Tagged: Auburn Doubledays

Auburn Doubledays – July 17, 2010

The morning after I watched the Rochester Red Wings at Frontier Field, I woke up at my Rochester Extended Stay America hotel, showered carefully to avoid touching anything and headed out. Auburn is less than two hours’ drive from Rochester, and with an evening game in Auburn, I had most of a day to kill.

I began the day by destroying an Italian sausage skillet at Denny’s. It’s one of those moves that seems brilliant at the time, but one you regret pretty soon after.

I hopped back on the interstate and made my way toward Auburn, which is just south of Syracuse. I did a bit of shopping in Syracuse and toured the city for a bit before making the quick drive to Auburn to check out Falcon Park for TheBallparkGuide.com.
I’d never been to a game in any league lower than AAA, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was excited, however, to watch the Auburn Doubledays because at the time, they were a Blue Jays affiliate. The Doubledays play in the New York-Penn League. I like this league’s name, and always have. It’s just got a cool sound to it. The NYPL is a Short-Season A league, meaning the players have a season that runs only from June to September. Outside of rookie ball, it’s the first stop in pro baseball for many young players.
Auburn, at the time, had two players I was anxious to see: Marcus Knecht, a Canadian from the Toronto area who was drafted in 2010 by the Jays, and Jonathan Fernandez, the son of longtime Blue Jays great Tony Fernandez.
I arrived in Auburn around 4:30 p.m. and had a quick dinner at Arby’s. (Boy, I was really eating well on this trip.) I did notice, however, that several businesses in Auburn had signs posted to remind residents that the Doubledays were playing that night (a pretty cool idea):
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Prior to my trip, I scouted out Auburn’s Falcon Park on Google Maps and saw that beyond its outfield fence was a grass hill. This, I thought, would be ideal for snagging batting practice home runs, so I wanted to get to the park early.
Falcon Park is smack dab in the middle of an Auburn neighborhood. You drive through an area filled with houses, then the ballpark suddenly appears. Across the street from the stadium is a large — and free — parking lot. I parked my car and noticed I was only about the fifth or sixth car in the lot. The Doubledays 1998 NYPL championship is celebrated with an official street sign:
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Quickly, I headed to the area beyond the outfield fence and it looked like Easter morning. Several baseballs sat undisturbed in the grass and no one was around to claim them. I started picking them up and to my excitement, they were official NYPL balls. As I gathered them and hunted for more, a few more balls plunked down on the grass near me. (Note: If you’re snagging balls in this way, it’s best to keep your head up … or down, or whatever you think is safest. You have absolutely no warning when balls fly over the fence and essentially no time to react. And despite being nearly 400 feet from home plate, they’re travelling at a remarkably good pace.) Here’s a look at the hill where I had so much success:
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In all, I gathered 11 balls. I was celebrating my spoils when I heard someone yelling at me from across the parking lot. He looked friendly enough, so I wandered over to him to see what was up. He was from New York City and was in Auburn visiting family. His kids were playing in the waterpark that’s just behind Falcon Park, and he was chilling in the parking lot. He asked if I was picking up balls, and I couldn’t really lie. He asked for one, saying he collects balls from different stadiums. I guess he’d wanted to get one of his own, but had to keep an eye on his kids. I picked out my second-best ball and gave it to him; he was thrilled. About this time, a scary meth head sauntered over and said, “I’ll give you, like, $5 for a ball.” He also managed to use the F-word about a dozen times in the course of our 10 second conversation. I weighed my options: A) I doubt he had $5, and B) I’d rather give him a ball and have him go away. I went with option B and he took it without saying thank you. Before the guy decided to come back and take all my baseballs, I said goodbye to the guy from the Big Apple and dumped my remaining nine balls in my car.
I love the look of the front of Falcon Park, and for what it’s worth, the entire park:
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Then, a neighbor who literally lives next door asked me if I wanted him to take my picture in front of the building:
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I asked him if he’d ever been to a game, and he hadn’t. Funny. I bought my front-row ticket next to the Doubledays dugout for $7, then headed into the souvenir shop. Oops, the door I entered was actually the team’s office. I realized this when I was surrounded by desks and computers instead of souvenirs. As I said, the ballpark is pretty low key. But back to my ticket. You’ve got to love paying $7 for a front-row seat.
Until the park opened, I wandered around a bit and took a few more photos. Here’s one looking into the field through an opening in the left field corner:
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And when the gates finally opened, I rushed into the park to see what was what. The main concourse at Falcon Park is very small and intimate. The team is actually owned by the community, which gives the venue a pretty neat feel. You definitely get the sense that the citizens stand behind their team.
Falcon Park has box seats in its lower section and general admission bleachers in the upper section, but the park only seats 2,800 people. There’s just one concession stand, which is located to your right as you enter the main gate. I bought a hot dog and was impressed with the facility’s prices. I wasn’t too hungry so I didn’t overeat, but it was tempting; nothing on the menu cost more than $4! (Beer, of course, was more.)
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I headed down the walkway behind the first base-side bleachers and saw the team’s championship and division banners, the Auburn Baseball Hall of Fame and the kids area. A party deck is also located on this side of the field. Behind home plate is a large, open area full of vendor tables. Here are a few photos:
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Here’s a look at some different seating sections at Falcon Park:
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A souvenir stand is located down the third base side, and I couldn’t resist buying a Doubledays hat. I bought the team’s third cap, a red New Era cap with one of the neatest logos in Minor League Baseball: A letter “A” wearing a Civil War cap and sporting a gigantic mustache. Best of all, this official MiLB cap cost just $20 — much better than $45 for an MLB hat, right?
I found my way to my seat on the third base side after getting a couple autographs at the Doubledays signing booth in the main concourse:
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And then, I got a ton more autographs on my team ball, which I’d bought upon entry. In all, I got 17 signatures (I think) on the ball. The players were the friendliest I’ve encountered. Perhaps it’s their age and their enthusiasm, but they definitely still had passion for the game and its fans. It was nice to see.
My seat was pretty close to the action. It was neat to see the players warming up just a few feet away, and also to be able to watch the goings-on in the dugout during the game. Here are a couple photos to show my view:
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On this night, the Doubledays were playing the State College Spikes, which is a pretty cool name. Their name refers to a young deer, called a Spike, and also ties into baseball cleats. They’re from State College, Pennsylvania and are affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was pretty exciting, with a ton of offense. Here’s an action photo from my seat:
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The Spikes snuck by Auburn 11-10. Here’s a picture of the scoreboard taken early in the ninth inning:
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While I normally like to move around the stadium as much as possible, I was seated beside a pretty neat gentleman — a guy in his 80s who was attending the game by himself. We hit it off pretty quickly and he was a blast to watch the game with. He was a long-time season ticket holder and had lots of good stories about the team. Anyway, I did my touring around, but had a great time sitting with this fellow fan. I never even found out his name, but he made my Falcon Park experience really enjoyable.
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Rochester – July 16, 2010

I’ve been to more baseball games that I can remember, dating back to 1988. I’ve been to Toronto Blue Jays games at old Exhibition Stadium and SkyDome/Rogers Centre. I’ve been to dozens and dozens of AAA Ottawa Lynx games in Ottawa, Ontario. I’ve even been to a couple World Baseball Classic games in Toronto.

That said, I was pretty stoked the morning of July 16, 2010 as I loaded the car for my first baseball roadtrip of the summer. Why? Because this would be the first baseball stadium I would visit for my new website, TheBallparkGuide.com.

The plan was to be away from home for two nights, hitting three Minor League Baseball stadiums on my three-city journey in New York State. Rochester, the farthest destination, would be my first stop.

I headed out late morning and the plan was to cross into the United States at the Ogdensburg crossing. That plan was all well and good until I got to the 1,000 Island Parkway, which had slowed to a turtle’s pace. It was a bad sign when a bunch of bikers beside me had turned off their motorcycles and were inching them forward by foot.

Here’s a shot I took of my Garmin Nuvi 255W GPS after a 30 minutes on the parkway. It was stop and go for 70 minutes, and I should’ve taken another shot of my GPS screen. Anyway, after 30 minutes, you’ll see my overall average was a frustrating 1 km/h. Awesome.

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After I paid to use the bridge (ugh), I passed successfully into the United States without much of a hangup at the border. I passed through Ogdensburg, Watertown and Syracuse and had to make a quick stop at the Waterloo Premium Outlets, just west of the ‘Cuse. The Under Armour store at the outlet has some ridiculous deals.

When I was there, I spotted this car in the parking lot:

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A little while later, I arrived in Rochester and made it to Frontier Field‘s neighborhood. As an aside, I’ve got to say how awesome it is to finally have a GPS. After years of thinking it was ridiculous to have someone tell you where to turn (and years of frustratingly getting lost in new cities) I decided to get a system prior to this first roadtrip. It was awesome. I know this should come as no surprise, but it led me directly to the stadium. And when one of the approaching roads was completely torn up due to construction, my trusty GPS gave me an alternate route.

Parking at Frontier Field is a bit iffy. There’s a gigantic lot adjacent to the stadium, but it’s a trick. Most of the lot is for Kodak employees, as there’s a huge Kodak office almost across the street from Frontier Field. After driving into the lot, then doing the embarrassing reverse back into the street after the gate wouldn’t open because I didn’t have a pass, I drove around the block a time or two until I found the entrance to the stadium lot.

 

I loaded up my backpack with some ballpark essentials — camera, ball glove, balls to get signed, printed rosters of each team and some bottles of water — and headed to the will call ticket window. Because this was my first roadtrip for my website, I was a bit giddy ahead of time and bought a ticket online. This proved unnecessary, as it’s pretty easy to buy walk-up tickets to Minor League games. Anyway, I picked up my ticket and quickly headed to the side street along the stadium where I took this picture:

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I love walking around stadiums and documenting my walk with photos. I snapped this photo, showing Frontier Field from a unique angle. It’s hard to tell it’s even a ballpark from this photo. It looks like it could be a factory or a train station, I think:

frontier-field-exterior.jpgI kept walking and took this picture of the great Bob Gibson on a lightpost outside the stadium. I didn’t even know Gibson played in Rochester, so learning a bit more about the Red Wings history was cool to see:

bob-gibson-rochester.jpg My trip was looking up already. I walked to the back of the stadium, peeked through a gate and took these photos:

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rochester-red-wings-bp.jpg You have to love stadiums at which you can watch the on-field happenings before the gates are open. I hate how you’re not allowed in Minor League Baseball stadiums during batting practice, but it’s neat to be able to watch a few minutes of it, at least. I kept on walking and took this shot of the Kodak building, which stands pretty tall in Rochester’s downtown core:

kodak-rochester.jpg A moment later, I was roughly behind Frontier Field‘s centerfield, and took these photos of the stadium’s rear sign and gate:frontier-field-sign.jpgfrontier-field-rear-gate.jpg I then hurried back to the stadium’s main gate. It was largely empty when I first arrived, but it was now starting to get crowded. I got in line about 25 people back and couldn’t resist buying a program for $1. $1! This program was packed, too. Lots of cool stuff to read about the team while I waited. When the gates finally opened an hour before game time, I ran in and took a bunch of photos.
Here’s a pretty neat looking bird in the main concourse. (He’s a red wing, I suppose.)

rochester-red-wings.jpgAnd here’s a horse made out of baseball gloves:

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The horse was pretty neat, though all the gloves were covered in people’s names. I’m not sure if this was done prior to it being built or by vandals after it was put on display.

 

I checked out the Rochester team shop and bought a team logo ball for $6. I planned to get it signed by as many players as possible, before and after the game. I headed to the left field corner where there’s a grass hill/picnic area. I love being one of the first people in a nearly empty ballpark. Here’s a look back at the home plate area, showing just how empty Frontier Field still was at this time:

frontier-field-empty.jpg And here’s a pretty pristine-looking outfield. You’ve got to admit that Frontier Field is beautiful. It’s only a AAA ballpark, but its quality is Big League.

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As I made my way around the stadium, the stands were still pretty empty. This early, people were congregating in the ballpark’s concourse and getting food. Here are a few looks at some almost empty stands:

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frontier-field-stands.jpgA little under an hour before first pitch, the Red Wings have one player sign autographs in the concourse. I headed that way and found it was outfielder Brian Dinkelman. Dinkekman went to McKendree College, where he still holds 25 of the school’s all-time baseball records. I got his signature on my team ball.

brian-dinkleman-autograph.jpg After getting my autograph, I made my wall back out to the field to find my seat. I was in the 12th row of section 110, which is on the first base side of home plate, next to the Red Wings dugout. After getting my bearings, I gathered around Rochester’s dugout where a number of players were signing autographs. I added a few more signatures to my team ball, then returned to my seat for the anthem and pregame festivities. As you can see from the photo below, I was nice and close to the action:

rochester-anthem.jpgDid you know that Baseball America named Rochester as Baseball City USA? I didn’t.

rochester-baseball-city-usa.jpg By now, the once-empty stands were getting pretty full:

frontier-field-attendance.jpg It was a rough first half-inning for Rochester, which gave up one run on four hits. Frontier Field has a pretty basic scoreboard, but it gets the job done:

frontier-field-scoreboard.jpgsnapped this photo during the bottom half of the first inning, showing the action on the field, the fans and the Kodak building looming in the background:

frontier-field-first-inning.jpgAnd by the time the first inning was over, I’d had enough of my seat. Crammed up against a couple nerds talking about work and checking their BlackBerrys every two minutes? Ugh. I love moving around during ballgames, so I was on the move again. Between innings, I hit the concession stand where I bought buffalo chicken mac and cheese. That’s right. It’s a big bowl of mac and cheese with chunks of chicken, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and bleu cheese dressing. It was amazing!

frontier-field-food.jpgI have to say that Frontier Field might have the best food you’ll find at a Major League or Minor League park. I’ll correct myself if I’m ever proven otherwise, but Rochester serves up some amazing grub. In addition to typical ballpark food, there was a gluten-free vendor, a variety of Italian food and a bunch of other great-looking stuff. The mac and cheese filled me up, but next time I go back to Rochester, I’m going with an empty stomach.

I ate my dinner in the upper deck behind the first base line. When I was done, I snapped this photo of the sun setting on right field, with some of downtown Rochester in the background:

downtown-rochester.jpg Then, it was down to the right field corner where I took a look at the bullpens. As you can see from the thermometer, it was 77 degrees at 7:44 p.m. — a pretty nice night for ball:

rochester-bullpen.jpgYes, I was watching the game despite all my walking around. Pat Neshek came on in relief in the game’s late innings. Neshek is the best autograph signer in the game today and a real friend to the baseball card hobby. Here’s a none-too-good photo of Neshek pitching:

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By now, I was over on the third base side where I took this zoomed-in look of a concession stand in the right fielder corner — just what every growing child needs: Fried dough:

fried-dough.jpgOff to the right field corner I went to spend an inning on the grass hill:

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After sitting on the grass, I settled into a fairly deserted row in the right field corner. I like my legroom, and I despise being crammed into a row with other fans. Plus, if a foul ball headed toward this section, I’d have a good chance of getting it:left-field-stands-frontier-field.jpg

By now, the game was getting late and it was getting dark. The window for good photos was pretty much up, so I just enjoyed the remainder of the action. Indianapolis won an offensive battle 10-7. Following the game, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra put on a show that was timed with fireworks. Not my kind of music, but it was pretty neat to see. Here’s a shot of the RPO, including some members clad in Red Wings jerseys, warming up:

rochester-philharmonic-orchestra-frontier-field.jpg After the game, I ran back to the main concourse outside the stadium and waited near the players’ parking lot. I read some great advice about autograph collecting at Frontier Field on SportsCollectors.net, and quickly found the area was littered with other autograph collectors. I grabbed a bunch more Red Wings on my team ball and ended up with about 10 signatures, give or take.

Afterward, it was back to my car and onto my hotel. I booked my hotel through Hotwire. Ever use that site? Its premise is you get your hotel cheaper than anywhere else, and I’ve typically had pretty good luck with it. You pick how many stars you want, and in what area, and the catch is you don’t know what hotel you’ll get until you book and pay. In this way, it’s a gamble. It’s sweet when you make out better than expected and miserable when you don’t.

On this night, I was headed to Extended Stay America. Huh? This wasn’t a chain I’d heard of, and I’d read it was located in a strip mall. That turned out to be untrue; it was only beside a strip mall. I cautiously checked in and hopped into the elevator. I have a theory about hotels. If the elevator is clean and not shady, the guest rooms are nice. If the elevator is gross, the rooms will be, too. The Extended Stay elevator was neither clean not secure feeling. You know those elevators that feel like they’re about to drop? This was one of them. Anyway, the room proved to be fairly plain and while it wasn’t exactly clean, it was passable for around $60. The downside was its single bed (ugh) and while it had a full kitchen, it wasn’t anything I’d consider putting edibles near.

The end of an excellent first day. On to Auburn’s Falcon Park tomorrow!

Welcome to my blog!

Hello, MLBlogosphere!

My name is Malcolm and I’m a die-hard baseball fan. For years, I’ve loved attending ball games in person, like many of you. While I enjoy sitting and watching the best game in the world, I also love walking around the stadium and really exploring it. As a Canadian, and I’ve attended dozens and dozens of Toronto Blue Jays games over the years. I’ve been at Rogers Centre so much that I could double as anyone’s personal tour guide to the stadium.

So, I thought, why not create a website that offers tips and tricks to visiting each stadium in the major leagues and minor leagues? Ambitious, yes, but this is a long-term project that I hope other fans will work on with me. Other sites of this nature do exist, but I haven’t come across one that really satisfies what I’m looking for as a fan.

Last summer, I put this plan into action and began travelling to several ballparks and compiling research. This research — extensive notes and photographs — was gathered to eventually be used for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.

rochesterticket.jpgBetween July and September 2010, I visited:

– Frontier Field, home of the AAA Rochester Red Wings

Falcon Park, home of the A- Auburn Doubledays

Alliance Bank Stadium, home of the AAA Syracuse Chiefs

– Coca-Cola Field, home of the AAA Buffalo Bisons

Progressive Field, home of the MLB Cleveland Indians

– Eastwood Field, home of the A- Mahoning Valley Scrappers

Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays

– Merchantsauto.com Stadium, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats

– Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, home of the Tri-City ValleyCats

Since then, I’ve been working feverishly (well, most of the time, anyway) with my awesome brother-in-law to launch our website, TheBallparkGuide.com.

Now, more than six months later, I’ve got the first ballpark breakdown on our website. The Ballpark Guide isn’t about rating each ballpark, because it’s so hard to compare venues — which is better, Fenway Park or Wrigley Field? Instead, The Ballpark Guide is all about providing fellow baseball fans with a comprehensive guide to each stadium. It’s our hope that when a fan wants to visit a new stadium, he/she checks The Ballpark Guide for a complete breakdown of that facility.

Where should you park for cheap? What food should you make sure to try? What hidden secrets are there to obtaining an autograph or a ball? It will all be at The Ballpark Guide.

So, you ask, where does this blog come in? The Ballpark Guide isn’t a travel journal; there’s a lot about each of my trips that doesn’t really make sense to include on the site. But, this information would be perfect to blog about on a travel blog. That’s where The Ballpark Guide Blog comes in. Because I’ve already visited nine stadiums, I’ve got a lot of travel blogging to do. I’ll do that in the near future, and once I’m caught up, the blog will talk about my travels as they happen.

In the meantime, please feel free to check out my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.