Tagged: baseball roadtrip

Shirts I’ve Collected

Last week, I blogged about the six caps I’ve bought during my travels around Major League and Minor League Baseball.

This week, I want to continue the sports-centered wardrobe theme and talk about some of the shirts I’ve bought and received through stadium giveaways. As I’ve said, I don’t buy a hat at every park I visit. The same holds true for shirts and other memorabilia. Still, when the price is right and I like the look of something, I’ll add it to my collection.

Dating back to my first baseball road trips for TheBallparkGuide.com in 2010, here’s what I’ve picked up:

Cleveland Indians – Travis Hafner jersey shirt

This isn’t a traditional jersey shirt; you’ll see that it has Hafner’s nickname, Pronk, on the back. I’m a Hafner fan, and thought this shirt was unique.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats 1

When I visited New Hampshire’s (now called Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) in September 2010, the team was about to play what would be its final playoff game of the season. As such, most of the products in the team shop were on sale. I picked up this T-shirt for under $10.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats 2

I got this one for around $10, too. Not bad for a Nike product, and I like the look of it.

Great Lakes Loons

When I watched the Great Lakes Loons play in May 2011, I visited the team shop during a long rain delay. This shirt was priced way less than other comparable products, so I bought it. What I didn’t notice at the time is that the logo is significantly closer to the left sleeve. (Hence the price reduction.) Still, I like this shirt because it’s one baseball shirt that isn’t gaudy.

West Michigan Whitecaps

Speaking of gaudy (in a good way, of course), this bright red Whitecaps shirt featuring their logo is eye catching. Most of the shirts I’ve gotten are white, so this one stands out in my closet.

Fort Wayne TinCaps

Perhaps partly influenced by my amazing visit to beautiful Parkview Field, this TinCaps shirt is one of my favorites. I like its design and the fact it uses the MiLB logo in a prominent spot. Plus, who doesn’t like angry apples?

Lake County Captains

I wasn’t around to see Lake County win the first half of the Midwest League championship in 2010, but I liked this shirt enough to buy it in 2011.

Delmarva Shorebirds

I’m a big fan of this simple Shorebirds T-shirt by Nike. I like Delmarva’s logo and the simple design of this shirt.

Baltimore Orioles 1

When I was in B-More, I was lucky enough to attend a game with a T-shirt giveaway. The T-shirt this day was J.J. Hardy.

Baltimore Orioles 2

Last summer, Chevrolet heavily promoted the Volt at MLB stadiums, including Camden Yards. If you signed up to receive Chevrolet marketing material, you got a free T-shirt. Count me in! And, if you wanted to sign up multiple times, you’d get multiple shirts ….

Washington Nationals 1

A couple days after I was in Baltimore, I was in the nation’s capital over the July 4 long weekend. The Nats gave away American flag-themed T-shirts at the gate.

Washington Nationals 2

Just like in Baltimore, Chevrolet had a kiosk promoting the Volt. I managed to get, uh, a few of these shirts, too.

Binghamton Mets

On July 4, I stopped in Binghamton to see the B-Mets battle the Portland Sea Dogs before an impressive fireworks show at NYSEG Stadium. During the game, I picked up what’s become one of my favorite items — a B-Mets pullover. These are the shirts the players wear during BP, in the dugout and while warming up. It’s awesome.

But what about game-used items? You’ll just have to check back tomorrow for some goodies that fall under that category.

A Few Places I’ve Been

I’ve taken several thousand photos since I began traveling and compiling research for TheBallparkGuide in the summer of 2010. (If you’re new to this blog and are curious about where I’ve visited, look at the tag cloud on the right side of the menu or click here.) The vast majority of my photos focus on the elements of each ballpark I visit, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve missed getting photos of myself in most locations. I often travel alone, and while it’s possible to hold the camera at arm’s length to shoot myself, some of these photos don’t turn out that great.

That said, I’ve got a handful of photos taken at different locations that I’m posting below. Click the date to read my blog about the visit.)

The second ballpark I visited, back on July 17, 2010, was Auburn’s Falcon Park. While I was snapping shots of the front of the ballpark, the man who lives next door to the facility offered to take my shot:

Later that summer, I traveled to Cleveland for two games on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. During the second game, I got a few autographs around the visitors dugout, and then had my photo taken by another fan while sitting on the Indians dugout:

On Aug. 10 and Aug. 11, my wife and I watched two Blue Jays games at Rogers Centre. My wife snapped this artsy shot of me hoping to catch a ball during batting practice …

… and a day later, took one of me along the fence during batting practice. I snagged two balls here:

I toured around Michigan in May 2011, and watched the second of two Detroit Tigers games on May 25. Unfortunately, this game was called because of the rain after a few innings. While the tarp was still on the field, an usher took my photo:

On June 27, I watched the Hagerstown Suns play at Municipal Stadium. Bryce Harper was hurt and didn’t play, but that didn’t stop me from finding his truck in the parking lot and taking a photo of myself in front of it:

Next, on July 2 and 3, I was in the nation’s capital to catch three Nationals games (July 2 was a doubleheader). Here’s a photo of me before the first game, down at field level:

And on the second day, up on a deck in the left field corner:

The third-last game I watched in 2011 was on July 31 at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. Before entering the ballpark, my wife took a photo of me out front:

The Sea Dogs are the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and Hadlock Field is equipped with a mini green monster. During our visit, fans were able to play catch on the field before the game. Here’s me in front of the scoreboard:

And while throwing balls off the wall and catching them:

And pretending to relay them to the imaginary cut-off man. (I can’t lie.)

As always, thanks for reading. If you don’t do so already, check me out on Twitter.

2011 Game Tickets

It’s still several months until I’ll be blogging about my 2012 baseball road trips for The Ballpark Guide. Fortunately, I still have a lot of interesting things to share from the 27 games I attended during the summer of 2011.

One neat souvenir I’ve got from each of those games is my ticket stub. Now, ticket stubs are admittedly uninteresting to some people, but I think they’re great. And I think my wife approves, as they don’t take up that much space. I like how, for the most part, every ticket stub is different.

Anyway, enough talking. Let’s get to them, in order:

May 19: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays

I bought the top ticket in advance of my first game of the season at Rogers Centre, and it’s pretty plain. Midway through this game, a lady gave me the lower two tickets for the section behind the Jays dugout, as she was leaving early. The design on these tickets is much nicer; they’re likely from a set of season’s tickets.

May 20: Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays

My second Jays game of 2011 had the same style of ticket as my first game.

May 21: Bowling Green Hot Rods at Lansing Lugnuts

I think the Lansing Lugnuts offer one of the sharpest-looking tickets in the minors. I like the checker plate background, the large, stylized team name and how the ticket takers stroke out the side of the ticket with a Sharpie, rather than tear it.

May 22: South Bend Silver Hawks at Great Lakes Loons

The simplicity of the Great Lakes Loons ticket is perfect. The Loons play in the small town of Midland, MI, and the design of this ticket is reflective of that rural setting.

May 23: Fort Wayne TinCaps at West Michigan Whitecaps

This West Michigan Whitecaps ticket is pretty standard: faded image in the background and the classic “ticket font” in the foreground. I do like, however, the vertical strip down the right side, featuring the ballpark and team logos.

May 24: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers

I bought this Tickets.com ticket in advance of my first visit to Comerica Park; obviously, there’s not much to see here.

When I misplaced the above ticket while in Detroit, I was given a reprint at the ticket office. This one’s a little better, but the green (which, in its defence, is used to identify the ticket as being a reprint), looks weird when associated with the Tigers.

May 25: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers

The next day, I bought this ticket at the Comerica Park ticket office. As you can see, it’s virtually identical to the reprint from the day before, but has an orange/red border instead of the green one.

May 26: Durham Bulls at Toledo Mud Hens

The Toledo Mud Hens have a sharp-looking ticket and the pinstripe background is the first such design I’ve seen. From the stylized Mud Hens wording in the center of the ticket to the logo on the right, I’m a big fan of this one.

May 27: Great Lakes Loons at Fort Wayne TinCaps

While I loved my visit to Fort Wayne to watch the TinCaps, this ticket design lacks interest. The gray TinCaps logo in the bottom right corner blends into the background, which isn’t great. On the plus side, I like how the ticket identifies the name of your section and the Parkview Field wording stands out well.

May 28: West Michigan Whitecaps at Lake County Captains

The Lake County Captains offer one of the most unique tickets I’ve seen. The right side is ripped off upon entry to the park, but even with this subtraction, the ticket is massive. The top part tears off, if desired, and the blue color and team logo give this ticket lots of visual impact.

May 29: Reading Phillies at Erie SeaWolves

This Erie SeaWolves ticket is perhaps the most underwhelming I’ve encountered. It’s certainly got all the information you need, but its design is super sub-par. There’s some sort of baseball image in the background, but it’s virtually impossible to discern.

June 23: Norfolk Tides at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees

This ticket is simply designed, and has large “Yankees” lettering in the background, although it didn’t show up in the scan. I’m still a little bitter about the price I had to pay for this game.

June 24: Altoona Curve at Harrisburg Senators

Stephen Strasburg is depicted on this Harrisburg ticket, which is cool. I also like the 25-year badge and the 6-time EL Champs lettering.

June 25: Staten Island Yankees at Aberdeen IronBirds

The IronBirds offer one of the plainest tickets I’ve seen thus far, but I like their sense of humor. See where it says “Fashionably Late”? That’s because I bought it on game day. The “SRO” lettering means standing room only.

June 26: Binghamton Mets at Bowie Baysox

On the surface, this Baysox ticket looks fine, but the odd thing is that the team uses orange and black as its colors. (The team has a turquoise third jersey, however.) If this ticket had an orange tint to it, I’d call it a winner.

June 27: Lakewood Blueclaws at Hagerstown Suns

Although the sunglasses on the Hagerstown Suns logo scream 1991, this is a catchy ticket. The fonts are a bit small, but I realize saying that makes me sound like a bitter old man who complains about neighbors who make noise at 7 p.m. The $8.80 price is a bit bizarre, too. Virtually every other ticket’s price is an even dollar value.

June 28: Greensboro Grasshoppers at Delmarva Shorebirds

Plain Jane is the best adjective for this Shorebirds ticket, which features no color and minimal graphical elements. I like the silvery shimmer of the logo in the center, but this ticket would be augmented with a splash of color.

June 29: St. Louis Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles offer a bland ticket, but like other MLB teams, the look of the ticket improves if you’re a season’s pass holder. The B&O warehouse is depicted in the background, which is neat.

June 30: St. Louis Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles

See above.

July 1: Winston-Salem Dash at Potomac Nationals

I’m not a fan of the way the Potomac Nationals rip your ticket upon entry, but this ticket is neat because it features a background image of the P-Nats’ 2010 Carolina League championship team.

July 2: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals

Like the Blue Jays and Orioles tickets I showed above, the Washington Nationals use a standard ticket template for fans who buy at the ticket office.

July 3: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals

Ditto. But I like the price on this one better.

July 4: Portland Sea Dogs at Binghamton Mets

The background color of this Binghamton Mets ticket certainly catches your eye. The Mets logo on the upper right of the ticket is nice, but I find the other team logo gets lost behind the visitor’s name. Still, a nice ticket.

July 28: Reading Phillies at New Hampshire Fisher Cats

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have a tear-off Modell’s coupon on the left side of their tickets, but the rest of the design is sharp. I like the Fisher Cats logo in the background and the 2011 Eastern League All-Star Game emblem in the bottom left corner.

July 31: Altoona Curve at Portland Sea Dogs

The Portland Sea Dogs take an interesting approach on their tickets, showing an image of the team’s alumni jersey wall in the background. With a sharp eye, you can catch the jerseys of David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon, among others.

August 21: Hudson Valley Renegades at Vermont Lake Monsters

I find that the Green Mountain Coffee coupon on the left of the Lake Monsters ticket takes up a bit too much space, but I like the background image of the team celebrating.

September 23: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians

Not to sound like a broken record, but the Indians’ standard ticket is pretty similar to the other MLB teams in my list.

As a bonus, I thought I’d share the tickets from the games I attended in 2010.

Ready? Let’s go!

July 16: Indianapolis Indians at Rochester Red Wings

This ticket’s special to me because it’s the ticket I bought for the first ballpark I visited for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com. I bought it in advance, so it’s got my name printed across the middle, which is sort of neat. The ticket itself features an overhead view of Rochester’s Frontier Field.

July 17: State College Spikes at Auburn Doubledays

I absolutely love this ticket. It helps that my visit to Auburn was amazing, but I love the simple design of this ticket. The Doubledays are publicly owned, and have a tangible community-oriented feel. This one-of-a-kind ticket just supports that.

July 18: Pawtucket Red Sox at Syracuse Chiefs

The Syracuse Chiefs used this ticket in 2010 to commemorate their 50th season as a modern-era franchise. Although it’s hard to see on the scan, the design includes baseball card images of past Chiefs.

August 6: Columbus Clippers at Buffalo Bisons

This 2010 Buffalo Bisons ticket is pretty generic. There’s a standard crowd image in the background, and if it weren’t for the red/orange seats, I wouldn’t know it was taken at Coca-Cola Field. Of note is the angry-looking guy to the left of the world “Buffalo.” I think the team could’ve done better.

August 7: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians

Virtually the same ticket the Indians used this summer.

August 8: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians

Another standard Tribe ticket.

August 9: Aberdeen IronBirds at Mahoning Valley Scrappers

The New York-Penn League’s Scrappers have a simple, effective design on this ticket from 2010. The background image features the team celebrating in the infield after a win. And I have to chuckle at the “No Outside Food/Beverage” reminder in the bottom right.

August 10: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays

This ticket featuring Adam Lind is nicer than the plain tix the Jays sold in 2011.

August 11: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays

These two tickets show Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill. I also like how the tickets indicate the time that the stadium opens. The baseball stitches along the right side are sharp, too.

September 10: Trenton Thunder at New Hampshire Fisher Cats

The ’10 Fisher Cats ticket is very similar to the ’11 version. The chief difference is the change in the team color and ballpark name.

September 11: Brooklyn Cyclones at Tri-City ValleyCats

I don’t like how the side of this ticket got ripped off, but the design is nice. Because I’m such a fan of ballparks, it’s neat to see Joseph L. Bruno Stadium depicted in the background. This ticket works well.

Vermont Lake Monsters – August 21

About a month ago, I planned to make the drive to Burlington, VT, to watch the Short-Season A Lake Monsters play a doubleheader at Centennial Field.

In the days leading up to that game, I kept an eye on the weather forecast, which read something like rain-rain-thundershowers-rain-thundershowers-thundershowers-rain.

So, I decided not to risk the long drive … and the doubleheader went off without a hitch.

Fast forward to last week, when I was planning to visit Vermont on August 21. The forecast was eerily similar, but I decided to chance it. Instead of making a solo trip, I went with a good friend I don’t get to see enough. We met bright and early and headed out into the rain, thunder and lightning that was the entire drive to Vermont.

About 30 minutes outside Burlington, the rain let up to a light drizzle, and shortly before we arrived at Centennial Field, the drizzle stopped completely. Perfect!

We got to the park around 11:20 a.m. for the 1 p.m. game, so there were only a handful of cars in the parking lot:

Note that I said it was a 1 p.m. game. But when we got up to the ticket window, there was an ominous message …

… a 6:05 p.m. start? I asked the ticket vendor incredulously, thinking the forecast had bumped the start of the game. Luckily, he said the 6:05 reference was an error. Whew!

With some time to kill before the gates opened, we took a walk toward the left field corner, and made a right turn to get behind the outfield fence to look for balls. Here’s the scene:

But since there was no batting practice because of the rain, there were no balls to be had. I’ve got to think that if BP had been on, the balls would’ve been easy to snag. Nevertheless, we continued the walk with our eyes peeled for balls, and I paused to take my usual ticket shot:

In the background is the Lake Monsters log cabin-themed scoreboard, which is unique looking, despite lacking a little on the information-giving side of things:

After making it to center field, we turned into the area beyond the right field fence where this was the scene:

Back here, there were a few neat things to see. Members of the Vermont side were having a pre-game prayer group:

While the Hudson Valley Renegades took some swings in the cage behind them:

No one paid us any notice, including a staff member who walked by at one point. I scanned the area for balls, and quickly noticed a white blip up against a chain-link fence well beyond the area we were standing in. I went closer and found this:

The markings are mostly rubbed off, but it was an official Northwest League ball. In other words, it was a long way from home. I’m trying to collect a ball from every league I’ve visited, so this was a super-cool find.

So far, I have balls from the:

– Major Leagues
– International League
– Eastern League
– Carolina League
– Midwest League
– South Atlantic League
– New York-Penn League
– Northwest League

With no other balls to find, we walked back toward the left field corner …

… and peeked over the fence to see the Renegades close up:

Actually, it wasn’t the first time we saw the team so close. They were using the adjacent soccer field’s dressing room as their clubhouse, so they walked down the driveway we used to access the field.

There wasn’t much to see when we walked in the other direction from the park’s main gate. A fence blocked off the area, but we were able to look into the concourse:

See the Ford display in the foreground? A minute or so after I took this picture, the employees began packing it up quickly. Hmmm. It appeared they knew something we didn’t, because soon after, the skies opened up again.

Though the scene was grim, it wasn’t all bad; the gate attendants let everyone in early to get a bit of shelter, and even said we could use the handicap area because it was covered. People in Vermont seem pretty friendly.

Over the next hour, the rain fell hard and fell soft, but kept falling continuously. Despite the showers, we wandered around the stadium to note the old, cement general admission section …

… and the wooden seats:

Scenery aside, there wasn’t much else happening here of note:

Eventually, an announcement said the game wouldn’t begin at 1 p.m., but that team officials hoped things would get underway within an hour or so. Around this time, members of the Renegades came out and played catch:

And returned from the batting cage:

Just when things were looking up, more thunder struck, the players retreated and the skies went dark again. Here’s where we took refuge during another downpour:

With the rain still coming down, we moved out into the concourse (staying against the building under the roof’s overhang) and went to the team shop:

I ended up buying a Lake Monsters alternate cap, which has a unique look because of its white front panel:

We also stopped by the team’s silent auction table, where I resisted the urge to bid on an MC Hammer bobblehead:

As the rain let up, we began to hear talk that the game would begin around 1:40 p.m., which wasn’t bad, all things considered. For the next while, we walked around to take in the sights, including a historical plaque:

The Lake Monsters clubhouse, located behind the first base-side bullpen:

And another panoramic view of Centennial Field from atop the stands behind the first base line:

Below is a photo looking down at the home clubhouse. Fans can stand behind the yellow chain and get autographs as the players enter and exit, though there still wasn’t any activity:

So, we took a rather “you shouldn’t be here”-looking path behind the clubhouse …

… to an area called The Cage, which is a bar right behind the batting cage. On our way, we could see piles of cleats in the windows of the clubhouse …

… and the batting cages:

Here’s the bar, such as it is:

In its defense, what it lacks in appearance, it makes up for in location. It’s a neat place to watch the game. In this area, a bunch of Lake Monsters were playing cards and a handful more were playing darts:

FINALLY, the Lake Monsters came out to stretch:

And the bullpen got some life in it. Below is starting pitcher Brent Powers tossing:

The game began around 1:50 p.m., so we made a quick stop at the concession stand and took our seats directly behind home plate, where we had this view:

And equally importantly, here was my view as I devoured a rather good sausage on a bun:

We actually ended up sitting two rows behind Chris Pittaro, the A’s director of pro scouting, who spent a lot of his time firing off emails on his iPhone.

After four innings, we made another stop at the concession stand, bought some Dippin’ Dots and found a relatively dry spot in the bleachers on the first base line.

Food:

And baseball:

Is there anything better?

Hudson Valley seemed to be cruising along until Vermont second baseman Michael Fabiaschi blasted a fifth-inning grand slam (his first career pro dinger) to put the Lake Monsters ahead for good. It’s always neat to see a guy’s first home run, and Fabiaschi (#12) was pretty stoked:

Vermont put up a three-spot an inning later to take an 8-3 lead. With the game well in hand, we made our way back to The Cage, which was empty. Before settling in to watch the rest of the game, I made my way behind a chain-link fence into a forest to retrieve a foul ball that’d been hit an inning earlier. It was easy to find and was in near-perfect condition:

We had this view for the last inning or so …

… and watched the Lake Monsters celebrate after their 8-3 win to extend their lead in the Stedler Division:

After the game, we went to the Vermont clubhouse where I got a handful of autographs on a ball. (As usual, I’ll blog about this separately.)

Then, we went around to the picnic area down the third base line to gain access to the field to play some catch. Here’s a shot of the empty ballpark from the field:

After taking this shot, I noticed some pieces of paper affixed to the visitors dugout wall. I asked a grounds crew member if I could go retrieve the official lineup card, and his response was, “Go for it.” Like I said earlier, friendly people in Vermont. Anyway, the lineup was gone; all that remained was stats sheets, which I wasn’t really interested in.

Still, it was a great experience at an interesting, historical-feeling ballpark. We hit the road as soon as our game of catch was done, and drove through rain so hard that we had to pull off the road at one point. I’m just glad the rain held off long enough for nine innings.

Portland Sea Dogs – July 31

The day to visit Portland’s Hadlock Field had finally arrived. I’ve been looking forward to this particular ballpark for roughly a year, since I first started my regular baseball travels.

Hadlock Field is home to the Sea Dogs, who are the Eastern League AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. There’s a replica Green Monster in the outfield, which is one of the neatest things to see in all the Minor Leagues.

Even better than seeing the Monster, however, was the chance to play catch below it. Yep, the Sea Dogs were giving fans the chance to play catch for an hour prior to the game, so I was pumped for that. And unlike the games in which I travel alone, my wife could be my catch partner this time.

Catch began at 10 a.m and ran for 1:15. The game began at 1 p.m., and unfortunately, fans weren’t allowed to leave the ballpark. Don’t get me wrong — I like getting to the game early, but spending that amount of time before the game was a bit much, especially given the day’s extreme heat and the zero shade throughout the entire seating area.

Anyway, we arrived around 10 a.m. and bought our tickets. Here’s mine:

And here’s both of ours:

Because we didn’t need to play catch the whole time, we took a walk around the outside of the ballpark to look for balls and see the sights. Hadlock Field is directly beside the Portland Exposition Building, which is home to the NBA Developmental League’s Maine Red Claws. I imagine this doesn’t rank too high on the caring meter for most of you, but if you’re into basketball, you might be interested:

The walk around Hadlock Field proved pretty uneventful. The path around the stadium’s left, or third base side is blocked off, while there’s not much to see around the other side, either. From the parking lot, you can look back and see the ballpark’s picnic area and some of the field:

We also found the rear entrance to Portland’s clubhouse:

And one ball:

I didn’t feel the need to add it to my collection, though.

As you can see from the photo below, the area behind the outfield fence is fenced off, so finding batting practice balls is next to impossible here:

With nothing more to see back there, we headed back to the pavilion in front of Hadlock Field where I got my picture taken with a statue of Slugger, the Sea Dogs’ mascot:

Before we went in, I took a photo of the front of the ballpark …

… and a panorama to show the whole front area:

When we got in, we went straight to the field, which we had to access via the left field corner. As always, it was awesome to be on a pro ball field, and there were already a bunch of people playing catch:

re’s me at the base of the Monster:

From down here, we had a great view of the scoreboard:

And the Citgo logo and Coke bottle, just like Fenway:

I should also mention the Sea Dogs gave the first bunch of fans Sea Dogs balls to play catch with, which was pretty nice:

Here’s a panorama from field level:

Around 11 a.m., we went over to the first base line which had a tiny bit of shade around the picnic area. A couple minutes later, the Altoona Curve (affiliate of the Pirates) players arrived:

Before we left the field, the Sea Dogs came on and started stretching. There were still maybe 100 fans on the field when they came out; definitely something that doesn’t happen every day!

After walking around the concourse for a bit, we decided to grab something to eat. The basic menu at Hadlock Field is below:

Once we ate, we went to the team shop, which is disappointingly the worst I’ve seen at any level. It’s all behind the counter, so you can’t actually touch anything, try anything on or just browse. You stand there like you’re at McDonald’s, and place your order. See the photo below? All that stuff is unreachable. I’m not sure why the Sea Dogs do it this way, but it’s not very fan friendly:

Something that was neat to see, though, was how the Sea Dogs were selling Bryce Harper T-shirts on the concourse outside the team store. If you’re missing something here, don’t worry. There’s no Sea Dogs/Harper connection, but you can’t deny that Harpermania has spread throughout the Minor Leagues:

These prices were good, but nothing could compare to my experience of seeing Harper a month or so ago in Hagerstown. If you haven’t read this post, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

Hadlock Field has a neat feature in the concourse down the first base line; photos of each team’s ballpark in the Eastern League:

This is the first time I’ve seen something like this, and my only knock on it as that it’s hugely outdated — old photos, old logos, etc. Still, though, pretty cool.

Just a little further along is the team’s hall of fame, which includes guys such as Kevin Millar and Mark Kotsay:

After spending some time in the concourse, we went back out toward the field. I’d sort of been avoiding it because it was SO HOT. I’m not normally one to care about the weather either way, but it was brutal.

And a wall covered in current Red Sox jersey graphics:

Off to one side of the press box is the team’s banners:

I then climbed up in front of the press box and took a panorama of the whole ballpark:

(See the lack of shade? For the record, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing … but it’s not ideal on super hot days.)

Anyway, we then went down the third base line to watch Altoona warm up:

Another knock on Hadlock Field? You can’t get close to the area in which the Dogs warm up without having a seat in the picnic area. Lame:

Down the third base line, however, you can stand on a little runway directly above the visitors’ bullpen, which is neat. There’s also a hilarious sign:

I watched Altoona’s starter Aaron Pribanic warming up for a bit:

In case you’re wondering, Portland’s bullpen is up high above the fence in right-center. I’ve never seen anything like it:

As for the game, I was most excited to watch Chih-Hsien Chiang. I saw him a while back when the Sea Dogs were in Binghamton, and he’s incredible. Look at his stats:

(He was since traded to Seattle for Erik Bedard.)

We sat for most of the game up in the bleachers along the third base line, with this view:

And occasionally, we’d go into the concourse for a bit of shade. (Though the temperature was nearly as hot.) There were a number of TV sets there to help you keep an eye on the game, but the picture quality was lacking just a bit:

Here’s an action shot of Chiang I took in around the sixth inning:

Portland led the game 8-3 in the ninth, but Altoona scored two runs to make it a little more interesting. Final score: Portland 8, Altoona 5. The teams also combined for 26 hits, including three Sea Dogs home runs. The game lasted until around 4:20 p.m., so after more than six hours inside Hadlock Field, we left.

On our way back to the parking lot, we saw Altoona’s bus waiting in the team lot behind the first base side:

I should say that I got one pretty cool autograph at this ballpark, which I’ll blog about later this week.

In the meantime, I’m putting the last touches on my next trip of the season, which will begin in a couple weeks. I’ll blog about it soon.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – July 28

First off, apologies for taking so long to get to this blog post. My two-game road trip in late July was part of a week-long trip through New Hampshire and Maine, and it was a holiday trip with my wife more than a baseball-specific trip. So, I’m now catching up on things.

Anyway, as you may have previously read, I took in my first New Hampshire Fisher Cats game last September, and had an awesome time. If you want to read my blog about it, click here. And if you want to read a full ballpark guide to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on my website, TheBallparkGuide.com, click here.

On this trip to the east coast, I wanted to hit a Portland Sea Dogs game. But since we were driving through New Hampshire, it only made sense to catch the Toronto Blue Jays AA team for one game.

One of the coolest things about Northeast Delta Dental Stadium is the on-site Hilton Garden Inn with field-facing rooms. I’m a sucker for places like this. I stayed here last year, and had to do it again this year.

We arrived around 3 p.m. on the day of the game and checked in. When I anxiously got to our room, however, I was dismayed to see it was right behind the batter’s eye:

(I later took a look at the outside of the hotel from the ballpark, and our room (#201) is probably the only one with an obstructed view. I could’ve complained, but I didn’t want to mess around. I couldn’t tell if the batting cages were up for BP, though since the Fisher Cats played a double-header the day before, I severely doubted it.

Either way, I took a rather limited panorama …

… and waited for a bit until the Reading Phillies came out to stretch:

The hotel has an outdoor eatery called The Patio. It’s directly over the outfield fence and you can sit there at any time, including for batting practice. Last year, the teams didn’t take BP, and unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards again this year. I was really hoping to snag some home runs, but I guess that will have to wait for my next visit.

Here’s the view from The Patio:

And here’s a panorama shot from roughly the same spot:

With no BP to watch, I took some photos of the Phillies, who looked like they were having fun despite the temperatures of nearly 100 degrees:

Eventually, the Fisher Cats came out to run, too:

I’m not sure who the guy on the left is, but I believe the other guy is Henderson Alvarez, who’s only 21 but has an impressive 7-4 record with a 2.82 ERA.

My wife and I decided to have an early dinner on The Patio, and the food and service were great. I’d recommend staying at the Hilton Garden Inn if you ever go to a Fisher Cats game, but either way, check out this eatery prior to the game.

After eating, we headed around the corner of the hotel …

… and right to the Fisher Cats ticket office, where we got our tickets. I took my customary ticket shot:

And since my wife wanted in on the fun, here’s a shot with both our tickets:

We entered the stadium as soon as it opened, and climbed the big flight of stairs up to the concourse:

When I got on the concourse, I took a look back at the hotel. I think you’ll agree that our room (which is circled) didn’t have the most ideal view among the rooms facing the field:

All those umbrellas directly between the hotel and the outfield fence are part of The Patio, so you can see what I mean about being close to the action during BP.

The concourse was crowded with camp kids, but we made our way through to the area behind home plate where last year, I visited the Ted Williams Hitters Museum and Hall of Fame. Here’s what it looked like last year:

And here’s the scene this year:

Hmmmm.

We continued our way around the concourse to the right field corner, and I snapped this panorama:

Soon, the Fisher Cats came out to stretch again, so I made my way down to the first base line to try to get some autographs. Remember how the Phillies looked loose and fun before the game? The Cats were that way, too. First baseman Mike McDade (#40) seems to be telling some sort of funny story here:

Here are Moises Sierra, Mark Sobolewski and Adeiny Hechavarria getting stretched out:

As the players got warmed up, I noticed that one of the rotary display boards on the scoreboard wasn’t working:

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only problem for the Fisher Cats on this night. The main scoreboard was dead, too:

(As you’ll see above, that guy up the ladder finally did get the rotary display to work correctly.)

I managed to get six autographs, which I’ll blog about at a later date, as usual. For now, I’ll say I’m pretty pleased with how I did.

As the players awaited the start of the game, I snapped a quick shot of the dugout, which is very nice by AA standards …

… and one of catcher Travis D’Arnaud, who was a key figure in the trading of Roy Halladay:

Note: I think D’Arnaud is giving the stink-eye here to two kids who ran to the railing screaming, “Catchercatchercanwehaveabat?Catchercanwehaveaball?Catchercanwehaveabat?”

When the game began a few minutes later, we took our seats down the third base line, where we had this view:

From our seats, I could see that The Patio was really packed with people watching the game, and I could even see fans watching from their hotel rooms:

On this visit, jets flew overhead at a frequency of maybe one every 10 to 15 minutes. I don’t remember this last year, so maybe the Manchester airport’s flight plans have changed? Either way, it was cool to see the jets so low. Here’s the FedEx one …

… which was followed a few minutes later by the UPS one.

As for the action on the field, our close seats enabled us to get a few decent shots. Here’s Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano:

Adeiny Hechavarria:

Anthony Gose:

And Mike McDade (photo courtesy of my wife):

After a few innings, we took a walk around the concourse and my wife snapped a sunset shot of Manchester over the Merrimack River:

We then relocated to behind home plate in the same row as some scouts. We had this view:

While in this area, we got dinner. Last year, I had a clam strips basket, which was no longer on the menu. I wanted to try the clam chowder, which was a big seller last September given the cold weather, but didn’t seem too popular given this game’s hot temperature. It came with oyster crackers and was tasty. I mean, it’s not exactly homemade, but it tasted like Campbell’s soup, which isn’t a bad thing at a ballpark:

As you can see here, it’s got loads of chunks, too. It’s not just broth:

Following our meal, we went down the third base line to a relatively empty area behind the Reading bullpen:

We spent the rest of the game here, watching the Fisher Cats continue to put up goose eggs. Despite three errors by the visiting team, the Phillies won 6-1:

Next up, Portland — home of the AA Sea Dogs.

Another Autographed Ball

Last week, I posted photos and short blog entries about four different autographed balls I obtained during my most recent ballpark road trip.

Today, I realized I still haven’t posted pictures of the ball I got signed during my visit to Dow Diamond to watch the Great Lakes Loons play back on May 22. If you haven’t read about that memorable trip, here’s my blog post about it.

On this ball, I got a total of eight different signatures. I’m not sure about the first two, but the next two in the image below are pitcher Bret Montgomery and outfield Bobby Coyle:

In this image, the sigs belong to 1B Blake Dean and another mystery guy:

Here, it’s another mystery guy:

And here, it’s pitcher Andrew Pevsner:

I know, it’s lame to not know a few of the signatures, but given the way players jump from team to team in the Minor Leagues, figuring these guys out is difficult. At least two of the guys whose signatures I obtained are no longer with the Loons, and it’s a huge task to go through the team’s transactions to see if a name lines up with one of these autographs.

That said, I’d love to know which guys I have. Does anyone out there know?

Finally, here’s one last image of the ball, alongside the giant Loons collectible cup I bought during my visit:

Hopefully, you’re not sick of seeing signed balls yet. But if you are, I’ve got a treat for everyone either tomorrow or Friday. It’s not signed, and it’s not a ball, but it’s definitely awesome. I’ll say game-used, and leave it at that … for now.

** UPDATE **

A couple hours after posting this entry, the Great Lakes Loons got in touch with me for information about the mystery autographs.

They tell  me the top autograph likely belongs to 2B Bryant Hernandez and the next one belongs to pitcher Michael Drowne.

The bottom sig on my second image above likely is that of Chris Jacobs or Chris Henderson, while the image below the “China” marking is former Loons closer Logan Bawcom.

A couple notes: Since I got Drowne’s autograph, he was sent down to the Pioneer League’s Ogden Raptors.

Bawcom, meanwhile, after putting up an impressive 4-1 record with 14 saves and 56 Ks in just 45.1 innings pitched with the Loons, was promoted to the California League’s Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

Thanks to the Loons for the reply. They were awesome to deal with when I visited Dow Diamond, and I definitely hope to get back there some day.