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.
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, 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.
A day after my exciting time in Fort Wayne, I faced another lengthy drive. This time, I’d be driving about four hours east to Cleveland. Just to the east of Cleveland is Eastlake, home of the Lake County Captains. The Captains are another Midwest League team that I could cross off my list on this trip.
I checked into my hotel about 3 p.m., chilled for a little over an hour and headed to Classic Park, home of the Captains.
When you arrive at Classic Park, you may quickly notice a parking lot for permit holders only. So, where does the average fan park? See the foot bridge over the road? There’s a giant — and free — fan lot on the other side of it:
I was one of the first cars in the lot, so the pavilion in front of Classic Park wasn’t overly crowded as I bought my ticket for a seat right behind home plate:
This is the biggest Minor League Baseball ticket I’ve seen so far.
Waiting for the gates to open, I milled around the stadium entrance …
… and found a good-natured sign:
Today’s game was supposed to start at 7 p.m., but because the Captains were making up a previously rained out game against the West Michigan Whitecaps, this would be a doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. Lots of baseball to watch.
Upon entry to the ballpark, I took a quick browse through the team store and bought a $10 T-shirt. I was tempted to spend another $15 on a game-used bat (the best price I’ve seen so far), but didn’t bother. Instead, I donned my new gear and went to the right field corner, where I could see players leaving the clubhouses and heading toward the field.
Last summer, I visited Eastwood Field, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. One of this stadium’s best features (for autograph seekers, anyway) is the conjoined clubhouses. If you want to get signatures from both teams, you don’t have to run back and forth — you simply wait outside the clubhouses and get the guys to sign as they come by. Well, the same is true for Classic Park.
The players leave their respective teams’ clubhouses (the building in the background) and make their way down this walkway to the field:
There are plenty of opportunities to catch guys for autographs along the route.
At this point, the concourse was still fairly empty:
My guess was that with a doubleheader scheduled, many people would arrive later, and that’s exactly what happened.
I took this panorama of Classic Park from the right field corner …
… then went to check out some sights. There’s a nice grass berm in right field:
And a historical area behind it, which was closed due to a fireworks setup:
I wasn’t able to see who’s represented on those plaques, but the Captains’ notable alumni include CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez and Kevin Kouzmanoff.
The Captains dugout is on the first base side, so their bullpen is in the right field corner. The cement walkway is high above the pen, so you have a neat vantage point:
There’s a shingled roof and eavestrough to the rear of the bullpen, and my eye caught a ball in the eavestrough. Unfortunately, it had seen days, weeks or months worth of water, so it wasn’t one I wanted:
I watched Lake County warm up for a bit:
(This isn’t as awkward as it looks.) Then started to make my way around the stadium to see the sites. I like the scoreboard here — reminds me of the one at Progressive Field, in a scaled-down sort of way:
What do you think?
I also noticed that Classic Park offers Bertman’s Ball Park Mustard, just as is available at Indians games:
Outside the team shop (appropriately named the Cargo Hold), the team displays some game-used bases and the trophy from its 2010 Midwest League championship:
Remember the parking lot and bridge across the road? Here’s a look back at it from the ballpark:
West Michigan was warming up in the left field corner, and I went up to the suite level and took a panorama to capture the park:
From up here, I could look down to the party deck in the left field corner:
As you can see, there’s a pitching game here, but an extensive kids play area is behind the left field bleachers:
Here are the bleachers themselves …
… and here’s the view from this area:
Lake County’s Jordan Cooper got the start in Game 1 (which was resumed four innings in) and I watched from above as he warmed in the pen:
When the game started, I found my seat directly behind home. I was between the guys doing some filming/radar gun and a handful of MLB scouts. This was the view:
I love sitting behind home plate, as you get a really accurate appreciate of the movement on pitchers’ pitches. Even at the Single-A level, these guys bring it.
A few innings later, I found Classic Park’s “must-try” item, the pulled pork nachos. There are a ton of toppings on these beauties, and I definitely recommend ’em. The only area in which they fell short was cheese — after the lady asked if I wanted grated (real) cheese or cheese sauce, she put neither on my meal. I didn’t notice until I was a few bites in, so oh well:
I ate my nachos from a picnic area down the first base side, which was free of crowding and had a great view.
After dinner, I continued walking around, pausing to notice this sign:
Most ballparks allow backpacks, but Classic Park seems to have an anti-backpack policy. I had mine on, but didn’t get stopped, so I’m not sure what the deal is.
The Captains won Game 1, and the teams took a 30-minute break to change uniforms and allow the grounds crew to prep the field for Game 2. Between contests, I took this photo of the lit-up scoreboard as the evening grew darker:
I watched the first part of Game 2 from the left field bleachers, then toured the ballpark a bit more before departing a little early, as I was exhausted.
One stop left on my first trip — Jerry Uht Park, home of the AA Erie SeaWolves.
As I write this, I’m still debating going to Syracuse in the morning for the Chiefs game against Rochester at 2 p.m. It’s a big driving commitment, but I’m anxious to get one game under my belt in 2011. Plus, as you may have read here, I’d like to get a bit more information about Alliance Bank Stadium before I write its official guide for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.