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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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