Summer of Baseball: Syracuse a solid spot to watch a game

Jun 16

I’ve always been a fan of the Syracuse ballpark. It’s quaint, easy to get to and, usually, easy to get out of. But, despite a city of about 145,000 people, it doesn’t seem like the Chiefs draw on a nightly basis.

NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse.

The day I was there was a cool spring afternoon with a 2:05 start and had an announced attendance of 2,559. With the seating capacity at NBT Bank Stadium at about 11,000, I am quite sure the stadium wasn’t a quarter filled, so it was easy to put the feet up, watch the game and enjoy. Parking had a fee of $5, but I can’t imagine that would necessarily scare people away.

The layout of Syracuse is quite nice. I’m not sure there’s a bad seat in the house. However, one thing I learned from the year before – it’s better to sit on the third-base side because of the sun. If you are on the first-base side and it’s hot and sunny, you’re in trouble. Therefore, it’s the third-base side for me.

I know there aren’t many people who do this anymore, but I am a baseball nerd in that I still keep a scorebook. Last year, I backed a Kickstarter campaign for a Halfliner (bia the Eephus League) and it goes with me to any professional game. So, when doing this, you need the lineups.

Everything needed for a game!

Most professional stadiums (and many smaller college summer leagues) have a lineup posted. You’ll often see people with scorebooks scribbling the lineup so they can keep track of what’s going on. I noticed it last year – and again this year – that Syracuse doesn’t have one. That makes it a little difficult for those of us who keep score to do it.

That means getting the names off as announced or when they come to bat. It takes away from the experience.

At one point, the new general manager was walking around and chatting with people. He sat with us for a few minutes and I noted this one important piece missing from the baseball experience. He assured me it was in the works and hoped, by the next time we visited for a game, one would be in place. I do, too, as even for those who don’t keep score, it’s nice to be able to look at a lineup.

Warming up in the pen.

Turns out, though, this is a whole new regime in Syracuse. The Chiefs lost upward of a million dollars last year, and this new GM is part of a new group hoping to turn things around. From our brief talk, he seems to have some good ideas and a vision, so hopefully he can make the franchise viable again and put some people in the stands.

Overall, the stadium is a good place to watch a game. There are plenty of options in regard to concessions. The hot dogs were pretty solid, albeit a bit pricey for a Triple-A team that doesn’t seem to overflow the stands. I only had that and a small order of fries, so I can’t comment on the quality of everything else. But if it’s anything like the dog and fries, it should be good. There are a lot of choices, and that is always a good thing.

Though I didn’t dabble, the beer selection was the normal items, though I did see a few local brews as well.

In the end, Syracuse is a good stadium to visit. I’ll likely do it at least one more time this summer, hopefully with a lineup card available.

Park Notes:  

NBT  Bank Stadium
Syracuse, New York
Home of the Syracuse Chiefs (AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals)
Visited on: Sunday, May 18.
Opponent: Columbus Clippers (AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 7.5/10
  • Concessions: 7/10
  • Parking: 9/10
  • 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.

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Geeking out — baseball style

Jun 11

The summer of baseball.

Well, that’s what I am calling it at least. I have a goal of hitting at least 10 stadiums this summer. They will mostly be minor league games (there’s only once on the schedule, so far, of the major league variety), which is the type of baseball I truly love.

I was speaking with somebody this week about baseball and watching games. The discussion was just sports based and he was telling me about some amazingly cool experiences he’s had, but more with basketball. The conversation switched to baseball and I mentioned how I am true baseball nut — and carry  scorebook with me to every game.

He noted that I truly went for the geekdom.

Yes, yes I do.

The reality is, I’ve always been a baseball geek.

Yes… baseball geekdom. With my Eephus League Halfliner scorebook.

When you are a fan of sports, it’s often a situation where you lean toward one or another sport. I’m no different. Many of my friends are football first, the rest after. I have some die-hard hockey fans. Even soccer. But for me? Baseball. It always has been and always will be.

My love affair with the game goes back many years.

I didn’t see my first MLB game until I was an adult, but I remember a lot of watching the game on TV. In my area, when growing up, we got several stations for different teams — most notably WPIX (Yankees), TV 38 (Red Sox) TBS (Braves) and WOR (Mets). The funny part is I disliked them all. Though I still remember the old Yankees jingle on WPIX and I remember lounging on Sundays in the summer watching baseball.

Add to that was playing sandlot baseball. I’d ride my bike with a glove dangled over the handlebars. I usually carried this old, dented up orange bat, too. A pickup game could happen anywhere. It was quite awesome.

So, needless to say, my love of the game goes deep. I’m a believer that football season doesn’t start until baseball ends. Sure, I’ll check scores and maybe see part of a game, but I like watching baseball way more.

And, of course, there’s baseball on the radio — which is always amazingly awesome.

Back to the geekdom, though.

I’m not sure if you ever notice, but at some baseball games people keep scorebooks. I’m one of them. It is a way to stay in tune with the game as it unfolds and, if you keep the book or scorecard, you have a record of where you’ve been or who you’ve seen play. I wish I had kept scorecards from over the years as I’ve seen some amazingly awesome players. But in recent years, I truly like the minor league game, and I try and see as many as I can during a summer. At the end of last year, I backed the Eephus League Halfliner on Kickstarter and that has since become my scorebook I carry to each game. It holds 81 games, so I don’t see me filling it too soon.

Originally, I wanted a smaller scorebook, which is how I found the Eephus League (I received on of the smaller ones, too, but have yet to use it) because it’s how old sportswriters used to do it. I’d love to still find one of the old-school scorebooks the old journalists used. They are pretty cool items. The Halfliner, however, really is perfect for somebody who wants to keep score, have a little extra space and have something easy to carry from game to game. For me, it’s perfect. The original Eephus League scorebook is solid, too, but its smaller and only holds 20 games. It will be nice to use in a pinch and could be perfect for somebody who likes a minimal approach to scorekeeping (which I often do, but I really do like having some extra spaces etc.)

I don’t just travel with the scorecard, however. I also carry a map of every baseball team in the country and the Baseball America Prospect Guide. This is, of course, a way to keep track of the players I see during the course of a season.

A few weeks ago, I went to a game in Binghamton. Not far from me was an older couple and the gentleman was keeping score. However, he had a folded up piece of paper and was writing in pen. He had created a mini scorecard and had his own ways of scoring — which many of us who score d0. I had to talk to him so I chatted for a few minutes and he told me he did it to keep in tune with the game and see what unfolded.

Unfortunately, scoring a game in the stands is a dying art form. There’s always other things going on, whether promotions, kids games, or whatever else. That makes it hard to teach the next generation of baseball fans what it’s like to keep score at a game. I have even seen some kids scorecards out there, so maybe there’s some hope. I have a new nephew and maybe one day I’ll be able to show him why keeping a scorecard is such a good thing.

This summer is one of baseball. My goal is to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums (three so far) and I’ll be keeping score at each one, as well as blogging about each stadium. I’ve hit three stadiums already with a couple more planned for this weekend, weather pending.

Play ball!

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As the summer approaches, it’s time to get back to normal

May 07

I don’t know what it is, but it’s been hard to blog lately. When I get home from work, I usually don’t want to sit and do it. My ideas are wavering, too.

The block!

Alas, as the weather turns and I get outside more, I’m hoping to have more ideas. Such as geocaching.

Remember that wonderful hobby?

A weekend trip to Pittsburgh in January was the last time I had geocached. A week or so ago, I had the chance to find a couple to snap that long skid. This past weekend, I went out and actually had an afternoon of caching. That included several park-and-grabs, as well as one cache I opted to archive. It was a multi and one of my favorite caches, alas, it was getting too hard to maintain so I opted to let it go. The container is great, however, so I plan on using it again.

With me, hobbies sometimes come and go based on the frequency and availability of doing them. For example, I got into letterboxing (similar to geocaching, but with clues and rubber stamps) and that kind of faded. As many of you know, I also really love playing disc golf. However, without a decent course close by (the nearest is about 1:15 away), it becomes tough. But, as the weather changes, I am looking forward to mixing a disc golf trip with some other hobbies, be it geocaching, photography or seeing a baseball game.

The recent health scare of the foot and all mixed in with it (post about all that…) has made me realize I need to start taking advantage of things a bit more. I tend to look at one thing, go with it and let it plays its course. But, I need to start mixing some of these fun things so the interest remains there in all of them.

As summer approaches, I am setting a few “wish list” goals for myself. I don’t know if they will all come true, but I’m hoping. Here’s a quick list of what I want to do.

1. Baseball

My goal is 10 ballparks this summer. I want to see different levels of the minors and maybe a Major League game or two. I’ve been limited, because of funds, from seeing many games since 2011. But with a job and the ability to go to a game or two on the weekend, I plan on taking advantage of it and doing a few baseball-related weekends. And, in a perfect world those trips my include some geocaching, disc golf and maybe a brewery tour or two.

2. Geocaching

I want to hit up a few events this summer, including possible two Mega (500 or more people). I’d also like to place several caches (I have some ideas!) and find a bunch in different areas. I don’t have any specific goals, per say, so it’s kind of just going with the flow. I am also more excited this year about our local “big” event as I have some ideas I’d kind of like to try.

3. Photography

I have long been away from using my main camera. No idea why, but I have. I need to get out and use it more. Maybe I’ll rent a lens or two to test things out and do some different things. But I need to get back into it. And I have about a year’s worth of photos I never processed and uploaded to Flickr. I should probably do that soon.

4. Montreal

By far my favorite city, I wanted to go there this past fall to celebrate a milestone birthday. That didn’t work out for financial reasons. There was a streak of about 11 years where I went every summer. I haven’t been since 2009 and I’m really looking forward to seeing this city again. I’m really hoping to do it when the Montreal Alouettes (CFL football) are in town as it’s a fun game to watch.

5. Brewing

Finally, this is something I have gotten away from and I really need to get back into it. I’m extremely excited about some kits I have that I need to brew and the ideas for some of them as well. I have several I need to do and once I do those (all one- and two-gallon batches), I’m seriously going to consider upping to a five-gallon deal. But I’m not sure yet. We’ll see how it unfolds. Either way, I just need to get brewing again

So how about all of you? Any plans for the summer months? I’ll have softball again as well and am looking forward to enjoying things this year. As much as I liked the summer gig I had last year, I rarely had weekends off and, when I was off, others were working. So I truly do look forward to getting back to “normal” this summer.

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Collectible Closeup: Nov. 6

Nov 06

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies.

And, growing up, Mike Schmidt was one of my favorites. What an amazing player. One of the best, without a doubt, to ever put on a Phillies uniform. So when I got back into collecting baseball cards, I knew I needed a Mike Schmidt autograph.

Turns out it wasn’t easy to get.

I lost auction after auction on eBay. The problem was, I just wasn’t willing to spend through the roof for a card.

And then it happened.

For less than $20 (I think I paid $15-17 for this one), I got the card I had been seeking. Even better? This was a 15/15, so even rarer. Loved it!

(Note, the scratches in the photo are the plastic case it’s in — those details came up a ton in the scan!)

This is, by far, one of the best cards in my collection and one I don’t see myself parting with.

Michael Jack Schmidt!

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Saying goodbye to the greatest closer of all-time

Sep 27

I only went to Yankee Stadium once and my chance to see Mariano Rivera was blown by a meaningless home run.

Let me start this by saying I’m not anywhere close to being a Yankees fan.

I never have been. I never will be.

Most Yankees, I can honestly say, I don’t like. I’m not a fan of Derek Jeter. Definitely not A-Rod. There are many who have come through (Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte etc.) who I didn’t like on the field, but away from the game I couldn’t care less about. It’s one of those things.

Then there’s Mo.

Without doubt, Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all-time. As a fan of baseball — and its history — it’s tough not to be a fan of Rivera, unless of course he’s entering the game against your team.

But it’s hard not to appreciate what he’s done and what he’s meant to the game.

His dominance is bar none. By all reports, he’s a class act in the clubhouse and off the field. Heck, look at how he handled his retirement year. He talked with people at each city he visited this year. Heck. every team did something special for him, too.

If that doesn’t tell you something about how classy he is, I’m not sure what would.

The stats will speak as they are. The Yankees have one more series — at Houston — to end the year.

Watching the final home game of Rivera’s career on Yes Network was quite wild. His final entrance into the game was incredible, especially with the Yankees having a recording of him being announced by Bob Sheppard.

Have a peek:

But it gets better. Again, as a non-fan of the Yankees, I have to tip my hat to this one. He was getting pulled with two outs in the ninth, which makes total sense as it gives him a chance for the full ovation and final tip of the lid. But what made it better was not Joe Girardi going out and getting him, rather sending Jeter and Pettitte out.

A class act.

Rivera broke down and understandably so.  Have a look:

At the end of the game, Rivera stayed in the dugout and as the crowd continued to chant his name, he slowly walked out to the mound. He kicked some dirt around, then bent down and scooped it up. He then walked off the field, waving as he did before being interviewed by Yes.

I’ve only ever seen the Yankees live once. It was 2008 and the fifth-to-last game at old Yankee Stadium and we had some awesome seats. In the eighth inning, the Yanks led Chicago, 4-1. With two outs (I believe), A-Rod hit a meaningless home run to make it 5-1.

Rivera, who was warming up, sat down. Insert Edwar Ramirez. I’ve never been so irritated at a baseball game. So, about the best I can say is I saw Mo warming up.

I would have liked to have seen him pitch, alas A-Rod decided it wasn’t to be (another reason to dislike him).


Who knows if Rivera will pitch this weekend. (Honestly, why? His career should end where it did on Thursday night — Yankee Stadium). No matter what, he ends his career as the best closer of all time.

And despite not being a fan of the Yankees, it’s hard to not appreciate all of this. It’s history and if you love the game, you had to love this.

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