Tagged: Mahoning Valley Scrappers

A Major Website Is Using Two Of My Photos

Even though my priority when I travel for The Ballpark Guide is to document the parks themselves, I’m always eager to get a chance to snap some action photos when I’m able. The minor leagues are ideal for action photos, of course, because you can get extremely close to the field — and some of my favorite action shots came back on the last day of the 2014 MiLB season in Jamestown, NY. You can read all about that experience at this link; it was a memorable one because it was a doubleheader that would serve as the last two games in the history of the New York-Penn League’s Jamestown Jammers, who moved to West Virginia after the season.

Anyway, I ended up taking more than 500 photos over the course of the doubleheader, and most of them were individual shots of players. Afterward, I connected with a bunch of players on Twitter, sent many of them my photos by email and some of the guys even started using my shots as their Twitter profile or header images, which was super cool.

One guy I shot on this day was D’Vone McClure, a fourth-round pick of the Indians who was playing for their Mahoning Valley affiliate. As I crouched beside the dugout on the Mahoning Valley side of the field, McClure looked in my direction for a few moments while he was on deck — and this meant that I could get a bunch of shots of him from just a few feet away. This shot, in particular, isn’t an “action” shot per se, but it’s one that I really liked:


I started following McClure on Twitter after the game and he even followed me back. I tagged him in some of my photos and he sent me his email address so I could send him the originals. I’ve been eagerly hoping for McClure to rise through the ranks of the Indians system, but that hasn’t been the case. He played just nine games last season and was released by the Indians during spring training of this year.

But the good news is that we all might to get to watch McClure again — on TV on Saturdays.

The former outfielder, who was also a standout wide receiver in high school, just committed to the University of Arkansas to play on its football team — and that’s where my photos come into play.

Late last week, Danny West, a reporter who covers the Razorbacks for Rivals.com, contacted me and asked to use a photo of McClure that I’d taken on that day in Jamestown for an upcoming article about McClure committing to the U of A. I sent him the shot I posted above, as well as a couple others — and he ended up using two of them!

Check out Danny’s story here to read all about McClure’s path from the minor leagues to Div. I football, or take a look at this screenshot that uses my photo:


Pretty cool, huh?

I’ve had a few different news organizations use my photos over the years, and it’s always a thrill.

Speaking of thrills, I’m almost ready to announce my latest ballpark trip, so keep an eye out for that!

State College Spikes – July 8

After pulling the plug on my Metro Bank Park visit in Harrisburg because of the rain delay, I drove through crazy storms to get to State College, PA. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll know the New York-Penn League’s Spikes play here. If you’re an overall sports fan, you’ll recognize State College as the home of Penn State University.

Although seeing the Spikes host the Mahoning Valley Scrappers at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park was my priority, I also wanted to check out the Penn State campus and, in particular, Beaver Stadium. Fortunately, the ballpark and football stadium are across the road from one another. (Penn State’s baseball team shares use of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, for the record.) I parked in the media lot and, upon exiting my car, I had this view of the ballpark to my right:


And when I turned to my left, there was Beaver Stadium:


The Penn State campus is in immaculate shape and must have an enormous crew of workers keeping it that way. I took this shot as I followed the sidewalk that runs alongside the road between the ballpark and stadium to give an idea of just how great everything looks:


After picking up the media pass that Joe Putnam had left for me, I took my customary lap around the ballpark. As I passed through the field behind the outfield fence, I got this neat shot that shows Beaver Stadium looming high above:


Next up was a lap around the football stadium, which obviously took much longer than a walk around the ballpark. I was struck at the size of the complex; I’ve been to a number of NFL and NCAA stadiums, but it’s easy to forget how huge they are until you’re standing in front of them. During my walk, I couldn’t help notice the new-look area on the east side of the stadium, which is where the Joe Paterno statue used to stand. Looking at the picture below, you’d hardly know this was the spot you’ve seen a million times on TV, right?


With my exterior sightseeing wrapped up, I entered the park and took the first door I saw, thinking it would lead up to the press box. The stairs only went down, however, so I curiously followed them …


… until I got to the bottom, looked in the tiny window in the door and saw a bunch of players sitting in their clubhouse. Oops. I quickly found an elevator up to the park’s suite level where I had another great view of Beaver Stadium:


And even found Penn State’s baseball team office:


In the press box, I met with Joe and talked about the ballpark for a few minutes. The press box view from Medlar Field at Lubrano Park has to be one of the nicest in baseball. Every good view had its own perks, but you can’t deny how great this view is:


That’s Mount Nittany in the distance and, yes, I realize the view is slightly hampered by the tarp on the field. It was that kind of day, unfortunately. After talking with Joe for another few minutes, I went down to the concourse and started my tour with a stop in the team shop. It’s technically in the ballpark, but its in its own building at the front of the park. I spent a few minutes checking out the Spikes and Nittany Lions gear …


… and by the time I was ready to leave, this was the view out the window:


Uh-oh. I dashed through the open pavilion between the team shop and the covered concourse, getting soaked in the process. When I was safely beneath the concourse, here’s what the seating area looked like:


Fortunately, the rain stopped as quickly as it had started and soon enough, the Spikes announced the game’s start time would be pushed back to 7:20 p.m., which wasn’t bad, all things considered. I spent the time touring the concourse and taking photos, as you might imagine. Check out this view of the ballpark, Beaver Stadium in the background and the sky that looks like it hadn’t just poured five minutes ago:


By now, I was hungry and debating between a couple items that caught my eye. There’s a stand in the right field corner that sells gourmet burgers, and Joe recommended the Nittany Lion burger — two half-pound patties, two pieces of cheese and the usual lettuce, onions, tomato, etc. The stand also had some other tasty-looking burgers, but I decided to pass in favor of a hot dog from a stand on the third base side. These weren’t any regular hot dogs, either. They were loaded with a variety of toppings and after a recommendation from the guys working the concession stand, I chose the Firecracker — a hot dog on a pretzel bun loaded with shredded spicy chicken, pepper jack cheese, jalapeno peppers and chipotle mayo:


Despite being challenging to eat, as you might suspect, it was tasty. I wasn’t a fan of the pretzel bun, as it just seemed like a dense, semi-stale normal bun. The toppings were good, though. After eating, I moved down close to field level to take some action shots. I really like this three-shot series of Scrappers third baseman Robel Garcia:




Three or four innings into the game, as I was sitting in the second row on the first base side, a player hit a foul ball a mile in the air. I watched it drift toward the seats and realized it was going to land pretty darned close to me. As I was busy taking photos, I didn’t have my glove ready and wasn’t going to try to make a barehanded catch. I think one of the silliest things you can do if a foul ball is heading your way is to panic and run. When you take your eyes off the ball, you’re more at risk of getting walloped. I calmly watched it reach its apex and start to descend, and remember thinking, “This ball is going to land right on my head. What are the odds of that?” As it sped toward me, I watched and watched and finally turned my shoulder and ducked out the way at the last second, hearing it smash off the aluminum steps right beside me. It bounced away and I decided I was happy to give up the chance for a foul ball in favor of keeping my camera gear intact.

I sat in that same seat until the fifth, when I began another walking tour of the ballpark. While walking down the concourse on the third base side, I liked how the park’s video board looked with Mount Nittany behind it:


In the seventh inning, I made a quick trip out to my car for a moment and as I walked, heard the sound of a ball smacking off asphalt just a few feet away — apparently I was wearing my foul ball magnet shirt today. I turned quickly and sure enough, saw a ball bounce high off the ground, rattle between two cars and land on the grass. The area was completely deserted, so I had no trouble walking over and grabbing it:


I quickly realized that being temporarily outside the park, I had no idea who hit it. Not the end of the world, but I like to know these things. I considered sprinting back to the park to check the video board or running around toward the outfield where I could see the video board, but then had a better idea. I waited for the PA announcer to introduce Mahoning Valley batter Ryan Battaglia, which meant the previous batter — and the one who hit my foul ball — was Paul Hendrix. At the time, Hendrix was just 11 games into his professional career. He was drafted in the 18th round of this year’s draft out of TCU by Cleveland. It’ll be fun to follow his progress.

Hendrix and his teammates fell 4-3 to State College in an exciting, 20-hit game. Once things wrapped up, I was happy to only have to drive a couple minutes to my hotel. My hotel for the evening was the Country Inn & Suites State College, which sits less than two miles from Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and is a perfect choice for baseball fans visiting the area. It’s only about a year old, too, which means it’s exceptionally clean and almost has that “new car” smell. Its location is perfect, too. There are dozens of shopping and dining choices about five minutes away, and after the game, I stopped at a supermarket at the edge of the Penn State campus to grab some snacks.

Here’s a shot of the exterior of the hotel at night:


I was excited to check in and see my room, given all I’d read about this hotel before my visit. It’s ranked second among State College hotels on TripAdvisor and has a 95 percent approval rating. Before I got to my room, though, I was impressed with the front desk staff. I’ve said before that some front desk people act inconvenienced that you’re checking in, but the people I dealt with at the Country Inn & Suites were outstanding — friendly, helpful and warm. About 10 minutes after getting to my room, one of the people at the front desk called to make sure I was happy with everything. The room was a suite and was huge. Here’s a shot of the desk and living room area:


The basket of complimentary treats left in my room:


And a shot from the door, which shows just how big everything is:


I love suite hotels for my baseball road trips. When you’re stuck in the car for hours a day, it’s nice to get to your hotel and be able to spread out a little, and this room definitely gave me that feeling. It’s cool to sit at the desk, work on my blog and watch Sportcenter, and then head down the hall to the bedroom to sleep. It’s sort of like being at home, actually. And speaking of sleeping, here’s the king-sized bed:


I didn’t take a photo of it, but you could also see the very top of Beaver Stadium out my window. Pretty awesome. I definitely know where I’ll be staying whenever I return to State College.

In the meantime, though, the road trip continues! Next up, another NYPL franchise — the Williamsport Crosscutters.

Next Road Trip Planned

My next road trip won’t be as long as my last two, but I’m definitely looking forward to it. This one isn’t about seeing as many games as I can in a short period of time (that’ll come during my next one, beginning mid-August). Instead, my wife and I are fitting three games into a summer holiday. But don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging while I’m away.

Game #1 takes place on July 28 as we travel to Manchester to watch the New Hampshire Fisher Cats take on the Reading Phillies. As you can read about here, I watched the Fisher Cats in playoff action last fall at home. Why go back, you ask? Well, I always want to get as much ballpark information as I can for my growing website. (If you want to read a fan guide to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the Fisher Cats, you can visit this link.) Also, the ballpark has changed names since I was there last fall, so I want to get some new photos.

Last year, I stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn with a field-facing room:

And because I can’t resist, I’ll be doing the same thing again this year. This time, however, I’m hoping to catch some BP home runs on The Porch, an outdoor bar run by the hotel that is situated directly over the outfield fence. During my last visit, the teams didn’t take BP.

I’m also keen on sampling more off the Fisher Cats’ seafood menu. Last time I was there, I had the clam strips basket. This year, who knows?

And lastly, this is a great facility and the on-site hotel is just plain awesome. Plus, the Cats are the AA affiliate of my favorite team, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Game #2 will be in Portland, Maine, on July 31. We’ll watch the Portland Sea Dogs host the Altoona Curve. I’m excited for this game because Portland’s Hadlock Field looks neat, and because fans are allowed to play catch on the field after the game. This’ll be the second time I’ll be on a field this summer. In June, I got to go on the field at an Erie SeaWolves game.

Game #3 will be on August 2, and we’ll watch the host Vermont Lake Monsters up against the State College Spikes. These teams play in the New York-Penn League, a league I’m rapidly getting through ballpark by ballpark. So far, I’ve got three official guides to NYPL ballparks up on my website: Falcon Park, home of the Auburn Doubledays, Eastwood Field, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, home of the Tri-City ValleyCats.

It should be a great trip. Between now and then, I’ll have details on my fourth road trip of the summer; it’s another 12-day, 12-game affair that I’ve almost got completely finalized.

Thanks for reading!

Mahoning Valley Scrappers – August 9, 2010

Goodbye, Cleveland.
On the morning of August 9 last summer, my wife and I left our hotel at the Cleveland Airport, loaded up the car and drove to Niles, Ohio, which is a little more than an hour east of C-Town and just outside Youngstown. Niles is home to the Eastwood Mall, the largest mall between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. More importantly, however, it’s home to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the Short-Season A affiliate of the Indians.
The Scrappers play at Eastwood Field, which is on the same property as the Eastwood Mall, so it’s pretty easy to find. Once we navigated our way through the enormous parking lot, we came upon the ballpark. Time to begin taking photos and notes about it for my website.
Before I got too carried away taking photos of the front of the building, I wanted to quickly park and head behind the stadium to snag batting practice home runs. Just as I did at Auburn’s Falcon Park, I scouted out Eastwood Field before our trip and saw that a grass hill and parking lot was located behind the stadium. When that’s the case, you can just stand back there and pick up or catch home run balls as they leave the stadium. Awesome! (By the way, here’s my complete fan guide to visiting Falcon Park, home of the Auburn Doubledays.)
The thought crossed my mind to just park at the mall and walk up to the stadium, but evidently I’m about the 10,000th person to think of this ploy. As such, the Scrappers charge a $1 walk-in fee for fans, which is half the price it costs to park. Here’s the gate that prevents you from walking in for free:
We decided to park and were one of the first few cars in the lot. My wife stayed in the car to read, and I immediately grabbed my glove and backpack and made a beeline toward the rear of the stadium. (I should note I did a cool, casual walk through the parking lot and past the main gate, and sprinted as soon as I was around the corner.)
I was concerned about two things: That the area beyond the fence wasn’t fenced off; and that there weren’t other fans (or worse, a staff member) gathering balls. I was in luck! Here’s what I saw when I ran around the left field corner:
Clear, open ground! And if you look closely, there’s a ball sitting smack dab in the center of the picture. I grabbed the ball quickly and began looking around. Just behind the actual outfield fence, as is the case with many Minor League stadiums, stands a second, higher fence. This fence is covered in billboards, much like the home run fence. And sometimes, big home runs hit the second board and bounce back toward the first fence. When that’s the case, you see scenes like this one:
I grabbed this ball and a few others in the area. Suddenly, a ball blasted over my head, hit the paved parking lot and rolled into a distant field, scattering a bunch of groundhogs that were sunning in the area. I picked up this ball, then got to thinking. If this ball rolled so far, there might be others out here, too.
Here’s the parking lot:
It takes a big shot, or a lucky roll, to reach it. But once the ball does, it rolls and rolls and rolls all the way to the grass:
I took the above photo after finding another ball. It’s one of my favorites of the summer. After gathering a bunch of balls, I headed toward center, where I hoped to find more balls before moving into right. I quickly noticed, however, that the bus driver from the road team (in this case, the Aberdeen IronBirds) was picking up balls on his side of the field. No biggie. I went back to my left field corner and found a few more. I ended up with 10 balls in total:
I actually got 11, but threw one into the woods because it was so waterlogged and soaked in mud that it was disgusting.
Eventually, BP ended so I headed back to the parking lot with 10 baseballs weighing down my backpack. Here’s where I got my first couple photos of the front of the stadium:
Pretty nice, right? Notice the red carpet on the left side of the first image? That’s where season’s ticket holders get to line up.
Here’s a banner of Travis Fryman, a longtime standout Major Leaguer and the current manager of the Scrappers:
I hoped to get his autograph on a ball, but managers are sometimes hard to get before the game. We bought our tickets from the ticket office here:
And got my ticket/stadium front shot, as per always:
Once the stadium gates opened, we checked out the team shop so that I could buy a Scrappers cap. One of the team’s caps is pretty neat; it’s navy blue with two rows of teeth. It’s sort of bizarre, and since Minor League caps are priced so well, I wanted to get one. Unfortunately, the staff couldn’t seem to scan my debit or credit card and after about 10 minutes of waiting, I left without the cap. (Though I did pay cash for a Scrappers team ball that I wanted to get signed.)
My wife found a relaxing place in the shade, and I went to the conjoined clubhouses, which are in the right field corner. Both teams’ clubhouses are in one building, so you don’t have to make up your mind about which team you’ll pursue for autographs. Here’s the clubhouse door: (Gotta love the modesty of the Minors!)
And here’s the grass hill where you can not only watch the game, but wait for players to emerge prior to first pitch:
Pretty soon, the Scrappers pitcher came out with a strength coach and started stretching. Who was he? None other than Mitch Talbot, a Major Leaguer who was down making a rehab start. I was only a few yards away from him while he was warming up, so I snapped these shots:
You might notice he’s wearing the cap I mentioned earlier. Pretty soon, players on both teams filed out of the clubhouse and stopped to sign autographs. I did pretty well, getting about three-quarters of the home team on the team ball:
Pretty soon, Fryman emerged from the clubhouse no more than 10 minutes before first pitch. A few of us asked him for autographs, and he said he didn’t have time. He seemed to think twice, then said, “Well, OK.” I got him to sign an official New York-Penn League ball that I’d snagged during BP:
After Fryman signed for a few of us, he jogged to the dugout and we went to the Bullpen Bar & Grille, located down the right field line just behind the grass hill I’d stood on for autographs. After a few days of ballpark food, I wasn’t too crazy to eat another hot dog, so my wife and I split an order of nachos. Here’s the concession:
Before the players came out of the clubhouse to sign autographs, we saw three or four of the Aberdeen guys getting hot dogs at this concession stand. You know you’re in a Minor League stadium when the players climb over the railing, up the steps and stand in line for hot dogs.
As usual, we watched a couple innings from our seats. For this game, we were located up high on the first base side in an attempt to stay in the shade. It was one of those sunny days in which the sun climbs by the inning, and you find yourself moving up rows constantly to stay in the shade.
The majority of Eastwood Field’s seating is box seating, and there are aluminum bleachers on behind the third base line and in left field, as well as a picnic area along the right field line:
Here are a few panoramas I took during my walk around the stadium:
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And here’s one last photo; it’s of the Eastwood Field scoreboard:
We hit the road as soon as the game was over, because we had to drive about five hours to Toronto, where we’d stay with my aunt and uncle for three nights while catching two Blue Jays games. It was tempting to stay at the Scrappers game after its conclusion, however, as the team was organizing a LeBron James jersey-burning ceremony in the infield.
In my next two entries, you’ll read all about my two games in Toronto watching the Jays lose to the Red Sox.

Welcome to my blog!

Hello, MLBlogosphere!

My name is Malcolm and I’m a die-hard baseball fan. For years, I’ve loved attending ball games in person, like many of you. While I enjoy sitting and watching the best game in the world, I also love walking around the stadium and really exploring it. As a Canadian, and I’ve attended dozens and dozens of Toronto Blue Jays games over the years. I’ve been at Rogers Centre so much that I could double as anyone’s personal tour guide to the stadium.

So, I thought, why not create a website that offers tips and tricks to visiting each stadium in the major leagues and minor leagues? Ambitious, yes, but this is a long-term project that I hope other fans will work on with me. Other sites of this nature do exist, but I haven’t come across one that really satisfies what I’m looking for as a fan.

Last summer, I put this plan into action and began travelling to several ballparks and compiling research. This research — extensive notes and photographs — was gathered to eventually be used for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.

rochesterticket.jpgBetween July and September 2010, I visited:

– Frontier Field, home of the AAA Rochester Red Wings

– Falcon Park, home of the A- Auburn Doubledays

– Alliance Bank Stadium, home of the AAA Syracuse Chiefs

– Coca-Cola Field, home of the AAA Buffalo Bisons

– Progressive Field, home of the MLB Cleveland Indians

– Eastwood Field, home of the A- Mahoning Valley Scrappers

– Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays

– Merchantsauto.com Stadium, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats

– Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, home of the Tri-City ValleyCats

Since then, I’ve been working feverishly (well, most of the time, anyway) with my awesome brother-in-law to launch our website.

Now, more than six months later, I’ve got the first ballpark breakdown on our website. The Ballpark Guide isn’t about rating each ballpark, because it’s so hard to compare venues — which is better, Fenway Park or Wrigley Field? Instead, The Ballpark Guide is all about providing fellow baseball fans with a comprehensive guide to each stadium. It’s our hope that when a fan wants to visit a new stadium, he/she checks The Ballpark Guide for a complete breakdown of that facility.

Where should you park for cheap? What food should you make sure to try? What hidden secrets are there to obtaining an autograph or a ball? It will all be at The Ballpark Guide.

So, you ask, where does this blog come in? The Ballpark Guide isn’t a travel journal; there’s a lot about each of my trips that doesn’t really make sense to include on the site. But, this information would be perfect to blog about on a travel blog. That’s where The Ballpark Guide Blog comes in. Because I’ve already visited nine stadiums, I’ve got a lot of travel blogging to do. I’ll do that in the near future, and once I’m caught up, the blog will talk about my travels as they happen.

In the meantime, please feel free to check out The Ballpark Guide.