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:
alligator-jerky2.jpg
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.

Seeking writers for TheBallparkGuide.com

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:
Auburn Doubledays
Rochester Red Wings
Tri-City ValleyCats
Mahoning Valley Scrappers
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
Monday, May 30: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians
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 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.

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:
tri-citypano1.jpg
I went back down the hill to the left field corner and checked out Tri-City’s bullpen:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-home-bullpen1.jpg
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 /> ph-l-bruno-stadium-left-field-corner.jpg
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:
new-york-penn-league-2010-championship.jpg
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 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 Cleveland resident 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.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – September 10, 2010

You know those baseball roadtrips (or even single games) that rank pretty high among your all-time favorites? This was going to be one of those days.

On the morning of September 10 last fall, I woke up early and loaded up my car for the seven-hour drive to Manchester, New Hampshire, home of the Eastern League’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The Cats are the AA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, so their roster is usually stacked with guys you’d recognize. My plan was to make the drive to Manchester to catch Game 3 of the Eastern League semifinals against the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees affiliate. The Thunder won Games 1 and 2 at home, and with a best-of-five series, the game I would attend would be pivotal.
The drive to Manchester was beautiful — lots of picturesque views through the Adirondacks. The nice views started, however, after I snaked my way through Montreal. Anyone who’s driven in Montreal rush hour knows how ridiculous it is. I arrived in Montreal about 9 a.m., meaning I was right in the heart of it and had to cross the city to get to the border. That took longer than expected, but pretty soon, I was off.
After a painfully slow stop at the border, and a couple bottles of Vitaminwater later (you’ve gotta go with orange and lemonade in the morning) I had to go. Bad. Of course, being in the middle of nowhere, there wasn’t exactly a place to stop. So I kept driving. And driving.
Pretty soon, it was either pull over and find a discrete area or risk unfortunate circumstances. I elected to stop. I pulled off the highway and found a back road in sort of a cottage country area.
(If this story is horrific, or boring, feel free to skip ahead. Otherwise, it might give you a chuckle.)
Anyway, on a quiet, wooded street next to a body of water, I, uhh, relieved myself. As I stood there, looking at the giant lake ahead of me, I casually wondered what body of water it was. Then, I had a minor, silly panic. This was Lake Champlain!
lake-champlain-view.jpg
This lake, like Scotland’s Loch Ness, is known for supposedly containing some sort of creature of the deep. I had horrible visions of my empty car being discovered a day later after I’d been eaten by a lake monster who took exception to my adding a little liquid to his lake. Quickly, I got back in the car and was on my way.
(Back to baseball briefly: The Short-Season A team in Burlington, VT, is called the Vermont Lake Monsters in honor of this creature.)
The rest of the drive was more relaxing, and offered plenty of spectacular views through the mountains:
drive-to-manchester.jpg
Yes, I took that photo while driving, and yes, I did it when the road was otherwise deserted. See the dark clouds and rain on my windshield? I had my fingers crossed that the game would go off as scheduled and my roadtrip wouldn’t be for naught.
Typically, I book my ballpark travel hotels on Hotwire, opting for a low price over knowing exactly what I’m getting. For this trip, however, I booked my room on another site because I wanted to stay at Manchester’s Hilton Garden Inn, which overlooks the Fisher Cats stadium, Automerchants.com Stadium. (It’s since had its name changed to another equally long one: Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.) More specifically, I wanted a field-facing room. Other than Rogers Centre in Toronto, I don’t know any pro ballparks with hotels overlooking the field. If you do, please leave a comment below. I’d love to know about them!
I arrived mid afternoon, checked into my hotel and couldn’t wait to get to my room. Here was the view:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-view.jpg
Absolutely outstanding! As I said earlier, this trip was awesome.
Because I was three or four hours early for the game, there was very little going on at the stadium. Eventually, the grounds crew came out to prepare the field, but otherwise, it was cool to just keep an eye on the empty ballpark.
Here’s a panoramic I took from my window, which was on the third or fourth floor:
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And this is The Porch, an outdoor eatery that is ideal for snagging batting practice home runs:
hilton-garden-inn-manchester-the-porch.jpg
Unfortunately, the teams didn’t have BP, otherwise I would’ve been able to add a few more balls to my collection.
Pretty soon, the teams came out to stretch for a bit. Here’s Trenton:
trenton-thunder-warmup.jpg
And here’s another group of Thunder players:
new-hampshire-fisher-cats-warmup.jpg
After some waiting in my room, and continuously checking the field to see what was up, I took a brief tour of the hotel, scouting out the pool and gym, and packed up and headed on the short walk to the park.
Here’s a shot looking back at the hotel. Pretty nice, huh?
hilton-garden-inn-manchester-new-hampshire.jpg
Merchantsauto.com Stadium is located on Line Drive:
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And the stadium front is pretty different looking from the front:
merchantsauto.com-stadium-front.jpg
You buy your tickets at the window on the left, then climb about 30 stairs up to the concourse.
Here’s my ticket shot:
merchantsauto.com-stadium-ticket.jpg
Before the gates opened, I took a walk down a path at the side of the stadium that runs parallel to the Merrimack River. It’s all pretty nice looking:
merchantsauto.com-stadium-sign.jpg
On the path, I saw this:
merrimack-river-steps.jpg
I don’t know what it is, but it looked old and neat. After walking for a few minutes, I could hear players taking swings at an indoor cage, but couldn’t see anything. By now, the stadium was ready to open, so I headed back and walked in. Here are those stairs leading up to the concourse:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-steps.jpg
Before I climbed them, however, I stopped at the team shop. Because this was potentially the team’s last game of the season, there was a huge sale. I bought an official Fisher Cats cap for $15 and a T-shirt for $10.
Here’s the view when you get to the top of the stairs:
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This is the outdoor patio for the Samuel Adams Bar & Grill, which is located indoors just behind these picnic tables, as you can see here:
samuel-adams-bar-&-grill-northeast-delta-dental-stadium.jpg
And you can see the hotel in the background. And here’s a view looking toward home plate while standing in the area around the picnic tables:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-from-left-field.jpg
I spun to my right, and snapped this photo of the sun setting over the Merrimack River:
merrimack-river-manchester.jpg
Time to walk around and get my bearings! The ballpark has an open concourse and only one level of seating. There’s a suite level, but I don’t count that as regular seating. Here’s a panoramic I took from the concourse in left field:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-2.jpg
The autograph seekers were already hanging out at the Trenton dugout:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-autographs.jpg
I should point out that Andy Pettitte pitched for the Thunder the night before, but didn’t make the trip to Manchester. Too bad, because he’s since retired and it would’ve been pretty neat to see him.
Here’s a look at the seats and press box behind home plate. I think you’ll agree this is an awesome-looking stadium. I can assure you the vibe was even better:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-pressbox.jpg
Even though I’m not a suite type of guy, I climbed up to the suite level to take this photo looking back at the concourse:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-concourse-view.jpg
To the left of the giant milk bottle is where you enter the stadium and you can see the picnic area and bar on the right.
I descended back to the main concourse and checked out the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame, which is roughly located behind home plate. The real one is in Tampa, but this replica museum was all right. It focused largely on Williams and had some displays about New Hampshire-born MLBers:
ted-williams-hitters-hall-of-fame-manchester.jpg
Pretty soon, I found the game’s starting lineups and got even more excited. I have to admit I knew none of the names on the Thunder, but I knew all the guys on the Fisher Cats:
new-hampshire-fisher-cats-lineup.jpg
Darin Mastroianni has lots of hustle; Adeiny Hechavarria is the Cuban shortstop snatched by the Jays a few months earlier; Eric Thames is a home run machine; Edwin Encarnacion can’t play defence but was down from Toronto for a rehab stint, so that was cool. I won’t go on, but it’s neat to go to a Minor League game and see a lineup full of guys you recognize.
I headed over to the right field corner, which is the only area of the stadium that has bleacher seating. New Hampshire’s bullpen is also in this area. Here, I took a panorama that shows what a perfect evening for ball it was:
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The stadium was still mostly empty, so I went behind the Fisher Cats dugout and snapped this photo:
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Then went behind home plate and got this one:
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I sure get my exercise during ballgames. After those photos, I walked back down the concourse (saying “no, thanks” to the vendor who tried to sign me up for some insurance thing for the fourth time) to the picnic area to get this panorama:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-5.jpg
I also snapped this photo of the hotel. My room is either the bottom or middle window on the left:
hilton-garden-inn-manchester-new-hampshire-view.jpg
After these shots, I once again climbed the stairs to the suite level, took a browse around and chatted with a friendly Fisher Cats staffer.
By now, there was action in the Fisher Cats bullpen, so I walked over to watch Canadian Scott Richmond warm up:
scott-richmond-pitcher.jpg
And spotted Encarnacion, who was signing autographs along the fence:
edwin-encarnacion-autograph.jpg
I grabbed a ball from my bag and got him to sign it:
encarnacion.jpg
I also spotted Hechavarria, who’s supposed to be Toronto’s shortstop of the future. I called out to him and he came over to me. As he turned, he tripped on a groundskeeper’s rake and almost fell, briefly giving me visions of a blown ACL and an angry call from Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. Anyway, he signed quickly for me and I must admit his autograph is one of the oddest I’ve seen:
hechavarria.jpg
Pretty soon, the clock said a few minutes before 7 p.m., meaning the game was set to begin. I snapped the shots to build this panorama during the national anthem:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-6.jpg
Then, took my seat behind the visiting team’s dugout. (Not that it mattered where I sat, because I would soon be on the move again!) After the first batter, the three or four kids beside me who were yelling, eating and generally not paying attention to the game got on my nerves. Normally I sit in my designated seat for the first inning or two, but not this time. Off I went again.
Here’s Hechavarria batting:
adeiny-hechavarria-batting.jpg
And a panorama from sort of behind home plate:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-3.jpg
Merchantsauto.com Stadium/Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (say that five times fast) has a Fenway Park-style manual scoreboard in left field:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-scoreboard1.jpg
You can also see it in the shot below, which captures the busy concourse behind the third base line:
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Dinner time! I’d read about the ballpark’s decent selection of seafood, given Manchester’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Normally, I’d be wary of eating something too exotic at a baseball stadium, but on this chilly night, I wanted something hot and tasty. Here’s the seafood menu:
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I went with a clam basket, which came with fries and coleslaw. It was all right — lots and lots of breading but the slaw was excellent and the clams and fries were nice and hot:
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It was also amply sized. I had trouble finishing it, but perhaps that’s because my hands were shaking because of the cold. I was only wearing a light jacket, so I was very chilly on this September evening. After I was done eating, I sat in the left field corner for a couple innings. If you love baseball like I do, you’ll appreciate how passionate I am about attending live games. It’s awesome, though there are hardly the words to describe it. I love moving around, taking photos and watching the game from different angles. Here’s a close-up shot of the scoreboard:
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I was so close I could hear the men who were operating it talking back and forth. And here’s a look down the line from the corner. That’s Trenton’s bullpen; you can see one of the Thunder’s relievers stretching his throwing arm with a band tied to the fence:
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Remember that $15 cap I mentioned earlier? Here it is on the fence:
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And speaking of the fence, it’s ideal for snagging foul balls. I had no luck, but unlike solid fences that require you to hang over them to grab a ball, you can simply reach through the rungs of this one:
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I watched a freezing cold inning from the picnic area behind the left field fence. I was the lone person braving the cold in this area. More sensible people were enjoying warming beverages in the bar behind me. Here’s a view from the picnic zone:
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By now, the game was nearing its late stages, and things were still close. Trenton led 1-0 through six, but New Hampshire had trouble getting any kind of rally going. To make matters worse, the Thunder scored two in the seventh, four in the eighth and one more in the ninth. Normally, I don’t cheer for either team unless the Jays are involved, but given Toronto’s connection to the Fisher Cats, I was cheering like crazy for the home side. New Hampshire put up one run in the bottom of the ninth, but that was it. Final score: Trenton 8, NH 1. End of the season for the Cats, who quickly beelined it for the clubhouse. I was hoping they might return to greet the fans, as teams occasionally do after the end of the season, but soon the lights went off and a fireworks show began:
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After the show, it was a bit of a depressing feeling. The team’s season was over, and my 2010 ballpark adventure might be over, too. I needed to check to see if the Tri-City ValleyCats had advanced to the New York-Penn League final; if so, they’d play in nearby Troy, NY, the following night.
So, with my 2010 hanging in the balance, I looked around at the dark Merchantsauto.com Stadium:
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(As I had not been drinking, my vision wasn’t this blurry; it was just the camera.)
Because I’d yet to get a ball at this game, I decided I’d take advantage of the quickly emptying ballpark to see if I could come up with one. There was nothing in the NH bullpen, nor the home side’s dugout. As a last-ditch effort, I checked the Trenton dugout. Nothing. A hopeful peek into the elevator that helps people in wheelchairs get into the dugout, however, yielded a white sphere in a shadowy corner. Aha! I reached for the ball … and reached … and reached again. The elevator was so deep there was no way I could get the ball. Unless, of course, I climbed into the elevator. Its door was latched, so I quickly scaled it and reached for the (very cobwebby) ball. Got it! When I got back out and held it to the light, I could see it was an Official Eastern League Baseball. It had obviously been there a significant length of time, and I have no idea whether it was a game ball or just a practice ball:
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Anyway, with ball in hand, I left the now-almost empty park, walked quickly past the line of traffic waiting to exit the stadium parking lot and was back in my hotel room watching ESPN before many fans were on the highway. Awesome! I also kept an eye on the darkened stadium. Lots of workers were scurrying around the concourse cleaning and doing other duties. Eventually, the workers thinned out and soon, the lights were turned off.
The next morning, I woke early, worked out in the Hilton’s gym for an hour and stopped in at the business center to check the Tri-City website. It turns out the ValleyCats beat Batavia in the opening round of the NYPL playoffs, setting up a championship round Game 1 against Brooklyn starting that night. One more game to get to in 2010! Troy, NY, is a 3.5-hour drive from Manchester. I quickly packed up my room, loaded up the car and returned to the hotel lobby to check out. In the lobby, I ran into a familiar face. It was Edwin Encarnacion, who was leaving the hotel to wait for a shuttle. The shuttle would take him to the airport where he’d fly back to join the Jays. He was carrying his Jays duffel bag, too. I said hello to him, and he said hello back. I should’ve asked to get a photo with him, but there was no one readily available to take it, and I like to be respectful of pro athletes’ privacy when they’re not at work.
Before leaving, I walked back down to the ballpark and took one last shot of the building front:
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Then I hopped in the car, punched Tri-City’s Joseph L. Bruno Stadium into my trusty GPS, and hit the road.

Toronto Blue Jays – August 11, 2010

A day after our first visit of the season to Toronto, we took the train to Rogers Centre for a second straight game against the Red Sox. Once again, we were visiting to take notes and photos for my website.

Toronto’s traffic is ridiculous, but getting to Rogers Centre is pretty easy if you use public transportation. We took the GO Train from the suburbs again, and it couldn’t be easier. You get off the train at the downtown Union Station, which is at the foot of the CN Tower and a couple minutes’ walk from the stadium. Here’s the view when you come out of the Union Station walkway:
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That’s the stadium, the foot of the tower and a little garden area.
Today, we bought 500 Level tickets for $14 each, which is a bit expensive considering how far you are from the action. Like many MLB teams, Toronto jacks up its prices for “premium” games, which mean you pay more when a good team is in town. Once we entered the stadium, we saw the batting practice screens were up again, so I’d renew my attempt to get a BP ball. My wife, as you can read here, got one ball in our first Jays game and I was shut out.
Though she got her ball in the 100 Level above Toronto’s left field bullpen, there was a lot more action in the left field corner, so we headed there early enough that the stadium’s fanatic guards weren’t deterring people from entering the good sections. I managed to secure a spot along the fence and patiently began waiting for balls to come my way:
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My wife retreated about a dozen rows up into the second to avoid balls coming her way. When a line drive flew into her general area, she retreated up a few more rows. Before long, a roller came toward me and stopped pretty much below where I was standing. It was a few feet away from the wall, so I had to precariously hang my entire body below the wall and strettttcccchhhh until I could roll the ball toward me with my outstretched middle finger. Finally, I got it into my hand … ball #1!
A minute later, another line drive flew toward my wife, who quickly closed her eyes and covered her face with her hands. It bounced off a seat near her, and as three or four male ballhawks dove to the ground at her feet, she calmly bent down and emerged with her second ball of the series! We didn’t have long to celebrate, as a couple batters later, a screamer flew into our section, bounced off a seat and flew back toward the field. Somehow, I managed to barehand it, giving me my second ball. BP ended soon afterward, and we finished with four balls between us in two games!
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Before we left the section in the left field corner, we noticed a total seating fail. Imagine buying a ticket for this seat?
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We toured the concourse a bit, then began the long climb up to the 500 Level. Unlike Cleveland, which has steps, Rogers Centre is one ramp after another. Are they are dark and dreary as they appear below? Yes:
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Once we climbed into our nosebleed seats, I took my first in-stadium ticket shot:
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Below is a look at the different styles of seats behind home plate. From left to right (in other words, from closest to farthest from the plate) you’ve got plush red seats, then blue padded backs and seats, then non-padded plastic seats. The dark blue seats in the second deck have foam seats, but don’t have padded seat backs:
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Rogers Centre’s upper deck is railing hell:
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It’s also dizzyingly high:
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But it’s got a nice view, as evidenced by this panorama:
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From our seats, we could see the TV broadcast booth. That’s former Jay Pat Tabler and former Jay Buck Martinez:
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Because Rogers Centre suffers from poor attendance, a lot of the upper deck is closed to fans. You can still wander around the concourse, but it’s pretty much a ghost town:
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I did, however, sneak close enough to the Jumbotron to be able to spy on the rich people watching in their private dining area:
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Here’s a panorama from about as close to dead center as I could get:
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Remember yesterday’s entry and the mention about the amazing nachos we saw advertised? Here they are in all their glory:
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We went back down to the 100 Level to buy the nachos and decided to watch the rest of the game from down there. The ushers won’t let you near any of the sections, yet there are empty chairs along the rail directly behind each section, so we pulled up two chairs and watched the rest of the game from here:
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The photo doesn’t do the view justice; it wasn’t bad at all, and you could stretch your legs.
As for the game? Total snoozefest. The Red Sox won 10-1, led by Bill Hall’s two home runs. The conclusion of this game concluded our six-day, six-game roadtrip. Visit my website to read guides to every stadium I’ve visited thus far. They’re not all there just yet, but they soon will be!
Two more 2010 games left to recap … AA New Hampshire and A- Tri-City. Check back soon for details about my exciting visits to each of those ballparks.

Toronto Blue Jays – August 10, 2010

On the night of August 9, 2010, my wife and I arrived at my aunt and uncle’s house in the Toronto suburbs after driving straight from Niles, Ohio after watching the Mahoning Valley Scrappers game. We had a great time at Eastwood Field, compiling photos and notes for my website The Ballpark Guide. Here’s the Eastwood Field/Scrappers page on my site.

On this day, the Jays were hosting the Boston Red Sox and I’d bought 100 Level tickets online in advance. We took the commuter train from the suburbs to downtown, made a beeline for the ticket office’s will call window and picked up our tickets.
After horribly forgetting to take a ticket/stadium shot in my first game at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, I made sure to get my trademark shot right away:
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That out of the way, I snapped a few photos of Rogers Centre, the ballpark I know best. I’ve been here dozens and dozens of times since it opened in 1989, but every time I visit is just as exciting as the first. Here are a couple photos:
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Once the gates opened, we went to our seats, which were directly over the Jays bullpen in right field. Batting practice was on:
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I was determined to get my first Major League Baseball from a Big League BP. Here’s an artsy photo my wife took of me watching the proceedings:
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Halfway through BP, not a single ball had entered my section, despite my intense watching skills:
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Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my wife catch the eye of an usher and point at a ball below our section. Without hesitation, he grabbed it and tossed it up to her … and she promptly misplayed it, causing the ball to roll out of the section and back down behind the bullpen. Somehow, he decided to go get it for her again, tossed it up and she caught it! I was down 1-0 to my wife who, if she had her druthers, would prefer that all projectiles steer clear of her.
BP wrapped up a few minutes later, so it was time to take a stroll around the stadium before the game begun.
Rogers Centre is a great facility, but the concession prices are ridiculous. So too are the product names — the food vendors love adding special names to common ballpark food to make it appear exotic. An “Italian” sausage is a brown-tinted hot dog.
A burger for $11:
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A dry piece of cardboard pizza for $5.25? Ugh. Give me Minor League Baseball’s $2.50-everything menu any day.
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The one exception we found, however, we a new attraction: The Roundhouse Carvery & Bar. Here, they’ve got actual chef types slicing actual meat. It’s basically meat on a bun, but the quality looked deli-style and pretty good for stadium food. And for $10, I’d much rather have this than another burger:
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Equally good looking was the Muddy York stand, which offered loaded nachos for $8.50. By loaded, I’m talking about BBQ smoked pork, cheese, baked beans, corn salsa, sour cream, green unions and jalapenos … and this feast cost $2 more than the standard yellow corn chips and yellower “cheese sauce.” (More on these nachos in my second entry about Toronto … at this point, we were touring around and not eating just yet.)
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As we walked around the circular concourse, I couldn’t help but take a photo of one of my favorite sights:
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And a few other pics, including this panorama:
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By now, we’d circuited the entire stadium and made our way back to the rear of section 130, where our seats were. Near here, I have to mention, is the famous Quaker Steak & Lube concession stand, which serves outstanding wings. A basket is $10, and a big bucket is $21 (yikes), but they’re worth it. You can get a handful of flavors and they’re better than the average sports bar wing:
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We each got a single order of wings (I somehow neglected to take a photo) and headed to our seats for the start of the game. Before getting there, I took an awkward-angle shot to show our seats, which were roughly in front of the orange Pizza Pizza banner:
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Then the game begun. As you can see, the attendance wasn’t bad on this night. It’s typically pretty good for games against the Red Sox and Yankees:
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From our seats, we had a great view of the Jays dugout. That’s Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and Brian Tallet:
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After a couple innings, we took our usual stroll to watch the game from different angles. From the top of the 100 Level along the third base side, I got this picture of David Ortiz:
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Behind him is J.P. Arencibia, one of my favorite Jays prospects for a long time and the guy who should be Toronto’s Opening Day catcher in 2011.
I took the photos to make up this third base-side panorama later that same inning:
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And here’s a close-up of Toronto starter Ricky Romero:
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Here are a couple panoramas from behind home plate:
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Granted, I haven’t been in many MLB stadiums, but I’ve been in a ton of NHL and NFL facilities, and the Rogers Centre “ushers” are fanatical. Now, I’m a Jays fan and always will be, but it’s ridiculous. Of course, if I have a 100 Level seat, I don’t want someone else sitting in it. But if it were the bottom of the ninth, and there were 5,000 fans left in the ballpark, the ushers still wouldn’t let someone move to the 100 Level. I wanted to get the shots for a panorama from the third base side, so I walked past the usher to stand in the aisle and take some photos. No big deal; no one was trying to get past me and I wasn’t taking anyone’s seat. And he freaked. I told him I just wanted to take a couple photos and then I’d be gone. “No. I can’t let you do that,” he said. My response? “Well, I’m going to take some photos either way, and if you want to forcibly remove me, go for it.” And he just stood there looking frazzled. I’ll end the rant here, but it wouldn’t hurt Toronto’s military-wannabe staff to take a chill pill.
Here’s a panorama from the first base line:
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After taking this, we headed to one of my favorite sections in the outfield, just to the left field-side of the batter’s eye. As much as I love sitting at the stadium, I don’t like crowds around me. So here’s a trick: If you buy a 100 Level seat, the ushers allow you to move elsewhere in the 100s, as long as the new seat is the same price as the old one. The section to the left of the batter’s eye rarely has people in it, so I often go sit in the middle of it where I can watch the game in peace. The view here is pretty good:
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You can also keep an eye on the bullpen: (That’s Scott Downs looking at me.)
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Before the start of an inning, I snapped this photo of outfielders Fred Lewis, Jose Bautista and Travis Snider watching something on the scoreboard:
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As for the game? Toronto lost 7-5, but got home runs from Adam Lind, Snider and Bautista.
After the game, we took the train back to the ‘burbs and I counted down the hours until the next night’s game, which would be Clay Buchholz against Shaun Marcum.