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.
Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers: Fenway Park-Boston, MA
All I can say about Fenway Park and the experience of watching a game there is that you can believe the hype. In fact, I would say it’s not hyped enough. I like that fact that every game is treated like a special event. We were lucky to get to Boston a little early, and explore around the park for a little while and get some shopping in. Our hotel was right across the street, so we didn’t have to worry about parking and things like that. The gates opened about a ninety minutes before game time, so it gave us a chance to explore the inside of the park and get our free gift for being first timers. At the fan service counter we receive a little package with stickers, a Red Sox Nation bracelet, and a container with some dirt from the infield. We also ran into one of the fans we were chatting with at the PawSox game a few days before, so he showed us around a little bit, too. We were also able to get over the visitors dugout to watch some of the Detroit Tigers warm up, but not many were signing autographs for anything. As it was getting closer to game time, we grabbed a Fenway Frank and an $8.50 beer and found our seats in the outfield. To be honest, I never moved from my seat after the game started. I didn’t want to miss anything at all from this game waiting in line for food, beer, or restroom. The atmosphere was amazing, and the Fenway rendition of Sweet Caroline has to been witnessed in person. The Tigers lost a game they should have won, but I really didn’t care about the score. Despite rooting for the Tigers, we didn’t have any trouble from the Red Sox fans either. I definitely want to bring the kids here when they’re a little older and can appreciate the magic that is Fenway Park. Final Score: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3.
Portland Sea Dogs vs. Reading Phillies: Hadlock Field-Portland, ME
Here I am again…facing disappointment right in the face. The noon game here has been postponed due to ‘wet grounds’, and I miss an opportunity to see a game in my now favorite Double A ball park. Just like out rain-out in Pawtucket, this was the last game in the series and the teams got an early start to their next road game. The fact that it wasn’t even raining at game time makes it even more frustrating. The weather was better today, so I was able to get some better pics of Hadlock. I also had a friend meet me for the game who trained with me down south. We went to just about every Jacksonville Suns game available, so it would have been nice to share a beer and a ballgame again. We were able to chat with some of the staff here, who let us explore the ball park a little bit more and just talk baseball. It’s nice to know it’s not just the ball players who have to work their way up from the Minors, but the broadcasters and other staff as well. We also learned that the Red Sox are the only MLB team that has a closed circut camera in all of there affiliates to keep track of their prospects. I love the Sea Dogs logo, so they let us spend some time (and money) in the gift shop, too. The only consolation is that we were able to get a jump-start on our voyage south to Boston. We would need that extra time, as Boston treats every Sox game as an event, and the celebration start pretty early in the day.
Portland Sea Dogs vs. Reading Phillies: Hadlock Field-Portland, ME
For some reason I’ve dreamed of visiting Hadlock Field in Portland for some time, and this ballpark didn’t disappoint. It’s smaller than you might think for Double A, but it’s very cozy. You kind of feel boxed in, but in a good way…sort of like leaving the rest of the world behind when your watching a ball game. One really unique aspect of Hadlock is that the home bullpen is elevated inside the right field wall. The players have to take a set of stairs to a doorway in the wall to enter the game. The Sea Dogs also have their own version of the Green Monster, er, Monsta, with the Maine Monster in left field being a Boston Red Sox affiliate and all. This was another game with low attendance due to the horrible weather, but at least they played it. The Reading Phillies were in town and we were seated right behind their dugout. I have to give a shout out to Reading first baseman Matt Rizzotti for hitting two home runs in the game and throwing me a game ball. Things didn’t go the Sea Dogs way in the game, but they had one more game in the series to get revenge. I was really looking forward to the noon game the next day. Due to the weather I didn’t get some better pics of the stadium, but will have some in the next post because the weather was better the next day. Final Score: Sea Dogs 3, Phillies 14.
Small College World Series Championship-Southern Virginia University vs. Briarcliffe College (NY): The Ball Park-Old Orchard Beach, ME
It may be hard to believe by today’s standards, but Maine had itself a Triple A Minor League franchise right here in Old Orchard Beach. From 1984-1988 the Maine Guides occupied The Ball Park here. As a farm club for the Cleveland Indians, the Guides were a success at first, finishing second in the International League standings and fourth in attendance. The next season, however, the Guides were last in attendance, possibly due to the fact that Old Orchard Beach is more of a vacation spot with a small year-round population. By 1986, the team was not only last in attendance, but also last in the IL standings. 1987 the team became affiliated with the Philadelpia Phillies, and remained in Maine for one last season under the name the Maine Phillies. The team was then relocated to become the Scranton/Wilkes Berry Red Barons in 1988. It’s thought that three things brought about the failure of the franchise: 1)the amount of Miane Black Flies in the area 2)only one road ran in and out of the ball park causing traffic back-ups, and 3)the newer, larger ball parks were being built at this time for minor league ball. Although the stadium hosted some concerts in the 80′ and 90′s, by the 2000′s it was falling apart by the years of neglect. The stadium was shuttered, the grass overgrown with weeds and brush, and it was victimized by vandals and arson. It looked as if baseball would never be played here again until the community rallied around the Ball Park supporters to renovate the park and bring baseball back. By 2008, the stadium was ready to go, and hosted exhibition games and college games. The Ball Park will now host the Old Orchard Beach Rolling Tide, a summer college team in the New England College Baseball League, and hosed the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Baseball tournament in 2010 and this season, which brings us up to today’s championship game…
This is a baseball trip, after all, so we wanted to get an as many games as possible, no matter what the level. We were lucky enough to catch the small college World Series while passing through on our way to Portland. Number one seed Southern Virginia was playing defending champion Briarcliffe College, so we anticipated some good baseball, and the college kids didn’t disappoint. There wasn’t a real big crowd due to the continuous bad weather, but still a good atmosphere and crowd of students and players parents. Briarcliffe came out of the losers bracket to defeat the Knights from Southern Virginia in two straight games to win back to back national championships. The Ball Park itself was a nice place to watch baseball, and we didn’t have any trouble with flies in this weather, but doesn’t compare to most Minor League stadiums. I hope they have success with the Rolling Tide this summer.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats vs. Binghamton Mets: Northern Delta Dental Stadium-Manchester, NH
I was very happy to learn on my arrival to Manchester that tonight’s game was going to be played. This is my first time watching a game from the Eastern League, and I was excited to see actually baseball taking place. Northern Delta Dental Stadium is nothing fancy, but definitely a nice place to watch a ball game. The staff was very friendly and helpful. We had a long chat with the head of the Food Service department, as he worked for the West Michigan Whitecaps for years when he first broke into working in Minor League baseball. He had nothing but good things to say about the ‘Cap organization, but New Hampshire was his home state, so he jumped at the chance to work for the Fisher Cats when the opportunity came. It’s amazing how much my Whitecaps hat is recognized, and the conversations it can start. Our seats were down the third base side, but the visitors dugout, so lots of pics of the visiting Mets. The crowd was pretty thin due to the cold and rainy weather, so it was hard to gauge the real atmosphere. I’m betting this team gets lots of support through the season, though. The highlight of the night was me getting a chance to play movie trivia and be on the big screen in front of dozens and dozens of people. It was Teacher Appreciation Night, but due to the small crowd, they couldn’t find a teacher, so I had to due (my sister is a teacher…so I guess that was close enough). The movie clip they showed me was pretty easy to guess…it was The Incredibles by Disney/Pixar. Having kids is really starting to pay off. I won two free movie tickets to the local theatre, but gave them to some kids because we were heading out of town the next morning. Yeah, I know..awww. In return, the kids gave me a game ball, so it worked out for the best for all of us. If some of the pics look foggy it’s from the, fog, I guess, as well as the constant misting. It really felt good to get the game in though…hoping we luck out in Portland. Our experience in Manchester was definitely a positive one. Final Score: New Hampshire Fisher Cats 7, Binghamton Mets 1.
Lowell Spinners: LeLacuer Field-Lowell, MA
Seeing a ballpark without being able to watch a game is a little depressing, unless you never planned on watching a game there in the first place. On our way north for more baseball, we decided to check out LeLaceer Field, home of the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League. The Spinners are a short season Single A team, so they don’t start playing games until June. We decided it would still be fun to check out the ballpark, and the staff was nice enough to let us in, show us the park, and let us shop a bit at the souvenir store. LeLacuer Field is very nice of Single A, and they share it with the UMass-Lowell college team, as the ballpark is right on campus. I’d love a chance to get back to here to see a game. Lucky for us we were able to get our baseball fix in later that day. Stay tuned…
Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Scranton/WB Yankees: McCoy Stadium-Pawtucket, RI
Our 2011 adventure started out in Pawtucket, home of the International League’s Red Sox, or PawSox. I really liked McCoy Stadium, as it’s a throwback to the more classic ballparks. Walking through the gates at McCoy is like taking a step back into time. The fans and staff are extremely friendly, and are more than happy to talk about the history of the stadium and the team. Some of the older staff members had some great stories. With the rain delay, we had plenty of time to explore the ballpark and get our shopping in also. My favorite park was the mural of my favorite player as a kid, Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. The ballpark has pictures from all sorts of historic events that have taken place there, especially the longest game in pro baseball history that lasted 33 innings. Despite the fact that it had not been raining for some time, the game was called and we missed our first game to rain in the seven-year history of our trip. Some of the fans thought that the teams just wanted to hit the road early, as they played in worse weather the two previous nights. Definitely disappointing, but you don’t have to see a game here to realize how special the ballpark is, but I’m sure since the PawSox were playing the Yankees, the atmosphere would have been great.