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.
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.
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.
There’s nothing like lookin to the future, and trying to come up with a trip that we can fit at least six to seven games into a five day span isn’t easy. Next May we’ll be heading east to the New England area, checking out the Minor League teams there, and even hitting a Red Sox game at historic Fenway Park. Our trip will start off on the Triple A level in Rhode Island, watching the Pawtucket Red Sox defend their home field against the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. It will be a small taste of the Sox-Yanks rivalry, anyway. Day two of our trip we will head up north to Manchester, NH. There we will watch a Double A matchup between the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Binghampton Mets. The third day of our trip will take us up to the great state of Maine for a pair of games. First we’ll see a night game as the Portland Sea Dogs face the Reading Phillies, and we’ll watch the same two teams go at it the next day at noon. After the day game concludes, we’ll head south for some Major League action. I know I don’t care to see baseball live at this level that often, but Fenway is a must for any baseball fan, and Boston is facing the Detroit Tigers, so it’s a chance to see our home team on the road. We also plan to take the tour of Fenway Park the next morning. Our trip will end later that night in Conecticicut, where we’ll watch the New Britain Rock Cats play New Hampshire, who we’ll be seeing for the second time. There will be plenty of other sites for us to see in this part of the country, and I plan to have a beer or two at Cheers in Boston.
League: Eastern League (AA)
Home Field: Hadlock Field
Affiliation: Boston Red Sox
Location: Portland, Maine
Fun Facts: Team was establishing in 1994 as an affiliate of the Florida Marlins, which lasted until 2003. They won the Eastern League title in 2005 and 2006. Hadlock Field built the ‘Maine Monter’ in right feild to replicate Fenway. When a Sea Dog player hits a home run, a lighthouse raises in the outfield in celebration. Team mascot is Slugger the Sea Dog.
Notable Alumni: Josh Beckett, Ryan Dempster, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Edgar Renteria, and Nate Robertson.