When my alarm beeped at 4:20 a.m. today, it signaled the start of my first road trip of 2012. And despite the ridiculous hour, I was full of energy as I loaded the car and hit the road. As you may know by now, I’m just starting a road trip that includes seven games in seven ballparks in just four days. The whole itinerary is here, if you want to check it out.
While the evening’s game in Lakewood, N.J. was the priority, I figured I might as well add quick stops at a few other ballparks to liven up my eight-hour drive. My route took me through some familiar territory, so I couldn’t resist making a few detours.
My first stop was at Syracuse’s Alliance Bank Stadium, which I’ve visited twice in the past. If you’re interested, you can read about those visits here and here. It was still early when I pulled up to the ballpark, and it was a welcome sight — my first ballpark of 2012!
This Welcome to Chiefsville sign has been erected since I last visited:
And while I was there, I couldn’t resist taking a quick self-portrait with the auto timer on my camera:
The Chiefs are on the road, but there were a number of presumably injured players’ vehicles in the parking lot:
I’m assuming the players are rehabbing, which makes me impressed with their dedication, as it was only about 8 a.m.
Another hour down the road, and I arrived in Binghamton, site of NYSEG Stadium. I visited there last year, and given the rumors about the Mets’ potential relocation, this might be the last time I see the ballpark:
Like the Chiefs, the B-Mets are on the road, but there were still a number of players’ vehicles in the lot:
(Looking for big rims is the best way to identify a player’s car, I’ve learned.)
NYSEG Stadium was still quiet at this hour …
… and so were the streets around the park:
It’s pretty sweet that Alliance Bank Stadium and NYSEG Stadium are so close to each other, right? Well, drive another hour south, and you’ll come across PNC Field, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. I visited here last year, but I was really excited to see it again. As you might know, the stadium is undergoing a major renovation that has forced the Yanks to play all of 2012 as a road team. The plan was to park and walk around to check out the changes, but upon arriving, it was clear that visitors weren’t encouraged:
Not to be thwarted, but also not really wanting to break the rules, I headed for the lookout point on a road high above the park to see what I could see. Last year, I took this photo:
And from roughly the same spot today, here’s what the park looks like:
Wow! As you can see, work crews are in the midst of tearing an awful lot of the stadium apart:
The upper deck looks a bit like it’s from a ghost stadium:
The team’s championship and player banners have certainly seen better days:
In general, most of the stadium was rough looking …
… but it was encouraging to see a number of people busily working away:
Oddly enough, the grass is still in immaculate shape and the PNC Field logo behind home plate is pristine:
Today’s lunch was to be the only lunch or dinner on my road trip that I wasn’t scheduled to be at a ballpark. And because it was approaching noon, I ducked over to a nearby Quiznos and grabbed a sub …
… and now I can say I ate this meal with baseball as a backdrop, too!
After lunch, I resumed the drive to New Jersey, and the weather, which had been iffy all morning, quickly got worse:
Eventually, the rain let up a little — enough for my Grade 2 self to take a photo of a sign marking the small town called Buttzville:
I checked into my hotel around 3 p.m., hung out for a bit and then jumped in the car again for the short drive to Lakewood. As you might guess from the time of this post, the BlueClaws game was rained out. But that didn’t stop me from checking out the ballpark and coming across a number of cool things. I’ll sum up my visit in my next post, which will come either later tonight or tomorrow.
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Day one of my latest road trip for The Ballpark Guide began with loading the car and leaving my house before the crack of dawn. I had several hours to drive before reaching Moosic, PA, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. The Yankees play in the International League and are the AAA team of the … you guessed it, Yankees.
Unfortunately, the team’s website has next to no information about PNC Field, so I didn’t know much before I arrived. All I knew was that it was big, but the rest I’d have to learn for myself.
The drive through Pennsylvania was rain filled and I heard a flash flooding/heavy rainfall warning on the radio about an hour before I arrived in Moosic. I thought there’d be no possible way they’d play the game, but from the time I arrived in the parking lot, I didn’t see one single drop of rain.
Speaking of that parking lot, it’s different. Surprisingly, by International League standards, the team offers free parking, which is nice. The lot is huge and staffed by people who point you in the right direction, so parking was a breeze. This is my first look at PNC Field when I stepped out of my car:
And here’s a panorama shot from the parking lot:
Though it was about 1:40 before the game started, and an hour before the gates opened, there were lots of people around. Before buying my ticket, I decided to take a walk around behind the home run fence to see if the players were taking batting practice and if I could find a ball. When I made it around to the rear of the stadium, I could see players on the field but no BP screens:
The gate to the area immediately behind the fence was open, so I walked down the roadway and saw the turf the grounds crew uses to replace areas of the field:
I also took a few photos, including a panorama, through the opening in the center field wall:
Behind the fence, I found two balls. I left this one right where it sat:
And grabbed this one out of a puddle:
The one I kept may have been from a previous day’s BP, or it may have been hit in a recent game. The fact that it was still pretty white, and had only two scuffs, leads me to believe it’s a game ball. I checked the team’s box scores from the day before when I got back to the hotel, and saw that Yankees third baseman Brandon Laird hit a home run a day before my visit. He’s a righty, so I’m guessing he hit his shot to left, and that’s where I found the ball. Makes you wonder, anyway.
Soaking wet (and heavy) ball in hand, I made my way back up to the main pavilion area at the front of the stadium and bought my ticket. PNC Field has two seating decks, but the upper deck is closed on Monday through Friday. I bought a $14 ticket behind S/W-B’s dugout begrudgingly — seems like a little too much money for a Minor League ticket. (Recently, I sat about five rows behind the Detroit Tigers bullpen for the same price.)
PNC Field has a really cool feature to help occupy your time before the gates open. See the windows next to the box office in the photo below?
The glare of the glass makes photographing what’s beyond the windows difficult, but it’s the Yankees indoor batting cages. Several players were hitting, and it was neat to watch for a few minutes:
When the gates opened, I went in and checked out the concourse. The team gives out a free program in the main concourse and it’s pretty good. There are walkways to the left and right, and I was surprised at how dark they were:
After scouting out the hallways, I moved outside to take a panorama of the stadium from the right field corner:
The visiting team’s bullpen is in the right field corner, as is the indoor cage used by the visitors. I could see a Norfolk Tides (the affiliate of the Orioles, if you can’t tell) coach giving some tips to a player:
This is the visitors’ bullpen, which sort of has the appearance of a bar (a bar that only serves chewing tobacco, gum, sunflower seeds and Gatorade, I guess):
Remember the Yankees batting cage? The visiting teams hit in a trailer that doesn’t look quite as nice:
I headed back to the inside concourse, and noted a bunch of neat features. Just inside the front gate, a banner proudly displays the Yankees’ recent IL successes:
The day’s starting lineups are on an HD television, rather than written on a whiteboard as they are at many MiLB parks:
If you walk along the concourse down the third base line, you’ll see a gate to your left about halfway down:
This is the entrance to the Yankees batting cage and clubhouse. I took a couple pics of guys who were out in the hallway. I’m not sure who the first guy is, but he’s cleaning his cleats. The second is 6’10” pitcher Andrew Brackman, who was talking on the phone:
In this area, there’s a collage of images showing inside the Yankees clubhouse. Not bad, right?
Back outside again, I saw an elaborate group deck in the left field corner. The one in the right field corner is open to all fans, but this one is only for registered groups:
As I went to check it out, I noticed three balls sitting on the top of the LF fence (later, I’d notice six on the RF fence):
Though the upper deck was closed, I wanted to get up there and take a few shots of the stadium. I went back into the concourse and stopped briefly at the Yankees team shop:
I wasn’t really planning on getting anything, but the prices were, well, what you’d expect to pay at Yankee Stadium. $60 for a golf shirt? $75 for a sweatshirt? There was a sale, though … 15% off the $10 shot glasses. It’s interesting to see how things are priced across the Minor Leagues. You’d think there’d be some system of regulated pricing, but there isn’t. Teams charge what they want and it’s always interesting to see the prices.
Anyway, I went up to the upper deck and, given that the seats weren’t open, the area was deserted:
(Kind of reminds me of the 500s at Rogers Centre.)
Here’s the panorama I shot from up here:
I climbed back down again and set out to locate my seat. PNC Field’s lower deck isn’t as giant as the size of the stadium would dictate, so it’s got a nice, close-to-the-field feel:
I did, however, notice this sign on the walkway:
The teams soon came out to stretch …
… and I went to take a look at Legends, the sports bar behind the first base line. It’s open two hours before first pitch, and anyone can get in with a game ticket. I didn’t care about the food, but did want to see the memorabilia they have on display:
WOW! Autographed balls from Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Johnny Damon, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, Goose Gossage, Graig Nettles and many, many more. There were also several game-used balls significant to the AAA team’s history, and such game-used artifacts as a Shelley Duncan hat and cleats, a Roger Clemens hat, Phil Hughes hat, Melky Cabrera jersey and more. It’s absolutely awesome and definitely worth visiting, even if you’re not planning to eat.
And this is what Legends itself looks like:
After visiting Legends, I went and found my seat. The pitching duel was between two guys with a decent amount of MLB experience — Greg Smith for the Yankees and Chris Tillman for the Tides. Here’s the latter:
Two innings later, I opted for a pair of hot dogs for lunch. There appeared to be more intriguing options, in the form of a number of Italian dishes, but they were more than I wanted to pay. The dogs themselves were good-sized, cost $3 and you could load them up:
I moved down the third base line a bit to get an area to myself, and took this panorama:
As you can see, PNC Field is set in a valley. It’s one of the most picturesque settings I’ve seen at a ballpark. Here’s another shot showing the rock cut behind the outfield fence:
I spent the next three or four innings in the front row down the first base side, and JUST missed a foul ball that caromed off the rolled-up tarp.
This area gave me a nice view, though. Here’s Terry Tiffee, in his first game with the Yankees. He signed a contract with them a day earlier, after beginning the season in independent ball:
For the last three innings, I moved to the deck in the right field corner, which wasn’t very crowded by this point. On my way there, I snapped a picture of the Tides bullpen:
Here’s the view from that deck:
It’s an awesome place to sit. Comfy, padded chairs, tables and a railing to rest your feet. It’s also covered, so it gives you a reprieve from the sun:
Up here, I was also privy to a funny exchange between the Yankees ball boy in the corner and the Tides bullpen. When a Tides reliever came into the game late, one of the Norfolk guys told the ball boy to run the reliever’s jacket in, which is what’s always done. The kid said he didn’t want to, and the bullpen got ALL OVER HIM. It was awesome. This kid has the best summer job a kid can have, and he’d rather just sit in the corner than do what he’s supposed to do. The bullpen didn’t let up, either. I bet the kid was glad when the game was over.
And 3:01 after first pitch, the game was indeed over. The Yankees put up 10 runs on 13 hits to win 10-5 in a game with lots of action. Here’s the final scoreboard:
After the game, I drove up the hill behind the stadium to capture it from above:
All in all, a great start to my current road trip. As I write this, I’m in my hotel in Scranton and will make the short drive to Harrisburg, PA this afternoon. The Harrisburg Senators are the AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals and, of course, I can’t wait to see what that ballpark has to offer.
Keep checking back regularly, as I’m blogging daily on this trip. Or, follow me on Twitter.