Summer of Baseball: Going back in time in Burlington

Oct 02

Centennial Field

Centennial Field

As I’ve noted before, I love me an old-school baseball park. Even if, when I get there, the experience isn’t the greatest, there’s still something to be said about an older park.

Take, for example, Centennial Field, located on the campus of the University of Vermont. Originally built in 1906, the field got its current concrete and steel main grandstand in 1922, which replaced the wooden bleachers that burned some eight or nine years before.

That’s old.

The field is home to the Vermont Lake Monsters, the short-season Single-A team of the Oakland Athletics. UVM no longer has a baseball team.

This field is throwback central, though.

There are some obstructed views, but a cold micro brew helps that out.

There are some obstructed views, but a cold micro brew helps that out.

There are no bells and whistles. The souvenir store isn’t accessible by walking in, rather it’s under the grandstands with a couple of concession-style windows where people will come and look and decide if they want to buy or not. Customer relations is housed in a trailer. The concession areas were what you would expect to see at a ballpark like this. When I say old school, folks, I mean old school.

The food selection was normal and there was a decent beer selection, which is understandable (and somewhat expected) considering how well-known Vermont is for craft beer.

Turns out, too, the Lake Monsters draw crowds. For most of this summer and these baseball trips, I picked tickets online ahead of time. However, the system Vermont uses doesn’t allow you to pick seats, so we opted to get them at the door. We were just going to get some general admission seats … and were told there weren’t two seats together.

To which I replied, “In general admission?”

He said “yes.”

Maybe it’s the lingo, but I’ve always thought GA tickets were sit wherever you want – first come, first served – in the GA section. Apparently not here.

Ready for the game.

Ready for the game.

Either way, we ended up getting a pair of seats together in the grandstand.

The sight lines aren’t all great (we were near a large beam, which holds the grandstand roof up – obstructed view?), but it’s not a bad place to watch a baseball game. There’s not a lot of glitz and glamor here.

The field layout is a little more older, too, such as where the dugouts are located and all. But, overall, it’s a nice stadium for the level of baseball it houses. The crowds are pretty energetic, too, which makes the overall experience that much better, too

Some cons? Parking. There’s pretty much none at the park and you aren’t supposed to park on the neighboring streets. So what they do is have you park at a parking garage on campus (free) and bus you (also for free) on a shuttle. In the end, it wasn’t too bad, but for out-of-town people coming to watch a game, it’s a tad frustrating. That adds to the end of the game, too, as you wait to pack into the school buses, which double as shuttles, to get back to your car.

One other con, at least for me, was not being able to get my Minor League Passport stamped. Despite being listed as a place where it could be done, nobody there seemed to know about the program or the stamp. An assistant GM did come and chat with me during the game about it and said he was going to look into it, but unfortunately that doesn’t get me the stamp. Maybe in the future if I go again.

Something I noticed about all of this though is the people here are top-notch and friendly. They really make you feel like you mean something, which is nice to see. I have always loved the New York-Penn League (it helps that I covered the Oneonta Tigers for six seasons) and this gives me hope that professional baseball can survive in some smaller

In the end, what you get here is an old-school baseball experience. It’s a nice little spot and worth visiting. On top of that, the Burlington area is really nice and I guarantee you can find places to go, which is even better.

Park Notes:  

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

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 7/10
  • Concessions: 7/10
  • Parking: 3/10
  • Ambiance: 9/10
  • Friendliness: 8/10

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: Manchester is about the game

Sep 22

Manchester, New Hampshire.

Manchester, New Hampshire.

Manchester, New Hampshire.

I can’t say I’ve ever been here before and, honestly, I wasn’t sure why this was an attractive place to go watch a game, outside the fact that it would make for a good weekend trip to see a couple of games.

Originally, this trip was scheduled for the Fourth of July Weekend, with one game here and one in Connecticut. Bad weather forced that trip to be changed (which worked out well as it landed this tour in State College that weekend and it was a fantastic fireworks show), but I had already purchased tickets for Manchester.

So when the game was rained out, I had the chance to get new tickets. On a weekend in early August, Manchester called again to see the New Hampshire Fisher Cats play Reading, the Double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Score.

Opened in 2005, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium is an interesting place to see a game. Being in the middle of the city, the parking is pretty crappy. In fact, we paid $10 to park in this one lot and we got squished into a silly spot. I think the tickets were $12 each, or something like that. So, basically, we paid an extra seat to park. Now, I realize there was street parking elsewhere for free. The issue was not knowing the area, so we went with a lot. Parking, though, is not a positive for this place.

The stadium from the outside is pretty interesting, especially how it’s tucked in to the area. It’s not a bad looking stadium by any means. In left field, there’s a hotel overlooking the field. The concourse wraps the backside of the field and there’s a little into left field. You don’t miss much if you get up and walk around a little. There’s an interesting bar in the left-field area. Though I didn’t go in, it’s pretty nice and roomy.

There are a couple of souvenir stores — one a bigger one that is downstairs, before you walk up to get into the field, and the other off the concourse. Prices were pretty decent and the main store offered a lot of items.

Keeping book.

Keeping book.

Concessions at the stadium was pretty decent. That being said, we had eaten before coming, so we didn’t really dabble in a lot. The normal ballpark fare was here, but what was nice was soft ice cream. For whatever reason, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find this at stadiums. This place had it. And I got it later in the evening (we were there for a double header) and had no lines. I did, of course, have a hot dog, too, and it was good. One thing to point out is that there is a solid selection of beers here. Concession prices were decent.

A side note for those who keep their own scorecard — the Fisher Cats, if you go to fan relations (on the concourse) offer pre-printed cards with the lineup free of charge. It’s very nice to have, especially when you bring your own book, like I do. It’s much easier to copy off that than standing in front of the lineup board to by taking a photo and reading it off a phone.

One thing, though, is the stadium didn’t stand out. The floors for the seats were metal, so it could get loud if people were walking around. The seats had plenty of space, which is nice. But it’s the same sort of stadium you can see in many places. Overall, it’s a solid stadium with good sight lines and a decent place to watch a game. You could find worse places to watch a game, that’s for sure. However, I’m not sure I would make a specific trip just to see this stadium, but if you can plan it with other reasons to be here, it’s worth catching a game.

Park Notes:  

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium
Manchester, New Hampshire
Home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays)
Visited on: Friday, August 1, 2014
Opponent: Reading Fightin Phils (AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 7.5/10
  • Concessions: 8/10
  • Parking: 5/10
  • Ambiance: 8/10
  • Friendliness: 8/10

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: Tri-City a fine place to catch a game

Sep 16

A summer trip to “The Joe” is definitely worthwhile, especially if you are within short distance of New York’s Capital Region.

Joseph L. Bruno Stadium sits on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College. It’s not what you would think about when you think of a community college stadium or one where a short-season Single-A team plays, that’s for sure.

A night of ball at The Joe!

A night of ball at The Joe!

Opened in 2002, the stadium is open-style, with a concourse that goes around the bulk of the stadium. There was spots to watch the game from the outfield and the main seating is fold-down plastic seats. There’s really not a bad place to watch a game, that’s for sure.

My first viewing of this stadium came several years ago, when I was still covering pro baseball for a local newspaper. The season before, the team I covered has been quite successful, so I got to head up the interstate to cover the opener at Tri-City. It was one of only two times I ever got to travel to cover the team, so it was pretty cool.

More than that, though, was liking the stadium. I walked around some, I peeked at what there was to offer. The press area was nice and they took care of you. But, even more so, was the overall stadium. What a feel for a game. They draw good crowds. They have a good announcer. There’s something for everybody.

I had the chance to visit two times this year, once for the Summer of Baseball Tour, and a second time as my final game of the year when I went up for the final game of the New York-Penn League Championship. The atmosphere was similar each time, though the wind as taken out of the home team’s sails in the first inning of the championship when State College scored nine runs.

When you come into the stadium, the team store is on your right. The store has a lot of goodies and the prices are pretty good. Walking into the main area, you’re greeted by a customer service area (where, if it’s your first game, you can get a button). There’s lineups on the wall nearby and each  baseline has a plethora of concessions to offer. There’s the normal ballpark fare, then a pizza station and a taco stand, local beers and more. So there are some pretty good offers. I didn’t see soft ice cream, though, which always gets to me as I’d rather just have a soft serve cone than hard ice cream, especially at a game.

Everything I need at a game!

Everything I need at a game!

And like many newer parks, if you get up to visit a concession stand, you can see the field. The big scoreboard in right field is nice to keep track of things, too.

At the first game we attending, one friend caught a foul ball, so that was cool. The second game I went solo, so I just relaxed with my scorebook and watched the Spikes win the championship.

Parking, too, is plentiful — and free. This is also another stadium that gives programs away for free, which is always welcome. The atmosphere is nice and everybody I dealt with was extremely friendly and helpful when needed. If I lived in the Capital Region, I’d likely be a season ticket holder as it’s a great sport to watch baseball. If you are a baseball fan and are in the area, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Park Notes:  

Joseph L. Bruno Stadium — “The Joe”
Troy, New York
Home of the Tri-City Valley Cats (short-season Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros)
Visited on: Friday, July 25 and Monday, September 8
Opponent: Staten Island Yankees (short-season Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees) and the State College Spikes (short-season Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 8.5/10
  • Concessions: 7.5/10
  • Parking: 8.5/10
  • Ambiance: 9/10
  • Friendliness: 9/10

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: Philly is a great place to see MLB action

Sep 09

The Bank.

The Bank.

Ahhh Philadelphia … the City of Brotherly Love.

It’s the city where my parents grew up and where I still have a lot of family. And, it’s also the home of the Philadelphia Phillies – my favorite MLB team.

I usually try and get down to see a game or two each summer at Citizens Bank Park. It’s a great place to watch a game as the park features an open concourse and seating that is extremely fan friendly. The lone time I didn’t like my seat was one year we went and were stuck out in centerfield – and the seats just weren’t great for watching a game – at least on that day.

My first MLB game in my Eephus League Halfliner.

My first MLB game in my Eephus League Halfliner.

This year’s trip was done at the last second. In fact, a minor league game had been being planned but when Cole Hamels and Stephen Strasburg were scheduled to face off.

Score!

Tickets were soon purchased and we did this as a day trip. The seats we had were awesome, pretty much just off to the right side of home plate and on the first level. Needless to say, in all of the trips I’ve made to Citizens Bank Park, these were probably the best seats I’ve had.

Anyway, back to the park.

Like many major league stadiums, the parking is simple and the stadium is close to major highways. I got tickets through Stub Hub, which included a parking pass. Therefore, we didn’t have to pay for the parking. That being said, it’s like many other big-league places – there are big-league prices. Parking, if I remember right, was $15. That’s pretty steep, especially in a complex that includes the home of Philly’s NFL, NBA and NHL teams.

Mmm crab fries!

Mmm crab fries!

The stadium offers many things for fans of all ages. There’s a fine selection of food (including Bulls BBQ, cheese steaks, the normal ballpark fare and Chickie and Pete’s famous crab fries). The beer selection is pretty solid, too, considering each small stand had a different choice. There are microbrews and your everyday beers, too. So it’s nice. Prices for those are pretty normal for a MLB park.

Obviously, souvenir stands and the team store are well-stocked. The prices are what you would expect, but there aren’t many things you couldn’t get there. When I make my trip down, I usually pick up a program and the media guide for the year and it’s usually quite affordable. Sometimes, I’ll walk out with a hat or something as well. This year I didn’t leave with much, but prices were all pretty normal for what you’d see at places like this.

For the most part, it’s a friendly park. But, like any place with so many people working, there are those who are a little more “business-like” in their approach. The vendors are usually quite easy to get along with and customer service always does quite well when I’ve needed to use them.

Play ball!

Play ball!

It’s an easy park to navigate. No matter where you are, you can see the action. There is also a running “counter” around the park, so if you are eating and can find a spot, you can stand at the back of the seats and watch before heading back to your seat.

It’s definitely a modern stadium. Like many newer ones (Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004), it has an old-time feel with many modern amenities. You’re brought closer to the action, too, which is nice. But in the end, it’s not cheap to go to an MLB game, but this spot is well worth the trip.

Park Notes:  

Citizens Bank Park
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Home of the Philadelphia Phillies
Visited on: Saturday, July 12.
Opponent: Washington Nationals

Ratings (out of 10)

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

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: 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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