If you’re reading this post, thank you.
Thanks for checking out this blog, whether this is the first time you’ve stopped by or you’ve been reading about my adventures for years. Due to your readership, I’m thrilled to say that The Ballpark Guide placed 13th in the MLBlogs Top 100 for 2012, which has earned me this snazzy logo:
You can see this logo on the top of the menu on the right side of the page, where it’ll remain for the duration of the year. Back in 2011, I placed 34th, so I’m ecstatic about the jump up to the 13th spot. I normally finish between 10th and 15th in MLBlogs’ monthly rankings during the season, but slip back a bit during the off-season, as I’m obviously not taking baseball road trips. All this to say that an overall finish of 13th is really exciting. I’ve got my sights set on a top 10 spot in 2013, so please keep checking back. Also, if you click the Top 100 banner on this page, you’ll get a list of the top 100 MLBlogs, and you’re certain to find some great blogs to follow, regardless of where your baseball interests lie. There’s not a day that goes past in which I don’t read at least someone’s MLBlog, and there’s a lot of excellent content to enjoy.
Although 2012 was a great year for The Ballpark Guide, 2013 has been off to an exciting start, too. As some of you know, I studied journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, and in the current issue of the school’s alumni magazine, there’s a photo and short write-up about me! Here’s the cover of the magazine, which features Muhammad Ali, one of my all-time heroes, which makes it extra exciting:
The write-up about me is in the Class Notes section, which is the section I always enjoy reading most. It contains various updates from different alumni:
Neat, huh? The photo above is one from Cleveland’s Progressive Field, during my visit on August 8, 2010.
But wait! I’ve got one last neat thing to share. A few months ago, a Portland, Maine law firm called Troubh Heisler got in touch with me because its staff had seen my fan guide to Hadlock Field, home of the Eastern League’s Portland Sea Dogs, and liked the panorama shot I’d taken. The law firm was in the midst of revamping its website and wanted to use the picture, given that it wanted banner shots of Portland scenes and the fact that it’s the Sea Dogs’ law firm.
So, if you go to the Troub Heisler website, you’ll see scrolling photos at the very top. Wait for a few to pass and you’ll eventually see the one I took. Or, if you’d rather see it right here, here it is:
And if you click the “Resources” link on the home page, you’ll come across a list of community resources and you’ll see The Ballpark Guide is under the “Special Recognition” header. Pretty exciting!
Anyway, thanks again for all your readership and comments. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that if you enjoy this blog, please check out The Ballpark Guide and tell your baseball-loving friends about it if you can. I know I’ve said it before, but your visits to my website help me pay for my trips, and I really appreciate all your support.
Here’s to an exciting 2013!
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.
Last week, I blogged about the six caps I’ve bought during my travels around Major League and Minor League Baseball.
This week, I want to continue the sports-centered wardrobe theme and talk about some of the shirts I’ve bought and received through stadium giveaways. As I’ve said, I don’t buy a hat at every park I visit. The same holds true for shirts and other memorabilia. Still, when the price is right and I like the look of something, I’ll add it to my collection.
Dating back to my first baseball road trips for The Ballpark Guide in 2010, here’s what I’ve picked up:
Cleveland Indians – Travis Hafner jersey shirt
This isn’t a traditional jersey shirt; you’ll see that it has Hafner’s nickname, Pronk, on the back. I’m a Hafner fan, and thought this shirt was unique.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats 1
When I visited New Hampshire’s (now called Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) in September 2010, the team was about to play what would be its final playoff game of the season. As such, most of the products in the team shop were on sale. I picked up this T-shirt for under $10.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats 2
I got this one for around $10, too. Not bad for a Nike product, and I like the look of it.
Great Lakes Loons
When I watched the Great Lakes Loons play in May 2011, I visited the team shop during a long rain delay. This shirt was priced way less than other comparable products, so I bought it. What I didn’t notice at the time is that the logo is significantly closer to the left sleeve. (Hence the price reduction.) Still, I like this shirt because it’s one baseball shirt that isn’t gaudy.
West Michigan Whitecaps
Speaking of gaudy (in a good way, of course), this bright red Whitecaps shirt featuring their logo is eye catching. Most of the shirts I’ve gotten are white, so this one stands out in my closet.
Fort Wayne TinCaps
Perhaps partly influenced by my amazing visit to beautiful Parkview Field, this TinCaps shirt is one of my favorites. I like its design and the fact it uses the MiLB logo in a prominent spot. Plus, who doesn’t like angry apples?
Lake County Captains
I wasn’t around to see Lake County win the first half of the Midwest League championship in 2010, but I liked this shirt enough to buy it in 2011.
I’m a big fan of this simple Shorebirds T-shirt by Nike. I like Delmarva’s logo and the simple design of this shirt.
Baltimore Orioles 1
When I was in B-More, I was lucky enough to attend a game with a T-shirt giveaway. The T-shirt this day was J.J. Hardy.
Baltimore Orioles 2
Last summer, Chevrolet heavily promoted the Volt at MLB stadiums, including Camden Yards. If you signed up to receive Chevrolet marketing material, you got a free T-shirt. Count me in! And, if you wanted to sign up multiple times, you’d get multiple shirts ….
Washington Nationals 1
A couple days after I was in Baltimore, I was in the nation’s capital over the July 4 long weekend. The Nats gave away American flag-themed T-shirts at the gate.
Washington Nationals 2
Just like in Baltimore, Chevrolet had a kiosk promoting the Volt. I managed to get, uh, a few of these shirts, too.
On July 4, I stopped in Binghamton to see the B-Mets battle the Portland Sea Dogs before an impressive fireworks show at NYSEG Stadium. During the game, I picked up what’s become one of my favorite items — a B-Mets pullover. These are the shirts the players wear during BP, in the dugout and while warming up. It’s awesome.
But what about game-used items? You’ll just have to check back tomorrow for some goodies that fall under that category.
I’ve taken several thousand photos since I began traveling and compiling research for The Ballpark Guide in the summer of 2010. The vast majority of my photos focus on the elements of each ballpark I visit, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve missed getting photos of myself in most locations. I often travel alone, and while it’s possible to hold the camera at arm’s length to shoot myself, some of these photos don’t turn out that great.
That said, I’ve got a handful of photos taken at different locations that I’m posting below. Click the date to read my blog about the visit.)
The second ballpark I visited, back on July 17, 2010, was Auburn’s Falcon Park. While I was snapping shots of the front of the ballpark, the man who lives next door to the facility offered to take my shot:
Later that summer, I traveled to Cleveland for two games on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. During the second game, I got a few autographs around the visitors dugout, and then had my photo taken by another fan while sitting on the Indians dugout:
… and a day later, took one of me along the fence during batting practice. I snagged two balls here:
I toured around Michigan in May 2011, and watched the second of two Detroit Tigers games on May 25. Unfortunately, this game was called because of the rain after a few innings. While the tarp was still on the field, an usher took my photo:
On June 27, I watched the Hagerstown Suns play at Municipal Stadium. Bryce Harper was hurt and didn’t play, but that didn’t stop me from finding his truck in the parking lot and taking a photo of myself in front of it:
And on the second day, up on a deck in the left field corner:
The third-last game I watched in 2011 was on July 31 at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. Before entering the ballpark, my wife took a photo of me out front:
The Sea Dogs are the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and Hadlock Field is equipped with a mini green monster. During our visit, fans were able to play catch on the field before the game. Here’s me in front of the scoreboard:
And while throwing balls off the wall and catching them:
And pretending to relay them to the imaginary cut-off man. (I can’t lie.)
As always, thanks for reading. If you don’t do so already, check me out on Twitter.
As you may have read about here, I watched the Portland Sea Dogs play at Hadlock Field on July 31. Hadlock Field certainly has its charms, but one of its drawbacks is the ability for fans to get autographs.
If you want the visiting club’s players to sign, it’s easy to gather around the bullpen and between the bullpen and dugout. For the home side, it’s a different story, because the bullpen is beyond the right field fence and there’s a restricted access group area down the first base line.
All that said, I did manage to get one autograph during my visit, and it came easily. The Sea Dogs had one player sign in the concourse prior to game, and I got him on a ball:
Who is it, you ask?
Stephen Fife. He may not be a household name, but he’s definitely a guy I’ll keep my eyes on. With Portland, he was 11-4 in 18 starts with an ERA of 3.66 and was a 2011 (and 2010) Eastern League all-star. (Keep in mind Portland has a winning percentage of only around .420ish.
It turns out that Fife was traded the same day I got him to sign (not sure if the deal was made before or after I got the autograph) but he was part of the three-team deal that sent Erik Bedard to Boston. Fife ended up in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, and is currently pitching for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. He hasn’t suffered any post-trade blues; he’s 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Hard to know where Fife’s career will go, but as a former third-round draft pick, it’s clear MLB scouts think he has what it takes to get to the big leagues. It’ll be fun to watch how the rest of his season progresses and where he ends up.
The day to visit Portland’s Hadlock Field had finally arrived. I’ve been looking forward to this particular ballpark for roughly a year, since I first started my regular baseball travels.
Hadlock Field is home to the Sea Dogs, who are the Eastern League AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. There’s a replica Green Monster in the outfield, which is one of the neatest things to see in all the Minor Leagues.
Even better than seeing the Monster, however, was the chance to play catch below it. Yep, the Sea Dogs were giving fans the chance to play catch for an hour prior to the game, so I was pumped for that. And unlike the games in which I travel alone, my wife could be my catch partner this time.
Catch began at 10 a.m and ran for 1:15. The game began at 1 p.m., and unfortunately, fans weren’t allowed to leave the ballpark. Don’t get me wrong — I like getting to the game early, but spending that amount of time before the game was a bit much, especially given the day’s extreme heat and the zero shade throughout the entire seating area.
Anyway, we arrived around 10 a.m. and bought our tickets. Here’s mine:
And here’s both of ours:
Because we didn’t need to play catch the whole time, we took a walk around the outside of the ballpark to look for balls and see the sights. Hadlock Field is directly beside the Portland Exposition Building, which is home to the NBA Developmental League’s Maine Red Claws. I imagine this doesn’t rank too high on the caring meter for most of you, but if you’re into basketball, you might be interested:
The walk around Hadlock Field proved pretty uneventful. The path around the stadium’s left, or third base side is blocked off, while there’s not much to see around the other side, either. From the parking lot, you can look back and see the ballpark’s picnic area and some of the field:
We also found the rear entrance to Portland’s clubhouse:
And one ball:
I didn’t feel the need to add it to my collection, though.
As you can see from the photo below, the area behind the outfield fence is fenced off, so finding batting practice balls is next to impossible here:
With nothing more to see back there, we headed back to the pavilion in front of Hadlock Field where I got my picture taken with a statue of Slugger, the Sea Dogs’ mascot:
Before we went in, I took a photo of the front of the ballpark …
… and a panorama to show the whole front area:
When we got in, we went straight to the field, which we had to access via the left field corner. As always, it was awesome to be on a pro ball field, and there were already a bunch of people playing catch:
Here’s me at the base of the Monster:
From down here, we had a great view of the scoreboard:
And the Citgo logo and Coke bottle, just like Fenway:
I should also mention the Sea Dogs gave the first bunch of fans Sea Dogs balls to play catch with, which was pretty nice:
Here’s a panorama from field level:
Around 11 a.m., we went over to the first base line which had a tiny bit of shade around the picnic area. A couple minutes later, the Altoona Curve (affiliate of the Pirates) players arrived:
Before we left the field, the Sea Dogs came on and started stretching. There were still maybe 100 fans on the field when they came out; definitely something that doesn’t happen every day!
After walking around the concourse for a bit, we decided to grab something to eat. The basic menu at Hadlock Field is below:
Once we ate, we went to the team shop, which is disappointingly the worst I’ve seen at any level. It’s all behind the counter, so you can’t actually touch anything, try anything on or just browse. You stand there like you’re at McDonald’s, and place your order. See the photo below? All that stuff is unreachable. I’m not sure why the Sea Dogs do it this way, but it’s not very fan friendly:
Something that was neat to see, though, was how the Sea Dogs were selling Bryce Harper T-shirts on the concourse outside the team store. If you’re missing something here, don’t worry. There’s no Sea Dogs/Harper connection, but you can’t deny that Harpermania has spread throughout the Minor Leagues:
These prices were good, but nothing could compare to my experience of seeing Harper a month or so ago in Hagerstown. If you haven’t read this post, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
Hadlock Field has a neat feature in the concourse down the first base line; photos of each team’s ballpark in the Eastern League:
This is the first time I’ve seen something like this, and my only knock on it as that it’s hugely outdated — old photos, old logos, etc. Still, though, pretty cool.
Just a little further along is the team’s hall of fame, which includes guys such as Kevin Millar and Mark Kotsay:
After spending some time in the concourse, we went back out toward the field. I’d sort of been avoiding it because it was SO HOT. I’m not normally one to care about the weather either way, but it was brutal.
And a wall covered in current Red Sox jersey graphics:
Off to one side of the press box is the team’s banners:
I then climbed up in front of the press box and took a panorama of the whole ballpark:
(See the lack of shade? For the record, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing … but it’s not ideal on super hot days.)
Anyway, we then went down the third base line to watch Altoona warm up:
Another knock on Hadlock Field? You can’t get close to the area in which the Dogs warm up without having a seat in the picnic area. Lame:
Down the third base line, however, you can stand on a little runway directly above the visitors’ bullpen, which is neat. There’s also a hilarious sign:
I watched Altoona’s starter Aaron Pribanic warming up for a bit:
In case you’re wondering, Portland’s bullpen is up high above the fence in right-center. I’ve never seen anything like it:
As for the game, I was most excited to watch Chih-Hsien Chiang. I saw him a while back when the Sea Dogs were in Binghamton, and he’s incredible. Look at his stats:
(He was since traded to Seattle for Erik Bedard.)
We sat for most of the game up in the bleachers along the third base line, with this view:
And occasionally, we’d go into the concourse for a bit of shade. (Though the temperature was nearly as hot.) There were a number of TV sets there to help you keep an eye on the game, but the picture quality was lacking just a bit:
Here’s an action shot of Chiang I took in around the sixth inning:
Portland led the game 8-3 in the ninth, but Altoona scored two runs to make it a little more interesting. Final score: Portland 8, Altoona 5. The teams also combined for 26 hits, including three Sea Dogs home runs. The game lasted until around 4:20 p.m., so after more than six hours inside Hadlock Field, we left.
On our way back to the parking lot, we saw Altoona’s bus waiting in the team lot behind the first base side:
I should say that I got one pretty cool autograph at this ballpark, which I’ll blog about later this week.
In the meantime, I’m putting the last touches on my next trip of the season, which will begin in a couple weeks. I’ll blog about it soon.