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 The Ballpark Guide 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 The Ballpark Guide in the summer of 2010. 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.

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.


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:

Here’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 here’s the link if you want to read a full ballpark guide to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

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:


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.

Next Road Trip Planned

My next road trip won’t be as long as my last two, but I’m definitely looking forward to it. This one isn’t about seeing as many games as I can in a short period of time (that’ll come during my next one, beginning mid-August). Instead, my wife and I are fitting three games into a summer holiday. But don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging while I’m away.

Game #1 takes place on July 28 as we travel to Manchester to watch the New Hampshire Fisher Cats take on the Reading Phillies. As you can read about here, I watched the Fisher Cats in playoff action last fall at home. Why go back, you ask? Well, I always want to get as much ballpark information as I can for my growing website. (If you want to read a fan guide to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the Fisher Cats, you can visit this link.) Also, the ballpark has changed names since I was there last fall, so I want to get some new photos.

Last year, I stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn with a field-facing room:

And because I can’t resist, I’ll be doing the same thing again this year. This time, however, I’m hoping to catch some BP home runs on The Porch, an outdoor bar run by the hotel that is situated directly over the outfield fence. During my last visit, the teams didn’t take BP.

I’m also keen on sampling more off the Fisher Cats’ seafood menu. Last time I was there, I had the clam strips basket. This year, who knows?

And lastly, this is a great facility and the on-site hotel is just plain awesome. Plus, the Cats are the AA affiliate of my favorite team, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Game #2 will be in Portland, Maine, on July 31. We’ll watch the Portland Sea Dogs host the Altoona Curve. I’m excited for this game because Portland’s Hadlock Field looks neat, and because fans are allowed to play catch on the field after the game. This’ll be the second time I’ll be on a field this summer. In June, I got to go on the field at an Erie SeaWolves game.

Game #3 will be on August 2, and we’ll watch the host Vermont Lake Monsters up against the State College Spikes. These teams play in the New York-Penn League, a league I’m rapidly getting through ballpark by ballpark. So far, I’ve got three official guides to NYPL ballparks up on my website: Falcon Park, home of the Auburn Doubledays, Eastwood Field, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, home of the Tri-City ValleyCats.

It should be a great trip. Between now and then, I’ll have details on my fourth road trip of the summer; it’s another 12-day, 12-game affair that I’ve almost got completely finalized.

Thanks for reading!

Ball of the Day – 1 of 4

Today, and for the next three days, I’m going to post a photo of a different autographed ball I got on my last road trip for The Ballpark Guide. Make sure to follow me on Twitter or bookmark this blog to see my next post.

My first post is an autographed ball of Baltimore Orioles great, and 1970 American League MVP, Boog Powell:

Powell is a two-time World Series winner, four-time All-Star and hit 339 home runs in a career that spanned from 1961 to 1977. Powell currently owns Boog’s BBQ at Camden Yards, and frequently hangs out at the popular eatery and meets fans. I got to meet him and get a photo with him during my second game in Baltimore on June 30.

Which autographed ball will I feature tomorrow? Check back and find out!

Finally, I’ll have news on my next road trip very soon.

Binghamton Mets – July 4

The last stop on my 12-day, 12-game road trip was Binghamton, NY, for an Independence Day showdown between the Binghamton Mets (NY Mets) and the Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox). The game was set for 6:35 p.m., with an extensive fireworks show to be held afterward.

I arrived in town around 3 p.m. and bought my ticket. On the way back to my (illegally) parked car, I saw a coach bus from Maine stopped by the curb. I suspected it was the Sea Dogs bus, and sure enough, the door soon opened and out came the team, entering the stadium through the gate in the left field corner.

My next mission was to book a hotel; once I did, I unpacked my car and headed back to NYSEG Stadium, which has an ample parking lot that costs $3:

I made a quick stop in the empty parking lot behind the outfield fence, where a couple fans were hoping to snag a ball during batting practice:

I took a look at the scene, however, and decided that it wasn’t worth waiting here. There’s a gap of at least 10 feet between the outfield fence and a second fence, so it’d take a big shot to clear both.

Besides, the gates were opening 1.5 hours early today, so I’d be able to get in while BP was still going on.

I got my usual ticket photo …

… noting how nice this ticket is. So many MiLB tickets are plain, but I like the colors on this one.

Before I entered, I took a quick shot of the front of NYSEG Stadium …

… and the ticket office itself:

There was a lot to see once I got inside the stadium. The team had a giant hallway full of merchandise:

A number of plaques featuring former Binghamton Mets:

And a big, Mets-themed kids’ play area:

I walked quickly through the kids’ area, however, to get to a picnic section down the right field line. A guy already there said he’d just caught a BP ball, and I knew I would be able to get on the board if I stayed for a bit, too. Sure enough, less than five minutes after standing here …

… I snagged this old, Eastern League ball:

The Mets were taking BP, so a bunch of the guys were out shagging in the outfield:

I figured I might get more than one ball, but only one other came remotely near me, and I misplayed its carom off the fence and missed it.

When BP wrapped up, I took a walk around the stadium to note a few features. There’s a rail yard/line right behind the left field fence, so trains roll through on occasion:

NYSEG Stadium opened for the 1992 season, and as you can see below, it’s got a selection of suites above the seats behind home plate:

I then took a walk down to the left field corner where a few Sea Dogs were hanging around the bullpen. I watched Portland’s Chih-Hsien Chiang do some running with a trainer/interpreter type:

Then watched Stolmy Pimentel throw a bullpen session:

After his session, he got some tips from pitching coach Bob Kipper and catcher Matt Spring:

When their chat wrapped up, I headed back to the main concourse where I browsed the B-Mets’ team shop, which contained a ton of cracked bats …

… and bought an on-field warm-up jacket off the discount rack for $28.

I noticed an open grill area behind home plate, used to cook burgers, sausages and other snacks. Neat, in theory, but it made SO much smoke that flowed through the concourse around the grill:

Later, I went back to the field level to take some action shots of guys warming up. You’ll notice below that Binghamton was wearing patriotic jerseys in honor of Independence Day.

Here’s Portland starter Chris Balcom-Miller (who got royally lit up):

Mets outfielder Matt Den Dekker:

Outfielder Raul Reyes:

Starter Jeurys Familia and catcher Salomon Manriquez:

When the game was about to begin, roughly a zillion summer camp kids descended on the stadium. I was surprised to see this, as it was a holiday and an evening, but it was happening nonetheless. My seat was roughly in the middle of this pack below, and it goes without saying that I didn’t both venturing anywhere near the crowd:

Instead, I took up a spot along the third base line:

The B-Mets jumped all over Portland early, scoring seven runs in the second inning. From my vantage spot, I had a good view of the B-Mets coming around third base to score over and over again. I also was able to get a neat shot of a Bingo player jumping out of the way of a pitch:

Later in the game, I went behind home plate to take this panorama …

… then pushed my way through the gigantic crowd of kids who were milling everywhere. I made it back to the relative quiet of the right field area, where some Portland guys were hanging out in the picnic area instead of the bullpen. And they were looking dejected, I might add:

I had hoped to get a decent meal of a sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob, but they were unfortunately sold out by the midway point of the game. Instead, I opted for perogies:

I added a bit of pepper just so they weren’t looking up at me so forlornly, but they didn’t do much for me. Next time, I’ll be sure to eat earlier in the game when there’s more selection.

I took another panorama from field level in the eighth inning, when hordes of Mayflies were descending on the stadium:

And then, left before the fireworks began. A ton of people from the area had arrived in time for the end of the game, meaning getting out after the fireworks would be a lengthy process. Instead, I left right at the end of the game and got to hear (and occasionally, see) the fireworks from my hotel room.

Washington Nationals – July 3

Before my second Washington Nationals game, I decided to walk around the outside of the stadium to take in the sights. A day earlier, big crowds prompted me to quickly get into the stadium, but on July 3, I had more time.

I took a long walk around the entire stadium, and saw the team’s head office …

… a plaque recognizing baseball’s return to D.C. …

… and even the players’ parking lot:

(Range Rovers seem to be pretty popular among ball players.)

Here’s what the first base gate entrance looks like:

And here’s a panorama of the center field gate, where I entered for both games:

Today, the crowds weren’t so bad, so I was able to score a $5 ticket …

… when the gates opened, I went straight down to field level to watch some Nationals tossing:

(Sorry, this guy’s name escapes me.)

See these giant lineups?

They were for the team’s autograph signing day. Chien-Ming Wang (who I saw pitch a few days earlier on a rehab stint at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium), Doug Slaten, Cole Kimball and Alex Cora were all signing:

I decided to forget about standing in line for 20 minutes to get one autograph, and it soon paid off. A few minutes after I took the above photos, the previous day’s starter, Livan Hernandez, came out to sign:

I got him on a ball I snagged a few days earlier at a Minor League game:

After getting my autograph, I went down the to Lexus Presidents Seats, which run $300+ a pop. You can’t even cut through this area, so the photo below is as close as I could get:

I stopped and watched the Nats’ pregame radio broadcast in the center field concourse for a few moments …

… then went and got a loaded hot dog for lunch. I got one covered in mac and cheese and Fritos, and while it tasted OK, it was impossible to eat without making a mess:

I then took a spot up along the first base line …

… and watched Jason Marquis have an absolutely terrible outing:

This mound visit was either in the first or second inning. Ouch. Though he was 7-2 going into the game, Marquis could not make a pitch. He left after 1.1 innings after giving up eight hits, six earned runs and even making an error:


After a few innings, I went behind home plate to take this panorama:

When I write my official guide to Nationals Park for my website, you’ll get a comprehensive list of all the places to eat. But in the meantime, I have to share one cool feature I’ve never seen elsewhere:

Yep, onion and relish dispensers that you crank. (I wonder if I could convince my wife to let me get one of these for the kitchen.)

I spent a couple innings standing behind a railing in the left field corner, where I took this picture of myself:

Nationals Park has a ton of places like this. It’s nice because if your seating area is crowded, or if you just want to stand up for a while, you can go find a spot to watch:

The Pirates cruised to a 10-2 win in a game that was all over in the first inning, and after its conclusion, I took the subway back to my hotel. Waiting for my hotel’s shuttle bus, I struck up a conversation with another guy who’d been to the game. After I told him about my website, he told me how the last time he’d watched a pro game in D.C., it was in the mid 1970s. (The old Washington Senators, of course, left in 1971.)

I love unsolicited opinions. The guy then told me (disgustingly, I should add) what a horrible manager Davey Johnson is and how the day’s loss was on him. He said Johnson’s not ready to manage in the Big Leagues and how Jim Riggleman was slapped in the face by Washington management. I said I understood what he was saying, but giving the team an ultimatum can come back and bite you in the hind parts.

The guy completely flew off the handle, telling me I was wrong and how when you’re “only” making $600,000, the team’s taking advantage of you. “He showed them,” the guy said. I pointed out that now that Riggleman is making $0, the team may be having the last laugh. The guy was starting to ramp up his rebuttal (while his wife stood there and blatantly rolled her eyes) when our shuttle bus came. Saved!

With my visit to the nation’s capital now in the books, I had one last stop on my 12-game, 12-day road trip: A visit to Binghamton, NY, to watch the AA Mets.