Snapshot Saturday: August 1

Aug 01

Another blast from the past!

Somebody turns 50 in a couple of days. If you see him… let him know!

The big 5-0!

The big 5-0!

Enjoy!

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Photo Blogging Challenge (July 2015): Patriotic

Jul 31

I thought this was going to be one heck of an easy theme. 

Turns out I was wrong. 

I enjoyed the theme, but I didn’t get out with my camera as much as I would have liked. Unfortunately, that means no fireworks photos, which I think would have been perfect here. 

Still, I got five shots I truly likes and am happy with the interpretation of the theme “Patriotic.”

I also look forward to seeing what others came up with for this theme. It should be fun. 

Anyway, without further adieu, here are my five shots from the month!

1. America

This was my patriotic shot from July 4. I was on my way from one baseball game to another and stopped at my alma mater. I saw this shot and loved the colors and the look. 

USA!

USA!

2. National Anthem

I had the chance to see the US National Women’s baseball team take on a squad from Japan in Cooperstown. This was during the National Anthem. 

Respecting the flag.

Respecting the flag.

3. The pitch

One of the Team USA pitchers. 

The pitch.

The pitch.

4. USA!

I had the chance to watch a Civil War reenactment this month. Was pretty cool. The North still won!

Old Glory!

Old Glory!

5. Baseball

The National pastime. Cameron is looking good! 

All ready!

All ready!

That’s my five and now it’s your turn!

If you took part in this month’s challenge, make sure to link up below. And for those of you who participated, make sure you try and get to other people’s blogs and comment (here, too!). Let’s continue to grow this challenge and have a strong community. Come back and check out the others who link later on, too!

Also, don’t forget to get back here Sunday, July 2 (I have something I need to post tomorrow), to see the theme for August!

NOTE: I set up a Facebook group for those who participate in the challenge and are interested. I’ll post any announcements there and hopefully it can be a place where things are discussed and some interaction etc. You can access it here.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Summer of Baseball: Somerset experience gives good vibes

Jul 29

The Somerset Patriots on a nice spring evening.

The Somerset Patriots on a nice spring evening.

I have known about the Atlantic League for a while. If you are a baseball fan, you likely have as well. After all, the league isn’t afraid to do things slightly differently to make it a fan-friendly environment.

When the Baseball Pass-Port Program added an Atlantic League book this year, I quickly grabbed it and knew I wanted to hit several this season. Somerset was the first of four planned trips (so far three … and hopefully the fourth a few days after this has published) and it was a good introduction to the Atlantic League.

The stadiums have the same sort of feel to them, but there are definite differences, which makes it a solid all-around experience. Somerset was also a decent down-and-back trip (give-or-take three hours each way), so it was nice in that regard.

Playing ball at TD Bank Ballpark!

Playing ball at TD Bank Ballpark!

TD Bank Ballpark, built in 1999, has held its name since the 2009 season. With a seating capacity of a bit more than 6,000 it’s an intimate setting for a park. You are close to the action, which is always nice. As many stadiums are now, it’s an open concourse, so when you get up to grab a bite or drink, you can see the game.

The sight lines are good as it didn’t appear there were many places where you’d miss any of the action.

The one thing about this place – they lined up early! We got there a bit earlier than planned and parked. It was a warmer day, so we chilled in the car with the AC. A little before the gates opened, we decided to wander up and see why there was such a long line. Maybe we had missed a giveaway? Nope. People were just lined up getting ready to get into the stadium.

Overall, the atmosphere was pretty decent. People seemed into the game, which is a good thing. The players seemed engaging before the game started, which is always a good thing.

There’s a pretty good team store here and the food selections are solid. As with many places, I try and have something more “local” and I ended up trying a steak sandwich with bacon and ranch, which turned out to be a pretty good choice.

The seats in the stadium were fold down and a tad wider, so there was plenty of room.

It was easy to get out of the park after the game, which was nice. Overall, I enjoyed checking out a game at TD Bank Ballpark and could see myself going again.

Park Notes:  

TD Bank Ballpark
Bridgewater, NJ
Home of the Somerset Patriots (Independent – Atlantic League)
Visited on: May 9, 2015
Opponent: Bridgeport Bluefish

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 8/10
  • Concessions: 8/10
  • Parking: 8/10
  • Ambiance: 7.5/10
  • Friendliness: 9/10

I am continuing the Summer of Baseball from 2014 and hope to blog about each new stadium I visit in 2015. Ones visited in the past can be viewed linked up in the 2014 version.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Golf has ups and downs like other recreational activities

Jul 27

Recently, a local newspaper noted a low turnout in two county golf tournaments – the women, and the junior.

The women’s tournament only featured 32 players and the junior tournament only features six. The women’s tournament is by flights, so it’s not as though all golfers competed in the highest group.

Conversely, the men’s county tournament, which was held a few weeks ago has a strong turnout as normal, drawing about 125 people. Still, that number even seems down from the past. I remember when I used to play golf and played in that tournament, there was a larger turnout and often a sellout (which I believe was about 156 or so).

The big number, to me, when it came to the men was the numbers in the two lowest – the D and E – flights, which had a combined 55 players. That means nearly 50 percent of the field were in the two lowest groups.

Like other sports, golf's participation can sometimes go up and down.

Like other sports, golf’s participation can sometimes go up and down.

So what’s happening? Why are numbers down all around?

Probably price and time.

When I switched to playing disc golf a few years ago, my two biggest reasons were because of the time aspect (I can play 18 holes of disc golf in about an hour and a half; 18 holes of ball golf, even with a cart, is 3.5 to 4 hours minimum), as well as the price point. In disc golf, the majority of courses don’t cost anything to play. Your biggest cost is the discs. And, if you aren’t competitive, a mid-range disc and a putter (so, about $20-$25 total) will be just fine for you.

Anybody price out decent clubs recently?

It’s also not cheap to play golf. If you want a cart, which I think the majority of golfers choose, it ups the price even more. Heck, there are some courses out there that require you use a cart!

Greens fees aren’t cheap.

Balls aren’t cheap.

You get the picture.

Our economy, while showing some signs of getting better, isn’t what it once was. That cuts into people’s “recreation” budget. More people are finding cheaper alternatives for their recreation, which is understandable.

I stopped playing because it got too expensive and I just didn’t want to sit out and play a round for four-plus hours. I’ve thought about getting back into it. I liked playing (at times). I liked it more when I walked the course and played, especially if I was by myself or just one other person. I got exercise and it was enjoyable for that long amount of time because I could kind of be in my own thoughts. My golf bag is one of those backpack-style ones and I tried not to pack it so much, making it decently comfortable.

But, like many people, I got frustrated. I wanted to do better. I hated shanking a ball or duffing a shot. I wanted to be some top-level player, even though I didn’t have the time, patience or money to put into being that strong. Let’s face reality – if you are going to play at a very high level, you need to put the time into it. I didn’t do that enough.

The same can be said for disc golf. To be good, you need to put the time in. I don’t have any decent courses too close to me, so getting better was tough. I didn’t play enough. And, honestly, one can only throw discs in a field or put on a portable basket so often before it gets amazingly boring.

The reality is times are changing. People are more in tune to expenses and what they do for recreation. This is all way too understandable, that’s for sure.

People still play golf, that’s for sure. Tournaments cost money, though. Sometimes people just don’t want to pay to play in the tournaments anymore.

Maybe it’s becoming more recreational and not so competitive. Maybe some people just want weekends for other things, leaving golf for a few rounds after work during the weeks. Like other things, though, it’s likely cyclical. I’m sure it will go up again at some point.

Hopefully, the reason isn’t just economical, rather family or friends or something along those lines. Diversity in what people do is an important aspect in life, and it’s always good to broaden horizons and see what else is out there.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Summer of Baseball: Vermont brings a lot of nostalgia

Jul 23

If you are a fan of old stadiums, then a trip to Burlington, Vermont should be on your list.

Centennial Field’s first game was held on April 17, 1906. Wrap that around your head a little bit when you think about how old it is. The stadium seats nearly 4,500 people and when you walk in, it’s definitely an old-school feel.

The concourse sits outside the main playing area, much like older stadiums. Inside, beams can obstruct your view (as was the case with us, but not too bad). The dugouts are a tad farther down the lines, so it’s almost odd to see where players come out and where they swing as they wait to bat.

An old-school way of watching baseball at Vermont.

An old-school way of watching baseball at Vermont.

It’s a cool little stadium, though. Concessions are in booths, and the souvenir store is a spot where you can go in and see at the stand, but can’t walk through a store. It makes for some slow service, though, as people will often look for a while and block the way. Such is the way of these older stadiums.

Parking is awful. There aren’t many spots at the stadium and surrounding streets have “no parking” signs all over. You park in a parking garage (free) on the University of Vermont campus and take a school bus shuttle to the game. It actually added to the experience, but it was definitely different.

The crowd gets into the game, so it’s definitely a “baseball” stadium. You could tell they understood the game and such, so that was a good thing. Tickets weren’t easy to get (at least what I like), and they had a good crowd when I was there, which is also a good sign. When I visited (August 2014), I felt like it was definitely for baseball.

The food selection is average and there was a good selection of beer, which would be expected in Vermont. There are some good craft beers up that way.

If one is smart, you’ll spend a night or two in the town as well and venture out and about around Burlington. It’s a nice area and I wish I had spent a little more time there.

Park Notes:  

Centennial Field
Burlington, Vermont
Home of the Vermont Lake Monsters (Short-season A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics)
Visited on: Saturday, August 2, 2014
Opponent: Mahoning Valey (Short-season A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 7.5/10
  • Concessions: 6/10
  • Parking: 1/10
  • Ambiance: 8/10
  • Friendliness: 8/10

I am continuing the Summer of Baseball from 2014 and hope to blog about each new stadium I visit. Ones visited in the past can be viewed linked up in the 2014 version. I’m also catching up on some 2014 stadiums to make sure all are completed.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Block Party is almost here!

Jul 22

For those of you who geocache, you likely know that this year’s Block Party is the final one. With that in mind, three of us are embarking on the cross-country trip to go to the event, as well as others surrounding it.

And I’m getting quite excited.

The trip is going to be five days of some serious fun, at least I hope. My true hope is that Mother Nature gives us some good weather for the time we are out there.

Anyway, the plan is to fly out on a Thursday morning and arrive mid-afternoon in Seattle. After grabbing the rental car, and checking in at the hotel, it’s into Seattle for the first event.

The pathtag I have for my Northwest trip!

The pathtag I have for my Northwest trip!

The weekend continues with some historical geocaches (on a side trip to Portland), some cool other places, and a baseball game. Unfortunately, the Mariners are on the road, so I am going to catch a minor league game.

Now, don’t get me wrong, but though this is a geocaching trip, I am hoping to see some other things. Am I going to be able to do everything possible? Probably not. But I want to be able to visit the Space Needle and the Sky View Observatory. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get to the outskirts somewhere and get a photo or two of the Seattle skyline.

I’m sure a brewery or two will be on tap (ha! See what I did there?) too, which will be fun.

That being said, there are some great geocaching items planned.

We’ll be attending the final Block Party at Geocaching.com’s headquarters. Also, there’s a trip back to HQ on the following Monday to get a hosted visit, which I think will be a lot of fun. The HQ GeoTour looks like a blast and I think we are planning on doing that on one of the other days (not Block Party day) to hopefully get a chance to do them without a game of “pass the log.”

The Friday trip to the Portland area is going to net us the original cache stash plaque, as well as some other old geocaches. I’ve been looking at a few of the caches there and I think it’s going to be pretty cool to grab some of those historical ones and know I’ve done them.

There are three webcam caches that I am hoping we can nab over the course of the weekend, too. Considering how few of these are around, it’s nice to be able to get them when you can.

On Sunday, a trip to the spot of the “Ape” cache that is no longer there. So, unfortunately, I won’t get the chance to get that icon on my profile, but the Snoqualmie Tunnel is open. This tunnel is part of the rail trail and is an old railroad tunnel. It’s very cool and is a round trip hike of a little more than 5 miles (on level ground, if I read right), so that’s pretty cool. On the other side are some historical geocaches, so that will add to the experience and the day.

There’s really not a lot more I can say about this trip, without breaking down day by day. I think in the overall scheme, it will be a fun trip. I’m looking forward to grabbing a few new states on my profile as well as finding some old caches. I’ve also created a pathtag for the trip to the Pacific Northwest, so that is cool to have and hopefully trade along the way.

I’m definitely excited about seeing a few things, getting to go to a baseball game and, of course, geocaching. It should be a heck of a fun experience and I’m looking forward to it.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Summer of Baseball ’15 going strong and still heating up

Jul 21

This has been a heck of a year for baseball – at least from my eyes.

My goal early in the season was attempt to hit 20 different stadiums this year. After this weekend, I’ve hit 13 (or 15, depending on how you count things).

Atlantic League stadiums, such as Bridgeport, have been cool to see this season.

Atlantic League stadiums, such as Bridgeport, have been cool to see this season.

The stadiums so far are:

  • Syracuse (AAA)
  • Binghamton (AA)
  • Somerset (Atlantic League)
  • Camden (Atlantic League)
  • Wilmington (A)
  • Philadelphia (MLB)
  • Lehigh Valley (AAA)
  • Batavia (A)
  • Hudson Valley (A)
  • Bridgeport (Atlantic League)
  • Connecticut (A)
  • Lakewood (A)
  • Trenton (AA)
  • Tri-City (A)

The additional ones aren’t professional baseball, so they are counted in my mind, but it’s not “minor league.” Those two are:

  • Damaschke Field (Anderson Monarchs Civil Rights Barnstorming Tour)
  • Doubleday Field (U.S. National Women’s team vs. Japan)

So will I get to 20? I hope so. There are tentative plans or discussions to still hit the following stadiums:

  • Citi Field (MLB)
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA)
  • Auburn (A)
  • Baltimore (MLB)
  • Lancaster (Atlantic League)
  • Altoona (AA)
  • Pittsburgh (MLB)
  • Lowell (A)
  • Boston (MLB)

This will easily put me 20 or more stadiums for the summer. Some of these I’ve already been to, others I have not. So I look forward to exploring and such, especially the MLB ones.

Before I move on in the Summer of Baseball 2015, I have to talk about the some highlights and low lights for the year so far.

Needless to say, it’s been a good baseball year so far.

There are some things I’ve noticed, though.

I don't chase autographs, but when I see some minor leagues signing on the concourse before games, I try and get them to sign my passport.

I don’t chase autographs, but when I see some minor leagues signing on the concourse before games, I try and get them to sign my passport.

First, at many minor league games, the game is secondary to other things going on. People will brawl over a free t-shirt and try and do all they can to get called for a one of the between-inning games.

There have also been a lot of good things, such as amazing plays, dramatic moments, great views, and nice people.

I always figure a day at the ballpark is better than one doing many other things, right?

There are a few things, though, that I’d love to see different – such as information on team websites.

I am a planner when I go to games. I like to sit in certain spots, so I’ll look at photos of the stadium, see where the best sight lines are etc. But one thing I rarely ever see on a website (I know I saw it in one place this year), is where the sun sets.

And why is this important? Because if games are starting at 7:05 p.m. or so, the sun could be square in your face for an hour or so, depending on where you are sitting and how the stadium is built. And when we’re talking 85-90 degrees, I’d rather not have is melting me.

So, if the sun sets over first base, put that somewhere. That way, people know if they want the sun to their back as it goes down, to sit on the first-base side. I’m getting better at looking at the stadium layout on Google Maps and then comparing it to other spots, but still, it would be nice to see that.

Here are some observations from the games I’ve seen already this year:

Some fans are not there for baseball

The reality is, when you go to a minor league game, you aren’t always there for the “players,” rather the franchise or something else. But, you should still understand that some people are there for the game (like me!)

Allow me to explain.

Recently, three of us went to a Lakewood Blueclaws game. It’s a nice little stadium and I’ve been there before. I bought what I thought were good seats (they were) and we sat down and got ready for the game.

The problem with all of this is the ushers here don’t seem to worry about people getting up and down at any time.

Look, I realize there is no “rule,” but there is etiquette when going to sporting events. And going up and down the aisle multiple times in a short time span is against it. Don’t ruin the enjoyment of others. For nearly two innings, we had a steady stream of people going up and down the steps and blocking our view. Up and down. Over and over. And it wasn’t just different people. Several times, it was the same people. They’d sit down, then get up and go again. Over and over and over. People stopped in the aisle, talked to others, and did whatever. They didn’t care, or so it seemed, about the people wanting to actually, you know, watch the game.

So one of my friends decided we’d had enough. He went to the box office and discussed things with them and we were, thankfully, given some comp tickets and were moved to the second row behind one of the dugouts. This was more of a baseball section it seemed, so the rest of the game was highly enjoyable.

But that leads me to the next thing …

Even low-level minor leagues make routine plays look easy

This same game featured a know-it-all (or so it sounded) behind us. He knew so much about the game, it was … well, I felt like I should get his autograph. Because these players weren’t drafted in the first round, they had insurmountable mountains to climb. I guess if you are a first-rounder, you should be a guarantee as far as he was concerned.

It doesn't matter where these players were drafted -- or signed -- there's a reason they are pros.

It doesn’t matter where these players were drafted — or signed — there’s a reason they are pros.

Look over all the No. 1 picks the MLB has had and tell me – have they all been stars?

Conversely, look at somebody like Mike Piazza, who was drafted in the 62nd round.  Or how about John Smoltz, who was nabbed in the 22nd round. Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was drafted in the 20th round. There are many more, too.  Heck, Albert Pujols was picked in the 13th round!

Does an early round pick probably help? Sure. With the team investing money in you, they are more likely to hold onto you as you develop. Some late-round picks will be easier to let go.

Anyway, our friend wanted to make sure people understood his knowledge and expertise of the game as he Googled things on his phone, talked about bonuses players signed for and explained that back in the day, a pitcher would have to be in Triple-A for two years and a fielder would have to get a minimum of 1,500 minor league at-bats before ever getting a sniff of the majors. These days, though, they are rushed to the big leagues, he said.

But what made me shake my head was this – his friend made a comment on a nice play. Was it stellar? No. But it wasn’t routine, either. The next five or six plays, he mocked his friend by saying “That was a GREAT play!” The sarcasm was noted. I wanted to turn to him and asked him if he had played above tee-ball.

An inning or two later, one of the shortstops went into the hole and made a nice play. It was pretty routine, but it was smooth. His throw was extremely accurate. And it looked so easy.

Our friend’s response? “Well, I’ll give it to you… they do make the routine plays look easy.”

Thanks, Einstein. That’s why they get paid to play it and why we pay to watch it.

Souvenir cups, please!

I figured something like this would be a no-brainer, but apparently not. When I am going to all these stadiums, I try and nab a souvenir cup at each one I visit. Alas, it turns out not all stadiums have them! I was shocked!

Many teams give you plastic bottles for soda, so there’s no need for the cup. One place last year had a souvenir cup for beer, but not for soda.

It seems like it would be a wide profit margin, considering how much it costs for fountain soda. In two places this year (Philadelphia and Trenton), they even gave you one free refill with your cup. A pretty good deal, I’d say.

Pins, too, please

Not all places have pins, either.

As a pin collector, it’s nice to grab pins from my travels to keep. Unfortunately, not all teams or stadiums have the pins. That’s disappointing.

At Trenton, all they had was Yankees pins. That’s fine, I guess, if you are a Yankees fan. But I just wanted a Thunder pin. I was told they were still waiting for them to arrive … in July.

Filling the passports

Last year, I blogged about a passport program I was using when I went to baseball games.

This year, I got even more into it.

It's been fun gathering stamps in my passports.

It’s been fun gathering stamps in my passports.

Last year, I picked up a minor league passport and a major league “game” passport. This year, I added the leather-bound MLB one (basically one spot for each stadium, and a few other places. Very cool) and the new Atlantic League passport. This made me want to visit those stadiums.

I’ve also changed my way of collecting passports. Last year, I just got a stamp from a stadium once. If I went there once, I didn’t get it again. This year, I changed that. For example, I’ve been to Binghamton three times. I stamped my passport each time. When I fill one (I am close), I’ll start another. It’s very cool.

I’ve also gotten into the Facebook group of the program, which is run by the creator of the program. It’s a fun little community.

Test out the “local” food

Most minor league – as well as MLB – parks have a signature item or two on their menus. It’s well worth trying, just because it’s a connection to the team in one way shape or form. It’s not always a winner, I’ll admit, but it is fun to try out the unique items a team has on the menu.

I also tend to test a hot dog at every stadium I go visit. Sometimes they are good, sometimes not so good. Sometimes they are cheaper, other times more expensive. But, it’s all part of the experience. So get that hot dog!

Wimington had the most interesting “local” food item this year – a glazed donut sliced in half, with a hot dog, bacon and some sort of jelly dressing. I thought it was decent (I wouldn’t do it again, though, as it was way too sloppy). But not everybody is a fan.

The maple-glazed bacon on a stick at Lehigh Valley was sinfully good, too.

And that’s my baseball trip season, so far, in a nutshell. I’ll be looking at some of these stadiums more in depth at some point, but this is an overall view. Ticket prices aren’t bad for most spots, and we haven’t had too many issues with parking and traffic.

Here’s to the rest of the summer of baseball!

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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