Tagged: Empire State Yankees

Empire State Yankees – July 19

On July 17, 2010, I made Rochester’s Frontier Field the first ballpark I visited since coming up with the idea for my website, The Ballpark Guide. This past Thursday, almost exactly two years later, I made a nine-hour round trip to visit Frontier Field again. This time, I was joined by my photographer friend Ryan, who visited Centennial Field in Burlington, VT, with me last summer. So, the photos you’ll see below are a mix of his photos and mine.

It’s my goal to eventually visit every MLB and MiLB park, which means repeat visits aren’t normally on the agenda. But ever since that first visit two years ago, I’ve looked forward to returning to Rochester. The ballpark is absolutely incredible, the food is amazing and the team has been extremely helpful and kind to me since the start. If those aren’t good reasons to go back, I don’t know what is.

Ryan and I met at 5:30 a.m., set the GPS for Rochester and drove for several hours. Although I’m always excited on every baseball road trip, I get even more pumped up when approaching the park, and as we drove through Rochester, we could see signs for Frontier Field. Eventually, we were able to see the ballpark’s red sign in the distance:

We had extra reason to be excited for this trip, because the Rochester Red Wings were giving us media passes and a pre-game tour before the park’s gates opened. A special shout-out to the team’s director of marketing Matt Cipro and account executive Derek Swanson, who were immensely helpful leading up to (and during) our visit. I’ve had a number of tours of different parks in the past, and they’re great because they give me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the park and all its features.

This game was unique in that the Red Wings weren’t playing. As you may know, Frontier Field is also being used by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees this summer, as their home field, PNC Field, is under a major renovation.

Instead of parking in the main lot, we were able to drive straight into the VIP lot, because Matt had put my name on the VIP list. We parked here:

And then, Ryan got a photo of me wearing the new T-shirt I made up for this visit:

The VIP lot is also where the players park, and it’s always fun to check out some of the nice cars, including this Jaguar:

We parked about 9:25 a.m., and with our tour with Derek scheduled for 10 a.m., we had a bit of time to wander around the outside of the park and take some photos. We checked out the view from the main lot across the street:

The empty pavilion in front of the main gates:

And a Red Wings sticker on a light post in the parking lot:

I normally travel alone, so documenting everything can be a lot of work. Luckily, as I was taking some shots of the side of Frontier Field …

… I glanced over to my right to see Ryan capturing the visiting Charlotte Knights:

The team had just pulled up in a coach and was heading toward the door that would take them down to the clubhouse:

After the players disappeared, we continued walking down Morrie Silver Way, parallel with the bricked side of Frontier Field. I love this park’s old-school feel, and I looked up to capture this shot that I really like:

(I think it looks neat in black and white.)

When we reached Plymouth Avenue North, we could turn and look through the outfield gates to see inside the ballpark:

There’s something really cool about seeing an almost-empty park but knowing it’ll be hopping in a short period of time. We continued along the outside of the fence behind the outfield fence …

… while I kept a watchful eye out for any baseballs that might’ve been hiding in the grass from the previous day’s game or batting practice. (Fortunately, I didn’t find any. And when I say “fortunately,” it’s because I’d have faced a moral dilemma about climbing the fence. Just kidding. Sort of.)

Then, we turned back and passed by the outfield gate again …

… and made our way back down Morrie Silver Way toward the front of the park:

The pavilion in front of the gates was still quiet, and since it was a couple minutes before 10, we went into the park’s office to meet Matt and Derek. Soon, they arrived and Matt gave us our passes. Instead of a traditional media pass, we were given premium-level tickets to allow us to sit anywhere, as well as photo passes that would get us anywhere we wanted to be.

Derek led us out into the cross-aisle behind home plate, where we began our tour. There’s a wide cross-aisle that wraps around Frontier Field, and a huge opening directly behind home plate. It’s a perfect area for trying to catch a foul ball, as evidenced by this sign:

The tour quickly went down to the field:

No matter how many times I get the fortune of standing on a professional baseball field, it never gets old! From there, we went up the tunnel behind home plate…

… through the hallways around the clubhouses and training rooms and rode an elevator up to the suite level:

The entire time, Derek was telling us cool stories about Frontier Field, its history, its operations and pretty much everything you’d ever need to know. You could tell he loved his job and enjoyed taking people on tours.

We made a quick stop in the press box:

And then went to check out some of the suites. Although the suite common area, shown above, is enclosed, you access the suites via a walkway that you can see in the eighth photo of this post. As we walked along the suite level, I noticed the Rolls-Royce suite, so I couldn’t resist commenting on it:

Without hesitation, Derek pulled out a key, opened the door and led us in. We went out to the box seats on the suite’s balcony, and I took this panorama:

The next suite we entered was the biggest in the park, and roughly three times the size of most of the other suites:

From this suite, we could see some of the Charlotte players warming up down the first base line:

And I also took a panorama to show the beautiful skyline beyond the outfield fence:

Derek explained that unlike a lot of MiLB parks, Frontier Field’s outfield isn’t overly cluttered with billboards. It’s mostly left open, which affords fans a great view of the cityscape. See the tan building behind the right field foul pole? There’s a cool story surrounding it. The Red Wings were affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles between 1961 and 2002, and when Frontier Field was built in 1996, it was built with the same field specs as Camden Yards, to give players a Camden Yards feel before they made it to Baltimore. The ballpark was placed so that the tan building could represent the B&O Warehouse, which is one of Camden Yards’ signature sights. Cool, huh?

Our tour took us all along the suite level, and in addition to seeing the indoor suites, we also checked out the open-air suites at each end. After going as far as we could on the third base side, we changed direction and went all the way to the Hardball Cafe, which is down the first base line. It’s a giant, open-air suite for groups of 100:

While there, a bottle of Red Wings wine caught our eye:

By now, Derek had spent probably 45 minutes with us, but still wanted to show us more. We went down to field level and out to the group picnic area behind the right field fence, where groups can eat here:

And then stand above the right field bullpen and watch the game or move to the seating bowl. We also saw the park’s most unique suite, the Power Alley Grille, which is enclosed in glass and situated in right-center:

And the most comfy seat in the house, just to the left field side of the outfield suite:

We then passed under the batter’s eye, which has a neon advertisement that is turned off during play and on between innings, which I think is really smart:

I can’t resist showing these unlit and lit shots taken once the game began:

And under the 25×35 video board in left field, which is the largest screen in the county:

(See the Empire State Yankees logo on the screen?)

In all, Derek spent about 75 minutes with us and gave us more information than I could’ve imagined. It was amazing of him to spend so much time with us, especially as the start of the game drew close. Thanks again, Derek!

Because we’d covered everywhere in the park during our tour, we decided to check out a few more sights and then grab some food in time for the first pitch. We made a brief stop at the team shop, where I enjoyed looking at the game-used bats, including this one used by Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart:

An area recognizing former Red Wing Cal Ripken, Jr.:

And this shot, which shows some of the engraved bricks that make up much of the open area down the third base line:

You’ll notice the Red Osier concession stand in the background. Last time I visited Frontier Field, I had an excellent bowl of gourmet mac and cheese, but many fans weren’t shy about telling me that I missed the park’s best item — a prime rib sandwich at Red Osier. I love beef, so I got an original Red Osier sandwich, added a bit of horseradish and documented the evidence before devouring it:

It was absolutely delicious. The meat seemed like actual prime rib, rather than brown-dyed mystery meat. I could’ve eaten three or four of these things. It was that good, and I definitely recommend it. Remember that top 10 list of the best things I’ve eaten at ballparks? Let’s just say I’m going to have to revise it in off-season to include this sandwich.

While I washed my prime rib down with one of my ballpark favorites, a cup of freshly squeezed lemonade …

… Ryan mowed through a Buffalo wing chicken steak sandwich, which he said was delicious but spicy:

We watched the first four innings from the first base side. There’s not a bad seat at Frontier Field, but I love sitting on the first base side, as you get a perfect view of the historic Kodak building towering above the field:

While here, I took shots of my ticket and pass, as I always do:

The game was entertaining; 15 strikeouts in total, and two Yankees gunned down at home. On one of them, the runner was out by so much that when Ryan snapped this picture of the catcher waiting with the ball …

… the runner wasn’t even in the frame yet! But a second later, he was:

In the third, after a close play at home, Knights manager Joel Skinner took exception to the call and emphatically protested his case. It was one of those “I’m going to stay out here and complain until you throw me out” arguments, and that’s exactly what home plate umpire Chris Ward did, as you can see in this three-shot sequence that Ryan captured:

One of the notable players to see was former Chicago Cub Kosuke Fukudome, who signed a Minor League deal with the Yankees less than a week earlier, and was suited up for Empire State. After he walked early in the game, Ryan snapped his photo …

… and Fukudome appeared to wave at Ryan. It was hilarious and odd.

I wanted to grab something else to eat before we switched seats to the third base side, and I settled on a white hot dog, just because I was curious:

Had I been blindfolded, I wouldn’t have known the difference between this dog and a regular one, although it’s not something I’d likely try again. I don’t know if it was just this one or all white dogs in general, but this one had a spongy consistency that I wasn’t crazy about.

We spent the rest of the game on the third base side, and were able to capture some cool player shots, including Empire State catcher (and occasional Yankee) Francisco Cervelli:

Charlotte starter Matt Zaleski, who got the loss:

Corban Joseph, who I noticed was using a Sam Bat:

(I mention his bat because I toured the Sam Bat factory a month or so ago, which you can read all about it here.)

And Ramiro Pena:

The weather throughout the entire day was perfect. It was overcast and in the mid-to-high 70s from the time we arrived to the time we left:

One hilarious thing the gameday staff did late in the game was show solo fans on the video board while Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” played. It was funny enough that I laughed right out loud at some of the images:

The Yankees won 2-0 …

… and we wandered around for a few minutes after the conclusion of the game, stopping to check out the Red Wings Hall of Fame wall, which is extensive:

I’m definitely glad to have made a return visit to Frontier Field, and while I don’t know when I’ll get back again, I’ll definitely enjoy it when I do. Thanks to Matt and Derek for going out of their way to make our visit so memorable.

I’m planning a road trip for about a month from now, and I’ll post details about it soon — probably sometime next week, once the details are ironed out. As always, please visit The Ballpark Guide to not only read comprehensive ballpark guides, but also to support my travels. Thanks!

Day Trip Coming Up

On the morning of Thursday, July 19, I’ll be hopping in the car when it’s still dark out and doing something that’s a symptom of my baseball obsession — driving about nine hours round-trip to watch a three-hour baseball game.

And I can’t wait.

I’ll have an announcement about my next big baseball road trip before long, but in the meantime, I’m excited to share that I’ll be visiting Rochester’s Frontier Field in a little over a week. Almost two years ago to the day (July 16, 2010, to be exact), I visited Frontier Field, and it was the first ballpark I went to since launching TheBallparkGuide.com. Here’s a panorama I took during that visit:

Since then, I’ve been to more than 30 other parks on my travels.

So, why the return trip to Rochester? Well, there are several reasons. I absolutely loved the entire Frontier Field experience when I visited two years ago, and since Rochester is within day trip-distance for me, I’ve decided to go again. Although I normally travel solo, I’ll be joined on this trip by a friend who is also a photographer, and he’ll be helping me out by taking photos for my website. Last year, he visited Vermont’s Centennial Field with me, and you can check out a blog post about that visit here.

One of the unique things about this visit is that the Rochester Red Wings won’t even be playing. The Empire State Yankees (formerly the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees who are spending 2012 as a travel team) will be the home team, and they’ll host the Charlotte Knights.

I’m hoping to get a chance to be interviewed on the game’s radio broadcast to talk about my website, as I’ve done at other parks earlier this summer, and I’m also really looking forward to enjoying some of Frontier Field’s food. I’ve been unabashed in saying that Rochester’s ballpark has the best overall food quality and selection of any MiLB park I’ve visited. Last time, I had the buffalo chicken mac and cheese …

… and it was delicious. This time, I’m hoping to try a few other things, based on some recommendations from fans. (If you’ve been to Frontier Field and have a food recommendation, please post it in the comments below.)

I may post a few goals prior to this trip, as I’ve done in the past, but either way, it should be a great day.

Thanks for reading!

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!