Summer of Baseball: Passport is good addition to travels

Jul 08

One of my filled out pages. I don't put a ton of stuff in the notes, rather items of interest to me.

One of my filled out pages. I don’t put a ton of stuff in the notes, rather items of interest to me.

I love passport programs.

Basically, programs that give you a passport and you have to collect stamps for yourself or to complete a challenge. It’s a good concept, in theory, because it gets people out doing things to collect said stamps.

In my actual passport, I only have one stamp – Ireland. When I went into the Bahamas last year on a cruise, I couldn’t find where they would stamp at one of the ports, which is too bad as I really would have liked to have had it done.

The Minor League Baseball Passport.

The Minor League Baseball Passport.

But I digress.

One passport program I am in is the National Park program. There you have a passport and when you visit parks, you can get to certain spots and get a stamp. It’s a really cool program and I’ve blogged about it in the past.

The newest one is even cooler – baseball.

When at a recent game, I discovered this minor league baseball passport. It has 25 spots for you to get stamps from parks you visit and write in any details about the game. Though I keep a scorebook at games I go to, this is a new way to keep track of places I’ve been.

I first saw this passport at a game in Allentown (Lehigh Valley IronPigs), but one wasn’t open. I ended up not buying it because I didn’t want purchase it and find out a bunch of places I planned on hitting up this year didn’t have the stamp available. So, I skipped. I checked at the next stadium and they had no idea what I was talking about.

Then, I hit up Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and they had it – and had one unwrapped. That was huge because it allowed me to see the list of teams who were involved with this program and a lot of the places I hope to hit this year are on it, so I bought it.

A blank page in the passport.

A blank page in the passport.

Score!

Of course, they stamped my passport there and my first game is in the book. What’s nice is I plan on hitting several more stadiums this summer, so it will be nice to get them stamped (as long as the teams still have the stamps etc.) and to get some of it filled up. And though I’ll probably hit places more than once this summer, I’ll only stamp once so I can keep it as a record of stadiums I’ve hit.

There, apparently, is a Major League one, too. However, I’m not sure I would get that one because I don’t go to MLB games, outside of Philadelphia, too often. So I thought the minor league version would work best for me.

It’s disappointing I didn’t know about this at the beginning of the year as there’s at least one stadium I won’t be back to this year… but maybe next year. Still, it will be a cool item to see if I can slowly fill up and look back at in years to come.

At a recent game, a couple asked me about the passport as I was getting it stamped. It’s definitely something that fans can get into using. Every stadium I have gone to, so far, has the stamp and stamped my passport. Not everybody appears to know about it, but those who need to know do.

I did notice that several places didn’t have places to get a stamp (though the majority of the minors seem to be in there). I can’t imagine it costs all that much to have the stamp made, so it baffles me that a minor league team would skip it. In the same light, it appears the originator of this program didn’t include independent league teams, which is a real shame. Independent teams do a lot with customer service and fan promotions, so I have a hard time believing an independent team wouldn’t jump on this.

A stamp from one of the parks.

A stamp from one of the parks.

My only other issue with this passport is not being able to find an active list of participating teams on the website. It’s marketing 101 – if I want somebody to buy it, I need to answer every question I think they might have. As a consumer, my first question was – where will this be stamped? I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just AAA teams with a few lower-level teams in. This way, too, if one was to reach out to minor league teams, it could be noted and updated on the website.

But, overall, I am pretty pleased with the passport and I look forward to filling it up and maybe even getting a second one!

You can find more information about the Minor League Passport at its website.

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: Allentown raises the bar

Jul 03

When it comes to minor league baseball – there are stadiums and then there are stadiums.

Depending what a fan looks for, you can find anything. You can find the places set more for families with playgrounds and things always going on, to finding parks where baseball is what it is all about (and, in my eyes, should be). Sometimes you find a good middle ground.

Coca-Cola Park is a great place to watch a game.

Coca-Cola Park is a great place to watch a game.

And then there’s Coca-Cola Park, home of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Opened in 2008, this park has been on my must-visit list for a long time. It’s not easy to secure a ticket to these games, but one can get them when needed (StubHub, Craig’s List etc.), so seeing a game isn’t impossible by any means.

In my summer of baseball, this was on the list. And I’m glad I did finally get here – and have been there twice so far this year.

This is the top of the line when it comes to minor league parks, at least those I’ve been to. Though I won’t give it a perfect score across the board – it is going to take a lot for me to do that – I will say the experience here was top of the line.

Everything I need at the park!

Everything I need at the park!

The park itself is much like newer ones – there’s a wrap-around concourse, which is nice. Lawn seats in the outfield lend for a nice view of the field, as well as a spot for possible home runs. The seats are nice and roomy – and even better that they angle toward the field, giving you a good view from wherever you sit. One downer to the setup, however, is a lack of shade when sitting. The first time we were there was a Sunday afternoon game and I baked to the point where I had to get up and head to the concourse for an inning. The second time, we went at night and where the sun set, it was caught behind the luxury boxes and it was a lot nicer.

This is a park that goes beyond the game, though. There are other things to do and see. The concessions are aplenty. But it doesn’t take away from the product on the field, which is nice. They definitely push the pig part of the name as there is a lot of bacon reference. In fact, they have bacon hats and uniforms for certain days.

A great touch - you can pick up a pre-made scorecard with the day's lineups.

A great touch – you can pick up a pre-made scorecard with the day’s lineups.

The sight lines are nice and you can see everything going on. The bullpens are a bit interesting and it’s nice to be able to stroll around the entire park without missing a pitch. There’s also plenty of standing room, where you can lean on a small “table” and watch the game.

The team store is pretty big, too, which is super nice to see at this level. There were plenty of options, one of which was a team pin – something many minor league teams don’t seem to have. As a collector of pins, it’s nice to find these.

One very cool thing is the IronPigs’ social media center, which is in the concourse. It’s a small room where you can see all going on with the social media world. I spent an inning my first trip chatting with the person running it and it’s a very cool setup. It’s definitely a smart move to have something like this as social media is an extremely important part of society and sports.

Though the ad walls in left and right are a little too much, the park overall is really nice.

Though the ad walls in left and right are a little too much, the park overall is really nice.

One more cool thing – lineups. As person who keeps a scorebook at each game I attend, I always look for the lineup board. Coca-Cola park doesn’t have one, per say, but they take it up a notch by having a spot where you can pick up rosters and lineups at a customer service spot. The best part is the lineups are on a scorecard, so if you don’t have your own, it’s right there for you. Programs (titled Pork Illustrated) are free as you enter the park, too, which is a nice thing. Three stadiums (Allentown, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, New Britain) I’ve attended this year, so far, have free programs and it’s a touch that is very nice to see.

Though not many, there are a few negatives to cover – specifically advertising. In right field and left field there are monster walls full of ads. Though I understand revenue is important, this is a bit of an eyesore. It doesn’t block anybody from seeing the game, which is good, but it does make the stadium look a little cheaper.

The IronPigs also sett their media guide, something I don't see a lot of minor league teams still doing.

The IronPigs also sett their media guide, something I don’t see a lot of minor league teams still doing, or even having.

Parking was also a concern of sorts. Though both times it was pretty easy to get in and out, the first time was a nightmare when leaving the park. There was a massive holdup and it was backed up a long way. It did improve the second time immensely. One note – parking lots are set up so roads run through it, which means when you are exiting, you’ll likely have seas of people walking in the roads.

In the end this is a great experience and a great park to watch a game in. It helps, too, that it’s a farm team of the Phillies. They put some great work in here. Those who work here, at least those I interacted with, were top line, too. They were knowledgeable, friendly and fun, which is a good thing. It makes the overall experience that much better.

It’s also a relatively short drive for me (2.5 hours or so), so I can see getting back there a couple of more times this year. If you are looking for a solid minor league baseball experience, this is a good spot to choose.

Park Notes:

Coca-Cola Stadium
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies)
Visited on: June 10 and June 27.
Opponents: Indianapolis Indians (AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians) and Rochester Redwings (AAA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins)

Ratings (out of 10):

  • Stadium: 9.5
  • Concessions: 9
  • Parking: 8
  • Ambiance: 10
  • 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 [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Photo Blogging Challenge: July 2014’s theme is…

Jul 01

july2014

When coming up with this month’s theme, I realized some people might shy away thinking it’s too specific — but it’s not. Though a direct theme, I think this is where we get to see what people can come up with. I hope this doesn’t scare people away, rather challenge you a bit more to think inside — and outside — the box. That is, after all, what challenges are for.

We have a great group who participates on here and I hope this challenges you some. If it works out well, I have some other ideas for specific … yet broad … topics to hopefully use in the future.

I’d also really love to see us grow a little. So tell your blogging pals and all. You don’t need top-of-the-line photo equipment to participate. You just need something to take photos and the ability to blog about it. Let’s keep growing and challenging ourselves!

The theme is below… I look forward to seeing what people come up with!

As a reminder of a few things, let me copy and paste this from last month:

  • I have an e-mail reminder list set up (which I haven’t used lately because nobody seemed to want it. I’d like to start it again, so please let me know if you want in on it). Basically, I’ll e-mail the group with about 10 days left in the month to remind you. When I remember, I’ll also shoot one out the day before the end of the month, as a reminder to post the following day. I can’t always guarantee that one though! If you are not on the list, let me know in the comments below that you would like to be on it. Note: I was bad on this … please join the Facebook group if you can. I update there more often!
  • Second, I set up a Facebook group for those who are interested. Reminders and maybe some discussions or other things can be done there.
  • If you haven’t already, attempt to check out everybody’s posts and consider commenting. These challenges are great for personal growth, but it’s also nice to be interactive with all the others in the challenge! That’s one of the best parts of this challenge — interacting and seeing other people’s work!

Before we hit up this month’s theme, for new people, allow me to refresh the rules a bit.

Here’s how it will work.

  • On the first of each month (or close to it), I’ll have a blog post here with the theme for the month.
  • Over the course of the month, participants will take photos with their interpretation of the theme. On the last day of the month (or close to it), participants should  publish their blog post, which will include five photos from the month. (please don’t recycle photos from the past … the idea is to hopefully challenge you to go out and take new photos each month to interpret the theme). And please only use photos you took.
  • I’ll have a link-up thing at the end of my post so people can come and post the links to their posts so, hopefully, everybody can go go check out and comment on other posts.

There is no rule on equipment or anything. Use a cell phone. Use film. Use a point-and-shoot. Use a DSLR. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure you publish your blog post on the last day of each month, come here and link up.

It’s simple!

Your blog posts can be as simple or as in-depth as you want. I’ll likely talk a little about each photo. But if all you want to do is post photos, feel free. The idea of this is to give a small challenge and give everybody a chance to express themselves with photography, participate in a challenge and have something to blog about.

That’s it. Easy, right? So join in! Help us continue to grow this challenge by telling fellow bloggers/photographers about the challenge and hopefully it can become a great monthly thing!

For those still with me, this month’s theme is: Baseball.

I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with here. There are so many ways to do this and I think there will be some great stuff. I can’t wait to see.

Please make sure your blog post publishes Thursday, July 31

If you think you are going to take part in this, drop a comment below so we can see who all might be trying to tackle this challenge!

History of the challenge (past month’s themes – links to see everybody else’s posts are at the end of the linked post):

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: A game in Binghamton is a nice night

Jun 23

It’s almost crazy to think of a minor league baseball stadium built in 1992 as being old, but as the years go by – it becomes older.

To think that 1992 was more than 20 years ago will age a park, especially at the Double-A level. When NYSEG Stadium, in Binghamton, was built in 1992, it was quite the stadium. And over the years, it’s been used for other things, including high school football.

Home of the B-Mets.

Home of the B-Mets.

But, in the landscape of baseball, it’s an older stadium. Though one thing is certain – it’s still a pretty nice stadium.

I usually make a few trips to Binghamton per season as it’s an easy trip, never a problem to park and there are no issues getting tickets. There isn’t a bad seat in the house and, unless you go on a few uber-popular days, you can usually lounge a little more when there. I’ve sat on both sides of this field, as well as in the “upper deck,” which came on this trip. The third-base line is better if you want to avoid the sun.

You really are pretty close to the action, which is always a bonus. There’s a train yard out over the left-field wall, so sometimes you may get a train going through. That’s kind of a cool thing, though. The fences are average or so in length, which gives you the opportunity to see some homers.

The day's lineup.

The day’s lineup.

There aren’t a ton of bells and whistles with this stadium. They do quite a few games and such and there’s a kids area down the first-base line. The food selection is decent and the prices are OK, but not stellar. Case in point – I purchase two hot dogs and a soda. The soda cost about as much as the two dogs and if I had wanted French fries, they would have cost more than $4. A little steep when consider the hot dogs were $1.75 each, if I remember right.

As a hot dog nut, I wouldn’t classify those served in Binghamton as the best I’ve ever had a game and it’s not even close. But, I did enjoy them as they were cooked right and tasted just fine. I’d go above average on the hot dogs, say a 3.5 out of 5 or a 7 out of 10.

Keeping book, as always, on my Eephus League Halfliner.

Keeping book, as always, on my Eephus League Halfliner.

If you are looking to watch a baseball game, this is a good spot. The seats are pretty decent and you have a good amount of room. But if you are looking for a lot of extras, this might not be a place for you.

In recent years, there have been rumors about the Double-A team leaving Binghamton, which possibly could open the stadium up to be a Single-A team. This stadium, actually, would be really top-notch for that level (especially in the short-season Single-A New York-Penn League), though drawing fans might take a hit in that regard. Still, even with the rumors, Double-A ball remains in Binghamton and, hopefully, it will stay that way.

Park Notes:

NYSEG Stadium
Binghamton, New York
Home of the Binghamton Mets (AA affiliate of the New York Mets)
Visited on: Monday, May 26
Opponent: New Britain Rock Cats (AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins)

Ratings (out of 10):

  • Stadium: 7
  • Concessions: 6
  • Parking: 8
  • Ambiance: 7
  • 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 [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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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.

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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