Columbus Clippers vs. Buffalo Bisons (International League)
Huntington Park-Columbus, OH: For our official first game of our 2014 baseball trip, we travelled south into Ohio. I’m dedicating this season’s trip to my favorite baseball movie Major League, due to its 25th anniversary, and the fact we’re visiting so many Cleveland Indians affiliates! Columbus is a great sports city, and we actually spent the day there checking out Ohio State, the Jack Nicklaus museum, and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ arena. We arrived at Huntington Park early, so we were one of the first few fans through the gates to explore at little. The home of the Clippers is really a nice Triple-A stadium that has many positive aspects. There doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house, and even has a group of seats attached to a building next to it in left field. The main concession stand was an island, so you don’t always have to miss part of the game when getting a snack or a beer. The ballpark also had many bits of baseball history, and history of the sport in Columbus, which I always find interesting. The Clippers have two mascots, Lou Seal and Krash (a parrot). Neither were active in the crowd, only on the field before the game. We were also joined by my best friend Darryl who lives near Dayton, so it was a pretty special game for us.
Unfortunately, we only got four innings in before the rain started. It really wasn’t all that bad at first, but then came down in buckets with thunder and lightning to boot. The storm really didn’t last that long, but the lightning stuck around long enough for them to postpone the game. The Clippers were up on the Buffalo Bisons 3-1 when the game was called, but ended up losing 5-3 when it was resumed the next day. Fans said the big prospect in the Clippers is Jesus Aguilar, and he went 1-3 in the game. Left fielder Tim Fedroff led the way for Columbus, going 2-4 with a double and RBI. On the mound, Travis Banwart started the game, but Nick Hagadone took over when it was resumed the next day, taking the loss. Even though we only got four innings in, we had fun in Columbus and the Clippers are a must see for baseball fans. Postponed: Clippers 3, Bisons 1 (3-5 Final).
All photos and video property of Minoring in Baseball
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
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.
Next week I’ll be returning to the place where my Minor League pilgrimage began…Buffalo, New York. Almost 19 years ago back in 1993, I took in my first Minor League baseball game watching the Buffalo Bisons. It was during one of the best experiences of my life. I was just a student, but as part of the U.S. Customs Explorers, we were working security at the World University Games that took place in Buffalo. It was great being part of all of the events, and meeting so many people from all over the world. On our free time, we took in a couple of Bisons games, and even a few international games that were part of the WUG. With our badges, we were able to get into any of the events for free, so that gave us a chance to see quite a bit. I really liked Pilot Field (now Coca-Cola Field), and thought the site lines with the city were great. I look forward to returning and seeing all that’s changed. Luckily, I came across these pictures by mistake while in my garage last week. When moving so much, you lose track of so much stuff, and it was pure chance that I found these. Enjoy this blast back to 1993, and in the coming weeks I’ll have pics of how the ballpark looks now!
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.
With the MiLB season over, it’s time to look forward to next year. I can do this with some good ol’ American plagerism-ripping of MLB Network’ Prime 9 show for a littlle countdown of my own. Narrowing the list to just nine parks wasn’t as easy as I thought, but here we go.
9) Fox Cities Stadium-Appleton, WI: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers/Class A Midwest League. Picking number nine was the hardest of all. Fox Cities Stadium barely beat out the ballparks in Dayton, Cedar Rapids, and Charleston, respectively. The stadim itself isn’t huge, with a capaicity of only 5500, but it’s a nice place to watch a game. The fans gave this ballpark the egde, with it’s spacious parking lot perfect for tailgating. And Wisconsin fans love to tailgate. The beer and the brats are always perfect for a game, before and after. The affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers has really helped the atmosphere here, and the attendance. The park itself is basic, with no real site lines, but not a bad seat to watch baseball. The park is very easy to find, but with only one entrance and exit, there might be a wait.
8) Pilot Field-Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Bisons/Triple A International League. Now called Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo is a major league city with a nice minor league park. At a capacity of almost 21,000 it’s a good sized ballpark to watch a game. There are still no bad seats in the house, though, and the sightlines of the city are pretty awesome. We always got there by train, so I’m not too sure about the parking situation. The concessions are good and there is a resteraunt in the right field area. The Bisons draw a good crowd, which is probably even better now that they’re affiliated with the Mets. I was able to watch the Bisons play here in 1993 along with some of the World University Games matchups. If I can ever find my pictures I took back then, I’ll scan them and get one put up. Until then you can check it out here. This is probably as close as you can come to a major league feel for the minor league price.
7) Fifth-Third Field-Toledo, OH: Toledo Mud Hens/Triple A International League. Opening in 2002, this ballpark is great all round. It’s carved into the downtown, and even has and area of seating in right field called the ‘Roost’ which is attached to a neigboring building. These have been dubbed the best seats in Minor League Baseball. The sightlines of the downtown area arn’t quite as good as Buffalo, but are more than enough of an eyefull. The seating is great, and the prices are very reasonalbe. We paid $8 and sat behind the dugout. You can’t really beat that. Parking is tough because it’s right downtown, so get to the park early, and even eat at Tony Paco’s accross the street, who you’ve might have seen Klinger on MASH talk about. Of all the the stadiums, this is one I’d love to visit more often. Throw in the fact that the Hens are the Tigers affiliate, and it’s a winner in my book.
6) Baseball Grounds-Jacksonville, FL: Jacksonville Suns/Double A Southern League. The Baseball Grounds was like my second home in the summer of 2005 when I was training in southern Georgia for over four months.Being at the ballpark was about the only thing that could take my mind off the fact that I was missing my wife and kids hundreds of miles north in Michigan. Add to the fact that it’s a great ballpark and the Suns won the Southern League in 2005, and this could easily be moved up on the list. The park holds about 11,000 and is nestled next to the Jaguars Alltel football stadium and Jacksonville’s indoor arena. It’s located right on the river and has great seating. Solid promotions and cold beer make this one of my favorites also. This is another parks I wish I could find my pictures of, but here are some good pics of it.
5) Louisville Slugger Field-Louisville, KY: Louisville Bats/Triple A International League. The front of the stadium is unique, as it’s built into an old train depot, which they also built two resteraunts into. The seats are great on right on the field where fans like them to be. It sports a large concourse and a huge party area in the outfield for all of the drinking crowd. The kids park is really put together nicely, too, with a carosel and all. Not much for sightlines, other than the bridge over the Ohio River. With the Louisville Slugger Museum/Factory down the street, this is a baseball experience every fan should take part in.
4) Modern Woodman Park-Davenport, IA: Quad Cities River Bandits/Class A Midwest League. USA Today billed this as the best Minor League ballpark in the country. It’s easy to get to and has one of the best views of probably any ballpark in the country with the brige over the Mississippi in right field. The concourse is set up so you can walk all the way around, which I like, and get a good view of the river and riverfront. The baseball atmosphere wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, which is why it didn’t make the top three. This is a must see for any baseball fan.
3) Victory Field-Indianapolis, IN: Indianapolis Indians/Triple A International League. I really enjoyed the games here in Indy. The whole town is sports nuts and the atmosphere is great. The entrance to the stadium is in the outfield, which makes it unique from other parks. There are also some kids games going on in the concourse which makes it very kid friendly. The whole park is set up with the family in mind, and it seems to be working. The sightlines downtown are great, but there was a lot of construction going on at the time that was a little distracting. The seats in the upper deck are some of the best I’ve had and are the perfect spot to watch the game. The wost part is there is a very small parking lot, so you have to find a parking garage downtown. The best part is there is a parking garage right accross from Hooters…
2) Fifth-Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: West Michigan Whitecaps/Class A Midwest League. Yeah, I’m a bit of a homer here, but this is the list of my favorite ballparks. With a seating capacity of 10,000 it makes it pretty large for a Class A stadium, competitive with some Triple A and Double A stadium. It’s run and taken care of like a big stadium, too, with lots of unique concessions. The Fifth-Thid Burger was even featured on Man vs. Food last season. Located just north of Grand Rapids, there is a great atmosphere for baseball. The Whitecaps being a Tigers affiliate helps with that. All the memories of my kids and I here easily puts this ballpark toward the top of the list.
1) Grayson Stadium-Savannah, GA: Savannah Sand Gnats/Class A South Atlantic League. The reason historic Grayson is at the top of my list is quite simple. I just really really like it there. In truth, I have a love affair with the whole city of Savannah. I got a taste of it while down there training in 2005, then last summer I was actually stationed there for a week. Luckily the Gnats were in town, and I couldn’t get enough. The horrible pics I took with a disposable camera can not do this ballpark justice. It’s small and cozy, and as a baseball fan you just feel at home. You can actually feel the history of the sport sputter though you’re vains while watching a game here. It’s like actually taking a step back in time and seeing the game in it’s pure form. The brick exterior is classic baseball, while the weeping trees make it classic south. Nothing really fancty about the park, other than pure baseball. Savannah offers so much to look at, but catching a game here would be worth it.This is defiately a place I’d like to bring my kids down to someday.
So, there you have it. Again, it was very difficult choosing just nine, but truth be told I have never been to a ballpark I didn’t like. Everyone is unique and meeting the great fans everywhere makes every team worth checking out. So that’s my Prime 9. What’s yours?
Photos property of M.I.B.