Tagged: Lansing Lugnuts

Top 10 Ballpark Food I’ve Eaten

As I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, I’ve been working on compiling a list of the top 10 food items I’ve eaten on my travels.

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.

Let’s begin!

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.

Ballpark Giveaways

Ballpark giveaways are a bit of a double-edged sword in my mind. On one hand, it’s usually fun to add something new to your collection, especially when it’s free. On the other hand, giveaway days draw more fans, which means longer lines, less space to walk, etc.

Still, if I see a giveaway day when I’m planning a road trip, I do what I can to arrange my schedule so that I can take advantage of the giveaway.

Over the past couple summers, I’ve added a handful of unique items to my collection. Some have actually been useful, too.

Here are the items that I accumulated in 2010 and 2011.

Cleveland Indians – Kenny Lofton Bobblehead

When I visited Progressive Field in 2010 for Kenny Lofton Indians Hall of Fame induction night, fans were given this Lofton bobblehead. I like how it replicates his famous catch in ’96. I also got a bobblehead last year when I was in Lansing. You can check it out here.

Lansing Lugnuts – Sticker

The story about getting this sticker was sort of funny. I read on Lansing’s website that if it’s your first Lugnuts game, you should visit the guest services booth to get a Lugnuts sticker. Cool, I thought. I’ll get a Lugnuts logo sticker that I can put on my laptop. And if other teams have a similar giveaway, I can build a MiLB sticker collection. Obviously, the sticker aimed at toddlers isn’t what I was expecting. I left guest services with a bit of a sheepish look on my face — but with the sticker in hand.

Detroit Tigers – Pin

I’m not sure I’ll ever find the occasion to wear this Tigers pin in the lapel of a suit jacket, but nonetheless, it’s a nice giveaway. This wasn’t given to every fan upon entering Comerica Park; you had to sign up for some mailing list to receive the pin.

Binghamton Mets – Lip Chap

This B-Mets lip chap is one of the most useful giveaways I’ve ever received. I got it last July 4 during a stop at NYSEG Stadium. Of course, I’m drawn to the baseball shape of the container. Pretty cool.

Portland Sea Dogs – Baseball

Fans who played catch on the field at Hadlock Field when I visited last July were given a Sea Dogs baseball. When I was in Vermont in August, the team had a similar giveaway — although I was busy getting autographs outside the clubhouse and the balls were gone by the time I got to field level.

Cleveland Indians – Tribe Time Towel

My brother and I hit Progressive Field last September and took in Jim Thome Night. Fans were given It’s Tribe Time Now towels, which we got to wave when Thome hit his last home run as an Indian.

Lansing Lugnuts autographs

Back on May 21, I visited Cooley Law School Stadium to watch the Midwest League’s Lansing Lugnuts in action.

As I wrote at the time, I obtained a couple autographs at the ballpark’s autograph area in the right field corner.

Here’s the ball:

And who signed it, you ask?

The first signature is 1989-born pitcher Danny Barnes, who was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 35th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Barnes has to be one of the smartest guys in the Midwest League, too — he went to Princeton University. He’s pitching this season in a relief role, but has a very nice 4-0 record in 18 appearances. His ERA is just 2.73 and in 29.2 innings pitched, he has 50 strikeouts and just nine walks. With those numbers, I think people will soon be asking for his autograph at A+ Dunedin or AA New Hampshire.

The second signature is relief pitcher Marcus Walden, a 1988-born righty who’s one of three guys named Marcus on the Lugnuts. In 12 appearances this season, Walden is 1-2 with an ERA of 4.44. He was drafted by the Jays in the ninth round of the 2007 Amateur Entry Draft.

Lansing Lugnuts – May 21

After a pair of games in Toronto, I set out early on Saturday morning to drive to Lansing, Michigan. The drive from Toronto to Lansing is roughly five hours, but with the Canadian long weekend just starting, the border was likely to be slow.

I crossed into the U.S. at the Sarnia border. The drive over the bridge took forever, and because of fog, there was absolutely no visibility:

Soon enough, I was into Michigan:

The border was mind-numbingly slow. Customs guards were checking the trunks of many cars, and when I finally got up to the booth, I had to show the guard the snacks in my cooler to prove it didn’t contain weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, I passed through without incident, and drove straight to Lansing. I was pretty excited for this game, as the Lugnuts are the A affiliate of the Blue Jays, so it’d be neat to see a bunch of future Jays. Last summer, I watched the Jays’ then-Short Season A affiliate, the Auburn Doubledays. If you’re in the New York State area, I definitely recommend checking out Falcon Park.

The Lugnuts play at Cooley Law School Stadium (perhaps the smartest ballpark name in baseball), which is adjacent to the campus of Michigan State University. The Spartans also share the stadium:

I always show up early, but even 1.5 hours before game time, there were a ton of people milling around. Why? Because it was one of the Lugnuts’ three bobblehead giveaway nights. I bought my ticket …

… and started my walking tour of the outside of the stadium. Because the facility is downtown, it’s surrounded by a sidewalk and you can see the field from many different places outside the fence:

After my tour, I got in line and waited. Though the facility is nice, it’s close to a homeless shelter so there were a number of homeless men sleeping on the benches around the park and going from fan to fan asking for money. I mean, it’s not the end of the world, but if that sort of stuff bothers you, you may find it a bit intimidating in front of the stadium at times.

After the long wait, the gates were opened and I got my bobblehead. Who was it? Check back soon for a quick update on the player who was featured on it. Once I got into the stadium, I took a walk around to check out the scenes. Here’s a panorama I shot soon after entering:

Cooley Law School Stadium has lots of places to watch the game. There are decks, picnic areas, grass berms and many different little spots. It’s pretty neat. I like moving around during the game, and this ballpark definitely is ideal for that. From top to bottom, here is one of the grass berms in the outfield, part of an extensive kids’ play area beyond left field, a picnic area in left-center and the walkway that shows the field, a first fence, a concourse, a second fence, the sidewalk and the road:

At low levels of pro ball, it’s typically easy to get a ton of autographs before the game. Lansing, however, was a bit different. The team has two players sign in the right field corner for about 20 minutes, but other than that, no one came to the fence to sign. I got both guys on a ball. (Their names escape me right now, and the ball’s in my car so I can’t check. I’ll blog about it and upload a photo later.) Here they are signing for some kids:

Pretty soon, the Lugnuts came out to throw. I got an up-close picture of Gustavo Pierre, who I think has the tools to reach the Majors:

While I was hanging out at the fence on the first base side, I spotted a ball just out of my reach:

It was directly below me, and short of jumping on the field, there was no way I could get it. After the starter’s bullpen session, Lansing’s pitching coach packed up the bullpen and because it was starting to rain, I figured I’d let him know about the hidden ball so it wouldn’t get soaked and ruined.

“Coach, there’s one here,” I said. He looked over, then picked it up. “Do you want it?” he asked. Of course! I think he appreciated that I wasn’t just demanding the ball like everyone else does. So, after getting one ball in Toronto, I got an official Midwest League ball. This is the first ball from this league in my collection:

By the time of the first pitch, the umbrellas were starting to come out. The rain fell steadily throughout most of the game, but never came down hard enough to warrant a stoppage. I normally like to sit in several different areas each game, but since every unoccupied seat was soaked, I mostly stood.

Eventually, I got my dinner — a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, which was really tasty and hit the spot on a cool night:

I also checked out the Lugnuts Hall of Fame area. I didn’t know that Carlos Beltran and Carlos Zambrano once played for this team:

The game itself was wild. Lansing scored a pair of runs in the first inning, but Bowling Green exploded with seven in the second. Lansing then responded by scoring runs in every inning but the eighth to win 13-9. The team combined for 36 hits, too, plus nine total walks. I think it’s safe to say these teams’ batters are ahead of the pitchers, development-wise. The Lugnuts have had a couple huge offensive games since then, too.

After the game, I watched the fireworks show and headed back to my hotel. In the morning, I’d head north to Midland, Michigan, to watch the Great Lakes Loons in what’s considered one of the best ballparks in the Minor Leagues.

First road trip booked!

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.

But, whether I go to Syracuse tomorrow or not, I’ve got my first major baseball roadtrip planned.
It’ll be 12 games in 12 days in nine different ballparks. Here’s what my itinerary looks like:
Thursday, May 19: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Friday, May 20: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Houston Astros
Saturday, May 21: Lansing Lugnuts vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods
Sunday, May 22: Great Lakes Loons vs. South Bend Silver Hawks
Monday, May 23: West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Fort Wayne TinCaps
Tuesday, May 24: Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Wednesday, May 25: Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Thursday, May 26: Toledo Mud Hens vs. Durham Bulls
Friday, May 27: Fort Wayne TinCaps vs. Great Lakes Loons
Saturday, May 28: Lake County Captains vs. West Michigan Whitecaps
Sunday, May 29: Erie SeaWolves vs. Reading Phillies
Monday, May 30: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians
Some miscellaneous notes about these games:
– I’m going to three Jays games in this roadtrip because they’re my favorite team. I’m pumped to see three different opponents in Toronto in these three games.
– I’m ultra excited to watch the Lansing Lugnuts, the A affiliate of the Jays. One of my favorite (and Canadian!) prospects, Marcus Knecht, is ripping it up for Lansing this season. As you may have read, I met him and got his autograph last summer in Auburn. The Lugnuts are giving away bobbleheads at this game, too. The player’s identity is a mystery, but given that it’ll probably be a current Jay, I’m excited.
– I don’t know much about the Great Lakes Loons, which are the A affiliate of the Dodgers. But they play at a ballpark called Dow Diamond, which looks neat in photos I’ve seen. They’re also in northern Michigan, which is new territory to explore.
– I’ve seen the West Michigan Whitecaps profiled on a couple different food-related shows and websites, thanks to their gigantic Fifth Third Burger. It’s ridiculous. Will I try to eat it? You’ll just have to keep reading the blog to find out.
– I love Detroit. I’ve only been there once, but I liked what I saw of the city. I’m stoked to visit Comerica Park, one of the most beautiful MLB stadiums in my opinion. I’m also staying at the Greektown Casino, which looks amazing and is just a short walk from the ballpark.
– Toledo has one of the best parks in all the Minor Leagues, so I’m anxious to check it out.
– Fort Wayne is the farthest I’ll visit for a ball game this season … as far as I’ve planned so far, anyway. The TinCaps play at Parkview Field, which was build in 2009, making it one of the newest parks in the Minors.
– The day after the game in Fort Wayne, I’ve got a pretty long drive all the way to just east of Cleveland, to watch the Lake County Captains.
– A day later, I’ll be a bit closer to home, in Erie, PA. The SeaWolves game will be just the second AA game I’ll attend. (The first was last fall in New Hampshire.)
I’m also thinking about some sort of keepsake to get at each new stadium. A cap? A T-shirt? I’d love to get caps from each stadium I visit, but I’ve already got enough hats I don’t wear. Any good ideas what I should get from every new ballpark?
I’ve also got a 10-plus day roadtrip planned for June, another for August and a shorter one in September. Please bookmark this blog and keep checking my website throughout the summer