The Jamestown Jammers joined the New York-Penn League in 1994, but their two-decade tenure would come to an end on September 1, 2014, the day of my visit to Jamestown. Now, it’s not that the team didn’t like the look of me and decided to skip town. Rather, declining attendance numbers over the last several years have consistently sparked rumors that the Jammers would be relocating, perhaps in time for the start of the 2015 NYPL season.
Despite the persistent rumors, no relocation had been announced when I finalized plans for my August/September road trip early in August. But just four days before I hit the road, the team announced that the 2014 campaign would be its last in Jamestown. A quick look at the schedule meant I’d be seeing the final game in Jammers history, and the day was extra special because a doubleheader was scheduled.
Normally, when I visit a ballpark, my mission is to document everything for my website, The Ballpark Guide. But that approach would be moot; after September 1, no baseball road trippers would be visiting Jamestown’s Russell Diethrick Park, at least not for the foreseeable future. All this equated to a chance to simply enjoy the games and witness a bit of history in a park with plenty of it; Diethrick Park opened in the 1940 season and hosted NYPL ball in every season since.
The drive from Pittsburgh, where I’d spent the two previous days, took about 2.5 hours, and I arrived in Jamestown well before the gates were set to open for the doubleheader. There wasn’t much going on around the park — only a few fans were gathered outside the gates. My first picture documents the last NYPL games in Jamestown …
… and my second shows how quiet the park still seemed to be:
The Jammers were giving me a media pass for the day, which came in the form of a blank ticket, as you can see here:
Before I entered, I took a walk around the park’s perimeter, partly to look for any errant balls and partly just to enjoy the old park from every angle. The ball-searching part of my mission didn’t turn up anything, but the walk through the tree-lined field beyond the outfield fence was nice:
After a full lap, I entered the park through an open gate for employees and found myself looking at a very empty concourse:
As you can probably tell, the concourse runs directly behind the seating area. Out in front of the seats, nothing was going on, either:
There was a little action on the field, though. The grounds crew was preparing Diethrick Park for the final time and, on the first base side, a few members of the visiting Mahoning Valley Scrappers were warming up. You can see all the goings-on by clicking to enlarge this panorama:
A handful of Scrappers were wrapping up their batting practice at the cages down the third base side, and I watched for a moment from beside the home bullpen bench, which you can see here:
Next, I decided to take a walk through the still-empty concourse. Despite the excitement of the upcoming games, there was a sense of melancholy in the park. Maybe it was the emptiness or maybe it was just my imagination, but things definitely seemed a little down. My mood, however, perked up quickly when I saw this sign outside the team shop:
If there’s one thing better than a sale, it’s a mega sale, right?! The shop door was still shut, so I continued walking down the concourse behind the first base stands. As you might’ve guessed, the area was also empty:
Seen enough empty ballpark shots? How about some action, you ask? Sounds good to me. My next stop was the batting cage back on the third base side, where the Jammers were now hitting:
I watched the proceedings for a few minutes, and then turned my attention to the field, where members of the home team were beginning to stretch and play catch. Here’s infielder Erik Lunde, an 18th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 Draft:
Remember my earlier comment about declining attendance being a major reason for the Jammers leaving town? Here’s a picture I took during a pregame speech. Check out the fans behind home plate — this is minutes before the first pitch:
I was excited for the game to get underway so I could take some action shots. Often, I spend so much time walking around the ballpark during my visits that I don’t get to focus on the game too much. With the first pitch just moments away, I settled — rebelliously, I should say — into the “No Standing” area behind the home dugout, which offered a fantastic view of the field. In this next photo, you can look at Jamestown starter Montana DuRapau … or you can just ask yourself what the umpire’s doing in the background:
From my vantage point, I didn’t just have a great view of the field. I could also see other neat details, such as this barrel of rubbed-up baseballs ready to be used:
Here’s Mahoning Valley’s Steven Patterson taking a cut during his first at-bat:
Scrappers starter Cameron Hill — you’ll notice the umpire isn’t up to any monkey business in the background:
Jamestown outfielder Carl Anderson making contact:
And Jammers catcher Taylor Gushue fouling one off:
At the end of the next inning, I captured Gushue walking toward the home dugout:
I was really digging this spot for photos, but when I looked across the field to see that the area behind the visitors’ dugout was clear, I decided to scamper (that’s right, I scampered) over there for a few innings. From here, as you might expect, I had another great view of the action and took several photos. (For the record, I took 456 photos during my visit to Jamestown, although I’m only uploading a fraction of them.)
Here’s infielder Steven Patterson, who I’d previously shot at the plate:
And pitcher Cameron Hill, walking toward the dugout after pitching a half-inning:
Although I was still keen to continue taking action shots, I was starved. The Diethrick Park concession stand was modest, but it had one item that caught my eye. I forget its name — it was something similar to “Firecracker,” “Firestarter” or “Fire in the Hole” — I don’t think it was the latter, though. In any case, it was a burger with pepper jack cheese and lots of bacon, and I ate it in the stands:
The verdict? Absolutely delicious, although the value wasn’t great at $6. See the size of the burger compared to my hand? I didn’t want to spend another $6 on another small burger, so I silently pledged to overeat when I got to my hotel after the game.
Back on the field, Hill was still on the mound for Mahoning Valley (he ended up pitching 5.0 innings of one-run ball), so I took some more photos of him, including this one:
The next inning, I took this close-up shot of Scrappers outfield D’vone McClure:
And, an inning later, shot Jammers shortstop Tyler Filliben attempting to lay down a bunt:
Want to see a few more action photos? Here’s Mahoning Valley’s first baseman Leo Castillo making contact …
… and Steven Patterson making yet another appearance in this post. This time, he’s just crossed home plate after hitting a home run:
It was a blast being so close to home plate to take so many action shots, like this one of Jammers third baseman Chase Simpson:
Even better, though, was watching Jamestown win on a walk-off in the seventh inning. (Minor league doubleheaders have just seven innings per game. ) With the score tied 2-2, Jammers left fielder Jordan Luplow hit his sixth home run of the season to clinch what ended up being the last win in the franchise’s history. As you might expect, he got mobbed at home plate, and I took several photos of the scene, including these two that I like:
It was an exciting end to game one, and I was glad the day was only half over. As is the deal during doubleheaders, the teams disappeared and the grounds crew came out to get the field prepped for the second contest. I took the opportunity to visit the team shop mega sale to pick up some great items. I got a pair of Jammers on-field caps for just $5 each — crazy, I know:
I also picked up a game-used jersey for just $10 that was worn by Miami Marlins starter Tom Koehler in 2008. I’m in the process of connecting with Koehler on Twitter to see if he wants it back. I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out. In the meantime, here’s the jersey:
After my mega shopping extravaganza, I returned to field level in time to see the teams getting warmed up for the second game. From my spot behind the Mahoning Valley dugout, I watched a pair of Scrappers playing long-distance catch. In the Google Maps image below, I’ve placed numbers 1 and 2 where the players were. The X is where I was standing. Partway through their game of catch, player 1 threw a bomb that sailed over the outfield fence (crazy, right?) and landed where I’ve placed the ball image.
As the map shows, I was about as far from the ball as humanly possible, but I thought that if I hustled, I might have a chance of getting to it before someone else found it. I walked with a purpose through the concourse until I exited the park, and then ran to where I thought the ball had landed. The result?
Woo hoo! I was thrilled to add the ball to my collection and happy that my long-distance mission had paid off.
When I got back to the park, I decided to wander through the seats behind home plate to take a few photos from this new angle. Before I did, however, I noticed a curious set of stairs leading to the park’s roof. Hmmm. The stairs weren’t roped off, so I quickly told myself, “Do it for the story,” and began to climb …
… until I emerged through this trap door on the park’s roof:
I saw the press box in the center of the roof, and it had ample standing room on either side. While I don’t think this area could possibly be open to fans, I was confident that my media pass gave me the right to be here, so I took this panorama that captures the scene from the bird’s eye view:
This vantage point was new; although it’s possible to get up high behind home plate at many MLB and MiLB parks, it felt like I was right on top of the field. And, in a sense, I was. It’s always fun to have an unobstructed view for photos, so I started shooting the action. Here’s Jamestown starter Alex McRae, who didn’t have his best outing of the season:
He gave up nine runs on nine hits in just 2.2 innings of work. Yikes. The Scrappers looked formidable early in the second game, using speed …
… and hitting …
… until the scoreboard looked like this:
(Is it just me, or does it look like the fielder is thinking “WTF?”)
I soon moved over to the other side of the roof, where I shot Scrappers starter Ramon Rodriguez:
I also took this shot, of my shadow, to show you my cool position on the roof:
From up here, I had a clear view of everything, including two Scrappers hitters who were hit by pitches from McRae. You can’t see the ball in this shot of centerfielder Greg Allen, but you can see its shadow bouncing off his body:
Three batters later, McRae drilled catcher Francisco Mejia behind the knee, and I snapped a photo just as the ball was making contact with him:
Remember how I said it felt as though I was right on top of the field? That sentiment was especially true for the players standing on deck. Need proof? Look at this shot of Leo Castillo:
Although I was having a blast up top, I decided it’d be fitting to spend the last part of the game back at field level behind the Jamestown dugout. I wasn’t sure if anything cool would happen — I was envisioning the players saluting the fans after the game, perhaps — and I wanted to be in the right spot to watch. I returned to the “No Standing” spot I’d used at the start of the penultimate game and once again had a super-close view of the goings-on. Any post-game events would have to wait, as there was still some baseball to be played. Here’s Jammers first baseman David Andriese on deck:
And 6-foot-8 reliever Eric Dorsch, who had one inning of work:
As for my hope of a post-game ceremony? It didn’t happen, and neither did a Jamestown rally. They fell 12-3 in their final game, with the last out coming via an Elvis Escobar ground out. I filmed Escobar’s at-bat to capture the moment, and you can check out that short video here, if you’re interested:
I hung out in the concourse for about 10 minutes after the game. Lots of the Jammers were taking photos with family members and fans and some were giving away their bats and batting gloves. The whole scene was still a little sad, but I’m sure the Jammers players are excited to continue their minor league careers in Morgantown, WV, next season. The team has since announced that it’ll be known as the West Virginia Black Bears and will play at the new Monongalia County Ballpark, which it’ll share with the West Virginia University Mountaineers. (Does that mean a trip to Morgantown will be in the cards for me? I sure think so, and hopefully this coming season!)
In the meantime, I snapped a picture of the sign board outside the ballpark, which had been changed since I last saw it:
This photo was the last one I took at Russell Diethrick Park. I’d been at the ballpark for more than seven hours in a visit that was outstanding and memorable. Although the day was winding to a close, my trip wasn’t over just yet. I still had one more awesome day to come, but first it was time to head to my hotel for the evening, the Comfort Inn Jamestown. The hotel is just two miles from the ballpark, and it was great — close to several places to eat and less than a minute off the highway. It’s the second-ranked Jamestown hotel on TripAdvisor and features free Internet, free parking and a free hot breakfast. Here’s a look at the hotel from the exterior:
And here’s my room for the night:
After grabbing a pizza from a nearby Little Caesars (not as thrilling as the Little Caesars at Comerica Park, I tell you) I crashed for the night and anticipated my final ballgame of 2014. In the morning, I headed back to the Pittsburgh area to visit the city of Washington, PA. You didn’t think I’d miss seeing Jeremy Nowak in action in 2014, did you? That story’s up next!