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.
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.
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.
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.
It seems as fall is in the air, and summer is just about done. It’s an exciting time at the Major League level, but in the Minors, the seasons are winding down. For the kids, school starts on Tuesday, so we decided to head downstate and get in a couple of days of fun before it all comes to an end….
Traverse City Beach Bums vs. Windy City Thunderbolts: For the second year in a row, we end our baseball season with the Bums. My parents have season tix, so we just met them at the game, and there’s no place the they’d rather be with the grandkids than a baseball game. With their birthdays about ten days apart, we had them annouced over the PA system, which made the kids feel like celebrities. The Beach Bums are making a surge for their fist ever playoff appearance, so lots of good atmosphere for the game. The kids got to meet some of the players after the game, too, which is always a thrill. Final: TC 8, WC 4.
Adventure Island: Summer wouldn’t be summer without hitting the water park. The kids enjoyed the bumper boats, but they told us it was too cold to open the water slide. Hey, were from the U.P….nothing is too cold for us. You’ll also enjoy a pic of ol’ #94 here putting on a hitting display in the batting cages. I’m contimplating making a training video…we’ll see. The park here also has go-carts and adventure golf, both a summer must.
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Hampton Pirates: I know this is a baseball blog, but I’ll throw just a little college football in here, too. Going down to watch football still didn’t stop us from visiting the baseball field there just to say hi. Hard to believe it will be seven months before baseball is played there again. The football game was fun (not as much as baseball, but at least they have cheerleaders), and we were able to dodge the rain thankfully. All in all, a good end to our summer fun. Now it’s time to track the MiLB playoffs and plan next season’s baseball trip. Final: CMU 33, Hampton 0.
Photos property of M.I.B.
Battle Creek Bombers vs. Waterloo Bucks: Rained out. I guess I can’t complain too much, as I’ve been pretty lucky over the years, but when you only see a handfull of games a season, one rain out is disasterous. I can’t say enough about the Bombers oganization, though, as they gave us a full refund on our birthday package, yet still gave me my birthday cake and signed baseball by the team. I thought they might play it when we saw some of the players warming up, but the field ended up being too flooded. We wanted to re-schedule, but we just don’t know when we’ll be down there again. The kids were bummed, but we got to spend time together and visit some family. The Baseball Gods would make it up to us the next night, though…
Photos property of M.I.B.
Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Central Michigan Chippewas: Our first game slated the Huskies defending their home Ralph McKinzie Field against the Chips. This is the only game where we really cared about the outcome. My dad went to CMU, and the Chips have a local Sault kid on thier roster, so we were rooting for the visitors all the way. Things got a little interensting when a NUI batter ran over the Chips first baseman while he was fielding the ball. Both teams came out of their dugouts, but nothing really came of it. Central’s coach was pretty steamed, though, as the umpires didn’t call for interferance or give the batter a warning of any kind. It was a fun game to watch, as this was the highest scoring game we’d see the whole trip. McKinzie Feld is a simple place to watch a game, as there are just some bleachers behind home plate. There are some places to stand along the fist base wall, though. Final Score: CMU 8, NUI 7. Best: Free admission. Worst: Port-o-potties. I’m lucky I stand.
Photos property of MIB
Tues. May 5-South Bend, Indiana: Our first trip to Coveleski Stadium in South Bend pitted the home Silver Hawks against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. We fought off the rain all week, and it started here with some drizzle, but the rain actually held off and we got the whole game in. Trevor made the trip with us this year, and he was uccessful in getting two game balls. The stadium is a little plain, but cut into the ground which I like and had good seating. We had good seats in the front row.