After my long drive through Syracuse, Binghamton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which you can read about here, I finally arrived in the Trenton, N.J., area. With a Lakewood BlueClaws game scheduled for the evening and a Trenton Thunder game set for the next day, I wanted to stay somewhere central to both areas. I picked Hamilton, which is maybe 10 minutes outside Trenton and only about 25 minutes from Lakewood. Perfect. And the hotel I visited was perfect, too. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Hamilton, which I absolutely recommend if you’re taking a baseball road trip to the area and want to see one (or, even better, both) teams.
Here’s the outside of the hotel:
(I love the look of this hotel from the outside, and I was extra glad to see it after sitting in the car for so long.)
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might be familiar with my hotel elevator theory. Basically, the premise is that if the elevator’s clean and well maintained, the hotel will be the same. And vice-versa. As expected, the Hilton’s elevator definitely passed the test and I was also glad to see a big, spacious room awaiting me:
Finally, in addition to being mutually convenient to Lakewood and Trenton, the Hilton Garden Inn Hamilton is in a perfect area if you’re visiting from out of town. There’s a large shopping complex on the other side of the street and a T.G.I. Friday’s just across the parking lot. I was able to pick up a late lunch without straying far at all. I’m picky when it comes to hotels, but this one really lived up to its billing. I’ll definitely stay here again when I’m back in the area. (I’ve stayed at Hilton Garden Inns in a handful of cities, including the one in Manchester, N.H., and I’ve had nothing but great experiences.)
And I may be back sooner rather than later. If you saw my Tweets on Monday, or follow the Lakewood BlueClaws, you’ll know the team’s game Monday night was rained out. When I left the hotel to go to the game, the team’s Twitter feed said the game was still on, as planned, and the tarp was being taken off the field. But when I arrived, I quickly got the feeling that something was amiss. The parking lot was virtually deserted and there didn’t seem to be much life to the ballpark. I should say that it was drizzling, but not pouring. As for that deserted feeling, this is what I saw when I pulled into FirstEnergy Park:
Not exactly promising, is it?
I parked and took a walk toward the pavilion in front of the ballpark. I seemed to be the only lifeform in the area:
Before going to the will call window, I headed to the left field corner, where I could see an open gate. As you can see from this photo, the tarp was on the field, but a couple players were throwing:
I quickly went back to the front of the park and was told at the ticket office that the game was indeed cancelled. Still, I picked up my media pass as a cool souvenir:
Yep, the BlueClaws were kind enough to hook me up with a pass for the game, which is very much appreciated. As I stood in front of the park contemplating what to do next, I could hear the cracks of some bats and knew that at least one of the teams was in the indoor batting cages, just beyond this door:
By now, the steady drizzle had me pretty wet, so I decided I’d go back to the car, return to the hotel and blog for a bit. And then I had a better idea. Heck, I’d driven nearly nine hours AND had a press pass to get into the park, so I went back to the open gate, walked onto the third base concourse and saw the visiting Delmarva Shorebirds were stretching and having a bit of a team meeting:
Obviously, it wasn’t raining so hard that the players couldn’t be on the field. I realize, though, that cold, wet days are dreadful for any team. Yes, the game could technically be played, but no fans would turn up. Better to reschedule for a new day.
Anyway, upon walking in, I quickly saw that FirstEnergy Park is beautiful. The concourse winds its way all around the field, so you can walk laps. I love parks like this — far better than those in which the concourse ends at each foul pole, I think.
I set out to walk behind the outfield, stopping briefly to take this panorama:
Then I went behind the batter’s eye …
and toward the right field corner:
It was extremely cool having the park to myself:
Once I’d taken an entire circuit, I went back outside and took another bunch of shots of the front of the park, including this one:
As I walked across the grass (big mistake — major soaker) I found my first ball of 2012! Interestingly enough, it’s an official NCAA ball, which makes sense because FirstEnergy Park hosted the NCAA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament just a few days earlier. Here’s the ball:
With nothing left to see, I hopped back in the car and headed back to my hotel. Another perk of the hotel? It’s less than a mile from an Outback Steakhouse, and I always like to hit an Outback once during each trip. Mission accomplished.
So in all, it wasn’t a wasted day. It was a long day, granted, but I still got to tour around a ballpark, stay in a great hotel and eat a giant steak for dinner.