Baseball and hockey, the two sports loves of my life, going together like chocolate and peanut butter. And with this outdoor hockey thing really catching on, more teams and leagues are taking part in this type of event every year. So whoever decided to build a hockey rink in the middle of a frozen baseball park, is simply brilliant. Although this is not a new concept, this past weekend was the first outdoor game for our own Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins took on the Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, in American Hockey League action. The game was part of Detroit’s Winter Festival, which featured in-state high school, NCAA, Ontario Hockey League, and the Griffs AHL game. The Comerica Park venue also hosted two alumni games from the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Griffins, the defending Calder Cup Champions, and off to the best start in franchise history, found themselves tied at three all after regulation and overtime against the Marlies, however. It looked like a great experience for all involved, and will hopefully lead to more events like this in the future. I would really like the Griffins to stay close to home, though, and maybe one day play at an outdoor game at Fifth Third Ballpark, home to the West Michigan Whitecaps. This would be another great venue for hockey, with many successful high school, college, and professional teams in the area. You can even look at what the Rochester Red Wings did with their Frozen Frontier this season, as a model of success. From what I’ve read, Frontier Field did a phenomenal job of hosting hockey of all levels last month, and the same could be done at other minor league stadiums in the north. Although a Frozen Fifth Third may be a pipe dream, I guess I’ll have to wait until April to see some action there. Until then, we plan on hitting a Griffins game very soon.
Frontier Field–Rochester, NY: I really like Frontier Field, so I’m glad we were able to see two games here. And as this is the third time we’ve seen the Red Wings on this trip, I was starting to become a fan. Add the fact that there are five former Whitecaps on the Rochester roster (Clete Thomas, Wilkin Ramirez, Casey Fien, Luke French, and Mike Hollimon), and I’m a Red Wings supporter! There seemed to be a more festive atmosphere for the Red Wings than the E-Yanks, and they even had an autograph booth going, where I took the opportunity to have pitcher Matt Maloney sign a game ball for Brian (a future pitcher himself). As with the other ballparks we’ve doubled up on, we got seats a little higher up than last game to get a different perspective of things. Still great seats as always. The mascots Spikes and Mittsy were very active with the crowd, especially kids like myself. We even had a chance to chat with the Red Wings GM Dan Mason, who was extremely friendly. It’s nice to see these guys down interacting with the fans, and he was very interested in our trip and how his club and stadium compared to the others we’ve been to. The game itself was a lot of fun, and we were even treated to some extra innings, as Louisville bested the Wings 4-2 in 11. I was thrown another game ball, and made another amazing catch, so still went home happy! It was a long night, but well worth everything. Had to get a good nights sleep, as we had two games in Buffalo on tap for the next day. Final: Bats 4, Red Wings 2 in 11 innings.
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.