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:
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:
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:
When I was walking back toward Metro Bank Park from the point of the island, I noticed this banner of former Senator Bryce Harper:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!
If the money tree in my backyard had more foliage, I’d buy a baseball cap at every new ballpark I visit during my The Ballpark Guide road trips. But as much as it’s tempting to do so, it’s not very practical financially. Still, I’ve bought a handful of caps over the last two summers of traveling.
I typically buy a cap for a couple reasons. First, the look is important. I’m particularly partial to MiLB caps because most people in Canada have no idea what cap I’m wearing. Second, the price has got to be good. I’m not a fan of spending $40 on a hat, so if I find one that I like and is a good price, look out!
Here are the caps I’ve bought, in chronological order:
This was the first cap I bought on my travels, and arguably my favorite. I love the giant mustache on the ‘A’ emblem, which is the team’s alternate logo. I wore this one an awful lot until a bird had his way with it outside Syracuse last summer. (As you can see.)
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
I bought this cap in September of 2010 during a visit to New Hampshire for a playoff game. The team has since changed its colors, and given that I saw the last game of 2010, this one was on sale for $15.
I’ve liked Harrisburg’s logo for a while, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to get this hat. The downside is it’s a little big, but I think the logo and the blue look great.
This hat was a big steal at $10, and even though it only fits comfortably when my hair is short, I’m still glad I got it. The home of the IronBirds, Ripken Stadium, is outstanding. This is a great souvenir of an awesome ballpark.
Vermont Lake Monsters
When a friend and I visited Vermont last summer, we each bought hats. I liked the white panel on the front of this one; kind of reminds of me collegiate teams’ caps. The lone strike against this one is I’m not partial to cap logos that don’t include a letter. Call me a traditionalist, but I think caps should have a letter on them.
My brother and I visited Cleveland’s Progressive Field last fall and had to make a stop at the team shop. I like the team’s alternate logo, and given that batting practice caps are significantly cheaper than game caps, I went with this one.
PS: It feels like I’ve bought way more than five caps during my travels. Since I’ve been so responsible, I might just have to treat myself to a few more this summer!
Yesterday, I heard about the heavy flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee affecting the area around Harrisburg, PA. Naturally, my thoughts drifted to baseball and the Harrisburg Senators because I visited the ballpark this summer.
Today, I saw an unbelievable image Tweeted by Senators third baseman Tim Pahuta. The shot was an overhead view of Harrisburg’s Metro Bank Park, where I visited on June 24. You can read about that visit here.
Here’s Pahuta’s image:
As you can see above, the devastation caused by the flooded Susquehanna River is awful. First and foremost, I hope that everyone in the area is OK. Second, I hope the flooding will soon go down and Metro Bank Park can be up and running as soon as is humanly possible.
I placed 10 numbers on Pahuta’s image which I’ve linked to 10 images below. I took the shots below this summer when things in the area were normal.
1. This is the main concourse of the ballpark just after you enter through the main gates. The structure to the left of the #1 includes the team’s offices and team shop. Here’s what it looks like from midway along the concourse, just above the #10:
2. This is the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Cheap Seats section, which I sat in for a couple innings. A fan in this section who catches a home run gets a gift card to Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. Just behind this section, you can see the door to the team shop and a concession stand:
3. This number marks one of my favorite spots in Metro Bank Park. The area features bar stools and a bar, and I spent some time in this area, too:
4. Just to the right of #4, you can see the batter’s eye, which is well above field level but appears to have water right to its bottom. I took the photo below from behind the batter’s eye, looking roughly toward #3.
5. Here’s the all-you-can-eat section, which is where I bought my ticket during my visit. As you can see, there are three sections of seating directly under the #5, and the concession stand for this area is just above the #5. The scoreboard is right above it all:
6. This area is another bar stool-style seating area, which is directly above Harrisburg’s bullpen. Below is the pre-game view from directly beneath #6 during my visit:
7. Metro Bank Park’s smoking section is in this area. Just beyond it, is the player and staff parking lot. Here’s what it looked like in June:
8. In this area, the ballpark has a large group area, complete with concession stands, family entertainment and a stage. I took the shot below from under the stadium overhang, looking out toward the #8:
9. One of the neatest features of Metro Bank Park is all the other things you can do on the island. Above, #9 is a series of huts that house features such as kayak rentals, mini-golf and other related activities. The shot below was taken from the roadway and is looking toward the river:
10. Though you can’t tell if they were up at the time of the flood, the whole area around #10 is a kids play area, complete with inflatable rides and other attractions:
The devastation is hard to believe, really. The Senators are in the midst of an Eastern League playoff run right now (playing all their games on the road) and I’m sure they’re doing all they can to bring a championship to Harrisburg.