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.
I’m a huge fan of taking in the entire ballpark experience every time I watch a game. For me, this typically means trying to snag a foul ball, getting a handful of autographs and eating some unique food. It also includes grabbing a game program and checking out what it has to offer. My stipulation, however, is that I rarely get programs if you have to pay for them. I’m not big on paying for something I’ll likely only flip through once, and if I buy one, I’m less likely to want to throw it out later.
I don’t have programs from every ballpark I’ve visited, but I have a handful that range from amazing to bland. Here’s a look at them.
For a Short-Season A franchise, Aberdeen’s “First Pitch” program has a lot to offer. For one, it’s printed specifically for the game you’re attending. (Most teams print programs per series, week or homestand.) It’s got a clean, attractive cover and a preview of the night’s game. Because the program is printed for each game, all the standings and stats are up to date, which is a huge bonus for a stats guy like me. A couple standout features in this edition of “First Pitch” were a list of IronBirds with Twitter accounts and a well-illustrated diagram of pitcher Aaron Wirsch’s four pitches, along with commentary from the pitcher himself.
Baltimore’s AA franchise in Bowie provides a program called “Baywatch” for each home series. This one had a decent fan guide to Prince George’s Stadium, a list of former Baysox who’ve made the Major Leagues and a discussion between the team’s infielders on turning a double play.
The Indians’ “Batter Up!” is given out free and printed for each series. Of course, you can also buy a more in-depth game program, but this one’s worth picking up. It’s got a good concession directory, a fan guide to Progressive Field and a couple interesting articles. I was also impressed with the full-page ad for Cleveland’s Midwest League affiliate, the Lake County Captains, who play just 15 minutes outside of C-Town.
A South Atlantic League franchise, the Shorebirds program “Play Ball” is one of the shortest I’ve seen. Still, it contains a couple interesting stories on Shorebirds players, a decent look at the team’s opponents and a nice, comprehensive breakdown of each team in the Baltimore Orioles system.
Fort Wayne TinCaps
Fort Wayne’s “Gameday” program is printed each homestand, which is pretty much the norm in the Minor Leagues. This one had pink as a dominant color, given the theme of the team’s homestand, Turn the Park Pink for breast cancer awareness. This program featured a thorough, five-page guide to Parkview Field’s food and interesting features such as a tutorial on how to score a game, a map showing the location of each Midwest League franchise and a couple articles about the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
New Hampshire offers an amazing fan experience, but there wasn’t anything to write home about in the “Inside Pitch” free program. The schedules, stats, rosters and promotional schedules were all handy, but they’re all things you’d expect to find here. The worst part was the ads, even though I know they’re necessary. Early in the program, 22 out of 23 straight pages were full ads. Ugh.
The P-Nats, as they’re often called, provide a standard gameday program for free. It’s got all the things you’d expect, but a few interesting pages are the breakdown of the Washington Nationals’ farm system and a look at the Carolina League franchises. Additionally, this program isn’t overly laden with ads.
Rochester Red Wings
After spending two sentences explaining how I don’t buy programs, I’ll quickly recant that statement to say I spent $1 on Rochester’s yearbook during my first ballpark trip in 2010. Simply put, it’s one of the best programs I’ve ever seen, and for $1, it’s a real bargain. This baby is more than 100 pages long and contains a ton of interesting information — not just ads and more ads. The highlights of this edition were a look at the Red Wings’ uniforms throughout the years, an article about Stan Musial’s time as a Red Wing, in-depth player profiles, a pretty good guide to Frontier Field and an ultra-thorough map of the where to find every food item sold at the ballpark. (In case you’re wondering, the cover is damaged because I spilled water on it. Oops.)
The big perk to the S/W-B Yankees’ “Play Ball!” program is like the IronBirds, it’s printed for the game you’re attending. Although it’s relatively short in length, “Play Ball!” has an interesting game preview, a “This Date in Yankees History” page and an interesting section about the players to watch from the visiting team.
Toledo Mud Hens
It’s a toss-up whether Toledo or Rochester has the best program I’ve seen so far on my travels. “The Muddy Times” is amazing, and might get the nod over Rochester because it’s free. This book is giant, measuring 9.5 by 12 inches and numbering 112 pages. The pages are newsprint, but they’re thick and in full color. I love the cover shot, as well as the in-depth player and coach profiles, the 2010 season review, some good player Q&As and an awesome two-page spread on the Detroit Tigers’ top 10 prospects, written by Baseball America. This is the type of program you’d spend $5 on and still feel as though you got your value.
Like Cleveland, the Nats hand out a free game program to complement their paid program. “Inside Pitch” (which is the same title as New Hampshire’s program) is printed on thick paper, which is a definite upgrade over the newsprint in some programs. This one has an extensive Nationals Park fan guide, a guide on how to score a game and even two removable player cards (Jason Marquis and Michael Morse).
Ballpark food can be one of the best things about going to a baseball game. If it’s plain ol’ hot dogs and pop, it’s not necessarily noteworthy. But if it’s exceptional food, like the fare served at Rochester’s Frontier Field, it can truly improve your whole experience.
I’ve been to more baseball games that I can remember, dating back to 1988. I’ve been to Toronto Blue Jays games at old Exhibition Stadium and SkyDome/Rogers Centre. I’ve been to dozens and dozens of AAA Ottawa Lynx games in Ottawa, Ontario. I’ve even been to a couple World Baseball Classic games in Toronto.
That said, I was pretty stoked the morning of July 16, 2010 as I loaded the car for my first baseball roadtrip of the summer. Why? Because this would be the first baseball stadium I would visit for my new website, The Ballpark Guide.
The plan was to be away from home for two nights, hitting three Minor League Baseball stadiums on my three-city journey in New York State. Rochester, the farthest destination, would be my first stop.
I headed out late morning and the plan was to cross into the United States at the Ogdensburg crossing. That plan was all well and good until I got to the 1,000 Island Parkway, which had slowed to a turtle’s pace. It was a bad sign when a bunch of bikers beside me had turned off their motorcycles and were inching them forward by foot.
Here’s a shot I took of my Garmin Nuvi 255W GPS after a 30 minutes on the parkway. It was stop and go for 70 minutes, and I should’ve taken another shot of my GPS screen. Anyway, after 30 minutes, you’ll see my overall average was a frustrating 1 km/h. Awesome.
After I paid to use the bridge (ugh), I passed successfully into the United States without much of a hangup at the border. I passed through Ogdensburg, Watertown and Syracuse and had to make a quick stop at the Waterloo Premium Outlets, just west of the ‘Cuse. The Under Armour store at the outlet has some ridiculous deals.
When I was there, I spotted this car in the parking lot:
A little while later, I arrived in Rochester and made it to Frontier Field‘s neighborhood. As an aside, I’ve got to say how awesome it is to finally have a GPS. After years of thinking it was ridiculous to have someone tell you where to turn (and years of frustratingly getting lost in new cities) I decided to get a system prior to this first road trip. It was awesome. I know this should come as no surprise, but it led me directly to the stadium. And when one of the approaching roads was completely torn up due to construction, my trusty GPS gave me an alternate route.
Parking at Frontier Field is a bit iffy. There’s a gigantic lot adjacent to the stadium, but it’s a trick. Most of the lot is for Kodak employees, as there’s a huge Kodak office almost across the street from Frontier Field. After driving into the lot, then doing the embarrassing reverse back into the street after the gate wouldn’t open because I didn’t have a pass, I drove around the block a time or two until I found the entrance to the stadium lot.
I loaded up my backpack with some ballpark essentials — camera, ball glove, balls to get signed, printed rosters of each team and some bottles of water — and headed to the will call ticket window. Because this was my first roadtrip for my website, I was a bit giddy ahead of time and bought a ticket online. This proved unnecessary, as it’s pretty easy to buy walk-up tickets to Minor League games. Anyway, I picked up my ticket and quickly headed to the side street along the stadium where I took this picture:
I love walking around stadiums and documenting my walk with photos. I snapped this photo, showing Frontier Field from a unique angle. It’s hard to tell it’s even a ballpark from this photo. It looks like it could be a factory or a train station, I think:
I kept walking and took this picture of the great Bob Gibson on a lightpost outside the stadium. I didn’t even know Gibson played in Rochester, so learning a bit more about the Red Wings history was cool to see:
My trip was looking up already. I walked to the back of the stadium, peeked through a gate and took these photos:
You have to love stadiums at which you can watch the on-field happenings before the gates are open. I hate how you’re not allowed in Minor League Baseball stadiums during batting practice, but it’s neat to be able to watch a few minutes of it, at least. I kept on walking and took this shot of the Kodak building, which stands pretty tall in Rochester’s downtown core:
A moment later, I was roughly behind Frontier Field’s center field, and took these photos of the stadium’s rear sign and gate:
I then hurried back to the stadium’s main gate. It was largely empty when I first arrived, but it was now starting to get crowded. I got in line about 25 people back and couldn’t resist buying a program for $1. $1! This program was packed, too. Lots of cool stuff to read about the team while I waited. When the gates finally opened an hour before game time, I ran in and took a bunch of photos.
Here’s a pretty neat looking bird in the main concourse. (He’s a red wing, I suppose.)
And here’s a horse made out of baseball gloves:
The horse was pretty neat, though all the gloves were covered in people’s names. I’m not sure if this was done prior to it being built or by vandals after it was put on display.
I checked out the Rochester team shop and bought a team logo ball for $6. I planned to get it signed by as many players as possible, before and after the game. I headed to the left field corner where there’s a grass hill/picnic area. I love being one of the first people in a nearly empty ballpark. Here’s a look back at the home plate area, showing just how empty Frontier Field still was at this time:
And here’s a pretty pristine-looking outfield. You’ve got to admit that Frontier Field is beautiful. It’s only a AAA ballpark, but its quality is Big League.
As I made my way around the stadium, the stands were still pretty empty. This early, people were congregating in the ballpark’s concourse and getting food. Here are a few looks at some almost empty stands:
A little under an hour before first pitch, the Red Wings have one player sign autographs in the concourse. I headed that way and found it was outfielder Brian Dinkelman. Dinkekman went to McKendree College, where he still holds 25 of the school’s all-time baseball records. I got his signature on my team ball.
After getting my autograph, I made my wall back out to the field to find my seat. I was in the 12th row of section 110, which is on the first base side of home plate, next to the Red Wings dugout. After getting my bearings, I gathered around Rochester’s dugout where a number of players were signing autographs. I added a few more signatures to my team ball, then returned to my seat for the anthem and pregame festivities. As you can see from the photo below, I was nice and close to the action:
Did you know that Baseball America named Rochester as Baseball City USA? I didn’t.
By now, the once-empty stands were getting pretty full:
It was a rough first half-inning for Rochester, which gave up one run on four hits. Frontier Field has a pretty basic scoreboard, but it gets the job done:
I snapped this photo during the bottom half of the first inning, showing the action on the field, the fans and the Kodak building looming in the background:
And by the time the first inning was over, I’d had enough of my seat. Crammed up against a couple nerds talking about work and checking their BlackBerrys every two minutes? Ugh. I love moving around during ballgames, so I was on the move again. Between innings, I hit the concession stand where I bought buffalo chicken mac and cheese. That’s right. It’s a big bowl of mac and cheese with chunks of chicken, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and bleu cheese dressing. It was amazing!
I have to say that Frontier Field might have the best food you’ll find at a Major League or Minor League park. I’ll correct myself if I’m ever proven otherwise, but Rochester serves up some amazing grub. In addition to typical ballpark food, there was a gluten-free vendor, a variety of Italian food and a bunch of other great-looking stuff. The mac and cheese filled me up, but next time I go back to Rochester, I’m going with an empty stomach.
I ate my dinner in the upper deck behind the first base line. When I was done, I snapped this photo of the sun setting on right field, with some of downtown Rochester in the background:
Then, it was down to the right field corner where I took a look at the bullpens. As you can see from the thermometer, it was 77 degrees at 7:44 p.m. — a pretty nice night for ball:
Yes, I was watching the game despite all my walking around. Pat Neshek came on in relief in the game’s late innings. Neshek is the best autograph signer in the game today and a real friend to the baseball card hobby. Here’s a none-too-good photo of Neshek pitching:
By now, I was over on the third base side where I took this zoomed-in look of a concession stand in the right fielder corner — just what every growing child needs: Fried dough:
Off to the right field corner I went to spend an inning on the grass hill:
After sitting on the grass, I settled into a fairly deserted row in the right field corner. I like my legroom, and I despise being crammed into a row with other fans. Plus, if a foul ball headed toward this section, I’d have a good chance of getting it:
By now, the game was getting late and it was getting dark. The window for good photos was pretty much up, so I just enjoyed the remainder of the action. Indianapolis won an offensive battle 10-7. Following the game, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra put on a show that was timed with fireworks. Not my kind of music, but it was pretty neat to see. Here’s a shot of the RPO, including some members clad in Red Wings jerseys, warming up:
After the game, I ran back to the main concourse outside the stadium and waited near the players’ parking lot. I read some great advice about autograph collecting at Frontier Field online, and quickly found the area was littered with other autograph collectors. I grabbed a bunch more Red Wings on my team ball and ended up with about 10 signatures, give or take.
Afterward, it was back to my car and onto my hotel. I booked my hotel through Hotwire. Ever use that site? Its premise is you get your hotel cheaper than anywhere else, and I’ve typically had pretty good luck with it. You pick how many stars you want, and in what area, and the catch is you don’t know what hotel you’ll get until you book and pay. In this way, it’s a gamble. It’s sweet when you make out better than expected and miserable when you don’t.
On this night, I was headed to Extended Stay America. Huh? This wasn’t a chain I’d heard of, and I’d read it was located in a strip mall. That turned out to be untrue; it was only beside a strip mall. I cautiously checked in and hopped into the elevator. I have a theory about hotels. If the elevator is clean and not shady, the guest rooms are nice. If the elevator is gross, the rooms will be, too. The Extended Stay elevator was neither clean not secure feeling. You know those elevators that feel like they’re about to drop? This was one of them. Anyway, the room proved to be fairly plain and while it wasn’t exactly clean, it was passable for around $60. The downside was its single bed (ugh) and while it had a full kitchen, it wasn’t anything I’d consider putting edibles near.
The end of an excellent first day. On to Auburn’s Falcon Park tomorrow!
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.
Between 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.