Durham Bulls Athletic Park–Durham, NC: This is one that have been on my bucket list for some time…the Durham Bulls. And what a better time than the 25th anniversary of the hit movie Bull Durham? The new ballpark is located right downtown, so parking can be a nightmare. Throw in all the construction, and it’s a pain if you don’t get to the ballpark early. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park was simply the gem of our trip. It’s an amazing ballpark with no bad seat in the house. It’s easily one of the best minor league parks we’ve ever been to. It was a beautiful sunny day, and luckily we were able to catch some shade. It was a little ironic, too, that we were sitting next to someone from my hometown, Grand Rapids, MI. I enjoyed the game immensely, and the Bulls really do put on a great show for their fans. Triple-A is also a good chance to see the young stars on the rise, and former major leaguers in action as well. If you’re a baseball fan, you need to see a Durham Bulls game. It’s as simple as that.
The game itself saw the Bulls defending their home turf against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The Bulls took care of business early, and never looked back. Lead-off hitter Jason Bourgeois led the way offensively, going 3-4 with an RBI. Third-baseman Vince Belome contributed a pair of hits and an RBI, also. Alex Colome earned the win on the mound for the home team, throwing seven complete innings. Our Durham experience lived up to the hype, and couldn’t have gone better (well, maybe it would have been nice to see a player win a steak, and the mascot hit by a pitch). Final score: Bulls 8, Iron Pigs 2.
NewBridge Bank Park–Greensboro, NC: We had to leave the college game a little early to make sure we made it to Greensboro on time. It was well worth it, too, as NewBridge Bank Park has a beautiful facade, and it gave me a chance to get some nice pics outside the ballpark. We also wanted to be there when the gates opened so we had time to play catch on the field. It’s always a thrill to actually get out there where all of the action takes place! It was fun and relaxing to get out there and have a good game of catch. Also, with all of the travelling, it was good to be active and stretch our legs. After my impressive athletic display, we found our seats and got ready for the game to start. There wasn’t a huge crowd for a Sunday game, but the fact that it was Mother’s Day may have had a hand in that. Still a good crowd, though, and they really like their Grasshoppers! The mascot Guilford was active with the fans, and liked to hang out on the visitors dugout. He seemed to be really good with the kids in the crowd. The really fun and unique aspect of the Greensboro experience, is that they have two dogs, Miss Babe Ruth and Lulu Gehrig who fetch the bats, and take baseballs to the umpires. Just one of the many things we’ll always remember about this trip! A Grasshoppers game is a must for any baseball fan who is in this area. With a beautiful ballpark, great fan base, and unique aspects of the club, no one can leave a game not satisfied!
For the actual game itself, the Grasshoppers (Miami) hosted the Lakewood BlueClaws, a Phillies affiliate. Greensboro jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but unfortunately, that was the only scoring for the home team. The BlueClaws would score three runs in the fourth, and two in the seventh for the win. We did see some solid pitching for both teams, though. Anthony Gomez, Matt Juengel, and Cody Keefer each had two hits for the home town ‘Hoppers. Austin Brice looked solid on the hill, but still took the loss. Final score: Grasshoppers 1, BlueClaws 5.
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.
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.