My visit to Williamsport, PA, began not at historic Bowman Field, the second-oldest ballpark in the minors, but at another famous baseball site across town.
Although my reason for visiting Williamsport was checking out the Crosscutters, who play in the New York-Penn League, I was also excited to visit the Little League World Series complex, which is just a few miles away. You’ve almost certainly seen ESPN’s summer coverage of the Little League World Series, and this is where it all goes down. In addition to several baseball fields, the area includes a giant housing complex for visiting players, the headquarters of Little League International and a Little League museum and gift shop.
All the fields are in a valley; once I parked and took this shot of Howard J. Lamade Stadium, which is one of two fields used for games …
… I took a walk down a pathway to check things out. The parking lot of the facility was packed, but except for a number of maintenance men, I was the only person around. Here’s another shot of Lamade Stadium:
It was neat wandering around the complex. On my drive to Williamsport, I was hoping the entire grounds weren’t closed to spectators, but a sign invited people to take a “self-guided walking tour.” As I continued to navigate the grounds, I found Little League Volunteer Stadium, the second official field at the complex:
Obviously, such as sprawling facility gets big-time donations, and a number of plaques throughout the area recognized financial contributors. Most of the names were corporate, but I also saw lots of retired MLBers, including Mike Mussina:
As I climbed back up the hill one more time, I took a last shot of Lamade Stadium:
And a shot of a statue of Casey of “Casey at the Bat” fame. The plaques around the base of the statue feature the entire poem:
After exploring the Little League facility for half an hour, I made the short trip over to the Residence Inn Williamsport, where I was staying for the evening. When I was planning this trip and looking at hotels, the Residence Inn jumped out at me. It’s the top-ranked hotel on TripAdvisor in all of Williamsport and has an outstanding location. It’s less than a minute off the highway, virtually next door to an enormous Wegman’s supermarket and less than three miles to the Crosscutters’ Bowman Park.
The hotel is new, extremely clean and has all the amenities you’d need — and it’s baseball friendly, too! Just check out the art on the wall of my room:
Gotta love it, right? One of the things I loved about this hotel was the size of the room. It was equipped with a desk, couch, king-sized bed, huge shower and a kitchen bigger than the one in my first apartment. Here’s the latter:
And here’s the desk, TV and bed. As you can see, everything is modern and clean:
Given the amount of time I spend driving on these baseball road trips, I love when my hotel is within walking distance to a supermarket or restaurant. It’s nice to just park and walk around instead of hopping in the car again. I walked over to the Wegman’s before checking in and again after the game. It’s perfect. If you’re looking for other places to eat, there are a ton of other bars and restaurants within walking distance. Finally, here’s a look at the outside of the hotel:
I hung out in my room for a couple hours and then made the short drive over to Bowman Field. A brief history of the park is described on this plaque:
And here’s a look at the park itself — talk about an old-school baseball feel, right?
The Cutters’ Gabe Sinicropi had left a media pass for me, so I grabbed the pass and headed into the park. A second after walking in, I ran into Graham Doty, the voice of the Auburn Doubledays. The Doubledays were in town to play the Crosscutters, and if you remember my visit to Falcon Park that kicked off this road trip, Graham interviewed me before the game. We got caught up for a few minutes and then I headed up this ramp …
… to the seating bowl, where this was my first view of the field:
As you wander around Bowman Field, there’s no mistaking this ballpark for a new one. It’s definitely got an old feel but the team has obviously made significant investments in seating and amenities to give fans the best of both worlds — a historic-feeling park with modern (at least by MiLB standards) comforts. Here’s a look at the bleachers and box seats, for example:
The park has a couple great picnic decks down the third base line, which is where I hung out for a few minutes at the start of Auburn’s batting practice:
BP is always fun to watch, but I really get a kick out of watching infield practice. It’s even more impressive when you’re close to the field, and it’s absolutely incredible to watch how sure-handed these guys are, even at Short-Season A ball. Here’s Auburn’s Jean Carlos Valdez fielding a ball:
After BP, I stayed in the area and waited until Auburn’s players came back out to the field in the game uniforms. Bowman Field gives you the ability to really get close to the teams; after BP, they cut across the concourse to go to their clubhouse, and then come back through the concourse to return to the field. Here are some photos of a couple noteworthy guys. This first photo is Brenton Allen, who was Washington’s 20th-round selection in this year’s draft:
My July 6 visit to Auburn was Allen’s first game with the Doubledays. While I was standing on the field waiting to throw out the first pitch, Allen was in the dugout introducing himself to teammates.
And speaking of that first pitch, here’s a look at Austin Chubb, who was my catcher:
Finally, I was glad to see Greg Zebrack back in action:
He was the Doubledays player who was hit in the head during my visit and it’s good news that he’s returned so quickly. In fact, in his first game back, two days after being hit, he went 3-for-3 with a home run — his best game as a professional so far.
But it wasn’t just Auburn guys I was photographing. Here’s Williamsport’s Dylan Cozens, a second-round pick in last year’s draft, ducking away from some high heat:
And Julio Reyes, who gave up just one run on two hits over five innings to get the win for the Crosscutters:
Up next, I stay within the Phillies organization but step up to Triple-A with a visit to Lehigh Valley’s Coca-Cola Park. As always, you can follow me on Twitter to get the latest news on my baseball road trip!