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.
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.
MiLB is teaming up with Fritos for the ‘Be A Minor League Baseball GM For A Weekend Sweepstakes’. Five winners will recieve
: round trip transportation for two people; double occupancy hotel accommodations for two nights; two premium tickets to the game; autopraphed Minor League Baseball host club replica jersey; a chance to sit in on team meetings; and $1,525 in spending money. Sounds like a good deal to me. I’d even just take th money…The choices for host teams include the Portland Sea Dogs, Durham Bulls, Memphis Red Birds, New Orleans Zephyrs, Las Vegas 51’s, and the San Antonio Missions. My choices would either be Portland or Durham. I contimplated not posting this, because it would lower my chances of winning, but since I never win anything it would be cool if maybe someone from the blogosphere here won it. Just remember your ol’ buddy here at M.I.B. if you win. The trip is for two.
Even if you don’t win, you can still probably afford to take in a MiLB game. During recent survey, Minor League Baseball concluded that for the cost of four people to attend a game is around $57. This includes two adult tix, two child tix, four hot dogs, two sodas, two beers, a program and parking. They found an adult ticket is $8 or less at 80% of the ballparks. The highest I’ve paid for a Minor League game is $13 for the AAA Indianapolis Indians last season. My tickets for the Single-A Peoria Chiefs this seaons were $5, and that’s for a premium seat. The average cost of a night at the ballpark ranges from around $67 for AAA to $50 for Single-A Short Season or Rookie League.
If you still don’t want to get off your lazy, well, ya know, and catch a live game luckily the MLB Network will be broadcasting some Minor League games as well, including the Triple-A All Star game. The first game will be aired this Monday at 11:00 am and feature the Gwinnett Braves at the Durham Bulls. The next game will be the Burlington Bees at the Quad Cities River Bandits on May 3. Figures they’ll be televising a game just two days after I’m there. Other games slated include Scanton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at the Indianapolis Indians on May 19 at 11:00 am and the Norfolk Tides at the Columbus Clippers on June 15 at 12 noon. Victory Field in Indy was one of the best venues I’ve watched a game at, and should look great on TV. MLB Network will be airing weekday afternoon games thoughout the summer, too.