Results tagged ‘ Toronto Blue Jays ’
The day of my first Blue Jays game of 2013 was long, but awesome. It included an exceptional hotel, tasty chicken wings, fun explorations of Rogers Centre and a ball during batting practice. That’s the Cole’s Notes version, but if you want to read, oh, about 3,000 more words on the day, please take a look at this link.
I wasn’t hoping to top Day 1 on Day 2. Instead, my priorities were to write the giant entry you might’ve previously read, wander around my hotel a bit more and enjoy the Jays game that night.
If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I stayed at the Westin Harbour Castle. I described the outstanding view and the treats that greeted me when I arrived in my room, but as for the room, here’s what the TV stand and desk area looked like:
And here’s a shot from next to the bed — the door you see at the right of the photo isn’t the front door; that’s down a hallway that’s out of sight:
To be honest, my photos hardly do the room justice. If you want to check out the hotel’s official photos, you can click this link.
I’ll wrap up my thoughts on the Westin Harbour Castle by sharing a few final points. It’s certainly one of the top couple hotels I’ve ever visited, and everything about the stay was remarkable. The view and room were wonderful, of course, but the professionalism and courtesy exemplified by every hotel employee I met was notable. At some hotels, the front-desk clerk acts inconvenienced when you check in. Here, I was greeted warmly by everyone I met and truly made to feel special. The Westin Harbour Castle will unquestionably be the hotel I pick during my next visit to Toronto, whenever that may be. I strongly encourage you to make the same choice. A special thanks to Valerie, Bin and Emile for taking the time to say hello and ensure my stay was a perfect one.
In fact, if you plan to visit Toronto this year to watch the Jays in action, there’s an extra reason to choose the Westin. Buy your event tickets in advance and when you call to make a reservation between now and September 2, 2013, mention that you’ve got tickets to a game and you’ll get a special rate as part of the hotel’s Special Toronto Events and Sports Games Offer.
I spent much of the day blogging, but by mid-afternoon, I was wrapped up and wanted to take a short walk outside to see if I could tell which was my 31st-floor room from the park below. It turns out that I had no such luck, but here’s the outside of the hotel:
About 4:30 p.m., I packed up and made the walk over to Rogers Centre again. I decided to take a different route to the stadium this time, and I was rewarded with a cool angle that I’ve never seen as I approached:
There were a handful of people around, but given that the Maple Leafs were also playing that night, the crowds remained thin all evening. After buying my ticket, I took my usual ticket shot:
As you can see, I decided to get a 100 Level outfield ticket this time. I stood a heck of a lot during the previous day’s game, and since I’d already explored Rogers Centre extensively, I wanted to spend some time just sitting and enjoying the action on the field. To mix things up, I decided to enter at Gate 4, which is largely unremarkable except for the view if you turn 180 degrees from the gate:
Here I am at Gate 4 — if you look closely, you’ll see my in the reflection on the door:
Part of the reason I picked Gate 4 is because it enters into the stadium’s 200 Level, unlike my usual entry point at Gate 11. I had success getting a batting practice ball in the 200s a day earlier, and wanted to see if I could get another one. When I entered the 200 Level seats, I was the only fan in the area:
Unfortunately, there were no balls to be had, likely because the ushers had collected them before I got there or perhaps because no balls had reached the second deck. I didn’t stay in the area for long. After taking this shot through the left field foul pole (or, more appropriately, foul net) …
… I zipped down to field level on the visitors’ side, where I had a close-up view of guys like Adam Dunn:
And manager Robin Ventura and assistant hitting coach Harold Baines:
Once BP wrapped up, I took a quick panorama of the view from behind home plate:
By now, it was time to eat. I’d had sushi for lunch, and while it was delicious, it’s not the type of food that keeps you full forever. This time, I pledged to try something different, and checked out the King Club Carving Table bar area, where I bought a Budweiser-braised top sirloin sandwich:
It was delicious, but was it good enough to crack my all-time top 10? I don’t think so, but it had a generous serving of tender beef, an onion bun, caramelized onions and horseradish, plus the Bud BBQ sauce. As you might’ve noticed from the above photo, I ate lunch in the outfield and as soon as I downed the last bite, I made my way over to the seats above Toronto’s bullpen where I watched R.A. Dickey warming up:
Just before the anthems, I found a 100 Level section in left-center where I could look up to my left and see people in the new 200 Level Outfield Patio:
And when I looked over to my right, I had this view of Toronto’s bullpen staff:
Now, I don’t pretend to be a scout, unlike many baseball fans on Twitter, but Dickey looked awesome during his warmup. He was shaky in two of his first three starts of the season, but he was doing an excellent job at keeping the ball down while warming up with Henry Blanco and I wanted to see if my observation carried over into his start. Sure enough, he was on. Dickey struck out the first two batters he faced, two more in the second inning and had seven Ks while allowing just two hits in his six innings of work. It was the type of performance that should’ve carried Dickey to a complete-game win, but he exited with tightness in his throwing shoulder — yikes. As you can see here, the situation attracted a crowd:
Remember how I talked about new Jays shortstop Munenori Kawasaki in yesterday’s post? I was keeping a close eye on him again. He continued to stretch between virtually every pitch. I like this photo, which shows Emilio Bonifacio, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie shooting the breeze while relief pitcher Aaron Loup warms up … all while Kawasaki is, you guessed it, stretching some more:
When he wasn’t stretching, he was very animated at shortstop. After each out, he bowed to outfielders Bonifacio and Melky Cabrera …
… and then struck a pose indicating the out:
He was very entertaining to watch, and while the Jays weren’t quite as exciting (what with their four hits and all), they still managed a 3-1 win:
When I got back to my hotel, I snapped this shot of the city, which shows the Air Canada Centre and plenty of traffic given that the two teams playing just a few blocks from each other:
All in all, it was two awesome days for me and I’m glad to have visited Rogers Centre again. My next trip will be the opposite of a quick two-day event to familiar territory. I’m just putting the finishing touches on it, but I can tell you it will likely begin May 17. I’ll have details soon. Thanks for reading!
With the exception of being away from home, I love everything about my baseball road trips. The ballparks and games themselves are the focal point as I continue to build The Ballpark Guide, but my trips are often full of other fun adventures, like doing interesting touristy things and staying in cool hotels. I’ve driven to and from Toronto countless times, so when I got up at 6 a.m. yesterday to get ready for my second baseball game of 2013, I decided I wanted to get to the city quickly, rather than do some sightseeing along the way. Why?
I can’t deny that I was excited for last night’s game, but I was super excited to check out my hotel. I love staying in hotels, and from the minute I booked a two-night stay at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle, I was pumped to check in. I’ve heard about this hotel for years and have always heard it to be a prime spot for baseball fans. Now that I’m here, I can definitely confirm this sentiment.
The Westin is one of Toronto’s nicest hotels and has a prime location right on the shore of Lake Ontario. It’s just a short walk from a number of downtown attractions, which is ideal because parking downtown is expensive and driving downtown can be a hassle, given traffic and the permanent construction in the city’s core. It was easy to find my hotel, though, and I’m rather directionally challenged. It’s just a couple minutes off the highway and before long, I was parked and checking in. As far as the nearby attractions, they’re too many to list extensively. If you’re into fine dining, for example, consider the Westin’s restaurants or take just a short walk to hit dozens of area eateries. There are also at least two grocery stores about five minutes away if you want to load up on snacks for your room. One thing I did before visiting was check out the hotel on Google Maps, and just scroll around a bit to see what’s in the area. If you want to do the touristy thing, the CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame and all sorts of shops are just a short walk away.
I was told that I’d enjoy my room, but WOW — I didn’t have any idea it’d be this great! I’m on one of the upper floors and have a lake-facing view. Here’s a shot out my window, although the photo hardly does the view justice:
You’re looking at a ferry taking people over to the Toronto Islands, a group of islands just a stone’s throw from the city’s downtown. As a side note, I went over to the islands once — during a Grade 8 trip to Toronto with my school band to play the anthems at the SkyDome. The spot that we boarded the ferry is directly below my window here at the Westin. And here’s another side note that baseball fans will enjoy — in 1914, Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run at Hanlan’s Point Stadium, a ballpark on the island. He was playing Double-A ball at the age of 19 and was still a half-decade away from tearing up Major League Baseball.
Most of one side of my room is made up of windows, so I truly have a panoramic view of the lake and islands. If I look out the window on the right side of the room, I can see Centre Island and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport:
I’m pretty pumped about the view, but the room itself is outstanding, too. But before I get to the room itself, check out what was waiting for me when I got in:
Yes, it’s a welcome note AND a mini baseball bat filled with baseball-shaped candy! I should explain — since booking this trip late last week, the Westin has been following me on Twitter and knows about my love of baseball. How cool is it that they’d make the effort to find a baseball-themed welcome gift for me? It’s outstanding, but it wasn’t the only thing waiting for me. On top of a nice platter of fresh snacks, there was this:
My room is about 400 square feet, which is significantly larger than my first apartment. Since I’m staying here two nights, I’ll get to more details about the room and the hotel in my next blog post — I’ve still got some exploring to do!
The gates at Rogers Centre open 90 minutes before first pitch, so I figured I wanted to get to the stadium shortly before 5 p.m. I’d have time to walk around and take some photos, buy my ticket and get a good spot in line. First, though, I toured around my floor of the Westin and looked out the different windows to get varying views of the city. Hockey and basketball fans will like this one:
As you can see, I’m right across the street from Air Canada Centre, which is home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. What a view! Soon enough, I made the short walk over toward Rogers Centre. The walk took about 15 minutes; you could do it in less time, as much of that time was spent waiting for street lights to change. It’s a nice walk and if you’re new to the city, gives you the opportunity to walk past the ACC and Toronto’s historic Union Station, as well as walk in the shadow of the CN Tower.
I’ve been to Rogers Centre virtually every year since it opened in 1989, I believe. And regardless of how many times I visit, it’s always exciting to approach the stadium. After crossing the pedestrian bridge over the railway tracks, I looked up to see the stadium’s famous statue called The Audience. (Side note — it’d be nice to see some statues of Blue Jays legends outside the stadium, too.) Whenever I see this statue …
… I can’t help but recall visiting Rogers Centre (then known as SkyDome) in 1989 for my birthday party. I remember thinking the statue, for whatever reason, was the coolest and funniest thing ever.
There weren’t many people around when I bought my ticket shortly before 5 p.m. and, as usual, I headed toward Gate 11, which is where I like to enter the stadium. Once there, I took my usual ticket shot:
I often enjoy taking panoramas of the outside of ballparks, but at Rogers Centre, it’s very difficult to get far enough away and still have a clear view. I kept walking backward and as you can see here, I still couldn’t get far enough away to get the entire height of the park in my frame:
After embarrassingly tripping on a step (the perils of walking backward while looking through a camera, I guess), I looked to my right and Gregg Zaun walked right past me! He played 16 years in the majors, including a stint in Toronto, and has worked for years as the studio analyst during Jays games. I didn’t want to run ahead of him and snap a photo, so I took this one:
I’ve zoomed in to show his World Series ring, which he won in 1997 with the Marlins:
How do people feel about the Jays current logo? I love it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the last couple incarnations, so it’s fun to see a logo that I enjoy so much adorning all sorts of things around the park, including many light posts:
The half-hour or so that I had to wait in line went quickly, and as soon as I entered the stadium, I made a quick turn to my left to head down to the left field corner. This is the route I always take when the gates open; sometimes you can find a batting practice ball here, or just hang out in hopes of catching a ball. I, however, wanted to get an early shot of the team’s new 200 Level Outfield Patio, which has been featured repeatedly on the team’s broadcasts:
I’ll have more photos of it later on, but it’s the structure with the railings between the Budweiser and Rogers logos. It’s free for anyone to enter, has nearby bars and a souvenir stand and, most importantly, has three levels of standing room. I figured that given its new popularity, it would be packed during the game. It was, but it was never packed enough that I couldn’t get a spot when I tried.
I often try to get a batting practice ball by hanging out in the 100 Level outfield seats or in the corners at field level. This time, I wanted to go up to the less-crowded 200 Level, so I made the quick jaunt up the dark ramp:
Seriously, how dark is this area? If you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were somewhere you shouldn’t be. I know this photo is less than thrilling, but I wanted to show how dark things are without using my flash. Things were brighter and more exciting when I got up to the 200 Level seats, and I took a moment to grab this shot of myself with the White Sox batting practice in the background:
I had to be quick; as I hoped, the balls were flying into the 200 Level fairly consistently. While I was standing in this area, I was thinking how I’ve been to Rogers Centre so many times. I don’t want to have my blog posts seem formulaic or mundane, so I decided I should try to take some shots of things I haven’t previously shared. As I looked around, the phone in the Toronto bullpen caught my eye:
I also get a kick out of these three seats; I always seem them from afar but this might be the first time I’ve stood right next to them:
And speaking of being next to things, check out the view to my immediate left:
Yep, it’s the new standing room area I mentioned earlier. As for Chicago’s BP, catcher Tyler Flowers was putting on an impressive display. He crushed several balls into the 100 Level seats, and before long, blasted this one into the seats just to my right:
Adam Dunn was putting on an even better performance. He was routinely hitting 200 Level bombs and even hit a handful off the facing of the fourth level; I specifically noticed one hit between the Cito Gaston and Pat Gillick names in the photo below. Talk about power:
I decided not to hang out and try to get more balls. I was pleased to get one, so I made a beeline for the new standing room area to my left. I’ve got to say that it’s absolutely awesome. I’ve ranted about the ushers at Rogers Centre in the past, but those watching over this new area seemed really proud to welcome fans to check things out. I took a number of shots, but I’ll share just a few for now. Here’s one taken through the giant “B” in the Budweiser sign:
And here’s one that shows the layout of the area before it got crowded:
As you can see, there are three levels, tables and a number of sections have wooden bars for your food and drinks, or just to lean on. It’s a perfect spot.
The 200 Level has a number of cool additions since I last visited this part of the park. I was excited to see two bars named after former stars Roberto Alomar:
And Joe Carter, although I cringe when I see how they’ve left out a crucial comma:
After making one complete circuit of the 200 Level, I went down the ramp to check out the team shop. As I mentioned last year during my Rogers Centre visits, the new Memorabilia Clubhouse section is absolutely amazing. It’s full of game-used and game-issued stuff, and the only disappointment was not seeing the club’s two World Series trophies, which were on display here last year.
There was a cool assortment of game-used balls for sale:
And other neat things, too. Did you know that for just $800, you can get a broken Jose Bautista bat?
Since I was on the 100 Level, I decided to head over to the Sportsnet studio to watch the pre-game show with Jamie Campbell and Gregg Zaun:
I watched most of the show and from there, went over to the first base side during the anthems. Here, I caught my first glimpse of new Blue Jay Munenori Kawasaki, who was called up to fill in at shortstop with Jose Reyes hurt. Kawasaki has quickly become a popular figure in Toronto for his hustle and for bowing after plays:
(More on him later.)
I spent the first inning standing in this general area, where I took the photos to make up this panorama:
But by now, my stomach was growling. It’d been a long day and I was ready for something filling. I toured around for a bit, noting the new (and delicious-smelling) food options, but caved and went with my favorite thing to eat at Rogers Centre, the chicken wings at Quaker Steak & Lube:
After buying my food, I often grab one of the many folding chairs stacked up around the 100 Level and eat while watching the game through the railing. It’s a perfect strategy if you have a 500 Level ticket, as there’s no way you’ll make it up to your seat while your food is still remotely warm. I’ve done this for years, but this year, I was dismayed to notice that the chairs are locked up — see the padlock?
As for the wings, they were delicious and very meaty, as always. I got my usual flavour, Louisiana Lickers … and ordered it in my usual way: “The Louisiana one, please.” I wonder how many people actually say “lickers.” I stood to eat dinner behind the 100 Level outfield seats and after I was finished, noticed that the Jays new-look team has apparently brought all species out to Rogers Centre:
No big deal; just a guy in a bear costume, enjoying the game. My next stop was the outfield standing room area again, which was considerably more crowded than last time I stopped by:
It wasn’t difficult to find an open spot on the third level, however, and I lucked out because this screen was directly above me:
Game broadcasts nowadays are so good that it’s easy to feel at a slight loss for information when you attend games in person. Being able to watch the live game while consulting the screen for stats was baseball heaven!
The view from this area is really good. Photos always make things look a million miles away, but here’s the panorama I took from the area:
Late in the game, I decided to watch an inning or two from the concourse behind home plate, partly to watch Kawasaki. He’s a slap hitter who reminds me very much of Ichiro — and it’s not just that they’re both from Japan. Both have an insane dedication to stretching and calisthenics. Both guys routinely stretch between pitches while at bat and while in the field. At one point, the Jays showed a video of Kawasaki performing a handstand during pre-game stretching. As for the stretching, see what I mean?
Kawasaki had an outstanding at bat while I stood behind home plate. With two strikes, he fouled off at least five pitches until he drew a walk. (He finished 2-for-2 with a walk to boost his batting average to .364.) My favorite picture of him is this one:
Even though I’d bought a 500 Level ticket, I hadn’t quite made the trek up to the nosebleed seats just yet. In the bottom of the sixth, and with the Jays getting pummeled 5-0, I went up to the 500s and had this view of the video board …
… and this view of the field:
Remember my quest to find new things to photograph? I’ve never noticed it, but the foul poles at Rogers Centre (which are actually netting) are held in place by giant, crane-like arms:
I spent up until the middle of the ninth inning up in the 500s, and then slipped down to the 100 Level concourse to watch the Jays’ last at-bat. The Sox had tacked on two more runs to make the final score 7-0, which drops Toronto’s record to 6-9. What a disappointing start to the season. Fans are already panicking, and while that’s a little premature, it’s frustrating to see the team faring so poorly early on.
Nevertheless, I’ll be back at Rogers Centre for the final game of the series against the White Sox, and I can’t wait. I’ll be blogging about the game, and more about my stay at the Westin Harbour Castle, in the next day or two. If you’ve recently found this blog, please consider following me on Twitter to keep up to date with all my road trip plans and visit The Ballpark Guide. If you’re planning a baseball road trip of your own, my website has a ton of tips to help you make the most of your ballpark visits. If you find that my website has saved you a few bucks or increased your enjoyment of the game — or if you just enjoy reading about my travels, please consider making a small donation to help the cause. Thank you!
By now, you may have read my blog post about my first two chilly games of the year at Syracuse’s NBT Bank Stadium. If not, feel free to check out the ginormous blog entry about it the amazing day here.
I normally blog about upcoming road trips several days (or weeks) in advance, but this time, I thought it’d be fun to give everyone a little surprise. The plans for this road trip came together very quickly, and I’m excited to say that I’ll be in Toronto tonight and tomorrow night (April 17 and 18) to watch the Blue Jays host the Chicago White Sox at Rogers Centre:
For those who’ve followed this blog for a long time, you’ll know that I’ve visited Rogers Centre a number of times. I’ve been a Jays fan since I was old enough to understand baseball and Toronto is the closest MLB city to me by far. In fact, since I started The Ballpark Guide, I’ve watched the Jays play at home six times — twice in 2010, twice in 2011 and twice again in 2012. I’m glad to keep that streak intact. If you’re curious to read my blog entries about those games, check out this link and look for the Rogers Centre posts.
I’m excited to get back to Rogers Centre this year to not only check out the exciting, new-look Jays, but to also document all the off-season changes at the park. Sure, any given park changes a bit from year to year, but as you probably know if you’ve been watching the Jays on TV, there’s an awesome standing-room area in the outfield in what used to be the Windows restaurant. Sampling delicious food is a big part of the baseball experience for me, and given that the Jays have sold two of the 10 best things I’ve eaten on my travels, I’m excited to see what other tasty treats I can find. I’m also pumped to try to catch a ball during batting practice, take a ton of photos and, of course, blog all about it here. As an added bonus, I’ll get to see R.A. Dickey pitch during the second game of my trip, too.
I’m also going to be staying in one of the city’s nicest hotels, and can’t wait to check it out and share those details, too. Its location promises to provide some outstanding views, so I’m pumped to see what it’s like. I don’t want to give away too much now, but I’ll have some details about it in my next blog post.
As always, thanks for reading.
In February 2012, I wrote a blog post counting down the 10 best things I’d eaten on my travels in 2010 and 2011. I thought it’d be fun to do, but had no idea of the response I’d get. It’s been one of my top three most-read blog posts to date and my ballpark eating exploits even got mentioned in the Dallas Observer! In honor of Opening Day 2013, it’s time to reveal what things I ate in 2012 were good enough to crack the top 10 list.
As with last year’s list, I’m only considering things I’ve personally eaten and this is an overall list, not just a list of 2012 food. Grab your Rolaids and get ready for your stomach to start growling; you might need to grab a bite after seeing this list. In the list below, you’ll see the name of the item, the park at which I bought it and the team that calls the park home. The number in brackets is last year’s ranking; as you might guess, an “NR” note means it’s new to this list.
** When I released this list, I said I’d post an honorable mention item if I reached 200 followers on Twitter. You responded, so here’s the item, as promised. Thanks for all the follows and for all those who retweeted my message about getting to 200 followers! **
Honorable mention: Curverogie – Peoples Natural Gas Field – Altoona Curve (NR)
I’ve had a number of different types of sandwiches on my ballpark travels, but Altoona’s Curverogie is certainly one that stands out. Introduced to the menu in 2012, it features ham, onions, cheese and an enormous pierogi. As you can see, it was absolutely loaded with ham, and complemented with a nice, crusty roll, it was delicious. It doesn’t quite crack the top 10 because the pierogi was sort of lost among the strong tastes of the ham and onions, but this is still a sandwich I’d buy again and again.
10. Old Bay pretzel – Prince George’s Stadium – Bowie Baysox (6)
Although I ate this pretzel way back in 2011, it’s still the best pretzel I’ve ever eaten. A reader of this blog told me that Bowie didn’t sell the Old Bay pretzel in 2012. I haven’t confirmed that, but if so, it’s too bad. If you like a tangy combination of Old Bay, two types of cheese and pretzel dough, this is a real treat.
9. Shopsy’s Bill Cosby Triple Decker – Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays (4)
Rye bread, corned beef, smoked meat, sauerkraut, cheese and mustard. Mmmm. I tried this enormous sandwich in 2011 and loved it … and then had it again this summer and it was bad enough to slide down five spots on my list. The 2012 version of the sandwich was largely cold, which really didn’t work well. It’s expensive enough that it’s got to be tasty to order, and the verdict is out as to whether I’ll try it again.
8. Clam chowder – Northeast Delta Dental Stadium / LeLacheur Park - N.H. Fisher Cats / Lowell Spinners (8/NR)
We’ve got a tie in the eighth spot on this list! I really enjoyed the clam chowder I had in New Hampshire in 2011, and I’m including the bowl I enjoyed in 2012 in Lowell as a split entry, given that they tasted exactly the same. I had a cold during my visit to Lowell, so the piping hot soup was a welcome relief on my throat. You’ll see above that I had oyster crackers on my soup in New Hampshire, but didn’t bother in Lowell. Still, a really tasty soup for a chilly evening at the park. (Odd how I was sitting in virtually the same spot in both parks, huh?)
7. Steak and cheese sandwich – Fenway Park – Boston Red Sox (NR)
I love red meat, so I’ve had steak and cheese sandwiches at a number of parks. This one was made to order, just like at Subway, which was a nice touch. The bun was soft and doughy, the steak was surprisingly fresh and the addition of hot sauce made this sandwich jump. And, hey, the scenery made this sandwich taste even better.
6. Chickie’s & Pete’s crab fries – Arm & Hammer Park – Trenton Thunder (NR)
Here’s an item that has grown on me since my visit to Trenton last May. I’ll admit I didn’t know what crab fries were, and when I realized they didn’t have anything to do with crab, I was slightly disappointed. But as far as fries go, they were delicious — just the right texture (not bony but not too soft) and the Old Bay was a nice addition. The warmed white cheddar sauce served with them was perfect for dipping, and the portion size was huge, too.
5. Boog’s BBQ turkey sandwich – Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles (4)
As I said above, I’m a big red meat fan, but the turkey sandwich I had in B’More in 2011 was outstanding. And meeting 1970 AL MVP Boog Powell at his concession stand was an added bonus. A word to the wise — the horseradish is molten hot. Go easy.
4. Red Osier prime rib sandwich – Frontier Field – Rochester Red Wings (NR)
The highest-debuting entry on this year’s edition of the list, the Red Osier prime rib sandwich in Rochester was amazing. I’ll concede that the photo isn’t overly great; I snapped it fast because I wanted to get eating. The prime rib was the best I’ve eaten outside of a steak house and far better than Quiznos prime rib, for reasons of comparison. I’m definitely hitting Red Osier when I visit Rochester again. Thanks to a few readers of this blog who told me to check this item out — you were absolutely right!
3. Quaker Steak & Lube chicken wings - Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays (3)
Unlike my second experience with the Shopsy’s Bill Cosby Triple Decker, I ate the Quaker Steak & Lube chicken wings again at Rogers Centre this past fall and they were just as good as ever. Hot, meaty and flavorful. There’s nothing else to want in a chicken wing. I went to an actual Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant in Cleveland in 2011 and I’m happy to report the quality of the ballpark wings isn’t any less than at the restaurant.
2. Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese – Frontier Field – Rochester Red Wings (2)
The buffalo mac and cheese at Frontier Field was the first thing I ate since starting The Ballpark Guide in 2010, and it remains the second-best thing I’ve eaten. Nearly three years after eating it, I still consider is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever eaten and will have a hard time saying no to it when I’m in Rochester this year.
1. Bo Brooks crab cake sandwich – Ripken Stadium – Aberdeen IronBirds (1)
The crab cake sandwich in Aberdeen hangs onto the championship belt for another year. As I wrote last year, it’s the type of sandwich you could eat every inning. The crab tasted fresh and didn’t have that gross seafood odor. The tomato and lettuce were a nice touch, the bun was tasty and the Old Bay (which seems to be prevalent on this list) just topped everything off. I wonder if 2013 will finally be the year I find something better at the ballpark.
As always, please give me a follow on Twitter and visit The Ballpark Guide for comprehensive guides to Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball parks. Your visits support my baseball road trips!
I was lucky enough to see 18 games at 16 parks in 2012, and while last year wasn’t quite as busy as 2011, in which I saw 29 games in 24 parks, it was still packed with awesome moments. For a complete rundown on everywhere I’ve been since I started The Ballpark Guide in 2010, you can check out this link.
On my travels, I occasionally get to pick up some neat souvenirs. Traveling in itself is expensive, so I don’t always splurge for extras, but between some neat ballpark giveaways, cool things to buy and unforeseen adventures, I’m often able to pick up a few things of note.
When I visited the Eastern League’s New Britain Rock Cats in August, I had to buy a ticket for the game — all the other MiLB teams I visited in 2012 hooked me up with press passes, which was awesome. Buying a ticket to see the Rock Cats wasn’t all bad, though, as my visit happened to fall on the evening of an above-average stadium giveaway. On this night, the team was handing out blankets, which is something different for my collection and actually useful:
It’s big enough (4 feet by 4.5 feet) that it’s hard to photograph, but I think you’ll agree that it looks great.
A few days later, I visited LeLacheur Park, home of the Short Season-A Lowell Spinners. This visit was outstanding. Not only did I get a comprehensive tour from Jon Boswell, the team’s director of media relations, but the ballpark is absolutely beautiful. During our tour, we talked about boxer Micky Ward being from Lowell and Jon told me he’s met Ward on more than one occasion. In fact, the team had had a Micky Ward garden gnome giveaway at one point. Before I could hardly comment, Jon rifled through a box in the team’s office and dug up a Ward gnome for me!
While Ward might look a little silly with a gnome hat and beard, this is a neat item to add to my collection, especially given that I’m a huge fan of boxing and have a bunch of Ward fight posters and even a boxing glove signed by him. As you can see here, he’s depicted in his Lowell Spinners trunks, which he’s actually worn in the ring:
When I had the fortune of visiting Fenway Park during its 100th season, I definitely wanted to get my hands on a couple 100th anniversary souvenirs. I bought a 100th anniversary cap, which you can see here, and since I loved the logo, I also picked up this large crest:
As you can see, I haven’t taken it out of the package yet, as I’m still contemplating whether to stick it to something or not.
During my Fenway visit, I also couldn’t resist getting a drink in a Fenway Park commemorative cup:
It goes well with the other cups I’ve picked up on my travels:
Late in the summer, when I was back home, I bought a couple cans of something to put in the cups above:
I used to collect sports-themed commemorative soda cans, but I’m a big fan of these Budweiser Jays cans.
And speaking of the Blue Jays, I picked up my last souvenir of 2012 when I caught a couple games at Rogers Centre in September. The Jays significantly revamped their team shop before last season, and it featured a ton of neat game-used and player-issued items. When I was browsing through the store, I came across this:
It’s the name plate off former catcher Curtis Thigpen’s locker stall in the clubhouse. Thigpen played just 57 games over parts of 2007 and 2008 with Toronto, but he was a prospect I followed very closely. I’m a huge Texas Longhorns fan, and when the Jays drafted Thigpen out of Texas in 2004, I was super pumped. I closely followed Thigpen’s progress through the minors, including his stops in Auburn, Lansing, New Hampshire and Syracuse, and although he had a short MLB career, he was one of the guys I really rooted for. This was his name plate during the 2008 season and, as you can see, it’s got the MLB authenticated hologram in the lower right corner.
If you’re wondering how much of a fan of Thigpen I am, I can tell you I’ve got almost all his signed baseball cards and this beauty — a game-used bat that I picked up a few years ago:
A close-up of the barrel:
The rear of the barrel:
And the knob:
In fact, I’ve got the clubhouse name plate and bat displayed together here in my home office, and they look awesome.
Thinking about the Jays has me fired up for Opening Day, so I’ll share another souvenir. I didn’t get this one in 2012 (although the Jays are still selling these) but I think you’ll agree it’s neat. It’s a piece of authenticated turf from the team’s World Series wins in 1992 and 1993:
Just for you, I’ll pop open the box and show you the actual piece of turf:
I wonder what souvenirs I’ll end up picking up this year. I’m going to be visiting a ton of ballparks in 2013; significantly more than I did in 2012, so there’ll be lots of opportunities for neat items to grab and share with everyone here.
Nearly a year ago, I spent a bunch of time scanning and posting all my tickets from my baseball road trips in 2010 and 2011, and I think it was a neat look at how different teams do their tickets. If you haven’t seen that, you can view that post here.
And then, after my first road trip from this past summer, I blogged about all the media passes I received. You can read all about it here.
On my second road trip of 2012, I was fortunate enough to get media passes to most of the games, but occasionally bought my own ticket. All this means that in this post, I’ll have a combination of media passes and tickets to share with you.
The first game of my August road trip was in Troy, N.Y., to watch the Tri-City ValleyCats. I meet the team’s media/production manager Chris Chenes for a pre-game tour, and as he gave me my press pass, he said, “One to add to your collection. I saw your blog entry about media passes.” It was a cool moment, and thanks again, Chris, for everything. If you’re interested in the ValleyCats or the New York-Penn League, you can follow Chris on Twitter.
Here’s the Tri-City pass:
The next day, I drove to New Britain, CT, to watch the Rock Cats. I didn’t get a pass for that game, so here’s my ticket:
A day later, I was in nearby Norwich, CT, to see the Connecticut Tigers, and they were kind enough to give me a media pass:
Next up was Boston, where I watched the absolutely outstanding Futures at Fenway doubleheader. I bought my own ticket for this event, but it was well worth it for eight-plus hours in Fenway Park. For some reason, this ticket has decided to grow legs and is hiding from me. When I’m able to solve this troubling conundrum, I’ll post the ticket here.
After visiting Fenway for the first time, I made the short drive to Pawtucket, R.I., to see the International League’s Red Sox, and got this awesome press pass:
Then, it was back to the New York-Penn League to watch the Lowell Spinners, who gave me this pass, which was on a neat Spinners lanyard:
Twenty-four hours after seeing the Spinners, it was back to Boston to watch the Red Sox host the Angels:
If you read my blog entry about the BoSox game, you might recall that I paid $15 more to park than I paid for my ticket. Ugh.
A day later, I checked out Fenway Park in a tour, which you can read about here. The pass, as you can see, has the same background as a game ticket, but with different lettering:
The last game of my August road trip was in New York’s Hudson Valley to watch the Renegades. The NYPL team keeps it simple with its press passes:
In September, I caught two Blue Jays games against the Yankees. I’ve been to several Jays games in the past, and if you clicked the first link in this entry, you’ll see a handful of tickets to Rogers Centre. Nonetheless, here are the two tickets from a few months back:
(I should note that when I dug through my backpack to find the Jays tickets, I also found a granola bar that the team was giving away to people before the game. Time to get snacking.)
I’ve got one more baseball game from the summer of 2012 to write about. Like last year, I took a bit of a hibernation after the baseball season was over. It’s nice to take a break from things and I always find that in November, my website and blog traffic dip considerably. But, never fear! In addition to this post about my last game of the year, I’ve got a ton of off-season posts to fill the weeks between now and Opening Day.
If you read my last post, you’ll know that my brother and I caught the New York Yankees in town to play the Blue Jays on a Saturday. The next day, we were back at Rogers Centre for the series finale, which also marked the Jays final home game of 2012. We stayed with relatives just west of the city, and drove into Toronto bright and early on the Sunday:
We then took a long walk around the entire outside of the stadium. This is something I usually do, but this time, I took a photo every few steps. I’m in the process of making all the photos into a slideshow/video that I’ll soon post on my YouTube channel, so watch my Twitter account for that. It’s looking pretty neat.
When we finished the walk, we grabbed our tickets …
… and went right down to field level, where there wasn’t much action. I thought that because it was the team’s final home game, and also “Fan Appreciation Day,” there might be some guys signing, but that wasn’t the case:
After wandering around for a bit, we grabbed some food and went to our 100 Level seats in the outfield. This time, I got the Bill Cosby Triple Decker sandwich, which I ate last May during a game in Toronto. Last year, it was awesome. This year, the opposite was true. The big issue was that the sandwich was on the cold side; the meat was lukewarm at best, while the bread and cheese were actually cold. Add room temperature mustard and sauerkraut to the equation, and you’ve got one chilly sandwich. It was disappointing, given how much I enjoyed it last year, but that’s the chances you take sometimes. Here’s the sandwich:
My brother liked the foot-long hot dog he had the day before enough that he ordered another one. This time, however, he didn’t load it up quite as much, making it a little easier to eat:
When we finished eating, I grabbed this panorama to show the view from our section. In the show below, you can actually see the faint outline of the football field for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts (and that’s the extent of my wish to discuss the CFL):
If I’m going to buy a ticket and actually sit in that seat at Rogers Centre, I like the 100 Level outfield seat. The tickets are expensive given how far you are from home plate, but the sections toward the batter’s eye are sparsely populated, which allows you to stretch out.
Come to think of it, we had a good run-in with an usher, as is the norm in Toronto. Our tickets were on the aisle in section 140, but given that that particular area was crowded, we moved over into section 141, which was mostly empty. Instantly, an usher swarmed in on us and I flashed my ticket to show that while we weren’t in the right section, we were still in the correct price range. No big deal, right?
His response? “OK, but the second I see you acting up, I’m gonna make you go over the other section right away.” My brother actually laughed right out loud, and the usher scurried back to his usual standing spot to continue thinking about Dungeons and Dragons. Or at least that’s how he seemed.
From these seats, photos of home plate don’t tend to turn out too well, but the outfielders are well within range. Here are Ichiro, Curtis Granderson and Raul Ibanez:
And Jays outfielders Moises Sierra, Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis:
The Jays repeated the same lack of magic as a day earlier, and ended up losing:
After the game, we made a quick stop in the team shop, where I bought an awesome player-used souvenir I’ll eventually share here, and then just sort of hung out and watched the stadium empty. I’ve always wanted to see how long I could linger after a game, and sure enough, we were able to stay for quite a while, until Rogers Centre looked like this:
And this, in panorama form:
Eventually, we were told to leave the concourse, and went outside where my brother snapped this photo of me:
As always, thanks for reading, and please follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the off-season. I’ve got a huge list of things I’ll blog about, including entries about my souvenirs from the summer, highs and lows, an updated top 10 food list, apparel I bought, a rundown of my press passes, and much, much more. I’ll also be sharing plans for 2013 road trips, because they aren’t that far away.
Every fall, my brother and I take a road trip to watch an NFL game in a different city. We started the tradition a few years ago, and so far, we’ve been to Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland. Where possible, we add a second sporting event to our itinerary, and I’m always pushing for a baseball game. Last year, when we visited Cleveland to see the Browns, we also went to Progressive Field to see the Indians on Jim Thome Night.
This year, driving to the U.S. to watch football didn’t work with our schedules, so we came up with a great alternative — two days in Toronto to watch the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. I saw the Jays twice last season, but hadn’t been to a game yet in 2012. If my first Jays games of the year weren’t exciting enough, it was an added bonus to see the team in its new uniforms for the first time.
On our way to Toronto, we stopped at a sports store on the edge of the city to buy some shirts for the game. Because it was the end of the season, the Jays stuff was a) discounted and b) sparse. In fact, most of the adult shirts were size small, except there were plenty of these in all sizes:
I finally found two larges — Brandon Morrow and Brett Lawrie, and opted for the latter. I’ll have a photo of that shirt in a later blog entry, but you’ll also see me wearing that shirt in this post.
We got to Toronto about an hour and a half before first pitch, and parked in my secret location. Downtown Toronto is a nightmare for parking, and if you’re close to Rogers Centre, you can expect to pay $25 or $30 to park. (Not as bad as Fenway Park, but still.) The lot I’ve used for years charges exactly $5, and is roughly a five minute walk from the stadium. This view from the lot shows the CN Tower in the background, and if you aren’t familiar with Toronto, the stadium is directly at the base of the tower:
After parking, we cut through the lot and out to the street where this was our view:
Ideal parking, right?
I’ve been to Rogers Centre a million times, so unlike my usual baseball road trips, I didn’t need to document everything with my camera. Instead, I just took a few shots — like this one, looking up at the tower …
… before we picked up our tickets:
Since the gates had already opened, we zipped right inside and watched some of the pregame show with Jamie Campbell and former MLB catcher Gregg Zaun:
Then, we checked out the team shop and I’m glad we did. Since I visited last season, the Jays have added a memorabilia/game-used room, and if you know me, you’ll know this is right up my alley. The crown jewel of the room is the team’s back-to-back World Series trophies which, until now, weren’t available for the general public to see. Here’s me lurking behind them, wearing my new T-shirt:
The room had a bunch of other cool stuff, like game-used bats:
And Yunel Escobar’s hat from July 4. I didn’t inspect it for any non-MLB regulation lettering:
And a ton of game-used and game-issued jerseys:
I didn’t buy anything at the time, but I picked up something very cool for my collection the next day, and I’ll blog about that later on.
By now, the game was just about underway, and we decided to watch an inning from the concourse before getting some lunch. This is the view from the concourse just outside the team shop’s entrance:
From here, I was able to zoom in and get a photo of the guy on my T-shirt, Brett Lawrie:
After the top of the first inning, we decided to grab some food and find another place to sit. We’d bought 500 Level tickets for the game, but I shared one of my patented Rogers Centre tricks with my brother — find a spot behind the railing in the 100 Level concourse, grab two folding chairs and watch the action from there.
On our way around the concourse, we paused so that I could snap a photo of Derek Jeter:
And then, I hit the Quaker Steak & Lube concession for the famous chicken wings. I ate the wings last year, and they were just as good this year — although there were far fewer drumettes than last time. Still, they’re delicious, and for my money, one of the best things you can eat at Rogers Centre:
My brother opted for a foot-long hot dog and got it loaded with onions, cheese, hot peppers and baked beans, among other things:
As we had our lunch, we kept laughing as piece after piece of his hot dog’s toppings dropped to the floor. The loaded dog was just so large that it was practically impossible to eat. By the time he finished, this was the scene between his feet:
Now, I should say that I got special permission to take this photo.
Me: Do you mind if I take a photo of the mess on the floor? You know, for the blog.
Him: Sure, that’s cool.
Me: You aren’t worried that it’ll make you look, you know, like … a bit slobby?
(I should note that he did clean up the mess afterward like a responsible citizen.)
As for our makeshift seating, it was great. I love sitting at the railing at Rogers Centre. Our view was perfect …
… and right above and to our left, we could watch the game’s TV feed:
Despite not having an amazing camera, I could still get some decent shots of the infield:
(I’m not sure what Nick Swisher is doing here.)
And my favorite Yankee, Ichiro Suzuki:
Believe it or not, the Jays won convincingly, which was a welcome surprise. Late in the game, I snapped this panorama from our seats:
And shortly thereafter, got this one of the Jays celebrating the win:
Then, it was out to the pavilion in front of Gate 11 for a photo, which wrapped up a perfect day:
Less than 24 hours later, we were back at Rogers Centre to watch the Jays and Yankees again. I’ll have a blog post about that soon.
Well, the results are in, and I’ve got a number of tasty items that you must try if you ever have the chance. Before we begin, let’s go over the ground rules:
1. I’m only counting food I’ve eaten at parks I’ve visited. You won’t see any items on this list that I haven’t eaten or sold at parks I haven’t visited.
2. I’m looking at individual food items, rather than a ballpark’s overall selection.
10. Pulled pork nachos – Classic Park – Lake County Captains
You might think you’d need to reach for some Tums after getting through these ample nachos, but they’re not heavy in a bad way. The pulled pork was excellent and better than I’d expect to find at a ballpark. The one knock on these was the server forgot to give me cheese.
9. Apple crisp – Parkview Field – Fort Wayne TinCaps
Parkview Field has several apple-themed dishes on its menu, given that Fort Wayne in the place Johnny Appleseed is buried. The apple crisp was the best ballpark dessert I’ve ever eaten. (And the ‘Caps helmet it’s served in is a cool bonus.) Visit my website to read about all the apple treats and other food items at Parkview Field.
8. Clam chowder – Northeast Delta Dental Stadium – New Hampshire Fisher Cats
I ate Northeast Delta Dental Stadium’s clam chowder on a July evening last year, and even though it was a hot day, really enjoyed the soup. I can see it being the perfect ballpark food on a cold April or September night. The clam chowder isn’t the only seafood item on the menu here. Here’s the full list.
7. Philly cheesesteak – Cooley Law School Stadium – Lansing Lugnuts
I wasn’t a huge fan of the processed cheese goop on the Philly cheesesteak in Lansing, but the bun was fresh, the steak was perfect and the onions and peppers were savory.
6. Old Bay pretzel – Prince George’s Stadium – Bowie Baysox
Crab might as well be the official food of Maryland, and if you’re having crab, you need to season it with Old Bay. This cheese-filled jumbo pretzel was rolled in Old Bay. Dangerously perfect.
5. Boog’s BBQ turkey sandwich – Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles
I tried turkey and pork sammies at Boog’s BBQ in Baltimore, and the turkey one ranked higher in my books. It’s expensive, but you get an ample amount of meat and can also load up on onions, Old Bay, BBQ sauce and horseradish.
4. Shopsy’s Bill Cosby Triple Decker – Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays
Shopsy’s makes darned good deli sandwiches and the Bill Cosby Triple Decker was outstanding. It was huge, filling and not as greasy as you might expect. The coleslaw and pickle were a nice addition, affirming that I’d eaten healthily by getting a meal with “vegetables.”
3. Quaker Steak & Lube chicken wings – Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays
Quaker Stake & Lube wings are delicious, and surprisingly, the quality doesn’t drop off when served at a stadium. I’ve had several flavors of these wings at Rogers Centre, and they’re all winners in my book.
2. Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese – Frontier Field – Rochester Red Wings
Mac and cheese? Check. Chicken and hot sauce? Check. Blue cheese dressing? Check. Simply the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had anywhere. If you’re in Rochester, don’t pass up a chance to try any of the gourmet mac and cheeses. On my website, TheBallparkGuide.com, I’ve got a complete rundown of Frontier Field’s delicious foods.
1. Bo Brooks crab cake sandwich – Ripken Stadium – Aberdeen IronBirds
Aberdeen’s menu offers many variations on crab and the crab cake sandwich was killer. On a fresh bun atop lettuce and tomato, and seasoned with plenty of Old Bay, this is the type of sandwich you could eat every inning. Definitely worth the drive if you’re remotely in the area. Visit my website for a complete guide to Ripken Stadium’s food selection.
I’m curious to hear about the amazing food other people have eaten, and where. I’ll be sure to check it out!
As always, follow me on Twitter to read the latest about my website, my blog and my travels.
I’ve taken several thousand photos since I began traveling and compiling research for TheBallparkGuide in the summer of 2010. (If you’re new to this blog and are curious about where I’ve visited, look at the tag cloud on the right side of the menu or click here.) The vast majority of my photos focus on the elements of each ballpark I visit, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve missed getting photos of myself in most locations. I often travel alone, and while it’s possible to hold the camera at arm’s length to shoot myself, some of these photos don’t turn out that great.
That said, I’ve got a handful of photos taken at different locations that I’m posting below. Click the date to read my blog about the visit.)
The second ballpark I visited, back on July 17, 2010, was Auburn’s Falcon Park. While I was snapping shots of the front of the ballpark, the man who lives next door to the facility offered to take my shot:
Later that summer, I traveled to Cleveland for two games on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. During the second game, I got a few autographs around the visitors dugout, and then had my photo taken by another fan while sitting on the Indians dugout:
… and a day later, took one of me along the fence during batting practice. I snagged two balls here:
I toured around Michigan in May 2011, and watched the second of two Detroit Tigers games on May 25. Unfortunately, this game was called because of the rain after a few innings. While the tarp was still on the field, an usher took my photo:
On June 27, I watched the Hagerstown Suns play at Municipal Stadium. Bryce Harper was hurt and didn’t play, but that didn’t stop me from finding his truck in the parking lot and taking a photo of myself in front of it:
And on the second day, up on a deck in the left field corner:
The third-last game I watched in 2011 was on July 31 at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. Before entering the ballpark, my wife took a photo of me out front:
The Sea Dogs are the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and Hadlock Field is equipped with a mini green monster. During our visit, fans were able to play catch on the field before the game. Here’s me in front of the scoreboard:
And while throwing balls off the wall and catching them:
And pretending to relay them to the imaginary cut-off man. (I can’t lie.)
As always, thanks for reading. If you don’t do so already, check me out on Twitter.