Nearly a year ago, I spent a bunch of time scanning and posting all my tickets from my baseball road trips in 2010 and 2011 for The Ballpark Guide, and I think it was a neat look at how different teams do their tickets. If you haven’t seen that, you can view that post here.
And then, after my first road trip from this past summer, I blogged about all the media passes I received. You can read all about it here.
On my second road trip of 2012, I was fortunate enough to get media passes to most of the games, but occasionally bought my own ticket. All this means that in this post, I’ll have a combination of media passes and tickets to share with you.
The first game of my August road trip was in Troy, N.Y., to watch the Tri-City ValleyCats. I meet the team’s media/production manager Chris Chenes for a pre-game tour, and as he gave me my press pass, he said, “One to add to your collection. I saw your blog entry about media passes.” It was a cool moment, and thanks again, Chris, for everything. If you’re interested in the ValleyCats or the New York-Penn League, you can follow Chris on Twitter.
Here’s the Tri-City pass:
The next day, I drove to New Britain, CT, to watch the Rock Cats. I didn’t get a pass for that game, so here’s my ticket:
A day later, I was in nearby Norwich, CT, to see the Connecticut Tigers, and they were kind enough to give me a media pass:
Next up was Boston, where I watched the absolutely outstanding Futures at Fenway doubleheader. I bought my own ticket for this event, but it was well worth it for eight-plus hours in Fenway Park. For some reason, this ticket has decided to grow legs and is hiding from me. When I’m able to solve this troubling conundrum, I’ll post the ticket here.
After visiting Fenway for the first time, I made the short drive to Pawtucket, R.I., to see the International League’s Red Sox, and got this awesome press pass:
Then, it was back to the New York-Penn League to watch the Lowell Spinners, who gave me this pass, which was on a neat Spinners lanyard:
Twenty-four hours after seeing the Spinners, it was back to Boston to watch the Red Sox host the Angels:
If you read my blog entry about the BoSox game, you might recall that I paid $15 more to park than I paid for my ticket. Ugh.
A day later, I checked out Fenway Park in a tour, which you can read about here. The pass, as you can see, has the same background as a game ticket, but with different lettering:
The last game of my August road trip was in New York’s Hudson Valley to watch the Renegades. The NYPL team keeps it simple with its press passes:
In September, I caught two Blue Jays games against the Yankees. I’ve been to several Jays games in the past, and if you clicked the first link in this entry, you’ll see a handful of tickets to Rogers Centre. Nonetheless, here are the two tickets from a few months back:
(I should note that when I dug through my backpack to find the Jays tickets, I also found a granola bar that the team was giving away to people before the game. Time to get snacking.)
When I was planning my August road trip for The Ballpark Guide, I spent a lot of time checking out Google Maps, and was intrigued to see how many university campuses were along my route. I planned to take the opportunity to make a few stops along the way and check out some of the schools’ baseball facilities. (Apparently, the nine games in nine days on my trip weren’t enough baseball to satisfy me.)
Originally, I hoped to visit 10 or more non-MLB/MiLB parks, and I included this plan in my August road trip goals. After visiting a handful, I decided to forgo the attempt to get to 10. It was doable geographically, but was adding on a lot of time to my trips — head off the main route, find the school, drive around the campus until I found the baseball field, find a place to park, walk around taking photos, etc.
Why the interest in collegiate baseball, you ask? As you probably know by now, I love not only the Major Leagues, but also the lower levels of the game. In Canada, if a high school even offers baseball, it’s played on a field that is laughable. Many universities don’t have baseball, but those that do typically use fields that wouldn’t be up to par with American high school fields. Long story short: I wanted to marvel at some nice fields.
All that said, my first stop on August 15 was the State University of New York at Canton, in Canton, N.Y.:
The school’s baseball team, the Kangaroos (more commonly known as the ‘Roos), plays in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, which is comprised of 82 small institutions.
The SUNY Canton campus was virtually deserted (being August, of course) and after I found the athletic area, I parked my car and began to look around. Of course, a coach happened to walk by just as I was standing alone in the middle of the empty area, and he asked if I needed anything. I explained what I was up to and he said to feel free to enjoy the sights. Before I got to the baseball field, I walked past a beautifully maintained soccer (and lacrosse, I think) field:
The soccer field was cool to see, but I was on a mission, and soon I came across the baseball field’s scoreboard:
And baseball field:
Since no one was around, I stood at home plate for this shot:
Then, over to the dugout (hardly a “dugout,” but you know what I mean) on the third base side to show the field from this angle:
And finally, a look down the first base line; you can see the bullpen mounds just to the right of the foul pole and the bullpen plates in the foreground:
I get the impression this field is modest by U.S. collegiate standards, but it was exciting to check out.
My next stop was St. Lawrence University, which is also located in Canton, N.Y. St. Lawrence is known for its elite hockey team, but I was more interested in seeing the baseball facility. The St. Lawrence Saints play at Tom Fay Field, and belong to the Div. III Liberty League. Here’s my first look at the field:
And this is what it looks like from behind home plate:
As you can see, the dugouts are very nice:
Overall, this was a pristine facility, despite being several months removed from the school’s baseball season. When I was packing up to leave, this row boat, presumably from the school’s crew team, caught my eye:
Notice any issues with the hull? How about this closer shot?
Next up was Clarkson University in nearby Potsdam, N.Y.:
It’s also known for its hockey and has a huge rivalry with St. Lawrence. The Golden Knights baseball team plays at Jack Phillips Stadium on Snell Field, which I found easily:
The protective netting behind home plate was still up, so you’ll have to excuse it in the following panorama:
But, as you can probably tell, it’s an immaculate field with impressive dugouts:
I even caught a photo of this little fella on the netting:
After spending a bit of time at each of these three schools, I had to get back on the road to drive to the Albany area, where I’d watch the Tri-City ValleyCats at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium that evening.
The drive was much longer than it should’ve been, thanks to things like this:
But I did have some beautiful sights along the way:
And some snacks to help occupy the time:
The morning after the ValleyCats game, I had a bit of time before I drove to New Britain, Connecticut, to check out the Double-A Rock Cats in action that night. I stopped at Albany’s Christian Plumeri Sports Complex, which is used by teams from The College of Saint Rose, and numerous other local organizations, I imagine:
The school’s team, also called the Golden Knights, plays in the Div. II Northeast-10 Conference. Here’s a panorama from behind home plate of the absolutely beautiful ball field:
The grandstand and press box:
One of the bullpens:
And a shot looking out over the complex from atop the baseball grandstand:
The entire facility was just outstanding, and I hung out for quite a while, walking around the taking in the sights. It was virtually deserted, too — just a couple people walking their dogs.
I’ll have more photos from the road in an upcoming post. Next time, I’ll be taking a step back into history in Boston and looking at some very cool sights related to military history.
Hello from Troy, N.Y.
Normally, I write each blog post in chronological order, and while I’ll do so for this post, I want to start off with a really cool photo:
This is me with Tri-City ValleyCats manager Stubby Clapp! Keep reading and you’ll see how I got the fortune of meeting him.
I often begin each road trip with a really long drive, but this time, my first city was only around five hours from where I live. I’ll have lots of photos from things I saw on the drive in a later post, but let’s jump forward to once I got to the Tri-City area. I arrived in Troy, N.Y., around 4 p.m. and checked into my hotel. I stayed at the Best Western Plus Franklin Square Inn Troy/Albany, which is definitely a great choice if you’re coming to Troy to watch the ValleyCats. Here’s the outside of the hotel:
The hotel is easily accessible, sitting just a couple minutes’ away from the highway. It’s also just a short drive from Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, home of the ‘Cats. (It’s less than three miles away and the amount of time it takes you to reach the park depends on the number of green lights you get.) And here’s something that’ll interest baseball fans — for years, teams that came to town to play against Tri-City stayed at this hotel. So, if you look at some New York-Penn League rosters from throughout the 2000s (the ValleyCats were formed in 2002) you’ll see that a number of current MLBers stayed here while paying their dues in the Minor Leagues.
When I got to my room, I was impressed. Not only was the a/c blasting to keep the room nice and cold, it was clean and spacious. Here’s a look from the door:
And another showing the Samsung LCD TV and desk, which is where I’m sitting as I write this:
I didn’t have long to enjoy the room, however, as I needed to get to the ballpark the locals call “The Joe” quickly. ValleyCats media/production manager Chris Chenes, who was really helpful prior to my visit, would be meeting me at 5 p.m. to give me a media pass and tour of the park. When I arrived, I stopped quickly to get a photo of the front:
A ticket office employee took me inside to meet Chris, and as soon as I went through the gates, I saw that the Brooklyn Cyclones were taking batting practice:
(I resisted the urge to run to the grass berm behind the outfield fence and try to catch a home run.) Instead, I learned a lot about the history of the team and stadium from Chris. When I visited The Joe in 2010, which you can read about here, I didn’t have the fortune of a tour. So, it was great to speak with Chris, who’s been with the team in several roles for years. The game I saw in 2010 was the opening game of the NYPL championship against Brooklyn. The ‘Cats won that game and went on to win the title, and during this most recent visit, I saw the banner from that win hanging proudly in the home plate concourse:
Chris took me up to the suite level, where we checked out the production room. There’s SO much that goes into the production of a game, even at the Minor League Baseball levels. We saw the computer that runs the music and sound effects and another that runs the video board. The production staff certainly are kept hopping during the game. The game’s promo was “Halfway to Valentine’s Day,” so each player’s profile shot had been adjusted accordingly for the video board:
The team is having a winter-themed game this week and Chris gave me a sneak peek of the player profiles for that game:
We then moved into the press box, where I got an interesting lesson about the history of baseball in Troy. Professional baseball in this city dates back to 1871’s Troy Haymakers. That team, through a lengthy and interesting series of events (I’ll detail it all on my website rather than here) eventually became the San Francisco Giants.
Not surprisingly, there are also ties to the New York Yankees. Between 1935 and 1951, the Amsterdam Rugmakers (definitely one of the funniest baseball team names ever) were the Class C affiliate of the Yanks. In 1942, the Rugmakers hosted the Bronx Bombers in an exhibition game, and a 27-year-old Joe DiMaggio came to town to play that game. In one of the suites, there’s a photo snapped on that day:
Chris took me through a couple suites, which are nice inside …
… and have a great view of the park:
Then it was time to head back to the concourse, where we ducked our heads into the home team’s clubhouse area. This cool quote is displayed on the wall where the players walk by it repeatedly:
And I also snapped this shot of the team’s indoor batting cages, which are used when it’s rainy enough that BP is canceled:
When I told Chris I’m from Canada, he said, “I’ll introduce you to another Canadian.” I had to think for a moment, but then I realized he was talking about Stubby, who’s an enormous figure in Canadian baseball. He didn’t have a long Big League career, but he was a Minor League legend as a player and also did a lot for the Canadian game internationally. It was Stubby who delivered the walk-off single in the 1999 Pan American Games to help Canada beat the heavily favored American team. And you might also know him from having one of the best manager freakouts in recent years.
Anyway, Stubby wasn’t free right away, and Chris had to set up an interview for a local newspaper reporter, so I stuck around and watched the Cyclones take infield practice as I waited. I think they’re set for catchers, don’t you?
(As an aside to the smorgasbord of catchers — during the anthem, I counted 26 Cyclones in uniform standing in front of the dugout, and this doesn’t include the six to eight guys in the bullpen. Take out the four members of the coaching staff and you’ve still got nearly 30 players in uniform. What gives?)
As I waited, I snapped photos of a handful of things that caught my eye. The ValleyCats’ dugout:
The closest I came to a ball all night:
And first baseman Jesse Wierzbicki’s glove hanging on the dugout rail:
Suddenly, Chris came over to me and said Stubby was waiting. Sure enough, I looked around and saw him standing on the concourse. I went over and said hello and talked to him a bit about The Ballpark Guide, which was awesome. We also joked that both being Canadian, we could let our guard down in front of each other and say “eh?” at the end of sentences. He was really friendly and I can definitely see why he’s so well liked in baseball. He’s the third manager I’ve been lucky enough to meet on my travels, and he gave me more time than anyone, which was impressive as first pitch was less than an hour away. Thanks, Stubby! And thanks to Chris for setting it up. Afterward, Chris had to get back to his myriad pre-game duties, so we parted ways and I started touring around myself.
One of the best features of The Joe is the bar area behind left field, called the Top of the Hill Bar & Grill. Here’s a panorama from this area:
It’s got a ton of seating options, too – everything from tables to barstools to a small set of bleachers to the grass berm and finally, Adirondack chairs:
You can see into Tri-City’s bullpen from this area, and from the grass berm in the right field corner, you’ve got a great view of the visitors’ pen, which is where I soon went to watch Brooklyn starter Luis Cessa warm up:
When the game begun, I took a spot behind home plate where I had this perfect view on an excellent night for baseball:
After an inning, though, it was time to check out the food selection. Everyone you talk to raves about Buddy’s BBQ, and as a result, the lineups are often long. So, when I eyed a relatively short line, I grabbed a spot and got an order of salt potatoes, which is a Buddy’s specialty. I’ve never had them, although I’ve seen them in Binghamton and Syracuse, I believe. They’re small potatoes that are rolled in butter and aren’t as salty as I expected. And they were delicious:
Hey, this should count as a vegetable, right? I washed ’em down with an Arnold Palmer, which the park also has available:
With dinner down, I returned to the hill behind left field, where I took this photo of the bullpen guys:
And another panorama, now that it was getting darker:
Throughout the rest of the game, I continued to move around, from the third base side where I got a photo of Stubby in action:
To behind home plate:
To the first base line, where I made sure to document my media pass:
In the eighth, I visited the team shop where I talked with an employee named Ryan, who I had met earlier. I bought a shirt, which will be included in a future post. I also saw an awesome game-used section and resisted the urge to go nuts:
In an exciting game, Tri-City won 6-2 to improve their record to 41-14. They currently have the best winning percentage in Minor League Baseball:
Afterward, Chris was on the field interviewing outfielder Preston Tucker, who was named the player of the game after a two-hit, three-RBI performance:
Shortly after the final out, the team was hosting an on-field renewal of wedding vows for any couple interested (to keep with the Val Day theme) as well as fireworks, but I decided to skip these events and head back to my hotel.
I woke up this morning, enjoyed a giant complimentary breakfast at the hotel, which was tasty, and then after a bit of blogging, headed out toward New Britain.
All in all, the first day of my trip was perfect, from the hotel to the game to the tour and everything that came with it. And from here on out, it’s all new parks for me!
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, TheBallparkGuide.com. (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!
A day after I watched the New Hampshire Fisher Cats season end at home to the Trenton Thunder, I arrived in Troy, NY, to watch the New York-Penn League’s Tri-City ValleyCats in championship series action.
I got to town about five hours before game time, which is a little early even by my standards. Because I didn’t have a hotel yet, I drove around and found a Holiday Inn Express near the airport, signed in and chilled for a few hours. Before long, I packed up and made the short drive to the ballpark.
The ValleyCats play at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, which is located on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College. It’s somewhat tricky to get to, mainly because you can’t see the ballpark from the road and you may wonder if you’re in the right place. To read my tips on getting to “The Joe,” see my website here.
I got to the facility about two hours before the game, or one hour before the opening pitch. As I usually do, I took a walk around the entire stadium, pausing beyond the outfield fence to see what my batting practice home run snagging chances were. Ouch. Beyond the fence is a fence, a hill and another fence:
You know those baseball roadtrips (or even single games) that rank pretty high among your all-time favorites? This was going to be one of those days.
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, TheBallparkGuide.com.
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 my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.