Off to Maine on a nice Saturday Morning. However, I-95 was not so nice. Being a holiday weekend, no surprise there. It was interesting how many different interstates you need to take to go from New Jersey to Maine…actually made the trip faster. Syracuse was playing in the NCAA Lacrosse Semis in Foxboro, MA and I didn’t even realize it was at Gillette until the morning we left. Our timing was just a bit off, otherwise that would have been great to see the Orange (who went on to win the lacrosse title…woo-hoo) and knock down an NFL Stadium. We set up shop at Embassy Suites near the airport and this was much better (and cheaper) than downtown Portland. Afterall, it’s about a 5-8 minute ride to get downtown and driving/parking was easy. We walked around the Old Port, which was a district with a lot of side and specialty shops, restaurants and bars. Such a nice vibe here with every one so friendly and the place has plenty to do. I also toured the outside of the Cumberland County Civic Center. We had a wonderful dinner at Fore Street and since I’m allergic to seafood, I had an excellent halibut. It suck not to be able to eat lobster here. The other restaurants we ate at on the trip were great as well: Becky’s Diner and Flatbread Pizza Co.
After a morning drive to the classic Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, it was off to Hadlock Field in Downtown to see Portland vs Connecticut in Eastern League action. The ballpark sits in an underdeveloped Northeast side of town. Where to park was confusing coming from the city as there were two garages next to each other. One was free (the Maine Medical Center), the other was $5. I guessed the $5 one was the right lot. There were a lot of aspects to this ballpark I really liked. The old iron “Hadlock Field” sign in the front was great. It also had one of the best concourses I’ve seen so far with a ton of decorative items to keep it lively. Some of the features were a wall of fame, list of big-leaguers, yearly team pictures, Eastern League team stadiums, today’s lineups/standings and a section for team awards. Good Stuff! Inside, the bowl was awkward with some oddly placed sections of bleachers. Also, the seats sat on metal instead of concrete. No roof here either. I always appreciate creatively and attempts to go back to old school (I love both old and new parks), but this just didn’t work for me. With that said, there were some neat touches like the Maine Monster in left and the Pavilion seats in right. The Expo Center along the right foul-line also provided an interesting view. The atmosphere was awesome and it works so well that they are Red Sox affiliates. Red Sox Nation is strong in New England, it amazes me how many different regions are passionate about their team. We sat through light rain in the first three innings, but things cleared fast and by the fifth it was nothing but sunshine. The Sea Dogs took the game 8-3 behind a strong performance by Ryne Lawson. A full review will be up soon (Once I get that part of the website going). After the game, we took a nice ferry ride out to Casco Bay for a “Sunset Trip”. Next its off to the Merrimack Valley!
As we left Portland, we took a scenic drive first through Concord’s Main Street and saw the State House. Manchester is just a short 20-25 minute drive South. After walking around the outside of the Verizon Wireless Arena, it was time to see the Fisher Cats. Today’s game featured Trenton vs New Hampshire. This got me thinking that this is the 7th Eastern League ballpark I have seen. Only 5 to go! This may be the first league where I see all the team facilities. Anyway, unfortunately I did not like this ballpark and there aren’t too many facilities you will hear me say I didn’t like. First, the name: disgusting. Not only that but everything is sponsored! Even the freakin’ logo has “Dental Dentist” at the bottom. Stadium parking is atrocious and the website/city say parking and street parking is available, but I couldn’t get any info on where some lots were. We ended up on the street about a half mile way. You enter through the back of the stadium and there is a small lot in front, yet they couldn’t even put a face to it, so there really isn’t any exterior design. The seating bowl is interesting with just one level going from foul pole to foul pole, but the seats in the outfield are not angled at all, so you basically are looking at the centerfielders. The last complaint is the hotel in left-field. Normally, I’m fine with this, but you have a nice view of the downtown skyline and now that it is completely obstructed. I feel like such a complainer and am not normally like this with stadiums, but too many things didn’t work. I did like the concourse and the newly constructed Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame. Fans were good and into it as well, though they could care less about the parent Blue Jays (remember we’re still in Sox Country!). In the game, Trenton dominated 7-0 with 1,2 and 3 runs in the middle innings to pull away. The city itself seems to have undergone a revitalization and had some nicer areas than I envisioned. Wanted to see the Millyard Museum, but that was closed Mondays. Definitely looking forward to checking out the arena sometime.
After the game, we did a little more sightseeing into the Monadnock Region and stayed in Keene. Then it was homeward bound before a return visit to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. Overall, a good successful trip with a couple of new ballparks bringing the stadium count to 61!