Tagged: Coca-Cola Field

Buffalo Bisons – May 24

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 and snacks

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.

As you’ve read in previous entries, I’ve had a lot of positive food experiences at different ballparks. There are a few, however, that I want to highlight just for fun.
Rochester was my first ballpark stop in the summer of 2010, and as you can read on my website, TheBallparkGuide.com, the food I had here was perhaps the best I’ve ever had at a ballgame. In Rochester, I bought a giant Mountain Dew in a Red Wings collectible cup, which was pretty cool. On one side, it had former Rochester star Cal Ripken, Jr., and on the other side, most recent Red Wing player Joe Mauer. As you can see below, the cup was pretty large:
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In Buffalo, the Buffalo chicken wings were underwhelming. But what was neat was the ability to grab packets of Frank’s RedHot sauce at concession stands. This is the first time I’ve seen packets of this spicy cayenne pepper sauce, and it was neat to grab a bunch and add to my food. I’ve even used them at home since:
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Lastly, ask a Clevelandite about what mustard to eat, and you’ll likely have a lengthy discussion on your hands. Of course, there’s the bright yellow French’s mustard, but in C-Town, you’ve also got Bertman’s Original Ball Park Mustard and another product called Stadium Mustard. Bertman’s Original Ball Park Mustard is available in pumps at concession stands and also for sale in the Progressive Field shop. I bought the bottle below for less than $5:
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Buffalo Bisons – August 6, 2010

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:

coca-cola-field-buffalo-bisons.jpgA perfect sight! I like the look of the side of Coca-Cola Field. As you can see, the sky was pretty dark and it didn’t look good for baseball that night. But as miserable as the temperatures were, it never rained. From the road outside the stadium, we could see the scoreboard:
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And a bunch of empty seats, given that the park wasn’t yet open:
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We walked past the players’ parking lot, which is located in the right field corner. There were several nice cars here, and spots designated for team staff:
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The ballpark was pretty well decorated above the sidewalks, and you have to give Buffalo credit. It seems like a really passionate sports town:
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Here’s one of the many lots that surround the ballpark:
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Coca-Cola Field has a very cool look to it. Lots of pillars and wrought iron and I love the way it’s a fairly modern facility that has a bit of historic design style:
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Of course, I had to take my usual ticket shot:
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You’ll notice the severe bend on my tickets. It was that windy. If you look closely enough, you’ll see my thumbnail is purple from the deathgrip I’ve got on them just to keep them from flying away.
The sidewalk outside the stadium had a few people milling around, but by now, the gates were open and people were heading inside — in search of hot food, I’m guessing, given how cold it was outside. The Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, were in town.
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As soon as I get into a new stadium, my first goal is to quickly get my bearings and figure out where things are. I’ll worry about where my seats are located later. In my mind, the hour between the gates opening and first pitch is for exploring around and taking lots of photos. Here are some photos of my initial looks at Coca-Cola Field:
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The ballpark does a pretty cool job of reminding you what town you’re in. See this buffalo shape around the distance marker in the right field corner?
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The Bisons have an impressive history, and you can see just how successful they’ve been dating back to 1878 on the Bisons Championship Corner banner. Buffalo gets a bit of a bad rap as not being a city with many championships, but one look at the banner below reminds you that the Bisons have held up their end of the bargain:
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Beyond the right field corner is a bar called Heron’s Landing. It’s four levels and accessible during the game only if you’ve bought a wristband.
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We headed over to Heron’s Landing and because the game hadn’t yet begun, an usher let us through. Some tables had peanut dishes for fans and here’s a view from where we sat:
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If you visit Buffalo as a member of a large group, Heron’s Landing is definitely the place to be. If you walk right through Heron’s Landing, you can get down behind the outfield fence where there’s a huge picnic area, concession stand and washrooms. The picnic area is apparently for private parties or work functions. When we were there, there were tables and tables of free food set out for the groups:
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The backside of the outfield fence had a sign warning fans about batting practice, which confused me a little. Normally, Minor League parks aren’t open during BP, so perhaps the groups in this area get early admission:
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The asphalt concourse behind the outfield fence is definitely unique. It’s painted with baseballs left by the ballpark’s longest home runs. Slugger Russell Branyan had a few, including these two in games two nights apart. Incidently, Branyan hit 25 dingers in 82 games with Buffalo in 2004.
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In this area, I looked for a long time for a BP ball wedged in the fencing, extra seating and general mess beyond the fence, but came up empty.
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After seeing what we wanted to see, we headed back to the main seating bowl of the ballpark. From the top of the 100 section, you could look backward and see the street behind the stadium. By now, the road was starting to get crowded. Here’s our parking lot, still charging $5:
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And some traffic in front of the ballpark:
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Coca-Cola Field was slowly beginning to fill about a half hour before first pitch, and the sun was dipping enough to cause crazy shadows over the field:
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One thing that’s neat about this ballpark is how open it is. When you want to walk around, you can head to the concourse and in many places, look out at the streets of Buffalo. (I’d later see that Cleveland’s Progressive Field is much like this.) Some stadiums completely block you off from the world outside, but that’s not the case here:
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Being in Buffalo, we decided to get some Buffalo wings for dinner. There’s a stand above the 100 Level down the right field line called Ballpark Wings ‘n Things.
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Their specialty is wings and fries. We got a couple orders of wings and one order of sweet potato fries. In a town known for its Buffalo wings, the wings were a little underwhelming. They were dry and didn’t contain much meat, but perhaps that’s just an anomaly. Next time I’m back in Buffalo, I’m going to give the wings another try. Here’s what they looked like:
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The fries weren’t that great, either. They were very hard and had a bit of a stale oil taste:
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By now, the action had begun on the field:
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As I mentioned earlier, Coca-Cola Field was built with an MLB franchise in mind. As such, it’s a very large park. Here’s a look at part of the 100 Level and 200 Level, with the suites just above the 200 Level seating:
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Time for a walk! My wife decided to hang out in our seats in the right field corner while I set out on my usual wander around. The sightlines were good behind the dugouts and the stands were mostly packed in this area:
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There are some neat suites at the top of the 100 Level that put you close to the action, although these fans didn’t seem to be too interested in the game!
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Here’s a panorama taken from behind home plate … and from behind the protective netting:
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The concourse at Coca-Cold Field is enclosed in most areas; while you can see the field through the entrance to each section, and can see parts of downtown in other areas, it’s mostly a long hallway:
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By now, I’d made my way across the field to the visitor’s dugout on the third base side:
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A few minutes later, I’d made it all the way to the left field corner and the championship banner:
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The sun was starting to set over Buffalo. I love ballpark sunset photos:
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Here’s former MLBer Michael Barrett and his .095 batting average. Next year, the Bisons will have the best scoreboard in all of Minor League Baseball, so I’m looking forward to getting back to Coca-Cola Field and seeing it.
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Another setting sun photo:
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Here’s a look across at Heron’s Landing:
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Here I am behind the foul pole in left field:
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And here’s a look at one of the Coca-Cola Field signs that’s visible from the road:
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I began the short climb up to the 200 Level, pausing to snap this photo looking down at the 100 Level concourse:
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Here’s where I was standing just a few minutes ago, as seen from the 200 Level:
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I found another opening in the 200 Level and looked out into the downtown area to spot HSBC Arena, home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres:
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On my way back to where my wife was waiting, I grabbed a Buffalo pretzel. I like how this pretzel is shaped like a B for Buffalo or Bisons, rather than the usual pretzel shape. It was hot, fresh and tasty, too:
coca-cola-field-buffalo-pretzel.jpgAs for the game, Buffalo scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 7-5. Day one of the six-day baseball roadtrip was down. The next morning, we’d make the drive to Cleveland to catch the first of two Indians games. Awesome!
Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to Coca-Cola Field. It was a cold evening, but the fans were into the game and I definitely can’t wait to get back to Buffalo.