Summer of Baseball: Reliving youth at Little League Museum

Aug 21

As somebody who lives close to Cooperstown and visits the National Baseball Hall of Fame a few times a year, I know the best times to go to avoid the massive crowds.

Admission is cheap to the museum, and worth every dime.

Admission is cheap to the museum, and worth every dime.

It’s been through that practice that I’ve had the chance to enjoy the museum and all it has to offer. With that in mind, I often try and visit museums in off-months or off-hours, so I can kind of mimic that goal at each spot.

Therefore, I wondered what it would be like to visit the Little League Museum in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on a beautiful summer morning, on the Sunday following July 4.

Turns out it was perfect.

In a beautiful way to relive childhood, the Little League Museum gives visitors the chance to see the impressive history of Little League and is tastefully done. This isn’t a museum that has just been thrown together, rather it connects the history of the game and shows some wonderful items.

Let’s remember, too, that Little League is worldwide. So there are artifacts from all over, which really shows the history. The museum also delivers with it’s different age groups and softball, giving visitors the overall picture of what Little League was when it started and what it is today.

Mike Schmidt artifacts.

Mike Schmidt artifacts.

That’s pretty cool.

Two things truly stick out to me — how many items there are from Major Leaguers who played Little League and the interactive exhibits, which allow you to truly feel like a kid again.

I was excited, for example, to see some artifacts worn by Mike Schmidt when he was playing Little League in Ohio. There was also an autographed ball from Babe Ruth, but that was before Little League (him being a kid), so this was connected to something else. There were countless letters written and displayed, including major stars, Presidents, actors and others.

Pretty sweet.

The interactive area gives you the chance to do some different things, including testing your reactions on ground ball speed, catching a pitcher, timing you from home to first and seeing how high you can jump for a ball at the wall.

I did all but the running aspect as I wasn’t up for it that morning. I enjoyed each one and it’s really kind of cool to see these things working. I’ve been to many museums in my life, but I really do think this uniqueness is what pushes this museum over the top.

Some artifacts at the LL Museum.

Some artifacts at the LL Museum.

The tour took us probably about an hour or so, but I also like to take my time, look at things, take some photos and absorb it all. After the tour of the museum, it was time to tour the grounds.

Remember — the museum is located on the grounds where the famed Little League World Series takes place.

A short walk down the hill takes you Lamade Stadium, which is pretty cool to see up close. It’s still crazy to me that I went to college in neighboring Lock Haven and have never been to a LLWS game. But, by the time you read this, that should have changed as we had made plans for a day trip to watch some games.

It’s really nice to be able to walk around and see what it’s like without the hustle and bustle of everything.

After doing that and hiking back up the hill, it was back into the souvenir store where there are plenty of options for people to get things — and all at prices that are very affordable. You can’t go wrong there, just because of that.

It’s easy to get to, the parking (when we were there) wasn’t bad, but I could see where it could become harder. There seemed to be parking across the street, but the road in front of the museum is pretty busy.

The stop is well worth it, especially for baseball fans or anybody who has been involved in Little League.

Notes:

Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum
Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Visited on: July 6, 2014.

Ratings (out of 10):

  • Museum: 9
  • Souvenirs: 10
  • Parking: 8
  • Ambiance: 9
  • Friendliness: 10

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

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: SWB gives fans a great experience

Aug 13

PNC Field is a great place to watch a game.

PNC Field is a great place to watch a game.

There’s something to be said about renovations instead of demolishing and rebuilding a stadium. If done right, it can be a wonderful thing.

Take, for example, PNC Field. Formerly known as Lackawanna County Stadium, the park underwent a major renovation – with a price tag of more than $43 million – in 2012, which forced the AAA Yankees affiliate to play all their games on the road.

But when they returned for the start of the 2013 season – what a change the stadium had.

Seats are good and give excellent sight lines.

Seats are good and give excellent sight lines.

I had been to this stadium back when it was home to the Red Barons, the AAA affiliate of the Phillies. And I came last year to see the new work. I’ve been twice this year and this stadium truly impresses me in its looks, sight lines and amenities.

If it wasn’t for the stadium that houses the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, this one would top my list for minor league parks.

The neat part of the park is you can still feel some of the old stadium still here, despite it having an incredibly shiny new look.

Overall, this is one excellent ballpark. The parking is easy, the entering of the stadium is simple (and they allow you to leave/re-enter if you need to go to your car – which came in handy on a giveaway night) and it’s simple to get to off of I-81. For the game we came to in 2013, the leaving was really crazy and tough, but it seems like they’ve learned and made it better as both times I’ve visited this year, we’ve left quickly.

Back to the stadium.

A free program is always appreciated.

A free program is always appreciated.

This is a great spot for baseball. The seats are roomy and there’s plenty of room. There are standing spots all around the stadium with a small “table” that runs around the stadium. The outfield standing section is especially nice with a wonderful view of the stadium. One other nice tidbit to note — it’s another stadium that has gone to the free program setup. It’s nice to see that being done more and more.

There are some excellent places around the park, too, including a seating section in right field that is set up near a bar area. The only downfall there – and for the bleachers in the right-field foul ball area – is the sun will beat down on you. The same can be said for the outfield lawn seats, which seem to be more and more the normal at minor league parks and it a really smart idea. The stadium has a full walk-around concourse, which is always nice to see at parks. It gives people a chance to stretch their legs and take a stroll around the park without missing a pitch.

This is near the outfield lawn seats.

This is near the outfield lawn seats.

The food choices here are pretty standard and the prices aren’t too bad. Each time I’ve been here, however, ice cream has been off the list because I can’t see waiting in massive lines when I am there for a baseball game. The beer selection, too, is pretty solid.

The Rail Riders have their fair share of in-between-innings games, which is fine. They aren’t too crazy and they don’t disrupt the game. The mascots are seen and are friendly and engaging.

Finally, the team store is really nice and has a lot of items available for purchase. The prices aren’t too bad, basically what you’d expect at most parks.

In the end, this is a great stadium to watch a game at. It’s comfortable, affordable (tickets are around $10 each) and it makes for a fun evening at the park.

Park Notes:  

PNC Field
Moosic, Pennsylvania
Home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders (AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees)
Visited on: Saturday, June 21 and Friday, August 8.
Opponent: Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) and Columbus Clippers (AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 9/10
  • Concessions: 9.5/10
  • Parking: 9/10
  • Ambiance: 9.5/10
  • Friendliness: 10/10

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

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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Summer of Baseball: Williamsport is a throwback

Aug 06

There’s something to be said about an old baseball park.

If you are a fan of the game, it’s definitely the way to go to watch. It’s a throwback of sorts. Many of you know that during my newspaper career, I covered a minor league baseball team. It was short-season Single A (so about a 72-game schedule, if I remember right) and I only covered the home games, so it wasn’t a full beat, so to speak.

But it was covering professional baseball during the summer.

Bowman Field is definitely and old-school feel and experience.

Bowman Field is definitely and old-school feel and experience.

The team played at an old, rickety ballpark built decades and decades ago. The team was bought in the 1960s by a group of locals and was still owned by two of them when I covered them. One was the figure head, the other was a partner who didn’t like to say much. Both were classy gentlemen. They were baseball people, though.

And that’s what it was about – watching baseball. But the stadium for those who weren’t fans of nostalgia and such usually didn’t like things much. No beer was served (one of only a couple teams who didn’t sell beer), there weren’t many on-field promotions and the mascot wasn’t always around.

It was baseball.

I’m a fan of such stadiums, usually. But I’m also one who still keeps a scorecard at each game, so I’m a little different as it is.

The team I used to cover was in the New York-Penn League, where older stadiums used to be a mainstay. In this day and age and as minor league baseball becomes a bit more mainstream, teams are looking for better and more current parks.

So getting to see some of these old stadiums is a must for me. They might all be a little rickety and such, but there’s the baseball feel. Bowman Field still maintains an ambiance like that, though there are parts that make it a little tougher.

Let’s take a look at the park.

One of the few places I've been this year that still charges for a program, but it's understandable at this level.

One of the few places I’ve been this year that still charges for a program, but it’s understandable at this level.

Bowman Field in Williamsport – for now – has stood the test of time. Built in 1926, it’s an old park in every sense of the word. There are pillars to sometimes peek around and the seating setup is that of an older park. It’s not to say it’s awful, but choosing your seat can definitely give you a better feel of the park. One set of bleachers, down the right-field line, wasn’t open. I spoke to one usher who noted that section had been closed for as long as he could remember.

It made me wonder why.

The press box is at the top of the stands behind the plate and is quite small. The safety netting goes around quite a bit of the field to save the crowd, which is fine. But, for whatever reason, the netting seemed to be a bit thicker than other places I’ve seen it.

The dugouts are also in a non-traditional spot as they are further down each line. That, of course, makes it a longer stroll for the players as they come to bat or head out onto the field.

The field, itself, has the feel of an older one. The advertising boards in the outfield seem to fit a nostalgic stadium, and the rest of the aura made me feel like we went slightly back in time. Parking is available for free, or in one part, for a fee. People cram into the area for parking though, which definitely give an old NY-Penn League feel.

The sight lines are OK, but there are beams, of course, if under the grandstand. If I ever went back to watch a game, I think I’d make sure I got one of the closer box seats as I believe it would be a lot better to watch a game from there.

The concessions seemed decent. We had eaten at a brew pub before coming to the game, so I didn’t dabble in much. The beer selection was on the weaker side and the hot dog I had was of normal ballpark feel and taste. The souvenir store was actually pretty solid for a small team and I walked away with a t-shirt.

It’s a stadium I’ve long wanted to see and I’m glad I had the chance to see it.

Park Notes:

Bowman Field
Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Home of the Williamsport Crosscutters (Short-season A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies)
Visited on: July 5, 2014.
Opponents: Auburn Doubledays (Short-season A affiliate of the Washington Nationals)

Ratings (out of 10):

  • Stadium: 7
  • Concessions: 7
  • Parking: 7
  • Ambiance: 8
  • Friendliness: 9

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

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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Photo Blogging Challenge (July 2014): Baseball

Jul 31

Baseball has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

It’s always been my favorite sport. Whether it be learning at a young age how to play, or through high school and such as a player, it’s always been something I’ve loved. I’ve kept at it – sort of—as I still play softball. Yes, I realize it is two different things – but the idea of the game is the same.

When I put this month’s photo challenge theme out, I knew I could capture baseball. But what best way to do it? My goal is to show how baseball has been an important part of my life, from growing up to current age.

I also look forward to seeing what everybody else has come up with as I know it would be a tough theme for some. But the beauty of this challenge is to interpret and find a way to conquer a subject and make it your own.

Without further ado, here’s my five for this month.

1. Childhood

I know a lot of people will talk about Little League – and I enjoyed our youth baseball program – but when I think of childhood and baseball, I think different. We weren’t a true Little League, so we had teams and just played. But I think of our pickup games. We had one place we played often (behind a neighborhood church) and others where we went. We’d use baseballs until the laces fell off. If we didn’t have a ball, we’d play Wiffle ball. And, of course we’d trade baseball cards and such. I played Legion ball when I got a tad older, too, but the “sandlot games” were always the best.

My childhood was filled with a lot of baseball things.

My childhood was filled with a lot of baseball things.

2. Pete Rose

Yes, I know he is banned from baseball. Yes, I know he’s not necessarily the cleanest person in the game. But growing up, Pete Rose was my favorite player. No matter his later life and what he did managing, he played the game the right way. Always. He played hard and he played to win. And he helped the Phillies win the World Series. He’s the only person I waited in a line to get an autograph from and I still love having this ball as it was one I watched him sign.

My childhood idol.

My childhood idol.

3. Beat Writer

When I was hired at the one daily where I worked, I was informed that if I got the job, one of my primary beats would be covering baseball, which included the local minor league team and many things at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I was told this as though it was a punishment (apparently, writers in the past didn’t like the baseball beat), but I looked at it as a bonus. I was going to get paid to cover baseball? Score.

Some of the things from my time as a baseball writer.

Some of the things from my time as a baseball writer.

4. Dreams Park

In 1996, a small baseball camp (playing, not teaching) opened near Cooperstown. Fast-forward to the summer of 2013 and there’s more than 20 fields and more than 100 teams every week for 13 weeks straight. It’s a total machine and there is so much there. Last summer, as I needed work, I had the chance to work there as a photographer and I truly enjoyed it. I got some great shots, met some awesome people and really enjoyed my time there. I had debated going back this year on weekends, but with the new job and all, I’ve learned to cherish my weekends. Still, I’ll remember my time here fondly and have made some friends I’ll keep well beyond that one summer.

A great summer.

A great summer.

5. Summer of Baseball

This has been a Summer of Baseball for me. My goal was to hit 10 baseball parks and do whatever else I could baseball related. As of this writing, I’m at nine parks and plan on hitting several more. I always travel with my scorebook and a couple of other things so I can tell who we might be seeing on the field, especially at the minor league level. It’s been a lot of fun to do this during the summer and has really made me love the game that much more.

A lot of the items I'll take with me when going to a game.

A lot of the items I’ll take with me when going to a game.

That’s my five for the month. And, now it’s your turn.

If you took part this month, make sure you link up below. And for those who participated, make sure you try and get to other people’s blogs and comment and visit so we can continue to grow this challenge. Don’t forget, too, to come back tomorrow, Friday, August 1, and see the theme for August! NOTE: I also 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: Perks aplenty at State College

Jul 28

There's not any bad spots to watch a game in State College.

There’s not any bad spots to watch a game in State College.

The lower levels of Minor League Baseball can feature a lot of types of stadiums – from old and worn to modern with amenities.

State College, Pennsylvania – home of the Spikes – seems to have found a good mix of a new stadium with the feel that it’s not being overly done. That’s something to be appreciated.

The Spikes are the Single-A short-season affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The stadium in which they play is located on the campus of Penn State, in the shadow of the famed Beaver Stadium. That, of course, makes parking plentiful (though it did cost, if I remember right, $3). And if you get there early enough, as we did, you had the chance to walk around the massive stadium before heading over to the smaller, more comfortable Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

The stadium seats about 5,500 people and is home to the Penn State baseball team, as well as the State College Spikes. A nice piece to this stadium is being able to see Mount Nittany beyond the outfield wall.

A free program is always welcomed!

A free program is always welcomed!

To be honest, this is definitely one of the top New York-Penn League stadiums I have been to.

When entering, the team store is close by and, for a lower-level team, the store is stocked with everything one might need. The items – shirts, jerseys, hats, balls and most things you expect to find – are reasonably priced and there are plenty of sizes. With such a cool logo, I walked out with a nice shirt.

After exiting the store, the field is straight ahead, and is below the concourse level, so you walk down to your seats. The seats are of the fold-down variety, but are solid and roomy.

But, if you want to roam, you can do so and not lose sight of the game. There are picnic tables spread throughout the concourse area, as well as a picnic area in left field. Right field features an area with high-top tables, as well as a bleacher section at the top of the right-field wall. That’s a very cool aspect of the stadium, I thought. Kind of a “cheap seat” type feel, which is excellent for a baseball stadium.

The netting behind home plate extended a little further, it seemed, than many parks. I wasn’t a fan of how it was set up, either. I know teams do it differently, though.

Play ball!

Play ball!

My only other thought is it seems like there could have been a walkway around the whole park. It would have been nice to be able to walk around and catch the game from different vantage points. Also, there was a video arcade. I’m not a fan of this, mainly because when I go to a ballpark, I go to watch a game. I understand families attend, but if you’re going to let your kids hang out in a video arcade the whole time – why come to the park? To be fair, the few times I passed by it, I didn’t see many – if any – in there.

The concessions were pretty strong, including a Burgatory spot (very good burgers), a craft beer stand and a spot just for ice cream. There is also normal ballpark fare, but when I went to get lunch, my plan was a hot dog and a bratwurst (I think it was bratwurst…), but they didn’t have the specialty, so I just went with a couple of hot dogs. They were above average, but nothing fully special. Their fries were decent.

I attended on July 4, too, so the area was having a full celebration and fair of sorts. Later in the evening, they open the park up so people can watch the fireworks (which apparently are ranked No. 3 in the country – I can believe it). We took one of the high-top tables in right field and enjoyed the show, so that’s another bonus.

In the end, this is a solid, stadium and one worth attending. I had wanted to visit it for a bit, so it was nice to get down here and see a game. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house and with the roominess of the sitting area (good legroom, too), there wasn’t a chance of being crowded or feeling stuffy

Park Notes:

Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
State College, Pennsylvania
Home of the State College Spikes (Short-season A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins)
Visited on:  July 4, 2014
Opponent: Jamestown Jammers (Short-season A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates)

Ratings (out of 10):

  • Stadium: 8.5
  • Concessions: 7.5
  • Parking: 8
  • Ambiance: 8
  • Friendliness: 9

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

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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