Cooperstown, NY: The road to Cooperstown, New York may not be what you’d expect. In fact, it is almost a like travelling back in time, to a place without super highways and sky scrapers. The road is carved into the landscape of up-state New York, passing farms and classic homes. It’s a journey to a simpler time when baseball was king of all sports…as it should be. The town itself is quaint, with the feel of the turn of the century, but I didn’t see too much of it on the way there, as I was so excited to reach my destination…the National Baseball Hall of Fame…
The rest of the museum was sort of all over the place. It had no real flow to it, and you never really knew what you were going to see next. I’ve been to the Hockey HOF in Toronto, and I guess I was comparing that to the baseball one here in Cooperstown. I was disappointed to find that no other baseball was represented here other than MLB. Nothing on the Minor League, college baseball, international baseball (Olympics or WBC), Little League, Negro Leagues, or anything else. Even the display for the girls baseball was much smaller than I thought it would be. I did enjoy seeing some of the old memorabilia from the 1800′s and to see how the game evolved. There was plenty of room for more displays, though, and maybe recognizing some very good players and teams that will not make the Hall, but still meant a lot to the game of baseball. We had a fun time, and this was something that we just had to do to cross off our baseball bucket list, but I guess I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more to it. And then seeing the prices in the gift shop simply just ticked me off a bit…
Cooperstown, NY: While in the Coop, checking out Doubleday Field is a must. It’s and old-time throwback stadium, but I really like it’s simplicity. They have a summer college team play there now, so it’s good to see it in use. It’s too bad I couldn’t have seen a game played here, though. We used the parking lot here, too, and just walked to the HOF.
Empire State Yankees vs. Durham Bulls
Frontier Field-Rochester, NY: While the Red Wings are away, the Yankees will play…in Frontier Field, that is. Due to a new stadium being built, the Scratnon/Wilkes Barre Yankees will be taking on the moniker of ‘Empire State’ for the season, and playing ‘home games’ in places such as Rochester and Syracuse while the home teams are out-of-town. This gave us a great opportunity to catch a game, and see two more teams, that we probably would not have seen otherwise. I found Frontier Field a very nice venue, and our seats could not have been better, front row on the third base side. The kids had a lot of fun watching this game on MiLB.TV, as they could see their daddy and papa quite a bit. The game itself flew by, as the Durham Bulls shut out the Yankees 1-0. Alex Cobb got the win on the mound for Durham, and I was surprised to see him pitching for the Rays when I turned the game on last night versus the Red Sox. We had a lot of fun here, and were excited about the fact we would be coming back in a few days to watch the Red Wings. I went right to bed after the game, though, as the next morning we would get up bright and early to get on the road to Cooperstown…Final: Bulls 1, Yankees 0.
Alliance Bank Stadium-Syracuse, NY: I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love being at the ballpark early in the day. The grass still smells so fresh, and it just seems like the day was made for baseball, and nothing else. We were also blessed with another beautiful spring day to make us even more comfortable. Because of the noon start, eating lunch at the ballpark was essential. If you like hamburgers, this is the ballpark for you, as they have many different varieties, though they are pricey at $8 a piece. They offered good hot dogs, also, and a cold beer helped kick the day off. Since we sat in the front row for yesterday’s game, we decided to gain a little altitude and get a different perspective. One thing that I like about Bank Alliance Stadium, is that is does have a second deck to it, which is rare, even for Triple-A stadiums. The view of the game was fantastic, and in all honesty, if I had season tickets here, this is where they would be. I do like seeing at least a couple of games in the same ballpark, and getting a different feel for the crowds and seats. Syracuse cruised to another win, too. Final: Chiefs 6, Red Wings 4.
Syracuse University: While in the area, I always make time to visit the local colleges, especially when they have the prestige of the Orange of Syracuse. It is a very beautiful campus, and we also visited the gift shop/book store there as well. I didn’t realize how old the school was, but has some really stellar architecture.Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Alliance Bank Stadium-Syracuse, NY: After almost nine straight hours on the road, we were finally ready to sit down and watch some baseball. Well, we weren’t thrilled with just sitting again, but being at a ballpark we’ve never been to before gave us a chance to walk around, explore, and mingle with the local fans. Alliance Bank Stadium is a decent venue, and the weather was perfect for a Mother’s Day at the ballgame. Don’t worry, I did call my mom and wish her a very happy Mother’s Day, and got her some souvenirs from our trip. Back to the game, it wasn’t a huge crowd, and the diehards can’t understand why people don’t come out and support the local team. I tend to agree, and think some people take it for granted. Living four hours from my ‘home team’ makes me appreciate the games that I am able to make it to. We had great seats in the front row down the third base line, just past the Chiefs dugout. The early game gave us a chance to get a good nights’ sleep, and be back at the ballpark the next morning…Final Score: Chiefs 4, Red Wings 2.
Yesterday two classic ballparks turned the century mark: Fenway Park and Tiger Stadium. The obvious different between the two, is that the Red Sox organization had the foresight to maintain and upgrade their classic stadium and make it a monument of the most historic sport in the country. Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers opted to abandon their abode on the corner of Michigan and Trumble for a new, state of the art, corporate named stadium, in Comerica Park in 2000. I was only at Tiger Stadium a few times, but those memories will stay with me forever. I can even remember being 5 years old an at my first game ever. I get recall all of the sights, sounds, and smells. It was a glorious place. I’m sure when I take my kids to Comerica, they’ll love the carousel and merry-go-round, but they’ll miss out on ambiance that Tiger Stadium held. I’m not saying that Tiger Stadium was a palace, and that it didn’t have its problems in the later years, but renovation was possible, as it was with Fenway. Ahhh…Fenway.You don’t have to be a BoSox fan to appreciate what Fenway is. The experience of watching a baseball game there simply can take your breath away. This was something that was on my bucket list that I was lucky enough to cross off thanks to last years baseball trip. The ghosts don’t haunt you there, but they welcome you, and show you around. The best way to describe it, is that you never really leave Fenway Park. It’s like you leave a part of your soul there, and it’s constantly beckoning you back….
League: International League (AAA)
Home Field: Alliance Bank Stadium
Location: Syracuse, New York
Notable Alumni: A.J. Burnett, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Delgado, Ron Guidry, Roy Halladay, Fred McGriff, Denny McLain, Thurmon Munson, Dion Sanders, Hank Sauer, and Stephen Strasburg.
Fun Facts: The first stop on our baseball trip this coming season will be in Syracuse. Lots of baseball history in this town, as they’ve been sporting professional baseball since 1877 with the Syracuse Stars. The Stars fielded to Major League teams, with one in 1879 (National League) and in 1890 (American Association). Syracuse was without a team sporadically, but was mostly able to field a team either in the Eastern League or New York/Penn League. The Chiefs name can be traced back to 1934, when the Jersey City Skeeters moved to Syracuse to become the Chiefs. The current franchise came in in 1961 when the Montreal Royals, and Syracuse has had a team ever since. There have been two players in history to have four home run games under their belts. Gene Locklear did it on July 14, 1977, while Michael Aubrey hit four over the fence on May 04, 2011 against the Durham Bulls.
Logos courtesy of the Syracuse Chiefs
Working for the government, we have to pick our vacation almost a year in advance, which can cause problems in making plans, and planning trips. It used to be we had to pick our vacation days by January or December, which wasn’t bad because most Minor League ball clubs had their schedules posted by that time. Now we have to have them submitted by October, and all I can really do is pick a couple of weeks in May, and hope for the best.
This year the Baseball Gods smiled on me a bit, as I was able to put together a nice little trip in my allotted time, featuring Minor League Baseball, NCAA Baseball, and even a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There is a lot of fun and excitement for me when the 2012 schedules come out, and I can start writing games down on the calendar and see how everything will fit into place. It’s not always easy, as I like to pack as much baseball into one week as possible, but it is so much fun, and really gives me something to look forward to over the long winter months. Starting the first of the year, I can start making reservations, ordering tickets, and doing some research on the best sports bars in the areas we’ll be at. Here’s a little rundown of our plans for next May, and if the world is ending in 2012…then at least I die seeing the HOF…
The first leg of our trip takes us to Syracuse, New York, to see the Chiefs host the Rochester Red Wings in International League action (Triple-A). Our first game is a Sunday matinée at 2:00 p.m., then after a long drive it’s early to bed, as the Chiefs host the Red Wings again on Monday afternoon, with a 12:00 start time. I absolutely love doubling back to be at the ballpark in the morning when the grass is still wet with dew, and it brings so much more ambiance to the experience. No time to rest on Monday, though, as we travel to Rochester after the Chiefs game to watch the Scranton/WB Yankees host the Durham Bulls (Int. League/Triple-A). Wait..what? Yes, due to the S/WB Yanks renovating their stadium, they will be playing some home games in Rochester while the Red Wings are on the road, so we pick up an extra game due to that…thanks Yanks! I’ve always wanted to see the Durham Bulls play, too, and will probably be part of their cheering section. Ok, take a second to catch your breath…
The next stop on our trip is in fabled Cooperstown, New York, home to the one and only National Baseball Hall of Fame. This will be my first time here, and probably not be able to grasp how amazing it will be until I’ve actually seen it myself. I’ve been to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, which is breathtaking in itself, but no sport has the history that baseball does. No sport has had an impact on our country’s history the way baseball has, and right now I can’t even comprehend all the things that I will be seeing while there. I’m setting aside a full day and a half to take it all in, and maybe check out Doubleday Field and see if anything is going on there. All I can say is that I’m sure I’ll have lots of pictures to share! After the second day in Cooperstown, we travel south to see the Binghamton Mets host the Trenton Thunder in Eastern League action (Double-A). I’ve heard nothing but good things about the ballpark in Binghamton, and really enjoyed all of our Eastern League games last year, so I’m looking forward to this one. Hold on, though, ’cause we’re not done yet…
The next leg on our trip takes us back west, as we stop in Rochester once again, this time seeing the real home team Red Wings host the Louisville Bats. We saw the Bats a few years ago while in Louisville, so it will be nice to see them in action again, also. After a good night rest in Rochester, we’ll keep heading west to Buffalo, New York, for a pair of games. Our first stop will be the University at Buffalo where the Bulls host the Bowling Green State Falcons of the Mid-American Conference (NCAA). This game starts at 1:00 p.m., and gives us a chance to enjoy the campus before heading downtown for the night game. Keeping with the International League, we’ll be watching the Buffalo Bisons host the Gwinnett Braves in our final game in the state of New York. I actually saw the Bisons play a couple of time back in the 90′s when I was out that way working security for the World University Games and that was my first taste of the Minor Leagues. After the Bisons game we head back to Michigan…but why stop there?
After getting back on our Great Lake State, you’d think we’d just want to get home and get some rest, right? Wrong! Plenty of time to rest later, and while we’re heading back, we go right by Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, and lucky for us the Central Michigan Chippewas will be hosting their biggest rival, the Western Michigan Broncos at 2:00 p.m. in more MAC action (NCAA). After that game, we’ll hit a cross-roads. The Whitecaps will be playing that night, and we could jot down to Grand Rapids to see them play or call it a day, or trip, or whatever, and head home. In all honesty, we’ll be making that a game-time decision. If my dad’s feeling up to it, I’ll be more than happy to take in one last game. The only problem is, I usually need a vacation to rest up after all of this…but that’s what I call a good problem.
By the time this trip comes around, I’m hoping to join this century and be able to make Twitter updates from my phone or something, and if anyone is in the area for any of these games, let me know and I’ll be happy to have a ticket waiting for you at the gate. I’ll also be bringing back the ‘Logo of the Month’, featuing each of the home teams until the trip, so keep an eye out for those.
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Fort Wayne TinCaps: Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a Whitecaps game as part of our baseball trip, and it was good to be home back in Michigan. On the plane waiting to fly home, the pilot announced the weather in Grand Rapids as 77 degrees and sunny. When we arrived and hour and a half later, it was 69 and raining. I swear these storms have been following me around all week like some really bad Jaws movie (see: Jaws- The Revenge). You could also tell we were back in Michigan as I ran into an old friend from Battle Creek, as the Kelloggs employees were occupying the party deck in right field (Fact: I played Little League Baseball for Kelloggs when I was younger). After only a thirty minute rain delay, we finally got things started. It was Military Appreciation Night, so the ‘Caps were wearing special camouflage jerseys, we saw a WWII Vet throw out the first pitch, and had a fly over by some older military planes. It actually turned out to be a really nice night for baseball, and we were able to shed our corny yellow ponchos and enjoy the game. Despite the weather, 7, 313 fans were in attendance, but we were still able to get our free Whitecaps camo hats at the gate. The game was exciting, but error filled, as the young West Michigan team lost to Fort Wayne. It was a long trip, and we were happy to be home with all of our baseball memories. I’m already hard at work on the early stages of planning for next year, and we’ll be down to see the Whitecaps a couple of more times this season. Final Score: Whitecaps 7, TinCaps 9.
New Britain Rock Cats vs. New Hampshire Fisher Cats: New Britain Stadium-New Britain, CT
We had a really nice drive from Boston down to Connecticut. The weather was beautiful..until we got to New Britain, and it starting raining and lightning. I’m thinking, ‘Wow..here we go again’. Lucky for us the rain finally stopped, and the game between the Rock Cats and the Fisher Cats would take place. This would be our third Eastern League game on this trip, and our second time watching the Fisher Cats. If you’re planning on attending a game in New Britain, though, I advise you to leave plenty of time before the game starts. It took us almost forty minutes to get off the highway and into the parking lot. They have the most inefficient method of parking cars I’ve ever seen at a ball park. By the time we got into the stadium, the game had already started, which, along with the impending rain, put me in a sour mood. We got our shopping done and found our seats, which were pretty good. The weather again must have scared off a lot of fans, because the crowd wasn’t all that huge, but better than the other games we were at. New Britain Stadium was a nice place to watch a game, and I can’t imagine there is a bad seat in the place. It really didn’t seem as fan friendly as the other parks we’ve been to, either. Being in New England, maybe the fans aren’t too excited about the Rock Cats being a Minnesota Twins affiliate, but it seemed like a dull crown for a Friday night. I go again if I was in the area, but would rather catch a game in Manchester or Portland if given the choice. Final Score: Fisher Cats 6, Rock Cats 2.
Fenway Ballpark and Freedom Trail Tours: Boston, MA
Boston is to beautiful and historic not to poke around a bit before we headed southwest for our next ballgame. We started our day by taking the earliest tour of Fenway which was nine in the morning. Nine o’clock is pretty early when your on vacation, but I didn’t have much trouble getting motivated to see this ballpark again. We were given a history of the park and taken on top of the Green Monster. The Monsta’ seats would be a great place to watch a game, but very expensive. We were taken through the Red Sox Hall of Fame and shown some of the baseball artifacts they have inside the park. The tour concluded on the Budweiser balcony with a history of Ted Williams’ longest home run at the park. I would have liked to have gotten on the field, in the dugout and locker room, or even in the press box. They explained that they gave so many tours a day it would disrupt too much to have that traffic all day. It’s still worth it, though, just to be inside the park for a little while longer. When you leave Fenway, you feel incomplete…like part of your soul was left inside, and it’s constantly beckoning you back….
After the Fenway tour was over, we jetted down to the Boston Common to catch the next Freedom Trail tour. We were given a history of the Common, the State House, and were able to see some of the oldest cemetaries in the country. It was fun to hear the real stories behind legendary heroes Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. I guess I should have paid more attention in history class in school, because some of this stuff sounded new to me. For lunch we ate at Cheers, which still stands as one of my favorite shows of all time. The building didn’t look much like the show, but the bar itself and a lot of paraphernalia were from the set. Our time in Boston ended by seeing the U.S.S. Constitution, or Ol’ Ironsides, which was simply amazing. I really wish we had more time there, as there is so much to see and do.