Category: Dailies

Syracuse Chiefs – May 3, 2011

After debating going to Syracuse yesterday morning for yesterday afternoon’s game against Rochester, and checking the weather forecast over and over again, I decided to chance it. The forecast called for showers on and off throughout the day, but the afternoon was supposed to be a bit better. I hopped in the car and took off.

The Canada/U.S. border lineup was nice and short; just two cars were in front of me. After the first one went through, and the next one moved to the wicket, I was first in line.
But then, the car ahead of me didn’t budge. The U.S. Customs agent talked to the driver, then got out, walked to the other side of the car and said something to the passenger. Then, another agent came and talked to the vehicle’s occupants. Suddenly, every agent at the three open wickets left his little hut, moved a large pylon to block his own lane and each disappeared out of view. What the heck?
The car in front of mine was motioned over to the secondary area, so I guess it was getting searched. Here was the scene after the pylon was added but before the car was moved:
stop-at-border.jpg
I passed through the border without incident, despite the agent quizzing me on the price of Syracuse Chiefs tickets. (?) After driving for a bit, I stopped at a Gander Mountain to get a few snacks for the road. I was in the mood for some beef jerky, and couldn’t resist getting this:
alligator-jerky1.jpg
Alligator jerky! And as you’ll see below, the first ingredient is actually alligator:
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And guess what? It tasted like … regular beef jerky.
An hour or so later, I arrived in Syracuse roughly 1 3/4 hours before game time. I headed straight to Alliance Bank Stadium, which is just a couple minutes off the interstate.
Like the last time I visited the home of the Chiefs, I arrived before the parking attendants had even set up to charge for parking. I pulled into the stadium lot, which was eerily empty despite it being a game day. And to make matters worse, I saw a bus (presumably Rochester’s) sitting at the front gate.
Turning into the players’ lot to check out the cars, I got a nervous feeling when I saw a Syracuse player come out, hop into his truck and drive away. Uh-oh.
The front of the stadium was deserted, and I got a bad feeling about a postponement:
alliance-bank-stadium-rainout.jpg
Just then, the coach bus pulled away from the ballpark, so I drove back to the information board at the edge of the parking lot to see the following scene:
syracuse-chiefs-game-rainout.jpg
Ugh.
Well, you win some, you lose some. I’d have been ticked off if I’d stayed home and the game had been played, so I’m glad I tried. As you can read here, I’ve got a great roadtrip coming up in a little more than two weeks’ time.
Too bad about this one, though. I turned the car around, got back on the highway and was home in time for dinner.
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Do you know the ins and outs of a Major League or Minor League ballpark and want to share your knowledge with the world?

I’m looking for qualified writers to help contribute ballpark guides to my website this summer. You don’t have to be a professional scribe, but you do need to be knowledgeable about baseball, attentive to details, adept with a camera and most of all, passionate about the game!
Though my website is still under construction, we’re working hard behind the scenes to get it polished up and have all our content loaded as soon as possible.
If you think you have what it takes to submit an official guide for our website, please check the links below to see what we’ve already posted:
Think you can write something similar and take the same sort of photos? I’d love to hear from you! Please email me at malcolm@theballparkguide.com or catch me on Twitter @BallparkGuide.

First road trip booked!

As I write this, I’m still debating going to Syracuse in the morning for the Chiefs game against Rochester at 2 p.m. It’s a big driving commitment, but I’m anxious to get one game under my belt in 2011. Plus, as you may have read here, I’d like to get a bit more information about Alliance Bank Stadium before I write its official guide for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.

But, whether I go to Syracuse tomorrow or not, I’ve got my first major baseball roadtrip planned.
It’ll be 12 games in 12 days in nine different ballparks. Here’s what my itinerary looks like:
Thursday, May 19: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Friday, May 20: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Houston Astros
Saturday, May 21: Lansing Lugnuts vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods
Sunday, May 22: Great Lakes Loons vs. South Bend Silver Hawks
Monday, May 23: West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Fort Wayne TinCaps
Tuesday, May 24: Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Wednesday, May 25: Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Thursday, May 26: Toledo Mud Hens vs. Durham Bulls
Friday, May 27: Fort Wayne TinCaps vs. Great Lakes Loons
Saturday, May 28: Lake County Captains vs. West Michigan Whitecaps
Sunday, May 29: Erie SeaWolves vs. Reading Phillies
Some miscellaneous notes about these games:
– I’m going to three Jays games in this roadtrip because they’re my favorite team. I’m pumped to see three different opponents in Toronto in these three games.
– I’m ultra excited to watch the Lansing Lugnuts, the A affiliate of the Jays. One of my favorite (and Canadian!) prospects, Marcus Knecht, is ripping it up for Lansing this season. As you may have read, I met him and got his autograph last summer in Auburn. The Lugnuts are giving away bobbleheads at this game, too. The player’s identity is a mystery, but given that it’ll probably be a current Jay, I’m excited.
– I don’t know much about the Great Lakes Loons, which are the A affiliate of the Dodgers. But they play at a ballpark called Dow Diamond, which looks neat in photos I’ve seen. They’re also in northern Michigan, which is new territory to explore.
– I’ve seen the West Michigan Whitecaps profiled on a couple different food-related shows and websites, thanks to their gigantic Fifth Third Burger. It’s ridiculous. Will I try to eat it? You’ll just have to keep reading the blog to find out.
– I love Detroit. I’ve only been there once, but I liked what I saw of the city. I’m stoked to visit Comerica Park, one of the most beautiful MLB stadiums in my opinion. I’m also staying at the Greektown Casino, which looks amazing and is just a short walk from the ballpark.
– Toledo has one of the best parks in all the Minor Leagues, so I’m anxious to check it out.
– Fort Wayne is the farthest I’ll visit for a ball game this season … as far as I’ve planned so far, anyway. The TinCaps play at Parkview Field, which was build in 2009, making it one of the newest parks in the Minors.
– The day after the game in Fort Wayne, I’ve got a pretty long drive all the way to just east of Cleveland, to watch the Lake County Captains.
– A day later, I’ll be a bit closer to home, in Erie, PA. The SeaWolves game will be just the second AA game I’ll attend. (The first was last fall in New Hampshire.)
I’m also thinking about some sort of keepsake to get at each new stadium. A cap? A T-shirt? I’d love to get caps from each stadium I visit, but I’ve already got enough hats I don’t wear. Any good ideas what I should get from every new ballpark?
I’ve also got a 10-plus day roadtrip planned for June, another for August and a shorter one in September. Please bookmark this blog and keep checking my website, TheBallparkGuide.com, throughout the summer

First game of the season

It’s been a busy spring for me so far, so I’ve yet to attend my first Major League or Minor League ballgame. No worries, though; I’ll more than make up for that before long.

My first big road trip (12 games in 12 days in nine cities, for those keeping score) won’t take place until the middle of May. In the meantime, I’m planning to hit next week’s Syracuse Chiefs/Rochester Red Wings game in Syracuse.
I saw both teams at their home ballparks last season, but my visit to the ‘Cuse was pretty uninspiring. Was it an anomaly or is Alliance Bank Stadium a pretty dull park in which to enjoy a game? I’m hoping it’s the former, which is why I’m going to visit again. I’ve compiled most of my research for this stadium based on my last visit, but one more game will really show me what the facility’s all about. Then, I’ll be able to upload a comprehensive fan guide for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.
In the meantime, if you want to read about my last trip to a Chiefs game, check out the link. In it, you can read about my visit to the players’ parking lot, my alleged sneaking into the ballpark early, read which current Major Leaguer’s autograph I got and see a ton of photos from my visit.
As always, check back regularly and follow me on Twitter to see where I’ll be this summer.

Tri-City ValleyCats – September 11, 2010

A day after I watched the New Hampshire Fisher Cats season end at home to the Trenton Thunder, I arrived in Troy, NY, to watch the New York-Penn League’s Tri-City ValleyCats in championship series action.

I got to town about five hours before game time, which is a little early even by my standards. Because I didn’t have a hotel yet, I drove around and found a Holiday Inn Express near the airport, signed in and chilled for a few hours. Before long, I packed up and made the short drive to the ballpark.

The ValleyCats play at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, which is located on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College. It’s somewhat tricky to get to, mainly because you can’t see the ballpark from the road and you may wonder if you’re in the right place. To read my tips on getting to “The Joe,” see my website here.

I got to the facility about two hours before the game, or one hour before the opening pitch. As I usually do, I took a walk around the entire stadium, pausing beyond the outfield fence to see what my batting practice home run snagging chances were. Ouch. Beyond the fence is a fence, a hill and another fence:

joseph-l-bruno-stadium-fence.jpgSimply put, no ball is going to leave the fenced area. I scouted around the trees beyond the second fence, just in case, but there were no balls to be found. Afterward, I walked back around to the front of the stadium and bought my ticket:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-ticket.jpg
The front of Joseph L. Bruno Stadium is pretty unique. I mean, most stadiums are unique, but this one’s pretty different. On the left is the team shop, in the middle are the gates and on the right are enclosed stairs going up to the suite level. For some reason, it looks like a fire station to me:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium.jpg
It was September 11, so the stadium’s flags were at half-mast:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-flags.jpg
I lined up first at the gate and had about 40 minutes to kill before the gates opened. Boy, was it a long wait. You can only look around, glance at your watch and re-read your ticket so many times before the minutes seem to crawl by. Eventually, the gates were opened and I walked in and got my bearings.
During BP, I’d seen several home run balls land beyond the outfield fence but not make it to the second fence. I knew ushers would be quickly snatching all these balls, but I took my chances and headed to the grass berm behind left field. There’s also a bar here called the Top of the Hill Bar & Grill. I greeted the bartender and walked around the bar looking for a ball in the grass below. The fences made it clear that fans aren’t allowed behind the fence, but I quickly spotted this:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-outfield-fence.jpg
See anything noteworthy here? If not, here’s a close up:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-ball-closeup.jpg
A ball was sitting on the grass hill, and while there were no ushers in site, I wanted to get it quickly. I turned to the bartender: “Look, I came all the way from Canada for this game, and I’d really like to get a ball. I see one just down there. Could I grab it?” He gave me a quick nod, adding, “Just do it quickly,” and I was off. As I bent to grab it, I turned to see he was now engaged with another fan. I decided to take a quick run all the way around to the right field corner to see if there were any other balls in the area, and there wasn’t a single one.
When I got back, I thanked the staff member and took a quick panoramic shot from the bar and grill. If you’re watching a ValleyCats game, this is a pretty cool area. You can sit here regardless of where your ticket is located, and as you can see from the shot below, you’ve got a great view:
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I went back down the hill to the left field corner and checked out Tri-City’s bullpen:
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This facility has sweet bullpens for Short-Season A ball. See the elevated area for the players to sit? Because the gate was open, I took some from the warning track area. It was neat to just wander down to the edge of the outfield:
jose<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
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Afterward, I was on the move again. The Joe has myriad seating options if stadium seats aren’t your thing. You can sit on the grass berm in the right field corner:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-grass-berm-right-field.jpg
The picnic deck along the right field line:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-picnic-area.jpg
Or The Porch, a wooden, bar-style area adjacent to the grass berm in the right field corner. This area looked pretty decent, and had great sightlines. I decided that once the game began, I’d spend a little time here:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-the-porch.jpg
Then went back down to the box seats as the stadium was beginning to fill up:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-seating.jpg
This was game one of the best-of-three NYPL championship series, and the opponent was the Brooklyn Cyclones, the affiliate of the Mets. (The ValleyCats are a part of Houston‘s system.)
I snapped a quick shot of the scoreboard, which is hugely impressive by NYPL standards:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-scoreboard.jpg
By now, the Cyclones were out on the field stretching:
brooklyn-cyclones-warmup.jpg
I wandered over to the ValleyCats dugout on the third base side and watched three players play a mesmerizing game. Each guy holds a baseball in each hand, and one guy throws one of his balls to another guy. If the ball comes toward you, you have to throw your ball back at someone else and catch the ball coming at you. It’s dizzying but addictive to watch. Nothing like staying loose before the biggest game of your young pro career:
tri-city-valleycats-warmup.jpg
With the national anthem about to begin, I headed over to my new favorite seating area — The Porch. I was sharing it with one other couple on the lower level and a couple other people above me, so it was mostly deserted. Here’s a view during the pregame ceremonies, which included a moment of silence:
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To my right, I could see Brooklyn’s starter, A.J. Pinera:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-visitors-bullpen.jpg
The Cyclones got off to a quick start; two runs in the top of the first innings. But the ValleyCats rebounded with four runs in the third inning and never looked back. In the late innings of the game, I headed to the grass hill in the left field corner to watch a bit of the action:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-grass-berm.jpg
From here, I could see the home team’s bullpen:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-home-bullpen.jpg
Tri-City ended up winning 5-2 to take Game 1 of the series. The next two days’ games in Brooklyn were rained out, but the ValleyCats prevailed in Game 2 on Sept. 14 to win the 2010 New York-Penn League championship. It was cool to see a game of the championship series.
That was that for my 2010 ballpark tour. This summer will be even better, so check back regularly to see where I’m going and what I’ve seen.
And, as always, visit my website, TheBallparkGuide.com for guides to the stadiums I’ve visited.

Ballpark food and snacks

Ballpark food can be one of the best things about going to a baseball game. If it’s plain ol’ hot dogs and pop, it’s not necessarily noteworthy. But if it’s exceptional food, like the fare served at Rochester’s Frontier Field, it can truly improve your whole experience.

As you’ve read in previous entries, I’ve had a lot of positive food experiences at different ballparks. There are a few, however, that I want to highlight just for fun.
Rochester was my first ballpark stop in the summer of 2010, and as you can read on my website, TheBallparkGuide.com, the food I had here was perhaps the best I’ve ever had at a ballgame. In Rochester, I bought a giant Mountain Dew in a Red Wings collectible cup, which was pretty cool. On one side, it had former Rochester star Cal Ripken, Jr., and on the other side, most recent Red Wing player Joe Mauer. As you can see below, the cup was pretty large:
rochester-red-wings-cal-ripken-cup.jpg
In Buffalo, the Buffalo chicken wings were underwhelming. But what was neat was the ability to grab packets of Frank’s RedHot sauce at concession stands. This is the first time I’ve seen packets of this spicy cayenne pepper sauce, and it was neat to grab a bunch and add to my food. I’ve even used them at home since:
buffalo-wings-franks-hot-sauce.jpg
Lastly, ask a Clevelandite about what mustard to eat, and you’ll likely have a lengthy discussion on your hands. Of course, there’s the bright yellow French’s mustard, but in C-Town, you’ve also got Bertman’s Original Ball Park Mustard and another product called Stadium Mustard. Bertman’s Original Ball Park Mustard is available in pumps at concession stands and also for sale in the Progressive Field shop. I bought the bottle below for less than $5:
cleveland-indians-ballpark-mustard.jpg

A couple old ballparks

My parents recently drove to Florida and back, and during their trip, they passed a handful of cities that have Minor League Baseball teams. I was curious to see what these stadiums looked like, and they were kind enough to get off the interstate, find and photograph the ballparks for me. Before too long, I hope to visit these parks myself during my road trips for The Ballpark Guide.

Here’s McCormick Field, home of the Asheville Tourists:
mccormick-field-asheville.jpg
The Tourists are a Class A team in the South Atlantic League, and are the affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. They’ve got a pretty storied history dating back to 1915. McCormick Field was built in 1924 and has a pretty neat design, according to the above photo. Its age is probably its most defining trait, but it’s also known for having a Fenway Park-style Green Monster in right field.
Later on their trip, my parents snapped this photo of Jackie Robinson Ballpark:
jackie-robinson-ballpark-daytona.jpg
Jackie Robinson Ballpark is home to the Class-A Advanced Daytona Cubs, the Florida State League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. They’ve played at Jackie Robinson Ballpark since their inception in 1993, but the park was built in 1915. Why’s it named after Robinson? Because Daytona Beach was the first city in Florida to allow Robinson to play; this happened in Spring Training of 1946.
My parents took photos at a couple other stadiums along their trip, which I’ll post in the near future.