Stadium and Arena Visits

Reviews and Photos of Arenas, Ballparks and Stadiums in the United States and Canada during Sporting Events

  • Archives

DC Trip

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 3, 2015

augtrip

 

I absolutely love tennis and sorely miss my playing days that go back way too long for me to count years. Fortunately, the sport has been fascinating at the professional level for the last decade as the top tier on the Men’s side is full of high drama and memorable matches. The downside is that only the Semifinals and Finals of events (particularly the majors) garner attention as the Big Four beat up the rest of the field. That has changed the last few years as we’ve seen guys like Wawrinka, Nishikori, Berdych and Cilic make things interesting. I’m all for this as long as the newest crop (Kyrgios, Raonic, Tomic) doesn’t join and revert the sport back to the boring 90’s when it was nothing but 3 rally points by big servers. 

Anyway, I have yet to attend a tennis event, despite the US Open being a two-hour drive away for me over the last nine years. With the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center undergoing a massive renovation not to be completed until 2018, I started thinking about making my way to the smaller events, working my way up to New York. Within driving distance there is New Haven, DC and even the Masters events are doable in Montreal, Toronto and Cincinnati. This year, I’ve focused on the Citi Open and I will be in the Nation’s Capital this Friday as the tournament reaches the Quarterfinal stage. I’ll be at the evening session and reviewing the Rock Creek Tennis Center, a 7,500-seat stadium. This will be different as it is my first non-team event that gets reviewed (not too mention a new sport). The Women are also playing the event, but their field is quite weak and I really hope that the two matches in the Friday evening session in the main stadium are on the Men’s side. I’ll certainly be following the progression thru the week as Murray, Nishikori, Cilic, Dmitrov and Isner are in the draw.

Joining me on this journey will be my Dad, who recently retired and is enjoying a very much deserved summer. He hasn’t been to DC since the 70s and is itching to return for a visit to this remarkable city. He’ll be leaving from Rochester, NY early Friday Morning and we’ll meet up in Gaithersburg before convening at the tennis tournament. Saturday is reserved for sightseeing as we’ve scoped out some Smithsonian Museums and then we’ll finish the day checking out the cool neighborhood of Georgetown. Dad will head home Sunday morning while I make the short trip southeastward to tiny Waldorf, MD. That is where I’ll visit Regency Furniture Stadium for an Atlantic League matinee between the Southern Maryland Blue Claws and the Bridgeport Bluefish. Back next week with a recap!

.

Posted in Visit Plans | Leave a Comment »

Stadiums and Arenas Map

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 27, 2015

.
Finally, after a few years of sporadic work, I completed getting markers for all of the arenas, ballparks and stadiums from
 The List on to Google Maps. In the beginning of this hobby all the way back in the early 2000s, to geographically see the venues on The List, I used Microsoft Streets & Trips, because frankly Mapquest sucked (and still does). I put a pushpin on all the cities that had a facility and this was a great tool to not only see where I had been, but also to make trip plans. I still use this program (a version from 2010, which I hope survives on future computers) as it helps immensely.

But this did not resonate online well and even though, I put screenshots of the maps online, it was a pain and not practical to update. So, very slowly, I built a Google Map with each of the 1300+ arenas, ballparks and stadiums marked. The cool thing is the satellite feature allowing me to put the marker exactly where the facility is (and with a nice overhead shot to boot). Red markers indicate that I have yet to make an official visit to that facility, while the Green ones are for those that I have visited. Blame Google for not being able to sort the markers in each category alphabetically. Extremely frustrating as I’m able to see and do that on the creator’s end, but not as a visitor. It’s also irritating how one can not properly set the default view (satellite and an appropriate zoom). Despite these drawbacks, the map came out pretty well as I’ll be keeping it up to date and using it as a planning guide along with still holding on to old-school methods. Check out the map above (click the brackets in the upper right to enlarge) or go to: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zhu3olRqLfQI.kWEuQjCl4q98

.

.

Posted in Other | Leave a Comment »

Back at Sahlen’s Stadium

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 20, 2015

Sahlens Interior

.

In prior posts, I’ve talked about the plight of the Rochester Rhinos soccer team, so I won’t do that here. However, I will highly recommend an excellent piece by Empire of Soccer on The Rise and Fall of the Rochester Rhinos. Very well done. I’m back in Upstate New York for an extended weekend with the family and last Saturday went to check out USL action as the Rhinos took on Charlotte at a muggy Sahlen’s Stadium. I would say there were about 3,000 on hand for the game, which is still decent for the third division, but the crowd looks small in the 13,768 seat stadium. It was good to see more die-hard supporters on hand as the Oak Street Brigade had about 30 people to stand, chant, sing and cheer all game. There’s also the Flower City Stampede at the other end, but with maybe 8 of that group and competing songs, it’s definitely for the best if they just headed over to Section 101 and join the Brigade. The crowd did the “Rochester”…”Rhinos” chant and they got on the refs during this game. It’s a good game atmosphere, I just wish the team would stop making it so minor-league Americana. There’s music played during each throw-in/corner kick, there’s t-shirt tosses, mascots, cheerleaders. This is soccer people! While I know the Rhinos have one of the best crowds/overall atmosphere’s in the USL, it’s so hard for me to judge it fairly when I’ve been to countless games in the 90s where the place was wild. As for the match, the first half was lackluster, while the Rhinos were the much better team in the second half. They pushed Charlotte and had a few chances (including a disallowed goal), but in the end, the final was a disappointing 0-0 draw.

Sahlen’s Stadium has a great design that is intimate and the upper-deck on the north side of the stadium features an awesome overhead view to go along with the city skyline in the background. However, the main issue with the stadium is the lack of care. The scoreboard is an embarrassing eyesore with handfuls of missing and distorted panels. Meanwhile, the concourses and walkways have so much blank space. Nowhere is there acknowledgment of the team’s four championships in their early years. Or even a mention of the old Lancers back in the NASL. Rochester native Abby Wambach just gets the walkway named after her and nothing else on the city’s biggest stars. Only small plaques for the team’s hall of fame sit on one wall. There could be so much done to liven up the place. For the game, we parked at the parking lot near Frontier Field, where the Red Wings were playing. That walk from Frontier to Sahlen’s is not long, but the change in scenery and overall feel is drastic as one goes from the enjoyable success of nearly 20 year old Frontier to a great pitch, but flawed stadium at Sahlen’s that is marked with sadness by what could have been.

.

Posted in Visits | Leave a Comment »

A Ride on the Rails

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 14, 2015

0712151442

.
Out of the 51 minor league ballparks I have visited, MCU Park in Brooklyn is rated the best. Given this distinction, I felt I owed it to the other ballparks (silly, I know) to truly make sure it is the best since my last visit came in the earlier years of this stadium chasing project. My first experience in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn was indeed awesome, except the whole getting there part. Driving in this madhouse was not good times and looking at the NYPL schedule, a Sunday game would work the best, which coincides with jammed beaches. So mass transit was the alternative and it meant an experience on three train/subway services. I’ve been around NYC several times, so while none of this travel was new, it still is a bit unnerving for me given my bloodlines not being from the area.

On Saturday, our family drove out to Long Island for a surprise retirement party thrown for my wife’s uncle. On the way, I left my car at the Denville NJ Transit station for the end of my journey. While my wife took the car back home Sunday, I got on the LIRR at Farmingdale, where the 30 minute train ride would stop at the transfer station in Jamaica. I’ve always heard “Never change in Jamaica” and been perplexed by that since that is where most commuters need to change if going to other places that their train does not offer. The process seemed simple enough and the TV screen showed Track 2 as the spot for the train to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Station. Fail. Turned out to be on Track 1 and only when I saw a few other people confused and scrambling to the other side did I realize their error. Once I made it to Brooklyn, it was off to the subway, where I managed to find vending machines only accepting EXACT change, so there’s now some extra cash on my Metro card that will linger for awhile. It was simple enough to find the D train that went to Coney Island (following people in beach gear added extra peace of mind). However, this subway took forever as construction on the N line meant that it was picking up those stops too and it was taking long enough that I asked someone on the train if this does indeed go to Coney Island.

It did and I stepped out into a refreshing ocean breeze that felt so nice compared to the heat that was baking inland. Hoards of people swarmed Surf Ave and though the chaos of the area is overwhelming, it is remarkable to take in all of the famous sites. Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Luna Park, The Cyclone, Boardwalk Games, The Beach and The Ocean. It’s hard to believe that Hurricane Sandy devastated this area just three years ago and seeing the resurgence is inspiring. In fact, Luna Park and its famous rides were in jeopardy of closing even before the storm hit and it makes the successful turnaround even more remarkable.
.

MCU Park Interior

.
Within this whole area is the terrific MCU Park, home of the single-A Cyclones and I don’t think there could be a better location for a minor-league baseball park. The place indeed remains a top ballpark and it starts with the way Brooklyn treats baseball. Respectful displays include the Jackie Robinson/Pee-Wee Reese statue on the outside and the Wall of Remembrance on the side of the ballpark. Inside, the stadium fits it’s surroundings perfectly with neon lighting, a boardwalk to the outfield seats and concession stands looking like the ones just beyond on the beach. The ballpark design incorporates all of the great outfield background and while baseball may seem like a sideshow to everything else going on, the fans are more intuitive than many other places. There was bit of a dropoff in atmosphere and crowd size compared to the last game I saw here, but those aspects are still decent. As for the game, the Cyclones dropped this one to Aberdeen 9-3, their first home loss in their last seven games (my 2015 ugliness continues for home teams). My journey home began with a 50 minute subway ride on the F train back to Penn Station and then the long route on NJ Transit back to Denville, where I took advantage of the free overnight parking. While it may be a pain to get to MCU Park, all of the other awesome intangibles make it a destination ballpark.

.

Posted in Visits | Leave a Comment »

Musings

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 8, 2015

US Soccer

Yes, Soccer fandom is certainly growing nicely in the US, however let’s stop equating World Cup viewing eyeballs to the sport becoming “mainstream”

.

– The Women’s World Cup pulled in some decent TV ratings, specifically the final, which garnered the highest viewing audience for a soccer match ever in the USA. With this news, the accompanying articles came flying in this week, talking about the growth of the game and how it is becoming mainstream. These stories come out after EVERY World Cup and the approximate number of eyeballs watching (and most of the public does not realize how much insane guesswork goes into these so-called Ratings) does not equate to the “growth” of the game. The majority of these people that watch US soccer get caught up in the patriotism as we Americans love getting behind the U-S-A, no matter the event. Take an informal poll of people that you know watched the women’s game and see how many genuinely have or will become fans of domestic or international soccer? A better question would be to those people that did watch the women, how many knew about Copa America going on around the same time, arguably the 3rd biggest soccer tournament in the world. While I do absolutely love our patriotism, comradery, passion and youthful energy for these events, let’s hold on the seemingly annual discussion of how the game is exploding in popularity because people watch a World Cup. We can safely say that the soccer momentum is gradually building (see the American Outlaws and the MLS Supporter Groups) and it’s been a thrill to both be a part of it and watch it over the last decade, but it will be awhile until the overall game is “mainstream”.
.

– What’s the deal with tennis players touching each other now at there post-match handshake at the net. Does anyone else notice that instead of just shaking hands, male tennis players have a relatively new tendency to gently touch the opponent’s stomach, chest, or my new favorite, the cheek (see Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during the early Wimbledon rounds). I’m not opposed, but it’s a little weird and why is this now the hip thing?
.

– Does anyone else get annoyed with the sports ticker at the bottom of the screen during events on ESPN, Fox, etc. NBC Sports Network at least does it right by not using it during events. I find the use of a ticker incredibly distracting when watching event and wish we would get away from this during games. I feel like in this day and age with smartphones, fans can get the info they want pretty quickly instead of seeing the gibberish at the bottom that has 75% useless “news” or scores. Good news are decent trends as the 24 hour sports networks have stopped using the bottom ticker during bigger sporting events.
.

– Less than 60 days until Football is back….Yes! Yes! Yes! 

.

Posted in Other | Leave a Comment »

June 2015 Stadium of the Month – Pensacola Bayfront Stadium

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 29, 2015

pensacola

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium (image from Stadium Journey)

.
It’s summer…so let’s go to the beach for this one. Pensacola, Florida absolutely nailed their new ballpark in 2012 as they took over the AA Carolina Mudcats. The ballpark in Zebulon, NC still retained baseball in the much more appropriate Carolina League, while Pensacola became an ideal spot for a relocated Southern League franchise. The beautifully nicknamed Blue Wahoos became the city’s team as they took up residence in a spectacular new park along the bayfront. It took awhile for a name to settle, but Pensacola Bayfront Stadium works quite well. The accolades have poured in and the ballpark is #2 in the most recent Stadium Journey MiLB Ballpark Rankings.

The first and most obvious thing to love about this ballpark is the location. Sitting in the stands and looking out at a beautifully manicured baseball field with a body of water beyond the fence and a pleasant ocean breeze is sublime. Though there is no nearby beach, the surrounding greenspace is wonderful and downtown is great for a walkthrough with plenty of places for a pre or post game stop. The architecture of the stadium is designed to reflect Pensacola’s unique buildings and though I’m not a huge fan of the seating bowl (see New Hampshire and Hillsboro for my disdain of this design), I can live with it given the other great features of the ballpark. Food options are impressive and fans continue to stream thru the gates. There are a lot of new parks that have opened across the Southern League and though the bar is set high, Pensacola really stands out as a place to check out.  

.

 

Posted in Stadium of the Month | Leave a Comment »

The Summer Baseball Leagues Update – 2015

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 22, 2015

Muzzy Field 2

Hello Muzzy Field! On your 100th birthday, we welcome you and the Bristol Blues to The List

.
June updates to The List focus on the short-season leagues, including Summer-Collegiate baseball, where those looking for quaint purity can enjoy America’s pastime. Let’s start in New England and one of the more successful circuits, the Futures League. I wrote about the remarkable success and rebirth of The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach last year, however things have sadly gone downhill over the past several months. The owners of the Raging Tide couldn’t keep going and they tried to sell the team to someone in the local community, but there were no takers. The team was sold and moved to Bristol, CT (more on that later) and all that great work at The Ballpark seemed short lived. However, a team would return to this summer community in the form of the new, independent East Coast Baseball League. That lasted all of one month as mis-management led to the ECBL’s quick demise. There were teams ready to go and rather than see hard work and ready players go to waste, a hastily put together North Country Baseball League was formed, involving four of the ECBL franchises, including OOB. With the person running the NCBL also in charge of “Cheeburger, Cheeburger“, it’s hard to see the NCBL stay alive. But all the best to them and I hope this is not the sad end to a true success story in Maine.

OK, where were we? Oh yeah, the Futures League. So the arrival of the Bristol Blues is awesome! That means that Muzzy Field will be hosting games and this 4,900 seat relic is turning 100 years old this summer. On a trip to New Britain in 2013, I stopped to take a look at Muzzy and am thrilled to see a professional team play here. In the Coastal Plain League, we have a couple teams not on The List, but worth mentioning. With Columbia’s Capital City Stadium now gone, nearby Lexington County has become home of the Bluefish and they opened a baseball stadium last month that looks very nice. Also starting play in 2015 are the Holly Springs Salamanders, who have moved into the 1500-seat North Main Athletic Complex. Despite the college field sounding name, it’s also a nice place. There is also a new ballpark in the Prospect League, where the Kokomo Jackrabbits will play. Despite numerous issues at the stadium site, it’s amazing this stadium opened up to baseball after so much controversy (which is still ongoing).

Finally, in affiliated ball we have one change. The New York-Penn League continues to cheat on its name and the Jamestown Jammers have moved to Morgantown, WV. With a classy logo, the West Virginia Black Bears will begin play at Monongalia County Ballpark. It’s neatly built into a hillside with 2,500 fixed seats and more on the berms. The ballpark is actually in Granville, just across the river from Morgantown, and yes, it is the new home for West Virginia University. This is a trend I am disliking as I prefer college baseball to be separated from cities hosting professional baseball. I understand all the reasons why this happens, but am not a fan. Russell Diethrick Park will still live as the Jammers have turned up in the Prospect League, replacing Lorain County. 

.

Posted in General Stadia | Leave a Comment »

The Old Parks

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 14, 2015

 

FirstEnergy Stadium Interior

Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium, built in 1950. What a beauty!

.
Perhaps no other league in the U.S. personifies modern day sport more than minor-league baseball. In this day and age, fans want more out of the sporting experience and with it being hard to draw crowds for “lesser-known” players, the recent 30-year ballpark boom has focused on modern-day amenities and comfort. Yet, baseball has a good number of purists that simplify adore the sport for what it is and find nothing more relaxing than just sitting back and watching a ballgame in the fresh air under a grandstand. Thankfully, there are still a few ballparks left to take in this experience. Using the general human retirement age of 65, below are the senior citizen affiliated ballparks still in action, starting from Triple-A to Single-A. Worth mentioning for those still looking for baseball in a pure, historic setting, check out many of the Summer-Collegiate leagues (especially in the Northeast), where many of these parks survive by hosting baseball for a few months:

.
1)  McCoy Stadium (1942)  –  Pawtucket Red Sox  –  (AAA) International League

The crushing news of the Boston Red Sox buying this AAA franchise means a likely end to beautiful McCoy Stadium. Given that the owners took care of Fenway, you would think they would have a desire to keep using McCoy. But no, of course in the end it is all about $. Thankfully, those in Rhode Island are putting up a fight for the amount of public cost that a new downtown Providence ballpark would be. The Red Sox are using the leverage that other New England cities would drool at this opportunity. Unfortunately and inevitably, they are probably right. Better get to Pawtucket sooner than later, for a wonderful old park that has an old-time atmosphere with limited distractions often seen at this level of baseball.

.
2)  FirstEnergy Stadium (1950)  –  Reading Fightin Phils  –  (AA) Eastern League

Now this is a stadium sure to not go anywhere for a long time. Reading has done an amazing job keeping things modern, as FirstEnergy Stadium features numerous party decks and even a plaza that has a streetfest vibe to it with live music. Meanwhile, the grandstand remains and the colorful blue, yellow and red seats add to the festive vibe of attending a game here. If only they didn’t switch their name to the ridiculous Fightin Phils.

.
3)  Jackie Robinson Ballpark (1914)  –  Daytona Tortugas  –  (A) Florida League

This a place that has surpassed its 100th birthday and though there have been multiple renovations (1962 is probably a more accurate birthdate), it still fits the bill as an older park. The honor to Jackie Robinson in the name comes from the city being the first to allow for an exhibition including Jackie.

.
4)   McKechnie Field (1923)  –  Brandenton Marauders  –  (A) Florida League

Not only do the Pittsburgh Pirates call this home for Spring Training, but it also plays host to the hometown Bradenton Marauders each year. What a beauty this ballpark is and recent Fenway-style renovations and tweaks have made it all the better. Even more unique is that you won’t see much of the brick or large grandstand roof found in many of the older northeastern ballparks. Instead, this is a Floridian park with it’s own flair. An absolute must-visit.

.
5)  Calvin Falwell Field (1940)  –  Lynchburg Hillcats  –  (A) Carolina League

Lynchburg is a charming Virginia town and I enjoyed my visit there last summer. The old City Stadium has been a part of the community for decades and though this park resembles a more recent minor-league stadium, the seating bowl and grandstand do bear a slight resemblance to a different era.

.
6)  Sam Lynn Ballpark (1941)  –  Bakersfield Blaze  –  (A) California League

The California League leads the list with three ballparks built in the 1940s and while this wouldn’t normally fly in other parts of the country, the budgeting and debt in the Golden State mean that it will likely be a good amount of time until we see another one built. This ballpark in Bakersfield is infamously known for being pointed to the west, which means summer starts are at 7:45 PM local time, to avoid a sun delay.

.
7)  Municipal Stadium (1942)  –  San Jose Giants  –  (A) California League

San Francisco has an ideal affiliate in San Jose as there are signs all over Municipal Stadium that point to the Giants success. Territorial rights are huge in MLB circles and San Fran has marked this territory over Oakland.

.
8)  Recreation Park (1946)  –  Visalia Rawhide  –  (A) California League

This is the smallest ballpark by capacity in affiliated minor-league ball as the true seating capacity is less than 2,000. It is a very quirky ballpark that makes a visit worthwhile.

.
9)  Modern Woodmen Park (1931)  –  Quad Cities River Bandits  –  (A) Midwest League

Don’t be fooled by the “Modern” (haha) name and the remade interior. This is indeed an old ballpark and they have something special along the banks of the Mississippi. The view of the Centennial Bridge is remarkable and though the river has infringed on the ballpark before, recent renovations have protected it from floods.

.
10)  Ashford University Field (1937)  –  Clinton Lumberkings  –  (A) Midwest League

A slice of Americana in the heart of the Midwest. Clinton’s home is a classic step back into a different era and it almost makes you think of the Field of Dreams….maybe because that sits relatively close, a short drive away in Dyersville.

.
11)  Community Field (1947)  –  Burlington Bees  –  (A) Midwest League

Baseball has been played at this site since 1947, but the grandstand dates back to 1973 and it is a remarkable story. Volunteers spent nearly two years rebuilding a grandstand destroyed by fire, thus making it a truly Community Field.

.
12)  McCormick Field (1924)  –  Asheville Tourists  –  (A) South-Atlantic League

Located in a mountain setting within a terrific, vibrant city, McCormick Field is a destination ballpark. This is a special place and probably Top 3 if this list were to be ordered by favorites. Atmosphere, setting, design, location…it has it all.

.
13)  Grayson Stadium (1926)  –  Savannah Sand Gnats  –  (A) South-Atlantic League

Shed a tear for Historic Grayson Stadium as we will lose this one at the end of the season. The Sand Gnats are moving to a new stadium in Columbia, a move that I loathe. Columbia already has the University, where the Gamecocks are quite popular. There aren’t any plans that I know of to destroy Grayson, but there are also no other plans right now for another team to move in. As if you need another reason to visit beautiful Savannah, here is another.

.
14)  Municipal Stadium (1930)  –  Hagerstown Suns  –  (A) South-Atlantic League

I was here last week and was not all that enamored. The abundant use of metal and aluminum is a turn-off, while the few fans that show up make for a quiet place to visit. Rumors have been swirling for years and it is shocking that the Suns have not left yet. Kudos to Fredericksburg and Winchester for standing up and not getting drained for money as they refuse to have a giant public expense for a private owner. 

.
.

Short-Season Leagues

15)  Centennial Field (1906)  –  Vermont Lake Monsters  –  (A) NY-Penn League
16)  Bowman Field (1926)  –  Williamsport CrossCutters  –  (A) NY-Penn League
17)  Nat Bailey Stadium (1950)  –  Vancouver Canadians  –  (A) Northwest League
18)  Calfee Park (1935)  –  Pulaski Yankees  –  (A) Appalachian League
19)  Bowen Field (1939)  –  Bluefield Blue Jays  –  (A) Appalachian League
20)  Sam Suplizio Field (1949)  –  Grand Junction Rockies  –  (A) Pioneer League
21)  Centene Stadium (1940)  –  Great Falls Voyagers  –  (A) Pioneer League
22)
 Kindrick Legion Field (1932)  –  Helena Brewers  –  (A) Pioneer League

.

Posted in Ballparks | Leave a Comment »

The Suns and The Keys

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 2, 2015

Frederick's Carroll Creek Park

.
I’ve often had to look at the Northwest part of Maryland on a map for work purposes and this trip was nice to put a better visual in my mind. The small cities of Frederick and Hagerstown are just a half-hour apart and they both have a single-A baseball franchise, thus making for a convenient weekend visit. I started in Frederick because that city has more to see and Saturday’s game was in the evening. It was jammed downtown when I pulled into a parking garage and the plethora of 20-somethings made sense once I saw they were headed to a
Craft Beer Fest. The City of Clustered Spires really has become a trendy, hot spot for those looking to get away from DC, but still close enough to commute. I absolutely loved this downtown with Carroll Creek Park being the highlight. A remarkably creative flood control project done over the last few decades has turned this creek into a calm and stationary stream of water that the city built around and turned into a mini-version of San Antonio’s RiverWalk. As evidenced by the beerfest, this is a great place for events and for citizens to take a walk and enjoy the day.  Especially awesome is the Community Bridge, an artistic mural with so many intrinsic details and images that the public contributed to. The park is less than ten years old and further expansion/development plans are just going to enhance what is a terrific place in the city.

The rest of the downtown area is great as well with so many historic buildings and stories on displays along the way. This is a place with a colorful past, especially during the Civil War era and a walking tour illustrates that quite well. I had lunch at Firestone’s and while the bar was great, the food as eh. Shoulda picked Brewer’s Alley. There are tons of choices in this city, including Brian Voltaggio’s Volt (I love Top Chef, but didn’t feel like getting a super fancy meal). After strolling thru town some more and picking up soda at a cool Pop Shop, I headed to the hotel a few minutes away to rest a bit from the heat.
.

Harry Grove Stadium Interior

.
The Keys game was at 6 PM and a good crowd joined. Of course, the usual reason for a decent draw at a minor-league baseball game is fireworks and that indeed was the case here (I try to avoid fireworks night to get a more accurate gauge of fan support/atmosphere, but this was inevitable). After walking thru the oddly elongated parking lot and getting past the 10 minute wait at will call, I found a ballpark very common amongst Orioles affiliates. Though on the older side (1989), Harry Grove Stadium has the usual features seen in places like Aberdeen, Bowie and Delmarva…a middle aisle in the seating bowl, a carousel, an intermediate press box and a design laid out in brick (in this case, somewhat drab in color). The home of the Keys was built just on the cusp of the ballpark boom and they have at least made some efforts to personalize the park, like the orange lower seats. Displays however are sorely lacking. The crowd also partakes in a cool tradition during the middle of the 7th inning, where the fans shake their car keys as a corny, yet catchy and enjoyable theme song plays. In the game, Frederick just could not overcome the 6-spot that the Lynchburg Hillcats put up in the first inning. Offensively, the Keys would exceed that number, but pitching/defense let them down in the fourth inning as well with another six runs scored by the Hillcats. By the way, it’s almost impossible to spot a home run ball thanks to the three tiers of advertisements on the outfield wall and the invisible yellow line. Frederick ended up falling to Lynchburg, 12-8 in a 3 hour, 25 minute game, badly illustrating why the “A” level leagues need the same time rules that AA and AAA have this season. One final note, keeping in mind seating capacity is 5,400. The announced attendance was 8,344. Estimated actual attendance by me…4,000 (see picture above). Yikes, inflating numbers sadly remains alive.

Sunday started with me doing some forecasting. Given their topography, Hagerstown is a favorable spot for t-storms and I was fairly convinced they would get one on this day. It was almost enough for me to consider an alternate plan (like maybe heading down to Woodbridge, VA for a game instead), but I decided to risk it and dearly hope the scattered nature of the storms would work in my favor. Before heading to the Hub City, I traveled US 40-Alt, better known as The National Road, the first true road in this country. Taking me through small places like Middlestown and Boonsboro, I began the morning at the first Washington Monument, located in it’s own State Park along the Appalachian Trail. While the monument was enjoyable, it was the view from the top that was really worth the short hike (and to get away from the gnats at the bottom). On this Sunday, they also had a demonstration featuring the firing of a Civil War era cannon. While many think of Gettysburg and that part of PA as “Civil War”, this section of Maryland is so historical and the state does an excellent job displaying various markers and historical sites.
.

Washington Monument

.
I then went into Hagerstown, which is smaller with less to do than Frederick, yet still charming in it’s own right. I keep throwing around “historical” for lack of alternate words, yet this was another downtown that displayed it and I enjoyed walking around and admiring the architecture and informational markers. With a lack of touristy stuff in the city itself, I stopped into the visitors center and unexpectedly enjoyed a 30-minute conversation with Roger who’s wealth of local knowledge was remarkable. Small world in that he talked to me about Nathaniel Rochester, a resident of Hagerstown and founder of my hometown of Rochester, NY. There is also some German heritage in Hagerstown and a well-regarded Bavarian restaurant called Schmankerl Stube was my original plan for lunch. However the heat and humidity made me not crave a filling German meal, so I opted for 28 South, a trendy spot that was a great choice too.

With skies still clear, I got to Municipal Stadium early to get all of my pictures without any disrupting rain. At the same time, I wondered why do the Suns start their Sunday games at 3:05 PM instead of around 1 PM like everyone else? Anyway, mission accomplished with the pictures and I sat down for first pitch with dark clouds gathering. Despite the threat, amazingly we skirted the storms and came away with just some light rain that allowed for the game to be played in it’s entirety and myself rejoicing in a reasonable arrival time back home. The Suns are celebrating their 35th year in Hagerstown and that is an anniversary worth celebrating. Often the subject of a relocation, the team has survived despite neglect by both city and team ownership. Municipal Stadium is not exactly a cute, charming 1920’s era ballpark. Instead it is a deteriorating facility that was originally built on the cheap and badly in need of some TLC. While it’s unique to experience affiliated baseball without the classic appearance or usual shtick, the state of this ballpark and franchise is sad. As for the game, The Suns fell 7-5 and I have yet to see a new stadium home team victory in 2015. Look for reviews on the right later in the week. That wraps up a weekend of baseball in an area of the country I wouldn’t normally visit and I’m so glad sports brought me to Northwest Maryland.
.

Municipal Stadium Interior

.

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

Baseball in Northwest Maryland

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 26, 2015

HGR-FREd

.
Plans are all set for a weekend visit to an area rich in colonial and civil war history…the northwestern portion of Maryland. Here, there are a couple of small cities on either side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where I’ll check out a pair of ‘A’ level ballparks. There’s more to see in Frederick, so I’ll start there on Saturday and then head to Harry Grove Stadium for a 6 PM contest against Lynchburg. Sunday’s game will be a half-hour away in Hagerstown and amazingly, these two close cities do not play in the same league. The Suns play in the South Atlantic League and I’ll be at Municipal Stadium for a 3 PM game against Kannapolis. It’s been a dicey few years in the Hub City as owner Bruce Quinn has been searching tirelessly for a new ballpark in many places, thus far to no avail. In the meantime, I’ll visit an active ballpark 85 years old. Looks like Summer has set in across the Mid-Atlantic and hopefully I miss any game delaying t-storms. Back next week with a wrap-up of stadium visits #159 and #160!

.

Posted in Visit Plans | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.