Recently Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, has been honored by Stadium Journey magazine as the best overall Minor League experience. This is the second year in a row that Parkview and Fort Wayne has received this award. In Stadium Journey’s ‘Top 101 sports venues of 2012′, Parkview ranked #14 overall.
“The thing about Parkview Field, is that it combines all of the elements that we recognize as making a stadium experience great”, stated Stadium Journey’s president and co-founder Paul Swaney. “The food and beverage is better than you’ll find most places and (the concessions options are) related to the overall theme. When I go to Parkview Field apple turnovers are something I seek out. Having a downtown location is an important factor as well. The variety of seating selections is important, too. Fans can go back again and again and have different experiences each time depending on where they want to sit.”
Stadium Journey ranked the venues on many different factors, including the neighborhood, food and drink options, fan experience and atmosphere. The access to the outside and inside of the stadium is also taken into consideration.
“This award is a testament to our great community and fans who continue to make Parkview Field an enjoyable place to be,” TinCaps president Mike Nutter stated to Stadium Journey. “We’re honored to be ranked among the best venues in all of professional sports.”
We were lucky enough to visit Parkview Field in its first year during our 2009 baseball trip. We had a great time at the game, and the ballpark does live up to the hype. Our seats were directly next to the Fort Wayne dugout, to the point that we could literally look right into it and interact with players. It didn’t take much for Trevor to snag a game ball that night. It had been raining all day, and we were pretty lucky to even get the game in.
We had a lot of fun moments this last year, and here are the best of them. It’s always hard to narrow it down to just nine, but the top few were really special and it’s fun to look back and think of the smiles on the kids faces in most of these. It’s also hard to find an order, or to really think that one’s childs’ moment meant more than an other. Read and enjoy, and I honestly hope that everyone had as much fun this past season as we did.
#9-Our 4th up North
With the kids participating in the Sault Area Little League and me coaching, we were able to be in the local Independence Day Parade. The kids had fun being seen by their friends, but really didn’t like the fact that they were throwing candy to the crowd instead of eating it. Riding on the float was fun, but it was literally a pain in the a$$ for me, as I tried to keep out of the public eye, and make sure no kids jumped off. It was good to have Trevor back in baseball and this was Brian’s first year. Lily played in the Sault Girls Softball League, but was able to march anyway because she was helping me coach Brian’s team.
#8-Back in Buffalo
Seeing the Buffalo Bisons is a great Minor League Baseball experience. I saw my first game there back in the ’90′s as my first minor league game. It was really good to be back and that my dad could experience this with me. Coca-Cola Field is a great place to watch a game and one of the best we’ve ever been to. Another first for me, was meeting felling bloggers Danny and Quinn from nybisons. They had a party night going on, too, with live music and I did drink a beer or two. I highly recommend hitting a game in Buffalo if anyone is in that area.
#7-Lily goes 6 for 6
Nothing like starting the season out on a high note. In Lily’s first game of the season, she went 6-6 in helping her team on to victory. Although she never repeated this feat, she did have multiple hit games though out the season. It was a brutal summer for these girls, as the temp was in the 90′s many times for their games. They played during the heat of the day, too, as the boys played in the evening so the heat wasn’t as bad for them. Lily had a great season, though, and this first game is something she can really be proud of herself for, as we’re proud of her! She played just about every position, but like her brother really liked playing catcher.
#6-My Loony children
In July we headed down to Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons, to see them take on he Whitecaps. This was the kids’ first trip to Midland and they were really impressed. Dow Diamond is a really nice stadium, and the playground there was a big hit. They did a lot of playing and were happy to meet Louie the Loon, the Great Lakes mascot. They also had a camel mascot, but I’m not sure what that was all about. The kids had so much fun I promised to take them again next season, no matter who the Loons are playing.
With Trevor donning the tools and working behind the plate this season, it’s no surprise that he took a liking to the Whitecaps catcher Pat Leyland. Throw in the fact that Leyland’s dad manages the Detroit Tigers, and you have a winning combination. On Sundays at the Whitecaps games, fans are invited onto the field for autographs and to play catch. We really had to seek out Leyland, though, as he was preparing his pitcher for the game. He was nice enough to take the time for a quick picture, and this really made Trevor’s day. This is how we build baseball fans, from childhood moments like this.
#4-Star Wars Night
This is one of the highlights of our summer every year. This season we decided to check out Star Wars Night at the Traverse City Beach Bums instead of the Whitecaps. They didn’t have as many of the characters around the ballpark, but the kids really had a good time anyway. They really like the Beach Bums games, as the atmosphere is really laid back. They like the playground there, too, and it’s not as crowded as some of the other ballparks we go to. They got to meet some of their movie favorites, though, like Darth Vader and Princess Leia. Thank goodness they didn’t have any from the prequels crap. I’m sure this event will be on next years list, too.
#3-The Crash Dash
Our first ballgame of the season was a memorable one. Brian was able to participate in the ‘Crash Dash’, where he raced the ‘Caps mascot Crash around the bases. Brian won, of course, because of this blazing speed, and that Crash usually gets distracted by something on third base. It was cool to see us up on the video board, too. Brian was smiling away, as he loves to win races, and Crash is his favorite mascot. I would love to see him do this next season if he can.
#2-The road to Cooperstown
The National Baseball Hall of Fame was one of the top things on my baseball bucket list (don’t worry, that prime 9 will be posted next month…). Although I admit it was a little disappointing, we still were able to see some breathtaking memorabilia from baseball’s past. Seeing some of the greats enshrined in the Hall is an experience that every baseball fan should take in. This was also something my dad really needed to see and I’m glad I was able to see this with him. We also had a chance to check out Doubleday Field, although there were no games going on that day.
#1-Rookie of the Year
This season Brian made his organized baseball debut…and took one more step toward destiny. He seems to like baseball more than any other sport so far and is really showing flashes of talent. I’m glad they lowered the starting age to four, as he was really ready to play. The problem is that he loves to hit live pitching, so hitting off a tee isn’t the biggest thrill for him, but he still does it well. The biggest thing he has to learn is team work and being a good team-mate. Being the youngest child, he’s spoiled rotten, and he has to get over himself on the field. Lily helped me coach his team and she did a great job with all of the kids, and I think it was positive for Brian, too. Trevor helped out when he could, but was busy with his own team (I was an assistant for Trevor’s team). Seeing your child take the field for the first time is so special, and if I was doing this list a few years ago, then Lily and Trevor would be #1 also.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
It’s been an extremely hot summer for us up north here. We’re not really used to the high 80′s to 90′s we’ve been experiencing the last few months. Along with the humidity, it can be brutal. The kids had a tough time playing in the heat sometimes, especially Lily, who played ball during the heat of the day. It’s starting to cool off, though, and we’re getting the rain that we really do need. This just makes fall look like it’s closer than it is, though, and with school just a couple of weeks away, and Trevor already in having football practice, it just reminds me that the summer is very quickly coming to an end…
Peanuts comic courtesy of the late great Charles M. Schulz
Fifth-Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Well, my ex was actually nice enough to drive my kids down state so they could join us for our last game of the trip. I was so happy to be reunited with my babies again, you have no idea!!!! My mom was able to join us, too, for this game, and due to medical reasons this is her first game in some time. It was Sunday, so that meant family day, and the kids could get in free with their Crash’s Kids Club passes. We were also able to get on the field to get some autographs and pics with some of the players and mascots. Brian loves to see Crash and Frankie, and the players are great with all of the fans, especially the kids. It was still extremely hot, but I had the foresight to get us seats under the over-hang and out of the sun. The kids still spent some time on the playground, though. The Whitecaps fell behind 4-0, but battled back on home runs by Dean Green and Steven Moya. Kyle Ryan pitched for the ‘Caps, and did a solid job. This game was so much fun, and it’s just one of those days that you’re so thankful for. This was the perfect finale for our 2012 baseball trip. We have more games on tap for this season, but will start looking into potential trips for next year. Final: Whitecaps 5, Silver Hawks 4.
Theunissen Stadium-Mt. Pleasant, MI: Ahh…back in our home state!!! It was a long drive back, and we were dog tired, but not tired enough to miss a baseball game. On our way back home, we stopped in at my dads’ alma mater, Central Michigan, to see them take on their arch-rivals, the Western Michigan Broncos. We’ve only been to a hand-full of college ballparks, but Central’s Theunissen Stadium is the best one we’ve been at, and probably one of the nicer college stadiums in Michigan. This was CMU‘s final regular season game, so plenty of students and family in attendance to cheer on the home team. Before the game, some of the former baseball alumni and coaches were honored, including Coach Theunissen, who the stadium was named after. He threw out the first pitch to his grandson Nate Theunissen, who is now the Chippewas all-time hits leader. The game itself was a good one, with the Chips edging the Broncos 3-2. It was a hot day that drained us a bit, but the game went by pretty quick. I was excited, though, because I was about to be reunited with three most important people in my life… Final: CMU 3, WMU 2.
Coca-Cola Field-Buffalo, NY: After 19 short years, I finally returned to the site of my first Minor League baseball game-Buffalo, New York. Then known as Pilot Field, the improved Coca-Cola Field is not only the nicest park we were at on our trip, but one of the best I’ve ever been to. Buffalo is a big time city, and the Bisons give you a bit of the ‘Major League’ feel to it. Parking is rough, but the site-lines in the stadium were great. The gates opened at 5:00 for a pre-game party, and a chance to watch some batting practice. We were treated with a free concert on one of the dugouts, which was very entertaining. We watched the Gwinnett Braves take some batting practice and enjoyed the music. Out in right field, I was able to catch up with fellow bloggers Danny and Quinn from nybisons. They were doing an impressive job of shagging any baseball within a half-mile of the stadium. Getting these two to slow down for a bit to chat was a challenge, and I wish I had their energy. Both young men were very polite and even visited us in our seats later in the game to talk baseball. The game itself was a good one, and the Buffalo won a close one thanks to two monster home runs by Valentino Pascucci. We sat in the upper deck for this one, and had an awesome view of the action. I’m sure there is no bad seat at this ballpark. The staff and the fans all seemed very friendly, and helped make this game another great experience. We ate some great food, but no beer this time because we had a long drive back to Michigan after the game. Two more games to go in our home state… Final: Bisons 5, Braves 3.
University at Buffalo Bulls vs. Bowling Green State Falcons
Amherst Audubon Field-Amherst, NY: Trying to squeeze as much baseball into our trip as possible, we decided to take in some college baseball at the University at Buffalo. We had some extra time before the Buffalo Bisons game, and I personally enjoy the college game. UB has a nice campus, and we explored a bit and checked things out at their book store/gift shop. I was actually disappointed with Amherst Audubon Field, which looks a lot more like a high school field than one used for Division I baseball. I know baseball isn’t a big draw up north, and other sports like football and basketball bring in the revenue, but you would think they’d put something into a decent baseball stadium. We still had a fun time, and there were some scouts there looking for the ‘diamond in the rough’ type player, and they’re always fun to talk to. The weather was beautiful also, and to some good baseball free of charge is simply a plus. Other than us and the scouts, the rest of the crowd was primarily just friends and family of the players. It’s still a high level of baseball and well worth our time. Final: Buffalo 3, Bowling Green 6.
Pierce Arrow Museum
Buffalo, NY: Other than baseball, my other love is cars. I’m a guy, and guys just like classic cars. This is actually the third car museum we visited on this trip, and it’s located just a few blocks away from Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. After the game at UB, we decided to check out some automotive mastery. The Pierce Arrow cars are really beautiful, and the museum had some other memorabilia like old gas pumps and signs. They’re in the process of moving into a bigger facility, but it was a great way to waste some time until the next ballgame. The best car museum we went to on this trip was in Norwich, NY, which is just north of Binghamton. When I get a chance, I might post some pics from that one with one of my B-Mets reviews.
Frontier Field-Rochester, NY: I really like Frontier Field, so I’m glad we were able to see two games here. And as this is the third time we’ve seen the Red Wings on this trip, I was starting to become a fan. Add the fact that there are five former Whitecaps on the Rochester roster (Clete Thomas, Wilkin Ramirez, Casey Fien, Luke French, and Mike Hollimon), and I’m a Red Wings supporter! There seemed to be a more festive atmosphere for the Red Wings than the E-Yanks, and they even had an autograph booth going, where I took the opportunity to have pitcher Matt Maloney sign a game ball for Brian (a future pitcher himself). As with the other ballparks we’ve doubled up on, we got seats a little higher up than last game to get a different perspective of things. Still great seats as always. The mascots Spikes and Mittsy were very active with the crowd, especially kids like myself. We even had a chance to chat with the Red Wings GM Dan Mason, who was extremely friendly. It’s nice to see these guys down interacting with the fans, and he was very interested in our trip and how his club and stadium compared to the others we’ve been to. The game itself was a lot of fun, and we were even treated to some extra innings, as Louisville bested the Wings 4-2 in 11. I was thrown another game ball, and made another amazing catch, so still went home happy! It was a long night, but well worth everything. Had to get a good nights sleep, as we had two games in Buffalo on tap for the next day. Final: Bats 4, Red Wings 2 in 11 innings.
NYSEG Stadium-Binghamton, NY: Our second game here in Binghamton, but we still couldn’t make it to the game early. We were busy with museums and other things that up-state New York had to offer, but we were still in our seats by the first pitch. We had great seats for this one, front row on the third base side that gave us a different perspective of the game. The game itself was a real ’barn-burner’, with the score 0-0 going into the ninth inning, but got exciting when the B-Mets won with a walk-off single. The high-light of the game for me was getting a game ball from Trenton center fielder Melky Mesa. He was running in from the outfield and launched one to me just past second base, and I simply made an amazing catch. It was a fun game for us, but still not much of a crowd, which surprised my again when the Mets and Yankees affiliates are playing. They had really good burgers off the grill here, though, which gave me something to go with my beer for the night. We stayed in town, but had a long trip back up to Rochester for a game the next day. Final: B-Mets 1, Thunder 0.
NYSEG Stadium-Binghamton, NY: Since it took us about half the time at the Hall of Fame than we expected, we decided to pick up an extra game in Binghamton. It rained all day in Cooperstown, and a little on our drive down, but turned into a beautiful night for baseball. Because heading down there was a last-minute decision, we didn’t get there real early and have as much time to poke around the park before game time. Someone was handing out vouchers outside of the stadium, too, for discounts, so we picked up our tickets for only $6.00 a piece, which is a great deal for baseball. NYSEG Stadium is a decent venue for Double-A (Eastern League), but we’ve been in better for Single-A. The crowd wasn’t as ‘baseball savvy’ as some of the other ones we’ve talked to on our trip, and they didn’t seem real into the game. Lots of people their drinking tons, which I have no problem with, but obvious they could care less about the game. You’d think they’re would be a better showing for the a matchup of the Mets and Yankees affiliates. Not real surprising to hear that this is the franchise rumored to be heading to Ottawa, Ontario in the future. I did like the fact here that there were plenty of vendors walking the stands, so you really could sit and not miss much of the game, and the concessions were reasonably priced. The mascots did a good job, too, of walking the stands and entertaining the kids. It was a chance for us to see more baseball, though, which is always a good thing. The Thunder really brought their bats this night and beat up the home team a bit. We’ll see if the Mets can bounce back the next night, as we’ll be back in Binghamton for the rematch. Final: Thunder 10, B-Mets 1.