Tagged: Wilmington Blue Rocks

Media Passes and More

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved collecting ticket stubs from all the various sporting events I’ve attended. Since I started traveling for The Ballpark Guide, I’ve been fortunate to visit more than 40 ballparks. This past off-season, I scanned all my stubs from 2010 and 2011 into a blog post, which you can check out here if you’re interested. (It’s sort of cool to see all the varied designs used by teams.)

This summer, the home teams I’ve seen have been unbelievably hospitable to me and I haven’t had to buy a single ticket. I’ve received media accreditation at every park I’ve visited, which provides such varied benefits as being able to enter early, access the press box, walk on the field and many other great things. An added bonus is that while I don’t get a ticket stub to add to my collection, I get something even cooler – a media pass.

As I continue to plan my next road trip, I thought it’d be fun to take a quick look back at the passes I’ve received thus far, in chronological order.

May 21: Lakewood Blue Claws

This game was rained out, which was a letdown given I’d driven roughly eight hours for it. But even though there was no game to see, I picked up my media pass at the ticket office. It’s simple, but it was exciting because it was my first of the season.

May 22: Lehigh Valley IronPigs

I think I like this media pass best. Perhaps because the IronPigs play at the Triple-A level, the pass is really professional and it also included a nice lanyard from when Coca-Cola Park hosted the Triple-A All-Star Game in 2010.

May 22: Trenton Thunder

Trenton offered up a sharp-looking pass that came with a chain lanyard. As you can see, this one allowed me to access the press box, but not the clubhouse or field.

May 23: Wilmington Blue Rocks

The Blue Rocks’ press pass was simple and not unlike the one from Lakewood. This one gave me access to several areas, including the field. It’s always fun to see my name in print!

May 23: Frederick Keys

There’s no mention of my name or The Ballpark Guide on the laminated pass provided by the Keys, which suddenly makes me wonder if I was supposed to turn it in after the game. Oops.

May 24: Altoona Curve

Altoona’s media pass is really sharp. My information, as you can see, is written in by hand, and I like the retro-style design of this one.

May 24: Buffalo Bisons

I was a little surprised that Buffalo, being a Triple-A team, had a cardboard pass similar to those from Lakewood and Wilmington. I think this is because it’s only a one-day pass, rather than a season’s pass.

July 19: Rochester Red Wings

The Red Wings were the first team this season that didn’t hook me up with a standard media pass, but they essentially gave me the same privileges. The ticket provided access to any section in the park, while the photo pass allowed me to get on the field before the game.

A Souvenir from Wilmington

I had an outstanding visit to Wilmington’s Daniel S. Frawley Stadium to watch the Blue Rocks host the Potomac Nationals last month. That visit included a pre-game, all-access tour, a half-inning in the press box and more. If you haven’t already read about it, here’s how it all went down.

As I said a while back, I added a cool game-used souvenir to my collection while I was in Wilmington, and here it is:

It’s a lineup card that hung in the visitors dugout at Potomac’s G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium during the Blue Rocks’ 5-4 loss to Potomac on May 4. The team was selling these for a whopping $2 in the team shop, so I couldn’t resist getting one.

And because I’m a baseball nerd, here are a handful of cool things about it:

– I think it’s neat that the Kansas City Royals (Wilmington’s parent club) is on the card. It doesn’t actually say Wilmington (or Potomac, for that matter) anywhere.

– As you can see on the Wilmington column, reserve Brian Fletcher was moved off the bench (hence his name being crossed out under the Extras header) to the third spot in the batting order midway through the game.

– Because this was Wilmington manager Vance Wilson’s lineup, there were considerably more notations next to the opponents’ names. I have no idea what the highlighter strokes next to the 1, 2 and 6 hitters mean, but the S and L notations denote switch hitter or left-handed hitter. The other little markings, which you can see around both teams’ lineups are codes used by the manager to note in-game events. And the star next to David Freitas’ name? I have no idea, except it might mean: “Beware. This guy’s good.” Freitas went 0-for-4 in the game but had a .356 average at the time.

– I find it interesting that Wilson didn’t fill out the bullpen pitchers in the designated spot. I’ve seen lots of lineup cards, and I believe this is the first I’ve seen without the pitchers. As you can see, he did add the names of the two umpires.

– Here’s something else intriguing. The 10 spot, which is used for each starting pitcher, isn’t correct on the Wilmington side. Wilson had Yordano Ventura penned in for the start, but it was actually Ryan Dennick who took the ball. (Ventura pitched two days later against Potomac.) It’s funny that Wilson didn’t mark this change.

There are a ton of other cool things, and before long, I’ll have written 1,500 words about a lineup card. Two players I want to quickly point out, though: Randolph Oduber, who led off for the P-Nats, played last season in Hagerstown, where I got a couple photos of him walking with Bryce Harper. And the Beltre you see on the Wilmington side isn’t Adrian, obviously. It’s the lesser-known Geulin. (This is only worth mentioning because I heard fans excitedly saying Adrian Beltre was playing after they saw the starting lineups posted in the stadium concourse.)

This is the second lineup card in my collection. Last year, I bought an MLB one in Detroit, which you can read about here.

Finally, since we’re on the topic of Wilmington, I thought I’d post a picture of the souvenir cup I got during my visit. (With a Carolina League ball beside it for perspective.) I’ve collected a handful of souvenir cups on my travels over the years, so one day, I’ll blog about them. In the meantime, here’s the Blue Rocks one, which features a 2012 schedule:

If all goes according to plan, I should have some early details on my next road trip next week. Either way, I plan to have a couple more blog posts.

First Road Trip Goals Revisited

Now that I’ve blogged about meeting Frederick Keys outfielder Jeremy Nowak, which was the highlight of last month’s baseball road trip, I want to review the 10 goals I made for myself before hitting the road.

In all, I did pretty well, especially considering there were a few hiccups along the way that impacted my ability to cross off some of the goals.

Here’s the recap:

1. Get tours of five of the seven parks

The first stop on my road trip, May 21 in Lakewood, was rained out, so tours at five of seven was skewed from the get-go. That said, of the six games I attended, I did get an official tour at four parks and some great help/advice at the other two, so I’d say I achieved this goal.

2. Get 10 baseballs

The short answer is that I finished with six baseballs, which falls slightly short of my goal. But hang on. One game was rained out and of the other six, only two had batting practice. So, I’d say that six balls in six games is good, considering I try to average a ball a game. Here they are, including two International League balls from batting practice at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field, an NCAA tournament ball from Wilmington, two Carolina League balls from Frederick’s Harry Grove Stadium and, at bottom, the Jeremy Nowak home run ball:

3. Get a game-used item

If you read my recent post about Jeremy Nowak’s home run ball, you’d agree I knocked this item off my list of goals. Hard to imagine a cooler game-used item! The runner-up is a game-used item that I picked up in Wilmington, which I’ll blog about later this week.

4. Get autographs from Wally Backman and Ryne Sandberg

This one was a wash. Why? Because I got media passes for all the games I attended, including those in which I saw the two legendary MLBers. And as you can see on the bottom on one of my passes (and they all say this), passholders are prohibited from asking for autographs:

5. Find a food item that gets into my top 10

As a reference point, here are the top 10 things I’ve eaten on my travels. It’s close, but I think I’ll bump off Classic Park’s pulled pork nachos and replace the #10 slot with the crab fries at Trenton’s Waterfront Park. They weren’t quite as good as I thought they might be, but they were unique enough to sneak through the backdoor into the 10th spot:

6. Be interviewed during a game broadcast

Check! This happened twice and both times, it was really exciting. I was interviewed on the Wilmington Blue Rocks broadcast by Jeff O’Connor and the Frederick Keys broadcast by Adam Pohl. And in case you missed the pictures I posted about those interviews, here they are:

7. Get 50 autographs

In the same vein as the attempt to get Backman and Sandberg to sign, this one is a no-go. But I’ll call it an N/A rather than a fail, because I didn’t ask for a single autograph.

8. Buy a hat

Oops! There were a couple times I wanted to get a hat and just didn’t pull the trigger. The first was at the rained-out game in Lakewood. I think the BlueClaws’ hats look neat, but given the cancellation of the game, I wasn’t able to get one. Secondly, I wanted to get a Keys hat at Harry Grove Stadium, but the hats were all behind the counter and I’m a methodical hat buyer. I like to try a bunch on until I find one that fits me perfectly, and didn’t bother doing so. Does this mean that next road trip I’ll get two hats? Yes. Yes, it does.

9. Have my photo taken with a player

It’s fitting that I got a fan to capture the coolest moment of the road trip. The photo is grainy and dark but the smiles say it all:

10. Have some unforeseen fun adventure

I think this qualifies, don’t you? If you want a runner-up, here it is:

– Despite the rainout, I was able to get into Lakewood’s FirstEnergy park and wander around the near-empty park by myself. It might not seem that thrilling on the surface, but imagine getting into a ballpark by yourself and touring it at your leisure. It was special. Here’s a photo of the deserted park I took on my self-guided tour that I haven’t previously published:

So, what’s next for me? Despite the highlights of my May trip, I’m confident my next trip will be great for a number of other reasons. I’m in the middle of planning it now, and I’ll have a blog post about that soon enough.

In the meantime, please check out The Ballpark Guide and remember that your clicks help me pay for future travels and adventures. Thank you.

Wilmington Blue Rocks – May 23

There’s no doubt I was pumped about my entire road trip, but I was secretly (well, I suppose it’s not a secret any more) especially looking forward to May 23. This day would include games in Wilmington and Frederick, and each visit would include a half-inning on the respective home teams’ radio broadcasts, talking about The Ballpark Guide. Plus, in Frederick, I couldn’t wait to meet Jeremy Nowak, who you’ll probably know if you’ve followed this blog for a while. That said, I got on the road very early on the morning of May 23 and drove southwest from Trenton to Wilmington. As I left New Jersey and crossed into Delaware, I got to drive over the enormous Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is more than three miles long:

The game between the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Potomac Nationals (who I saw last year at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium) was scheduled for 11:05 a.m., and I pulled in to Frawley Stadium just before 9 a.m. As you might expect, the ballpark’s lot was mostly empty and there weren’t many people around. (I even beat a few of the Blue Rocks players to the park!) I took the opportunity to photograph the front of the park …

… and also shoot some photos to turn into this panorama:

The Blue Rocks were awesome to deal with prior to my visit, and were leaving a media pass for me at the will call window. Unfortunately, I was so early that the window wasn’t open yet …

… so I decided to use the time to walk around and document the park’s surroundings. One of the neat things to see is a statue of former Negro league star Judy Johnson, who spent the latter portion of his life in Wilmington:

The pavilion in front of the park also has plaques honoring Wilmington’s Vic Willis, a hall of fame pitcher, and Bill McGowan, a hall of fame umpire. I set out to take a walk around the outside of Frawley Stadium, heading to the left of the front pavilion …

… and down the side of the ballpark …

… until I got to an opening in the left field corner where I could see the tarp-covered field:

With no batting practice, I didn’t expect to find any balls behind the outfield fence, but scoured the area anyway. The area looked like this:

I even got right under the scoreboard and aimed my camera up to take this neat shot:

Eventually, I got to the first base line, where there was another spot from which the field was visible:

To the right of the main pavilion, sits the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame, which was closed, unfortunately:

The space in front of the park is very picturesque. You can tell the stadium crew puts a lot of care into maintenance, and the vast flower gardens are a testament to that:

After I finished the circuit, I looked up at perhaps the grayest sky in history. This photo isn’t an error — it’s actually a shot of the sky above the park:

Fortunately, it never did rain during the game, and it actually turned into a hot, sunny day. The ticket office still wasn’t open, and while I could’ve gone into the team’s office and asked to pick up my media pass, I wasn’t in a huge rush. I climbed the long ramp up to the concourse level …

… where I could see that the tarp was still on the field:

After a while, the will call window opened and I received my pass and went into the park. I took the elevator up to the concourse, and during my ride, had a little chuckle at this sign, which is posted inside the elevator:

Ha! As you can see from the panorama below, by the time I’d entered the park, the team’s staff had just finished removing the tarp:

I was supposed to meet Jeff O’Connor, the team’s assistant director of broadcasting/media relations, who would introduce me to Joe Valenti, the team’s director of marking. Joe would give me a tour when he had a few moments, so I kept my fingers crossed. While I waited for Jeff, I took a short walk around the concourse. Like the other games on my trip, I got in early enough that there wasn’t much going on. The Blue Rocks players were hanging out around the dugout:

And the seating bowl was very quiet:

The Blue Rocks, who are associated with the Kansas City Royals, have had a number of MLBers come through over the years, including Zack Greinke:

Still killing time, I went down to field level and took this shot, looking up at the press box and suite level:

By now, most of the Blue Rocks were out. Check out their high socks in the photo below:

Another neat thing to note is that while they were wearing their Wilmington batting practice caps before the game, they actually switched into their Kansas City Royals caps for the game. Is this the norm? I’ve never seen an MiLB team wear an MLB cap.

While I’d yet to get my tour of Frawley Stadium, I could already tell this was an impressive facility. Not only was it immaculate outside and in, it included a number of unique features that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, including HD TVs listing the items on the concession menu:

Right after I took the above photo, I met up with Jeff who took me deep into the heart of the ballpark and introduced me to Joe, who was just starting to give a tour to three high school students from Philadelphia, who were doing a project on the Minor League Baseball experience. The tour was absolutely amazing. It included several stops that most fans will never get to see, although I’m excited to share them with you here. Our first stop was one of the storage rooms under the concourse. This room included a ton of items the team uses for promotions …

… signed photos of several celebrities who’ve visited the stadium over the years …

… and the costumes for Rocky, the team’s mascot:

From there, our tour headed to the home team’s clubhouse area, where I snapped a quick shot of the players’ bats:

Then we went under the stands, directly behind home plate. This area isn’t fancy, but go through the opening in the center of the photo, and you’re on the field right behind home plate:

I believe this is the door the umpires use, and it’s also used by the promotions staff. Once we went through the door, we walked onto the field. That’s Joe in the lead and one of the high school students right behind him:

Here’s what the field looked like from here:

The home dugout:

When we were standing here, Blue Rocks manager Vance Wilson came by and shook our hands and welcomed us to the ballpark. I wish I’d gotten a photo with him, but if you know baseball, you’ll probably know Wilson’s name. He played eight years in the Major Leagues with the Mets and Tigers. After being on the field, we went back under the stands and saw the indoor batting cages, which were doubling as a meeting spot for the team’s gameday staff:

We continued down this path …

… until we ended up in the umpires’ room. Incredible! Their little room is small, and one wall is lined with lockers where their gear hangs:

On a table in the center of the room, there was a box containing some rubbed-up official Carolina League balls:

And in the middle locker stall, there was a jar of Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud, which is the mystery mud used throughout professional baseball:

The mud also comes from the area, I believe. The company doesn’t reveal the exact location, but does say the mud is from a bank of a tributary of the Delaware River. Visiting the umpires’ room was a definite highlight. When I took a tour of Baltimore’s Camden Yards last summer, I saw the umpires’ room from the outside, but this was the first time I’ve ever actually been in one.

After touring the lower level of the ballpark, we climbed up to the suite level, and went into the main suite, where I took this panorama:

The tour just flew by, and after a while, Joe needed to get back to his pre-game duties. I really appreciate how accommodating Jeff, Joe and the Blue Rocks were. Thanks, everyone!

Left to my own devices, I set off to look around the park a little more. There was still a chunk of time until the game was set to begin, so I had plenty of time to explore. I decided to climb to the top of the general admission bleachers on the third base side to take this panorama:

Eventually, the Potomac Nationals, who’d been out stretching earlier, returned to the field and I caught this cute picture of Rick Hague and Randolph Oduber signing autographs:

I was scheduled to join Jeff on the team’s radio broadcast for the top of the third inning, so I decided to cool my jets for the first couple innings and just watch the game. I found a spot behind home plate with this view and chilled until it was time to head to the press box. Although the protective netting is an obstacle to good photos, I thought this one of Wilmington’s Guelin Beltre attempting a bunt turned out well:

Just before I was due in the radio booth, I went up to the press box where I snapped a photo of a picture of Johnny Damon, who’s perhaps the most famous Blue Rock of all:

The interview with Jeff went well. It’s always a little nerve-wracking, but it was fun to talk about my website with Jeff, who was really easy to talk to. The half-inning just flew by, and after it wrapped up, we got our photo taken:

Jeff also surprised me with a voucher to have lunch compliments of the team, so I scouted out something that looked delicious, and found this menu:

I settled on the Rocky’s Crab Burger, which was a burger topped with crab meat and Old Bay seasoning. The photo below isn’t the most exciting, but the burger was tasty and definitely something I’d order again:

Remember Joe, who gave me the pre-game tour? Before long, he was out on the field, leading one of the between-inning games:

Once I’d finished eating, I moved a little closer to the field and started taking some action shots. Here’s Potomac starter Matthew Grace, who took the loss:

Wilmington starter Tyler Sample, who picked up his first win of the season:

The visitors’ dugout:

Blue Rocks reliever Jon Keck, who got the hold and was promoted the following day to AA Arkansas:

Remember how I mentioned that the Blue Rocks were wearing Royals caps? Here’s the proof:

P-Nats cleanup hitter Justin Bloxom, who struck out on this pitch:

And, finally, one of the best action shots I’ve taken since I began traveling for my website. It’s center fielder Michael Taylor, who played with Class-A Hagerstown last season:

Soon enough, there was a close play on the field that got reversed after an umpire discussion. You’ve got to love call reversals, because the team that gets burned usually loses it, and that’s exactly what happened. Potomac’s Adrian Sanchez was initially called safe on a close play at first, which brought Wilson out to contest the play:

And after the umpires had a short conference, Sanchez was called out, which ticked him off …

… and brought P-Nats manager Brian Rupp out to complain:

The atmosphere may have been tense, but it was quickly lightened up when Goofy made an appearance:

The play didn’t end up affecting the game either way. Wilmington scored a run in the fourth and added two insurance runs in the eighth to win 3-0. The second the game wrapped up, I dashed out of Frawley Stadium, jumped in my sauna-like car and punched Frederick’s Harry Grove Stadium into my GPS.