Tagged: Tri-City Valleycats

2012 Media Passes and Tickets

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:

tri-city-valleycats-media-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:

new-britain-rock-cats-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:

connecticut-tigers-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:

pawtucket-red-sox-media-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:

lowell-spinners-media-pass

Twenty-four hours after seeing the Spinners, it was back to Boston to watch the Red Sox host the Angels:

boston-red-sox-ticket

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:

boston-red-sox-fenway-park-tour-ticket

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:

hudson-valley-renegades-media-pass

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:

toronto-blue-jays-2012-ticket-1

toronto-blue-jays-2012-ticket-2

(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.)

A Few Baseball Stops Along the Way

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.:

suny-canton-front-sign

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:

suny-canton-soccer-field

The soccer field was cool to see, but I was on a mission, and soon I came across the baseball field’s scoreboard:

suny-canton-scoreboard

And baseball field:

suny-canton-baseball-field

Since no one was around, I stood at home plate for this shot:

suny-canton-baseball-home-plate-view

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:

suny-canton-baseball-field-from-dugout

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:

suny-canton-baseball-bullpens

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:

st-lawrence-university-baseball-field

And this is what it looks like from behind home plate:

st-lawrence-university-baseball-home-plate

As you can see, the dugouts are very nice:

st-lawrence-university-baseball-dugout

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:

st-lawrence-university-rowing-boat

Notice any issues with the hull? How about this closer shot?

st-lawrence-university-boat-closeup

Yikes.

Next up was Clarkson University in nearby Potsdam, N.Y.:

clarkson-university-sign-front-gate

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:

clarkson-university-baseball-scoreboard

The protective netting behind home plate was still up, so you’ll have to excuse it in the following panorama:

clarkson-university-baseball-panorama-field

But, as you can probably tell, it’s an immaculate field with impressive dugouts:

clarkson-university-baseball-dugout

I even caught a photo of this little fella on the netting:

dragon-fly-on-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:

behind-log-truck

And this:

traffic-to-albany

But I did have some beautiful sights along the way:

new-york-state-view

And some snacks to help occupy the time:

powerade-zero-driving-drink

albany-driving-cheese-snack

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:

christian-plumeri-sports-complex-front

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:

christian-plumeri-sports-complex-baseball-field-panorama

The grandstand and press box:

christian-plumeri-sports-complex-baseball-grandstand

One of the bullpens:

christian-plumeri-sports-complex-bullpen

A dugout:

christian-plumeri-sports-complex-dugout

And a shot looking out over the complex from atop the baseball grandstand:

christian-plumeri-sports-complex-top-shot

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.

Tri-City ValleyCats – August 15

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!

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, 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!

Tri-City ValleyCats – September 11, 2010

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:

joseph-l-bruno-stadium-fence.jpgSimply put, no ball is going to leave the fenced area. I scouted around the trees beyond the second fence, just in case, but there were no balls to be found. Afterward, I walked back around to the front of the stadium and bought my ticket:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-ticket.jpg
The front of Joseph L. Bruno Stadium is pretty unique. I mean, most stadiums are unique, but this one’s pretty different. On the left is the team shop, in the middle are the gates and on the right are enclosed stairs going up to the suite level. For some reason, it looks like a fire station to me:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium.jpg
It was September 11, so the stadium’s flags were at half-mast:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-flags.jpg
I lined up first at the gate and had about 40 minutes to kill before the gates opened. Boy, was it a long wait. You can only look around, glance at your watch and re-read your ticket so many times before the minutes seem to crawl by. Eventually, the gates were opened and I walked in and got my bearings.
During BP, I’d seen several home run balls land beyond the outfield fence but not make it to the second fence. I knew ushers would be quickly snatching all these balls, but I took my chances and headed to the grass berm behind left field. There’s also a bar here called the Top of the Hill Bar & Grill. I greeted the bartender and walked around the bar looking for a ball in the grass below. The fences made it clear that fans aren’t allowed behind the fence, but I quickly spotted this:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-outfield-fence.jpg
See anything noteworthy here? If not, here’s a close up:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-ball-closeup.jpg
A ball was sitting on the grass hill, and while there were no ushers in site, I wanted to get it quickly. I turned to the bartender: “Look, I came all the way from Canada for this game, and I’d really like to get a ball. I see one just down there. Could I grab it?” He gave me a quick nod, adding, “Just do it quickly,” and I was off. As I bent to grab it, I turned to see he was now engaged with another fan. I decided to take a quick run all the way around to the right field corner to see if there were any other balls in the area, and there wasn’t a single one.
When I got back, I thanked the staff member and took a quick panoramic shot from the bar and grill. If you’re watching a ValleyCats game, this is a pretty cool area. You can sit here regardless of where your ticket is located, and as you can see from the shot below, you’ve got a great view:
tri-citypano1.jpg
I went back down the hill to the left field corner and checked out Tri-City’s bullpen:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-home-bullpen1.jpg
This facility has sweet bullpens for Short-Season A ball. See the elevated area for the players to sit? Because the gate was open, I took some from the warning track area. It was neat to just wander down to the edge of the outfield:
jose<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
ph-l-bruno-stadium-left-field-corner.jpg
Afterward, I was on the move again. The Joe has myriad seating options if stadium seats aren’t your thing. You can sit on the grass berm in the right field corner:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-grass-berm-right-field.jpg
The picnic deck along the right field line:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-picnic-area.jpg
Or The Porch, a wooden, bar-style area adjacent to the grass berm in the right field corner. This area looked pretty decent, and had great sightlines. I decided that once the game began, I’d spend a little time here:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-the-porch.jpg
Then went back down to the box seats as the stadium was beginning to fill up:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-seating.jpg
This was game one of the best-of-three NYPL championship series, and the opponent was the Brooklyn Cyclones, the affiliate of the Mets. (The ValleyCats are a part of Houston‘s system.)
I snapped a quick shot of the scoreboard, which is hugely impressive by NYPL standards:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-scoreboard.jpg
By now, the Cyclones were out on the field stretching:
brooklyn-cyclones-warmup.jpg
I wandered over to the ValleyCats dugout on the third base side and watched three players play a mesmerizing game. Each guy holds a baseball in each hand, and one guy throws one of his balls to another guy. If the ball comes toward you, you have to throw your ball back at someone else and catch the ball coming at you. It’s dizzying but addictive to watch. Nothing like staying loose before the biggest game of your young pro career:
tri-city-valleycats-warmup.jpg
With the national anthem about to begin, I headed over to my new favorite seating area — The Porch. I was sharing it with one other couple on the lower level and a couple other people above me, so it was mostly deserted. Here’s a view during the pregame ceremonies, which included a moment of silence:
new-york-penn-league-2010-championship.jpg
To my right, I could see Brooklyn’s starter, A.J. Pinera:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-visitors-bullpen.jpg
The Cyclones got off to a quick start; two runs in the top of the first innings. But the ValleyCats rebounded with four runs in the third inning and never looked back. In the late innings of the game, I headed to the grass hill in the left field corner to watch a bit of the action:
joseph-l-bruno-stadium-grass-berm.jpg
From here, I could see the home team’s bullpen:
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Tri-City ended up winning 5-2 to take Game 1 of the series. The next two days’ games in Brooklyn were rained out, but the ValleyCats prevailed in Game 2 on Sept. 14 to win the 2010 New York-Penn League championship. It was cool to see a game of the championship series.
That was that for my 2010 ballpark tour. This summer will be even better, so check back regularly to see where I’m going and what I’ve seen.
And, as always, visit my website, TheBallparkGuide.com for guides to the stadiums I’ve visited.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – September 10, 2010

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.

On the morning of September 10 last fall, I woke up early and loaded up my car for the seven-hour drive to Manchester, New Hampshire, home of the Eastern League’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The Cats are the AA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, so their roster is usually stacked with guys you’d recognize. My plan was to make the drive to Manchester to catch Game 3 of the Eastern League semifinals against the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees affiliate. The Thunder won Games 1 and 2 at home, and with a best-of-five series, the game I would attend would be pivotal.
The drive to Manchester was beautiful — lots of picturesque views through the Adirondacks. The nice views started, however, after I snaked my way through Montreal. Anyone who’s driven in Montreal rush hour knows how ridiculous it is. I arrived in Montreal about 9 a.m., meaning I was right in the heart of it and had to cross the city to get to the border. That took longer than expected, but pretty soon, I was off.
After a painfully slow stop at the border, and a couple bottles of Vitaminwater later (you’ve gotta go with orange and lemonade in the morning) I had to go. Bad. Of course, being in the middle of nowhere, there wasn’t exactly a place to stop. So I kept driving. And driving.
Pretty soon, it was either pull over and find a discrete area or risk unfortunate circumstances. I elected to stop. I pulled off the highway and found a back road in sort of a cottage country area.
(If this story is horrific, or boring, feel free to skip ahead. Otherwise, it might give you a chuckle.)
Anyway, on a quiet, wooded street next to a body of water, I, uhh, relieved myself. As I stood there, looking at the giant lake ahead of me, I casually wondered what body of water it was. Then, I had a minor, silly panic. This was Lake Champlain!
lake-champlain-view.jpg
This lake, like Scotland’s Loch Ness, is known for supposedly containing some sort of creature of the deep. I had horrible visions of my empty car being discovered a day later after I’d been eaten by a lake monster who took exception to my adding a little liquid to his lake. Quickly, I got back in the car and was on my way.
(Back to baseball briefly: The Short-Season A team in Burlington, VT, is called the Vermont Lake Monsters in honor of this creature.)
The rest of the drive was more relaxing, and offered plenty of spectacular views through the mountains:
drive-to-manchester.jpg
Yes, I took that photo while driving, and yes, I did it when the road was otherwise deserted. See the dark clouds and rain on my windshield? I had my fingers crossed that the game would go off as scheduled and my roadtrip wouldn’t be for naught.
Typically, I book my ballpark travel hotels on Hotwire, opting for a low price over knowing exactly what I’m getting. For this trip, however, I booked my room on another site because I wanted to stay at Manchester’s Hilton Garden Inn, which overlooks the Fisher Cats stadium, Automerchants.com Stadium. (It’s since had its name changed to another equally long one: Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.) More specifically, I wanted a field-facing room. Other than Rogers Centre in Toronto, I don’t know any pro ballparks with hotels overlooking the field. If you do, please leave a comment below. I’d love to know about them!
I arrived mid afternoon, checked into my hotel and couldn’t wait to get to my room. Here was the view:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-view.jpg
Absolutely outstanding! As I said earlier, this trip was awesome.
Because I was three or four hours early for the game, there was very little going on at the stadium. Eventually, the grounds crew came out to prepare the field, but otherwise, it was cool to just keep an eye on the empty ballpark.
Here’s a panoramic I took from my window, which was on the third or fourth floor:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-1.jpg
And this is The Porch, an outdoor eatery that is ideal for snagging batting practice home runs:
hilton-garden-inn-manchester-the-porch.jpg
Unfortunately, the teams didn’t have BP, otherwise I would’ve been able to add a few more balls to my collection.
Pretty soon, the teams came out to stretch for a bit. Here’s Trenton:
trenton-thunder-warmup.jpg
And here’s another group of Thunder players:
new-hampshire-fisher-cats-warmup.jpg
After some waiting in my room, and continuously checking the field to see what was up, I took a brief tour of the hotel, scouting out the pool and gym, and packed up and headed on the short walk to the park.
Here’s a shot looking back at the hotel. Pretty nice, huh?
hilton-garden-inn-manchester-new-hampshire.jpg
Merchantsauto.com Stadium is located on Line Drive:
line-drive-manchester.jpg
And the stadium front is pretty different looking from the front:
merchantsauto.com-stadium-front.jpg
You buy your tickets at the window on the left, then climb about 30 stairs up to the concourse.
Here’s my ticket shot:
merchantsauto.com-stadium-ticket.jpg
Before the gates opened, I took a walk down a path at the side of the stadium that runs parallel to the Merrimack River. It’s all pretty nice looking:
merchantsauto.com-stadium-sign.jpg
On the path, I saw this:
merrimack-river-steps.jpg
I don’t know what it is, but it looked old and neat. After walking for a few minutes, I could hear players taking swings at an indoor cage, but couldn’t see anything. By now, the stadium was ready to open, so I headed back and walked in. Here are those stairs leading up to the concourse:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-steps.jpg
Before I climbed them, however, I stopped at the team shop. Because this was potentially the team’s last game of the season, there was a huge sale. I bought an official Fisher Cats cap for $15 and a T-shirt for $10.
Here’s the view when you get to the top of the stairs:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-picnic-deck.jpg
This is the outdoor patio for the Samuel Adams Bar & Grill, which is located indoors just behind these picnic tables, as you can see here:
samuel-adams-bar-&-grill-northeast-delta-dental-stadium.jpg
And you can see the hotel in the background. And here’s a view looking toward home plate while standing in the area around the picnic tables:
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I spun to my right, and snapped this photo of the sun setting over the Merrimack River:
merrimack-river-manchester.jpg
Time to walk around and get my bearings! The ballpark has an open concourse and only one level of seating. There’s a suite level, but I don’t count that as regular seating. Here’s a panoramic I took from the concourse in left field:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-2.jpg
The autograph seekers were already hanging out at the Trenton dugout:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-autographs.jpg
I should point out that Andy Pettitte pitched for the Thunder the night before, but didn’t make the trip to Manchester. Too bad, because he’s since retired and it would’ve been pretty neat to see him.
Here’s a look at the seats and press box behind home plate. I think you’ll agree this is an awesome-looking stadium. I can assure you the vibe was even better:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-pressbox.jpg
Even though I’m not a suite type of guy, I climbed up to the suite level to take this photo looking back at the concourse:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-concourse-view.jpg
To the left of the giant milk bottle is where you enter the stadium and you can see the picnic area and bar on the right.
I descended back to the main concourse and checked out the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame, which is roughly located behind home plate. The real one is in Tampa, but this replica museum was all right. It focused largely on Williams and had some displays about New Hampshire-born MLBers:
ted-williams-hitters-hall-of-fame-manchester.jpg
Pretty soon, I found the game’s starting lineups and got even more excited. I have to admit I knew none of the names on the Thunder, but I knew all the guys on the Fisher Cats:
new-hampshire-fisher-cats-lineup.jpg
Darin Mastroianni has lots of hustle; Adeiny Hechavarria is the Cuban shortstop snatched by the Jays a few months earlier; Eric Thames is a home run machine; Edwin Encarnacion can’t play defence but was down from Toronto for a rehab stint, so that was cool. I won’t go on, but it’s neat to go to a Minor League game and see a lineup full of guys you recognize.
I headed over to the right field corner, which is the only area of the stadium that has bleacher seating. New Hampshire’s bullpen is also in this area. Here, I took a panorama that shows what a perfect evening for ball it was:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-4.jpg
The stadium was still mostly empty, so I went behind the Fisher Cats dugout and snapped this photo:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-dugout.jpg
Then went behind home plate and got this one:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-fisher-cats-logo.jpg
I sure get my exercise during ballgames. After those photos, I walked back down the concourse (saying “no, thanks” to the vendor who tried to sign me up for some insurance thing for the fourth time) to the picnic area to get this panorama:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-5.jpg
I also snapped this photo of the hotel. My room is either the bottom or middle window on the left:
hilton-garden-inn-manchester-new-hampshire-view.jpg
After these shots, I once again climbed the stairs to the suite level, took a browse around and chatted with a friendly Fisher Cats staffer.
By now, there was action in the Fisher Cats bullpen, so I walked over to watch Canadian Scott Richmond warm up:
scott-richmond-pitcher.jpg
And spotted Encarnacion, who was signing autographs along the fence:
edwin-encarnacion-autograph.jpg
I grabbed a ball from my bag and got him to sign it:
encarnacion.jpg
I also spotted Hechavarria, who’s supposed to be Toronto’s shortstop of the future. I called out to him and he came over to me. As he turned, he tripped on a groundskeeper’s rake and almost fell, briefly giving me visions of a blown ACL and an angry call from Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. Anyway, he signed quickly for me and I must admit his autograph is one of the oddest I’ve seen:
hechavarria.jpg
Pretty soon, the clock said a few minutes before 7 p.m., meaning the game was set to begin. I snapped the shots to build this panorama during the national anthem:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-6.jpg
Then, took my seat behind the visiting team’s dugout. (Not that it mattered where I sat, because I would soon be on the move again!) After the first batter, the three or four kids beside me who were yelling, eating and generally not paying attention to the game got on my nerves. Normally I sit in my designated seat for the first inning or two, but not this time. Off I went again.
Here’s Hechavarria batting:
adeiny-hechavarria-batting.jpg
And a panorama from sort of behind home plate:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-panorama-3.jpg
Merchantsauto.com Stadium/Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (say that five times fast) has a Fenway Park-style manual scoreboard in left field:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-scoreboard1.jpg
You can also see it in the shot below, which captures the busy concourse behind the third base line:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-concourse.jpg
Dinner time! I’d read about the ballpark’s decent selection of seafood, given Manchester’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Normally, I’d be wary of eating something too exotic at a baseball stadium, but on this chilly night, I wanted something hot and tasty. Here’s the seafood menu:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-menu.jpg
I went with a clam basket, which came with fries and coleslaw. It was all right — lots and lots of breading but the slaw was excellent and the clams and fries were nice and hot:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-food-seafood.jpg
It was also amply sized. I had trouble finishing it, but perhaps that’s because my hands were shaking because of the cold. I was only wearing a light jacket, so I was very chilly on this September evening. After I was done eating, I sat in the left field corner for a couple innings. If you love baseball like I do, you’ll appreciate how passionate I am about attending live games. It’s awesome, though there are hardly the words to describe it. I love moving around, taking photos and watching the game from different angles. Here’s a close-up shot of the scoreboard:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-scoreboard.jpg
I was so close I could hear the men who were operating it talking back and forth. And here’s a look down the line from the corner. That’s Trenton’s bullpen; you can see one of the Thunder’s relievers stretching his throwing arm with a band tied to the fence:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-visitors-bullpen.jpg
Remember that $15 cap I mentioned earlier? Here it is on the fence:
new-hampshire-fisher-cats-cap.jpg
And speaking of the fence, it’s ideal for snagging foul balls. I had no luck, but unlike solid fences that require you to hang over them to grab a ball, you can simply reach through the rungs of this one:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-fence.jpg
I watched a freezing cold inning from the picnic area behind the left field fence. I was the lone person braving the cold in this area. More sensible people were enjoying warming beverages in the bar behind me. Here’s a view from the picnic zone:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-view-from-picnic-area.jpg
By now, the game was nearing its late stages, and things were still close. Trenton led 1-0 through six, but New Hampshire had trouble getting any kind of rally going. To make matters worse, the Thunder scored two in the seventh, four in the eighth and one more in the ninth. Normally, I don’t cheer for either team unless the Jays are involved, but given Toronto’s connection to the Fisher Cats, I was cheering like crazy for the home side. New Hampshire put up one run in the bottom of the ninth, but that was it. Final score: Trenton 8, NH 1. End of the season for the Cats, who quickly beelined it for the clubhouse. I was hoping they might return to greet the fans, as teams occasionally do after the end of the season, but soon the lights went off and a fireworks show began:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-fireworks.jpg
After the show, it was a bit of a depressing feeling. The team’s season was over, and my 2010 ballpark adventure might be over, too. I needed to check to see if the Tri-City ValleyCats had advanced to the New York-Penn League final; if so, they’d play in nearby Troy, NY, the following night.
So, with my 2010 hanging in the balance, I looked around at the dark Merchantsauto.com Stadium:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-lights-out.jpg
(As I had not been drinking, my vision wasn’t this blurry; it was just the camera.)
Because I’d yet to get a ball at this game, I decided I’d take advantage of the quickly emptying ballpark to see if I could come up with one. There was nothing in the NH bullpen, nor the home side’s dugout. As a last-ditch effort, I checked the Trenton dugout. Nothing. A hopeful peek into the elevator that helps people in wheelchairs get into the dugout, however, yielded a white sphere in a shadowy corner. Aha! I reached for the ball … and reached … and reached again. The elevator was so deep there was no way I could get the ball. Unless, of course, I climbed into the elevator. Its door was latched, so I quickly scaled it and reached for the (very cobwebby) ball. Got it! When I got back out and held it to the light, I could see it was an Official Eastern League Baseball. It had obviously been there a significant length of time, and I have no idea whether it was a game ball or just a practice ball:
easternleague.jpg
Anyway, with ball in hand, I left the now-almost empty park, walked quickly past the line of traffic waiting to exit the stadium parking lot and was back in my hotel room watching ESPN before many fans were on the highway. Awesome! I also kept an eye on the darkened stadium. Lots of workers were scurrying around the concourse cleaning and doing other duties. Eventually, the workers thinned out and soon, the lights were turned off.
If you want to read my official guide to this stadium, click here.
The next morning, I woke early, worked out in the Hilton’s gym for an hour and stopped in at the business center to check the Tri-City website. It turns out the ValleyCats beat Batavia in the opening round of the NYPL playoffs, setting up a championship round Game 1 against Brooklyn starting that night. One more game to get to in 2010! Troy, NY, is a 3.5-hour drive from Manchester. I quickly packed up my room, loaded up the car and returned to the hotel lobby to check out. In the lobby, I ran into a familiar face. It was Edwin Encarnacion, who was leaving the hotel to wait for a shuttle. The shuttle would take him to the airport where he’d fly back to join the Jays. He was carrying his Jays duffel bag, too. I said hello to him, and he said hello back. I should’ve asked to get a photo with him, but there was no one readily available to take it, and I like to be respectful of pro athletes’ privacy when they’re not at work.
Before leaving, I walked back down to the ballpark and took one last shot of the building front:
northeast-delta-dental-stadium-front.jpg
Then I hopped in the car, punched Tri-City’s Joseph L. Bruno Stadium into my trusty GPS, and hit the road.

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, 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.