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Baseball in Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 29, 2012

Our trip down to South-Central PA started in York and prior to checking out the ballpark, we spent some time around exploring the city. Its rather shady surrounding downtown, but once you get inside the core, things are nice. Lots of historic, brick buildings dot downtown and there is a lot of very old history that originated in York. We checked out a few of the Heritage Trust sites and though they’re mainly empty (and deceptively open), for the most part, they’re worthy places to spend a few hours. The Colonial Complex not only provides a tour of an 18th century home and tavern, but does a good job explaining the history of York. We then walked down to the historical museum, before taking the most uncomfortable, awkward tour ever at the Bonham House. I don’t want to get into details, because I kind of felt bad….but yikes, was it awful.

Dinner at the White Rose Bar & Grill was decent and then we headed to Sovereign Bank Stadium under threatening skies. Nasty storms off to the Northwest fell apart as they approached and fizzled enough to just a very little bit of light rain once they arrived in York. Luckily, this still meant game on for us, but not after a 45 minute delay at the start. That gave me a chance to explore an all-around great minor league park that made a terrific impression. I was impressed by just about everything outside, around and inside the park. Located on the Northern edge of downtown just past a railroad stop, the brick facility fits in perfectly with other buildings in city. Walking through the Brooks Robinson Plaza, several displays describe the history of the site. The seating design is simple and a bit small (just over 4,000 fixed seats), but has several great touches to make it stand out. At the end of the seating bowl, seats curl in so they face home plate along the foul line. Also, a nice little touch were the benches along the outfield wall, where fans can sit while their kids play on the lawn behind them. Lots of good cheap, food options are available too. Just two very minor complaints: more White Roses displays would have been nice, along with something for the War of the Roses with Lancaster. I’ll have more details in the review, but let’s just say I really loved this park. As for the game, a 0-0 pitcher’s duel was broken in the eighth when Southern Maryland scored two as they went on to win. Special thanks to Cindy Burkholder on the visit!

Sunday, we crossed the Susquehanna River into Lancaster County, where we took the day to tour and learn about Amish Country. We spent most of the day in Intercourse. Yes, Intercourse….this is the same county that brings you other unique town names like Bird-in-Hand, Paradise and Blue Ball. Anyway, a lot of the time was spent at the Plain & Fancy Farm, where we watched Jacob’s Choice (an awful 90s like Lifetime Movie), took the bus tour (terrific) and walked through the homestead (great tour guide). I can’t believe how mixed in the Amish are with the English (us) and how different their way of life is, yet they do it all in our own backyard. Crazy. We also spent a little time in Strasburg, where there is a lot of history with railroading. Food-wise, Lancaster County has many specialties, unique to them. My favorite? the Shoo-fly Pie.

Monday, we hit a few more towns before heading to Lancaster City. The first was Littleti…errrr…Lititz. Wow, what a charming little town. If I were to bring someone foreign to a postcard image of small-town Americana, this would be it. And it was fitting we also arrived when the Memorial Day Parade was wrapping up. We ate our way through town at the Julia Sturgis Pretzel Bakery and the Wilbur Chocolate Company, along with lunch at the General Sutter Inn (food was good, but service was slow…our first choice, the Tomato Pie Cafe was closed). Then, we checked out the Landis Valley Museum in the afternoon. The grounds feature many century old buildings with displays of what life was like in prior times. A worthy museum, but not ideal to be outside on a stifling hot and muggy day. After recouping in an air-conditioned bar with a drink, we took a quick stroll in downtown Lancaster before heading to Clipper Magazine Stadium for a Barnstormers game.

We arrived nearly an hour before game-time and ongoing was a stirring Memorial Day tribute. Many were in the stands for it and the team honored our veterans very well with many great tributes. The ballpark was very similar to York, though Lancaster gets credit because it was built first. They had a few more unique displays, like the red roses in the outfield (Lancaster is the red rose city) and a couple displays for their rivalry with York. But one glaring problem with the stadium is that it faces the sun in left field. Ugghh!! Not only was this problem magnified on a 90 degree day, but I’m sure there are many games where fans can’t follow the ball during the first hour or so of the game. It doesn’t seem like designers were forced to do this, though there has to be a reason. Otherwise, it’s a decent ballpark that I enjoyed. It was an interesting vibe from the fans as they were quite attentive and into the game, but half of them left by the 7th inning (and it was a quick game). Then in the 9th, those that were left made a good amount of noise trying to rally Lancaster to a win (didn’t see this type of atmosphere in York), but after they failed and the game went to extra innings, half of those fans left. Speaking of the game, it was another one that featured a ton of 0’s on the board. I like pitcher’s duels so it was cool to see a couple back to back. They went a full nine innings scoreless (turns out that Ryan Harvey’s cannon from right field to nail a Somerset runner at the plate was huge). In the 10th, a home run by Jaime Pedroza won it for the Barnstormers.

So, who won the ballpark War of the Roses? Well, my off the cuff winner is York by a very slight margin. Stadium Journey also sides with Sovereign Bank Stadium as the winner. As for our rankings, I’ll have the reviews up within a week and we’ll see which team comes out on top. (Editor’s Note…yup, York gets the slight nod in the rankings with a very high 77.5 out of 100. Could have possibly reached the 80 barrier if it wasn’t for it being a near exact replica of another ballpark built a few years earlier).

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