, but the hats were all behind the counter and I’m a methodical hat buyer. I like to try a bunch on until I find one that fits me perfectly, and didn’t bother doing so. Does this mean that next road trip I’ll get two hats? Yes. Yes, it does.
9. Have my photo taken with a player
It’s fitting that I got a fan to capture the coolest moment of the road trip. The photo is grainy and dark but the smiles say it all:
10. Have some unforeseen fun adventure
I think this qualifies, don’t you? If you want a runner-up, here it is:
- Despite the rainout, I was able to get into Lakewood’s FirstEnergy park and wander around the near-empty park by myself. It might not seem that thrilling on the surface, but imagine getting into a ballpark by yourself and touring it at your leisure. It was special. Here’s a photo of the deserted park I took on my self-guided tour that I haven’t previously published:
So, what’s next for me? Despite the highlights of my May trip, I’m confident my next trip will be great for a number of other reasons. I’m in the middle of planning it now, and I’ll have a blog post about that soon enough.
In the meantime, please check out The Ballpark Guide and remember that your clicks help me pay for future travels and adventures. Thank you.
The last game of my first road trip of the summer featured the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field, but with a twist. The Bisons were playing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees who are currently known as the Empire State Yankees. The Yankees’ home, PNC Field, is under major renovations, so the team is playing all its games on the road in 2012. Earlier on this road trip, I swung by PNC Field to document the renovations. So while the Bisons and Yankees were indeed playing in Buffalo, it was the Yankees who would be the “home” team for this game.
May 24 began with an Altoona Curve matinee game, and after I left Peoples Natural Gas Field, I faced a four-plus hour drive north to Buffalo. I didn’t break any speed records during the drive, as I often found myself in situations like this:
Yep, lots of the route is on small, winding roads, and I was stuck behind a convoy of slow-moving trucks for what seemed like half the journey. Eventually, though, I pulled into Buffalo and saw a familiar sight:
I visited Coca-Cola Field in 2010 for a Bisons game, which you can read about here. I was hitting this stadium for a second time for three reasons — the drive home from Altoona was too long to do in one chunk and because the Bisons are hosting the AAA All-Star Game this July, I wanted to check out the changes to the park. Finally, the team put in a ginormous video board before the 2011 season, so I wanted to check it out, too.
The Bisons were providing me with a media pass for this game, so I was looking forward to getting to the park early to explore. The team’s director of public relations, Brad Bisbing, was very accommodating before and during my visit. Thanks, Brad!
I got to Buffalo early enough that I wandered around the stadium for a few minutes, taking photos of a rather empty front pavilion:
And a look at the pillared design of Coca-Cola Field:
Then I went inside, picked up my media pass and enjoyed the press box air conditioning for a while. Here was the view:
And here’s a panorama from up there:
I also took a few minutes to explore the press area. There’s a big very nice press lounge, for example:
Batting practice was taking place, so I decided to head down to field level to check it out. As I made my way down, the concourses were still deserted:
(There’s something super cool about being one of the only people in a stadium.)
When I got to field level, it didn’t take long to notice the ads promoting the upcoming all-star game, including this one:
And as for that huge video board, check it out:
MLB Network’s Intentional Talk was airing as batting practice was taking place. How perfect could things get?
Well, a little better when I took a walk through the lower seats on the third base side and spotted this:
An International League ball to add to my collection!
From this area, I could see another big banner celebrating the all-star game:
Once I made it to the left field corner, I turned around and shot this panorama of the stadium:
By now, the Bisons were hitting so I went over to the first base side to take some pictures of Wally Backman. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and it’s awesome to see him back in affiliated ball and at the AAA level. I hope he gets another shot in the Bigs before long. Here’s one of him hitting fungoes to the infielders:
And another of him talking to someone in the dugout:
I watched BP from this area for a while, and then decided to head beyond the outfield fence to check out the park from that angle. There’s an awesome multi-level party deck behind the right foul pole, and I stood in this area to take the following panorama:
If you ever visit Coca-Cola Field, I definitely recommend checking out the area behind the fence. Every time a Bisons player hits a long home run, the ball’s landing spot is marked on the asphalt. Former Bison Russell Branyan owns many of the marks, but a number of other players also make appearances:
Here’s the scene from ground level:
I watched BP for several minutes through the fence …
… and then checked out the player/staff parking lot just behind the picnic area, as it contained several more home run markers:
I had to laugh at this next photo. Check out how this new Cadillac is parked in harm’s way. Yikes:
After a while, I went back behind the first base dugout and took this funny photo. It’s a photo of a Tweet I’d just posted that included a photo of Backman:
And here’s another picture of the skip, for good measure:
From here, I documented my media credential, as I’ve been doing at each stop on this road trip:
Soon, batting practice wrapped up, so I took advantage of the downtime to check out the new team shop, which had moved since my last visit. There’s a giant wall of hats …
… and a bunch of AAA All-Star Game stuff for sale:
Eventually, the game began and I grabbed a seat on the third base side with a great view of the action. I had a good angle for some photos, including Yankees starter Adam Warren:
Buffalo starter Matt Harvey, who ended up getting the win:
Later in the game, I moved up behind home plate with this perfect view:
While I was in this area, I met up with Austin and Danny from the NYBisons blog. It was fun to meet some other MLBloggers and if you haven’t seen their blog full of all things Bisons, Mets and ballhawking, check it out. You can also follow them on Twitter.
Regardless of where I sat, the scoreboard was awesome to watch. Not only does it have a crystal-clear picture that I can’t capture with my camera, the gameday staff in Buffalo is really on the ball. Whenever there was a close play, such as this play at home, the scoreboard showed the play live:
I don’t know if I can recall another MiLB park doing this. And throughout the evening, the board provided a countdown to the all-star game:
After the game, I had a very short drive (about two minutes) to my hotel. I was staying at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo, and definitely recommend this hotel if you’re in town for a Bisons game. I’ve stayed here in the past, and it’s always outstanding. Plus, you can’t beat being so close to Coca-Cola Field. When other fans are waiting in traffic to get on the highway, you’re already checking into your hotel. Another huge perk to this hotel is that E.B. Green’s, one of the 10 best steakhouses in the U.S., is located on site. One of these days, I’m going to eat there. Every time I visit Buffalo, it just doesn’t work out time-wise.
When I arrived, I got the good news that the hotel had upgraded me to a suite one of the upper floors! The room itself was giant, with a full living room area, a separate bedroom area, two hallways and a huge bathroom. Here’s the living room area, where I hung out while catching up on some Twitter messages and enjoying room service:
Here’s the bedroom area …
… and the nighttime view of Buffalo out my window:
It was one of those hotel rooms that you wish you could enjoy for longer, but given that I was leaving early the next morning to drive home, I had to get to bed so I could get up at a decent hour. The morning came soon enough, and I packed my stuff, checked out, took a photo of the outside of the hotel …
… and punched “Home” into my GPS. It was an outstanding first road trip, but I’ll have plenty of additional exciting content coming soon!