The last game of my first road trip of the summer featured the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field, but with a twist. The Bisons were playing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees who are currently known as the Empire State Yankees. The Yankees’ home, PNC Field, is under major renovations, so the team is playing all its games on the road in 2012. Earlier on this road trip, I swung by PNC Field to document the renovations. So while the Bisons and Yankees were indeed playing in Buffalo, it was the Yankees who would be the “home” team for this game.
May 24 began with an Altoona Curve matinee game, and after I left Peoples Natural Gas Field, I faced a four-plus hour drive north to Buffalo. I didn’t break any speed records during the drive, as I often found myself in situations like this:
Yep, lots of the route is on small, winding roads, and I was stuck behind a convoy of slow-moving trucks for what seemed like half the journey. Eventually, though, I pulled into Buffalo and saw a familiar sight:
I visited Coca-Cola Field in 2010 for a Bisons game, which you can read about here. I was hitting this stadium for a second time for three reasons — the drive home from Altoona was too long to do in one chunk and because the Bisons are hosting the AAA All-Star Game this July, I wanted to check out the changes to the park. Finally, the team put in a ginormous video board before the 2011 season, so I wanted to check it out, too.
The Bisons were providing me with a media pass for this game, so I was looking forward to getting to the park early to explore. The team’s director of public relations, Brad Bisbing, was very accommodating before and during my visit. Thanks, Brad!
I got to Buffalo early enough that I wandered around the stadium for a few minutes, taking photos of a rather empty front pavilion:
And a look at the pillared design of Coca-Cola Field:
Then I went inside, picked up my media pass and enjoyed the press box air conditioning for a while. Here was the view:
And here’s a panorama from up there:
I also took a few minutes to explore the press area. There’s a big very nice press lounge, for example:
Batting practice was taking place, so I decided to head down to field level to check it out. As I made my way down, the concourses were still deserted:
(There’s something super cool about being one of the only people in a stadium.)
When I got to field level, it didn’t take long to notice the ads promoting the upcoming all-star game, including this one:
And as for that huge video board, check it out:
MLB Network’s Intentional Talk was airing as batting practice was taking place. How perfect could things get?
Well, a little better when I took a walk through the lower seats on the third base side and spotted this:
An International League ball to add to my collection!
From this area, I could see another big banner celebrating the all-star game:
Once I made it to the left field corner, I turned around and shot this panorama of the stadium:
By now, the Bisons were hitting so I went over to the first base side to take some pictures of Wally Backman. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and it’s awesome to see him back in affiliated ball and at the AAA level. I hope he gets another shot in the Bigs before long. Here’s one of him hitting fungoes to the infielders:
And another of him talking to someone in the dugout:
I watched BP from this area for a while, and then decided to head beyond the outfield fence to check out the park from that angle. There’s an awesome multi-level party deck behind the right foul pole, and I stood in this area to take the following panorama:
If you ever visit Coca-Cola Field, I definitely recommend checking out the area behind the fence. Every time a Bisons player hits a long home run, the ball’s landing spot is marked on the asphalt. Former Bison Russell Branyan owns many of the marks, but a number of other players also make appearances:
Here’s the scene from ground level:
I watched BP for several minutes through the fence …
… and then checked out the player/staff parking lot just behind the picnic area, as it contained several more home run markers:
I had to laugh at this next photo. Check out how this new Cadillac is parked in harm’s way. Yikes:
After a while, I went back behind the first base dugout and took this funny photo. It’s a photo of a Tweet I’d just posted that included a photo of Backman:
And here’s another picture of the skip, for good measure:
From here, I documented my media credential, as I’ve been doing at each stop on this road trip:
Soon, batting practice wrapped up, so I took advantage of the downtime to check out the new team shop, which had moved since my last visit. There’s a giant wall of hats …
… and a bunch of AAA All-Star Game stuff for sale:
Eventually, the game began and I grabbed a seat on the third base side with a great view of the action. I had a good angle for some photos, including Yankees starter Adam Warren:
Buffalo starter Matt Harvey, who ended up getting the win:
Later in the game, I moved up behind home plate with this perfect view:
While I was in this area, I met up with Austin and Danny from the NYBisons blog. It was fun to meet some other MLBloggers and if you haven’t seen their blog full of all things Bisons, Mets and ballhawking, check it out. You can also follow them on Twitter.
Regardless of where I sat, the scoreboard was awesome to watch. Not only does it have a crystal-clear picture that I can’t capture with my camera, the gameday staff in Buffalo is really on the ball. Whenever there was a close play, such as this play at home, the scoreboard showed the play live:
I don’t know if I can recall another MiLB park doing this. And throughout the evening, the board provided a countdown to the all-star game:
After the game, I had a very short drive (about two minutes) to my hotel. I was staying at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo, and definitely recommend this hotel if you’re in town for a Bisons game. I’ve stayed here in the past, and it’s always outstanding. Plus, you can’t beat being so close to Coca-Cola Field. When other fans are waiting in traffic to get on the highway, you’re already checking into your hotel. Another huge perk to this hotel is that E.B. Green’s, one of the 10 best steakhouses in the U.S., is located on site. One of these days, I’m going to eat there. Every time I visit Buffalo, it just doesn’t work out time-wise.
When I arrived, I got the good news that the hotel had upgraded me to a suite one of the upper floors! The room itself was giant, with a full living room area, a separate bedroom area, two hallways and a huge bathroom. Here’s the living room area, where I hung out while catching up on some Twitter messages and enjoying room service:
Here’s the bedroom area …
… and the nighttime view of Buffalo out my window:
It was one of those hotel rooms that you wish you could enjoy for longer, but given that I was leaving early the next morning to drive home, I had to get to bed so I could get up at a decent hour. The morning came soon enough, and I packed my stuff, checked out, took a photo of the outside of the hotel …
… and punched “Home” into my GPS. It was an outstanding first road trip, but I’ll have plenty of additional exciting content coming soon!
Ballpark food can be one of the best things about going to a baseball game. If it’s plain ol’ hot dogs and pop, it’s not necessarily noteworthy. But if it’s exceptional food, like the fare served at Rochester’s Frontier Field, it can truly improve your whole experience.
I was pretty darned excited on the morning of August 6, 2010. Why? This day was to be the first day of a six-day MLB and MiLB roadtrip and my wife would be accompanying me. What a good sport she is! The plan was to hit Buffalo that night for the AAA Bisons game, then catch two Indians games in Cleveland, a New York-Penn League game in Niles, Ohio (the Mahoning Valley Scrappers) and a pair of games in Toronto on the way home. Pretty awesome.
I’d seen Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field once before, but I’d never been inside for a game. I’ve also read a lot about this stadium being pretty nice, and soon found out that I wouldn’t be disappointed. Some random facts about Coca-Cola Field that I didn’t initially know:
– It was opened in 1988 with the hope that a MLB team would relocate to Buffalo.
– With a capacity of 18,025, it’s the biggest stadium in the Minors.
– It’s had five different names in its life. The funniest was 1994’s Downtown Ballpark.
– As of the 2011 season, it’ll have the largest LED scoreboard in MiLB.
Anyway, back to my visit. Coca-Cola Field is located in downtown Buffalo. On a game night, as you get close to the field, you’ll see a ton of fans out and about in the area. There are lots of parking options downtown, and many are overpriced. Deals, however, can be had if you’re patient. We managed to park in a guarded, covered lot for $5.
Here was the view as soon as we stepped out of our lot: