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.
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.
Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Scranton/WB Yankees: McCoy Stadium-Pawtucket, RI
Our 2011 adventure started out in Pawtucket, home of the International League’s Red Sox, or PawSox. I really liked McCoy Stadium, as it’s a throwback to the more classic ballparks. Walking through the gates at McCoy is like taking a step back into time. The fans and staff are extremely friendly, and are more than happy to talk about the history of the stadium and the team. Some of the older staff members had some great stories. With the rain delay, we had plenty of time to explore the ballpark and get our shopping in also. My favorite park was the mural of my favorite player as a kid, Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. The ballpark has pictures from all sorts of historic events that have taken place there, especially the longest game in pro baseball history that lasted 33 innings. Despite the fact that it had not been raining for some time, the game was called and we missed our first game to rain in the seven-year history of our trip. Some of the fans thought that the teams just wanted to hit the road early, as they played in worse weather the two previous nights. Definitely disappointing, but you don’t have to see a game here to realize how special the ballpark is, but I’m sure since the PawSox were playing the Yankees, the atmosphere would have been great.
There’s nothing like lookin to the future, and trying to come up with a trip that we can fit at least six to seven games into a five day span isn’t easy. Next May we’ll be heading east to the New England area, checking out the Minor League teams there, and even hitting a Red Sox game at historic Fenway Park. Our trip will start off on the Triple A level in Rhode Island, watching the Pawtucket Red Sox defend their home field against the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. It will be a small taste of the Sox-Yanks rivalry, anyway. Day two of our trip we will head up north to Manchester, NH. There we will watch a Double A matchup between the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Binghampton Mets. The third day of our trip will take us up to the great state of Maine for a pair of games. First we’ll see a night game as the Portland Sea Dogs face the Reading Phillies, and we’ll watch the same two teams go at it the next day at noon. After the day game concludes, we’ll head south for some Major League action. I know I don’t care to see baseball live at this level that often, but Fenway is a must for any baseball fan, and Boston is facing the Detroit Tigers, so it’s a chance to see our home team on the road. We also plan to take the tour of Fenway Park the next morning. Our trip will end later that night in Conecticicut, where we’ll watch the New Britain Rock Cats play New Hampshire, who we’ll be seeing for the second time. There will be plenty of other sites for us to see in this part of the country, and I plan to have a beer or two at Cheers in Boston.
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.