Tagged: Bowie Baysox

Harrisburg Senators – July 8

One of the things I love about baseball road trips for The Ballpark Guide is that every day seems to have something special.

On day one, I threw out the first pitch in Auburn.

On day two, I watched Derek Jeter rehab in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Day three began early with a trip to Harrisburg to watch the Eastern League’s Senators host the Bowie Baysox at Metro Bank Park. When I planned this road trip, my priority was getting to State College on the evening of July 8, which meant most of the day would be wide open. But when I saw the Senators were playing a rare noon game, I knew I could pull off another two-city doubleheader.

I got to Metro Bank Park about 10 a.m. and when I pulled into the parking lot, I explained to the attendant that I was picking up a media pass and asked if I was on the media parking list. “Don’t worry,” he responded, “we don’t start charging for parking until 10:30 a.m.” Awesome! What a great perk for Senators fans — come early, check out the area around the park and save a couple bucks. More teams should do this.

Although I explain a lot about Metro Bank Park in the fan guide on my website, I’ll remind you that one of the coolest things about this park is its location. It’s on Harrisburg’s City Island, which means you get to cross a bridge (or swim, if you’re really dedicated, I suppose) on your way there. Once I parked, I took a walk along the pedestrian bridge that runs between downtown Harrisburg and the island:

metro-bank-park-pedestrian-bridge

I picked up my media pass that Terry Byrom had left for me (thanks, Terry!) and decided to take a walk around the entire park before entering. Here’s the first shot I took after getting my pass:

metro-bank-park-front

From the island, you have a pretty good view of Harrisburg, including the Pennsylvania State Capitol building, which is the big dome on the right:

harrisburg-skyline-from-city-island

When I was walking back toward Metro Bank Park from the point of the island, I noticed this banner of former Senator Bryce Harper:

metro-bank-park-bryce-harper-banner

Last time I was in Harrisburg in 2011, Harper was still playing Class-A ball in Hagerstown and hadn’t even made it to the Senators. And now he’s taking part in the MLB home run derby.

After my lap of the park, I decided to go inside and check out the action. The noon game meant no batting practice, but the players on both teams were on the field. Before I focused on the players, though, I wandered through the nearly empty park. Metro Bank Park has some awesome seating options that are definitely worth considering if you plan to visit. There are bar seats in a couple spots in the outfield and a boardwalk behind them. Here are the seats in left-center:

metro-bank-park-bar-seats

In the washroom, I noticed the Senators are one of a handful of MiLB teams that put the logos of their league rivals in the urinals. I took a photo of one, thinking it would be cool to share. But upon looking at it just now, I figured no one wants to see a close-up view of a urinal. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

As I continued throughout the stadium, a shirtless man roaming through a patch of lilies outside the park caught my eye. You know when someone is acting suspicious and it just rings an alarm for you? That’s what was happening here and I stopped and watched as I tried to figure out what he was up to. Soon enough, I realized he was trying to find foul balls. Fair enough. But to avoid suspicion, it seemed, he was also halfheartedly weeding the flowerbed. Bizarre:

metro-bank-park-guy-looking-for-balls

One of the neat things about getting into a park early is the proliferation of players wandering around. By now, they’d finished their on-field stretching and many were sitting or walking through the concourse talking on cellphones. As I approached the Senators clubhouse, I saw a handful of players but a sign recognizing the 2011 flood caught my eye. I actually blogged about that flood at the time, which you can check out here. Much of the park was underwater and this sign noted how high the water was in the park’s lower level:

metro-bank-park-flood-sign

It reads: “September 2011 Flood: High Water Mark” and the line has to be nearly six feet up the wall. I remember reading that both clubhouses were completely full of water, and quickly noticed the park’s elaborate water-tight doors now covering the home clubhouse door:

metro-bank-park-clubhouse-water-proof-doors

The ballpark has an upper concourse boardwalk and a lower concourse. The boardwalk is more fun to walk along, but the lower level has its perks, too. One of those perks is standing next to the road bullpen and watching the action from just a couple feet away. You’re so close you can hear the ball zip past you. By the time I reached the bullpen, Bowie starter Tyler Wilson was just about to start throwing. I waited for a few minutes and then was able to get shots like this one:

tyler-wilson-bowie-baysox

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know one of the things I enjoy doing on my road trips is capturing moments you don’t notice on TV. Sometimes they’re funny and sometimes they’re a subtle reminder of life in the minor leagues. As I stood behind the Bowie bullpen after the anthem, I shot this photo:

metro-bank-park-bullpen-phone-box

It’s reliever Chris Petrini’s glove sitting on the bullpen phone box, but the thing that caught my eye was the bottle of water sitting in the box. In the majors, players often have climate-controlled bullpens, but that’s not the case in the minors. Whoever had this bottle of water stashed it here to keep it out of the glaring sun.

After the first pitch, I sought out something to eat. During my last visit, I sat in the all-you-can-eat seats, so I didn’t try anything at the other concession stands. This time, I settled on some wings at Arooga’s Wing Shack. I’m not usually a fan of boneless wings, but chose them instead of traditional wings to avoid too much of a mess:

metro-bank-park-food-aroogas-wings

The sauce was really tasty but the chicken was far too breaded for my liking. One neat thing about Arooga’s is if you like a particular type of sauce, you can buy a bottle of it in the Senators team shop. I love when teams make smart decisions like that.

I spent the first inning in the shade in a picnic area in center field, and then made my way down to the box seats on the third base side to take some action shots. Here’s Bowie’s Seth Loman fouling off a pitch:

seth-loman-bowie-baysox

Unfortunately, that was as far as I got. A minute later, a light rain started falling. About 30 seconds after the light rain, the skies completely opened up and I ran — along with dozens of other fans — to the team shop where I looked out and had this rainy view:

metro-bank-park-rain

The view lasted just a few more seconds. The umpires postponed the game right away and the players scurried out of sight. Given the darkness of the sky and intensity of the rainfall, I weighed my options. If the game had a substantial delay, which looked likely, I’d have to leave early to get to State College. On the other hand, as the last game before the Eastern League all-star break, the officials might just decide to postpone the game and resume it in the second half of the season. As much as I hate leaving games early, I decided to hit the road and start the rainy drive to State College. The rain delay in Harrisburg lasted about 90 minutes, so I’m not too heartbroken with my decision to leave.

Check back soon to read about my State College experience, which included more rain, a foul ball and a tour around Penn State’s Beaver Stadium!

Akron Aeros – May 20

Monday morning began with a big decision to make. I got up at 6 a.m. and was working at my computer when I saw something on Twitter that caught my eye. The Cleveland Indians were playing a noon game to wrap up their series against Seattle. Hmmm. I planned to be in Akron for a 7 p.m. Aeros game, and Akron is just a short drive from Cleveland. It’d be very possible to do the Tribe game from noon to 3 p.m. and still get to Akron in plenty of time.

I sprang into action, getting changed and quickly getting my room packed up. But then I decided to put a little more thought into it. It was only day four of my 13-day road trip, and I didn’t want to burn myself out. Last spring, I did three straight days of two-city doubleheaders (two games in two cities) and was a zombie by the end. It was a fun trip, but so rushed that it was tough.

So, I regretfully decided to stay at my hotel, continue blogging and forget about visiting Progressive Field. After all, I’ll be there again next week when I visit the Social Suite!

I blogged till shortly before noon, and then drove into Cleveland to see Lake View Cemetery. I visited this enormous cemetery back in 2011, but wanted to check it out again. It’s the burial site of Ray Chapman, a former Indians player who’s one of only a couple MLBers to die after being hit by a pitch. Chapman is a member of the Indians Hall of Fame and has a big plaque in his honor at Heritage Park. I’m not normally one for visiting cemeteries, but I wanted to find his headstone and share it on here. The 285-acre graveyard is enormous, but because many of the notable people buried there are marked with signs along the road, I figured it’d be a piece of cake to find Chapman’s plot. Boy, was I wrong. I drove in circles for about half an hour until my GPS screen looked like an Etch A Sketch that needed shaking. I decided to end this little adventure without finding Chapman’s site; if you’re really curious, you can see a picture of his headstone on his Wikipedia page. The cemetery, by the way, does have some neat sights. President James Garfield is buried there, as are John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness.

Afterward, I made the short trip to Akron and checked into my hotel. I was staying at the Courtyard Akron Stow, which is just outside Akron. The hotel is next to the highway, which makes accessibility a breeze. I was checked in and relaxing five minutes after pulling off the highway. Here’s the outside of the hotel:

courtyard-akron-stow

And here’s the room that awaited me:

canal-park-akron-aeros-room-inside

This room had two queen-sized beds, a sitting area, a desk and a plasma-screen TV. It was a perfect setup, too. I sat at the desk to work on my blog and turned to TV toward me to keep an eye on ESPN. Doesn’t get better than that. The staff I encountered was extremely warm and friendly and this is definitely the hotel I recommend if you’re visiting Akron to watch the Aeros — and especially if you’re coming from Cleveland the day before.

Remember how close I said the hotel is to the highway? Look at the view out my window:

courtyard-akron-stow-view-out-window

(By the way, I could barely hear the highway and it certainly didn’t disrupt my sleep; there was a card in my room saying that if the highway disturbed me, I could request to move to the other side of the building — pretty accommodating, if you ask me.)

You can also see the nice courtyard outside my window. In terms of location, the Courtyard Akron Stow is just minutes from a million places to eat and shop. It’s within walking distance of a Skyline Chili and McDonald’s, and a very short drive to the Graham Square Plaza, which has a Walmart for snacks and a Subway, Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Chipotle and a ton more options. I actually stopped here on the way to the hotel and grabbed a Chipotle. You definitely have a long list of choices.

I spent about an hour in the room before loading up and heading to Akron for the evening’s game. Canal Park is located in downtown Akron, and while the team doesn’t have an “official” parking lot, parking is readily available. In fact, parking is free downtown in any lot after 6 p.m., which is perfect. I got to the area around 5 p.m., and parked in a garage that was free for the first hour. It can’t get any better than that — by the time the second hour rolled around, parking was free everywhere. The lot I picked was just across the street from the park, and when I emerged from the garage and crossed the street, I was looking at the back of the video board:

canal-park-akron-aeros-view-from-street

Canal Park has a nice brick and iron design, but looks inconspicuous from the street. In fact, if you’re just walking along the sidewalk, the park looks like storefronts in certain areas. But then, you come to a spot like this:

canal-park-akron-aeros-outside-front

There are even a number of gates through which you can see the field. I didn’t spend long watching the action through the gates; the Aeros were providing me with a press pass and I found the admin office and got hooked up. Thanks, Adam Liberman!

After getting accredited, I went through the office to the concourse and got my first proper look at the inside of the ballpark:

canal-park-akron-aeros-home-plate-view

Beautiful. There was still a good chunk of time until the gates opened, so I made a huge circuit of the entire park and would up in the right field bleachers to watch BP. The video board was just to my right, and it was outstanding:

canal-park-akron-aeros-video-board

Like in Cleveland, Akron’s board was huge, full of good info and really well run. One of the neat features in this area is the stacked bullpens. I’ve seen this idea a few times throughout my travels; Lehigh Valley’s Coca-Cola Park comes to mind. The bullpen on the left belongs to the home team and the one on the right, which is a few feet higher, is for the visitors:

canal-park-akron-aeros-bullpens

As BP got close to finishing, I went down to field level and captured the visitor’s dugout:

canal-park-akron-aeros-dugout

Then, it was over behind home plate to take the photos to make up this panorama:

canal-park-akron-aeros-home-plate-panorama

When the gates opened at 6 p.m., I walked over to the left field corner to see a thin stretch of the Ohio and Erie Canal, which runs directly behind the park. I’ve visited some parks that have nearby rivers, but this was neat to see and the area is really well kept:

canal-park-akron-aeros-canal

I decided to go down to field level to watch the players warming up, and en route, a ball caught my eye:

canal-park-akron-aeros-baseball

Because the park was already open and there were fans milling around, I didn’t have a moral dilemma about adding this one to my collection.

This next photo might look as though one player’s sleeping, but I can assure you he was just getting his back cracked by a teammate:

canal-park-akron-aeros-players-stretching

I’ve said before that I love the subtle things you notice during ballpark visits. As a trainer was loosening up Giovanny Urshela’s legs, teammate Jesus Aguilar snuck over and gave Urshela a wicked zap on the backside with stretching band. Urshela reacted as anyone would — with a wild swing at his teammate. It was all in good fun, as the two guys were playing catch five minutes later.

I watched the first inning from behind home plate and pretty much had my choice of the seats. Canal Park wasn’t exactly hopping this evening. Here’s a look at the stands along the first base line in the first inning:

canal-park-akron-aeros-first-base-seats

The lack of people didn’t concern me, as I don’t need a huge crowd to have a good time at the ballpark. Plus, I wanted to tackle the 3 Dog Night without making a scene. The 3 Dog Night is one of Canal Park’s signature dishes, although I was really impressed with the overall choices available at the park’s concession stands. Still, I wanted to eat the food that’s most notable, so I ordered one. It’s a hot dog stuffed into a split bratwurst stuffed into a split kielbasa. When the server handed it to me, I thought, Ugh. It was enormous and as I still had to load it up with sauerkraut, onions and mustard, it didn’t look very appetizing. Heck, it didn’t look much better once I’d loaded it up:

canal-park-akron-aeros-3-dog-night

Here’s a photo with my baseball that puts the 3 Dog Night in perspective:

canal-park-akron-aeros-3-dog-night-2

I retreated to the privacy of the bleachers to devour the meal, but sat stunned for a couple minutes with the beast on my lap. I had no idea how I would tackle it. Luckily, I had a plastic fork in my backpack and the availability of the piece of cutlery gave me the courage to begin. Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed. Now, this isn’t to say don’t try the item — you might love it — but it didn’t do it for me. It was so big that I basically had to eat it in segments, and individually, those segments didn’t taste great. The hot dog tasted like a hot dog, but the brat and kielbasa just tasted like giant hot dogs. I gave it a valiant effort for a few minutes, but tapped out shortly thereafter. Next time I’m in Akron, I’ll be sampling something else.

Eating even a few bites of that meal meant that taking another walk was a good idea, so I went over to the third base seats to take some action shots. Here’s Bowie starter Tim Bascom, who went four innings and got a no-decision in his team’s 4-3 win:

tim-bascom-bowie-baysox

And here’s a close play at first involving Bowie’s Brandon Waring and Akron’s Roberto Perez:

brandon-waring-bowie-roberto-perez-akron

The game was entertaining; Akron led 1-0 but trailed 3-1 before scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth to push the game to extras. Bowie, which managed just seven hits in 12 innings, went ahead for good in the 12th to get the win.

Next up, Columbus!

Top 10 Ballpark Food I’ve Eaten

As I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, I’ve been working on compiling a list of the top 10 food items I’ve eaten on my travels.

Well, the results are in, and I’ve got a number of tasty items that you must try if you ever have the chance. Before we begin, let’s go over the ground rules:

1. I’m only counting food I’ve eaten at parks I’ve visited. You won’t see any items on this list that I haven’t eaten or sold at parks I haven’t visited.
2. I’m looking at individual food items, rather than a ballpark’s overall selection.

Let’s begin!

10. Pulled pork nachos – Classic Park – Lake County Captains

You might think you’d need to reach for some Tums after getting through these ample nachos, but they’re not heavy in a bad way. The pulled pork was excellent and better than I’d expect to find at a ballpark. The one knock on these was the server forgot to give me cheese.

9. Apple crisp – Parkview Field – Fort Wayne TinCaps

Parkview Field has several apple-themed dishes on its menu, given that Fort Wayne in the place Johnny Appleseed is buried. The apple crisp was the best ballpark dessert I’ve ever eaten. (And the ‘Caps helmet it’s served in is a cool bonus.) Visit my website to read about all the apple treats and other food items at Parkview Field.

8. Clam chowder – Northeast Delta Dental Stadium – New Hampshire Fisher Cats

I ate Northeast Delta Dental Stadium’s clam chowder on a July evening last year, and even though it was a hot day, really enjoyed the soup. I can see it being the perfect ballpark food on a cold April or September night. The clam chowder isn’t the only seafood item on the menu here. Here’s the full list.

7. Philly cheesesteak – Cooley Law School Stadium – Lansing Lugnuts

I wasn’t a huge fan of the processed cheese goop on the Philly cheesesteak in Lansing, but the bun was fresh, the steak was perfect and the onions and peppers were savory.

6. Old Bay pretzel – Prince George’s Stadium – Bowie Baysox

Crab might as well be the official food of Maryland, and if you’re having crab, you need to season it with Old Bay. This cheese-filled jumbo pretzel was rolled in Old Bay. Dangerously perfect.

5. Boog’s BBQ turkey sandwich – Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles

I tried turkey and pork sammies at Boog’s BBQ in Baltimore, and the turkey one ranked higher in my books. It’s expensive, but you get an ample amount of meat and can also load up on onions, Old Bay, BBQ sauce and horseradish.

4. Shopsy’s Bill Cosby Triple Decker – Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays

Shopsy’s makes darned good deli sandwiches and the Bill Cosby Triple Decker was outstanding. It was huge, filling and not as greasy as you might expect. The coleslaw and pickle were a nice addition, affirming that I’d eaten healthily by getting a meal with “vegetables.”

3. Quaker Steak & Lube chicken wings – Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays

Quaker Stake & Lube wings are delicious, and surprisingly, the quality doesn’t drop off when served at a stadium. I’ve had several flavors of these wings at Rogers Centre, and they’re all winners in my book.

2. Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese – Frontier Field – Rochester Red Wings

Mac and cheese? Check. Chicken and hot sauce? Check. Blue cheese dressing? Check. Simply the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had anywhere. If you’re in Rochester, don’t pass up a chance to try any of the gourmet mac and cheeses. On my website, TheBallparkGuide.com, I’ve got a complete rundown of Frontier Field’s delicious foods.

1. Bo Brooks crab cake sandwich – Ripken Stadium – Aberdeen IronBirds

Aberdeen’s menu offers many variations on crab and the crab cake sandwich was killer. On a fresh bun atop lettuce and tomato, and seasoned with plenty of Old Bay, this is the type of sandwich you could eat every inning. Definitely worth the drive if you’re remotely in the area. Visit my website for a complete guide to Ripken Stadium’s food selection.

I’m curious to hear about the amazing food other people have eaten, and where. I’ll be sure to check it out!

As always, follow me on Twitter to read the latest about my website, my blog and my travels.

Game Programs

I’m a huge fan of taking in the entire ballpark experience every time I watch a game. For me, this typically means trying to snag a foul ball, getting a handful of autographs and eating some unique food. It also includes grabbing a game program and checking out what it has to offer. My stipulation, however, is that I rarely get programs if you have to pay for them. I’m not big on paying for something I’ll likely only flip through once, and if I buy one, I’m less likely to want to throw it out later.

I don’t have programs from every ballpark I’ve visited, but I have a handful that range from amazing to bland. Here’s a look at them.

Aberdeen IronBirds

For a Short-Season A franchise, Aberdeen’s “First Pitch” program has a lot to offer. For one, it’s printed specifically for the game you’re attending. (Most teams print programs per series, week or homestand.) It’s got a clean, attractive cover and a preview of the night’s game. Because the program is printed for each game, all the standings and stats are up to date, which is a huge bonus for a stats guy like me. A couple standout features in this edition of “First Pitch” were a list of IronBirds with Twitter accounts and a well-illustrated diagram of pitcher Aaron Wirsch’s four pitches, along with commentary from the pitcher himself.

Bowie Baysox

Baltimore’s AA franchise in Bowie provides a program called “Baywatch” for each home series. This one had a decent fan guide to Prince George’s Stadium, a list of former Baysox who’ve made the Major Leagues and a discussion between the team’s infielders on turning a double play.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians’ “Batter Up!” is given out free and printed for each series. Of course, you can also buy a more in-depth game program, but this one’s worth picking up. It’s got a good concession directory, a fan guide to Progressive Field and a couple interesting articles. I was also impressed with the full-page ad for Cleveland’s Midwest League affiliate, the Lake County Captains, who play just 15 minutes outside of C-Town.

Delmarva Shorebirds

A South Atlantic League franchise, the Shorebirds program “Play Ball” is one of the shortest I’ve seen. Still, it contains a couple interesting stories on Shorebirds players, a decent look at the team’s opponents and a nice, comprehensive breakdown of each team in the Baltimore Orioles system.

Fort Wayne TinCaps

Fort Wayne’s “Gameday” program is printed each homestand, which is pretty much the norm in the Minor Leagues. This one had pink as a dominant color, given the theme of the team’s homestand, Turn the Park Pink for breast cancer awareness. This program featured a thorough, five-page guide to Parkview Field’s food and interesting features such as a tutorial on how to score a game, a map showing the location of each Midwest League franchise and a couple articles about the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats

New Hampshire offers an amazing fan experience, but there wasn’t anything to write home about in the “Inside Pitch” free program. The schedules, stats, rosters and promotional schedules were all handy, but they’re all things you’d expect to find here. The worst part was the ads, even though I know they’re necessary. Early in the program, 22 out of 23 straight pages were full ads. Ugh.

Potomac Nationals

The P-Nats, as they’re often called, provide a standard gameday program for free. It’s got all the things you’d expect, but a few interesting pages are the breakdown of the Washington Nationals’ farm system and a look at the Carolina League franchises. Additionally, this program isn’t overly laden with ads.

Rochester Red Wings

After spending two sentences explaining how I don’t buy programs, I’ll quickly recant that statement to say I spent $1 on Rochester’s yearbook during my first ballpark trip in 2010. Simply put, it’s one of the best programs I’ve ever seen, and for $1, it’s a real bargain. This baby is more than 100 pages long and contains a ton of interesting information — not just ads and more ads. The highlights of this edition were a look at the Red Wings’ uniforms throughout the years, an article about Stan Musial’s time as a Red Wing, in-depth player profiles, a pretty good guide to Frontier Field and an ultra-thorough map of the where to find every food item sold at the ballpark. (In case you’re wondering, the cover is damaged because I spilled water on it. Oops.)

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees

The big perk to the S/W-B Yankees’ “Play Ball!” program is like the IronBirds, it’s printed for the game you’re attending. Although it’s relatively short in length, “Play Ball!” has an interesting game preview, a “This Date in Yankees History” page and an interesting section about the players to watch from the visiting team.

Toledo Mud Hens

It’s a toss-up whether Toledo or Rochester has the best program I’ve seen so far on my travels. “The Muddy Times” is amazing, and might get the nod over Rochester because it’s free. This book is giant, measuring 9.5 by 12 inches and numbering 112 pages. The pages are newsprint, but they’re thick and in full color. I love the cover shot, as well as the in-depth player and coach profiles, the 2010 season review, some good player Q&As and an awesome two-page spread on the Detroit Tigers’ top 10 prospects, written by Baseball America. This is the type of program you’d spend $5 on and still feel as though you got your value.

Washington Nationals

Like Cleveland, the Nats hand out a free game program to complement their paid program. “Inside Pitch” (which is the same title as New Hampshire’s program) is printed on thick paper, which is a definite upgrade over the newsprint in some programs. This one has an extensive Nationals Park fan guide, a guide on how to score a game and even two removable player cards (Jason Marquis and Michael Morse).

Ball of the Day – 4 of 4

If you’ve been reading my blog this week, you’ll likely have seen the three autographed balls I posted over the last three days.

Today, I’ve got a pretty cool ball that I got autographed at the Bowie Baysox game on June 26.

On the day of my visit, the team had an autograph day. Everyone but the day’s starting pitcher sat at tables throughout the concourse with Sharpies and pens in hand. I took a ball, started at one end of the line, and maybe 20 or 30 minutes later, I had 26 signatures.

There’s no point in listing all the guys; I got everyone on the roster at the time, plus the coaches. There are, however a few notable signatures. Below is the sweet spot, with manager Gary Kendall’s autograph right in the middle. Kendall was super nice; I was wearing my Aberdeen Ironbirds cap, and since he used to manage that team, we talked about Ripken Stadium a bit. The signature to the right of Kendall’s is Buck Britton, the brother of O’s pitcher Zach Britton. Why else is this noteworthy, you ask? Buck was selected 1,046 overall in 2008, and he’s hitting a combined .323 between A-class Frederick and AA Bowie this season. I love stories like that.

Here’s the next angle of the ball:

And another angle. Right in the middle of this ball is the signature of former MLB catcher Einar Diaz, who’s a coach with Bowie. Diaz played 11 seasons in the Bigs and was really friendly.

The fourth angle of my ball:

And, finally, the last shot. See the sig right at the very bottom? That’s Denny Hocking, the team’s hitting coach and a 13-year MLB vet. He also did broadcasting work for Fox Sports Radio, so you might recognize him from there.

Anyway, I’m pretty happy with this ball. It’s a little crammed, but it’s always cool to get a full team on one ball. I’m attending at least one more AA team autograph day this season, so I hope to repeat this success.

I’ll have more cool stuff to post soon, including details of my next trip and some awesome game-used memorabilia I picked up this summer. Check back soon!

Bowie Baysox – June 26

After a great experience at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, it was time to take a step up the Baltimore Orioles organizational food chain with a stop in Bowie, MD. Pronounced “Boowie,” this team is called the Baysox, plays at Prince George’s Stadium and is the AA affiliate of the Orioles. They play in the Eastern League, and this is the fourth Eastern League ballpark I’ve visited. (I should hit five more later this summer.)

As great as baseball road trips are, I’ve found in the past it’s easy to experience a bit of a letdown three or four days in. There’s lots of driving, lots of ballpark food and late nights. Sometimes, all this can combine to make you feel a little lethargic, and I was determined not to have that happen in Bowie.

I found the stadium easily, parked for free and took a quick shot of the front:

Then, I took my usual walk behind the outfield fence to try to find a ball. Up to this point, I’d gotten at least one ball in each of my three games and 10 total. It’d be nice to keep that streak intact for a few days longer.

On my way back, I could see the action on the field:

I stopped briefly to take a shot of the players’ lot:

Then, quickly found two balls; an Eastern League one and an MLB one:

Further searching yielded nothing, so I returned to the front of the stadium, took this photo and bought my ticket:

The pavilion in front of the ballpark was pretty crowded. Why? Because it was a team signing day; everyone but the starting pitcher was set up at tables throughout the concourse, and you could walk from table to table to get autographs. Pretty cool. Here’s what it looked like:

This is another reason I love Minor League Baseball. If this type of promotion happened in the Bigs, the place would be bonkers. You’d get about two autographs in an hour, and spend the rest of the time crammed in line and being jostled by annoying, middle-aged men trying to get autographs to sell on eBay. Here, you get the chance to talk to the players if you like, line up for about 15 seconds per guy, and move on. It’s perfect.

I got the entire team (except the starting pitcher) on a ball, which I’ll photograph and blog about at a later date. The guys were pretty friendly, especially manager Gary Kendall, who I talked to for a few minutes. I was wearing my Aberdeen IronBirds cap, and he managed the IronBirds over the last few seasons, so we talked about that. The team also has former Big Leaguers Denny Hocking and Einar Diaz as coaches.

After the signing, I went out onto the field, which was open for fans until 45 minutes before first pitch. This is the second field I’ve been on this summer; the first was in Erie, another Eastern League team. Fans were playing catch and it was neat to walk around out there:

Just before the time was up, I went back up to get a shot of the crowded playing surface:

With some time to kill before first pitch, I took in the various sights of the stadium, including a kids’ play area, complete with inflatable games and a merry-go-round:

Today’s opponent was the Binghamton Mets, a team I’ll see on the last day of this current road trip. A few of the guys were signing and others were warming up, so I went to check it out. This is Allan Dykstra (no relation to Lennie):

And this is Jordany Valdespin. I’m pleased with how this photo turned out:

Finally, here’s manager Wally Backman, who played for the Mets in the 1980s:

Today’s weather was hot and sunny, so I wanted to stay in the shade as much as possible. There isn’t a ton of it at Prince George’s Stadium, but I found a covered picnic area down the third base line. It was mostly empty, and I just sat on a table with a good view of the action:

After a while, I took a wander back around the ballpark to watch from behind home plate:

It was after 3 p.m., and I still hadn’t had lunch. Don’t get me wrong — ballpark food is cool. But after eating it daily for a few days, you get to start dreading it. A lot of it’s tasty, but most of it so heavy that it gets a bit gross after a while. That said, I was curious about the cheese-stuffed, Old Bay-covered pretzel. I love Old Bay seasoning, and in prime seafood territory, it was cool they used the seasoning even without seafood. I’m happy to report this was a tasty snack:

The sun started to subside around the fifth inning, so I went down to field level and found a spot down the third base line with this view:

Once there, I just relaxed and watched the game. I’d made good notes for my website earlier, as the gates opened 1.5 hours before first pitch because of the autograph signing. As a result, I had a lot of time to just enjoy some baseball, which is exactly what I did. After the game, kids and parents were allowed to run the bases, though I resisted the temptation.

I took one last look around the stadium, noting a neat feature. The press box area is open, and relatively low to the field. As there’s no window protecting it, the wall in front of the desks has seen some damage from foul balls:

A unique touch!

Right after the game, I made the drive north to Hagerstown, MD. I didn’t have a game planned until the following day, when I’d head to Municipal Stadium to catch teen phenom Bryce Harper!