One of my favorite all-time sitcoms is The Office and whenever I drive by Scranton, I can’t help but think of countless references. Instead of driving by it on I-81, this time I spent a day in the Electric City before heading to Moosic for a RailRiders baseball game at PNC Field. A day after snowflakes were in the air, it was still chilly, but at least the sun was out. My day started by driving downtown on the pothole-infested Lackawanna Ave and into the Steamtown National Historic Site. While Northeast PA is known for it’s former coal-mining days, the Lackawanna Valley also was the center of the Steam-powered locomotive area. The U.S. National Park system is fantastic and this site is no exception as they turned the former railyard of the DL&W into an indoor and outdoor museum. I spent nearly four hours here as there is a lot to absorb and the Roundhouse is especially cool to take in. For lunch, a few minutes away is Coney Island Lunch and in I went for a famous “Texas Weiner“, a Scranton staple consisting of meat sauce and onions on a hot dog with a National Bakery roll. Cheap and good, it made for a nice stop. When I went to use a coupon on my phone, you can imagine my surprise that it was for the “Other Coney Island”. I was eating in Coney Island of Scranton and wouldn’t you know, these two places are a couple blocks away and have been at Weiner War for decades.
After lunch, I walked to the Iron Furnaces, stone remains approaching 200 years old that were used to produce iron. It was then back to the Steamtown site, where across the parking lot is the Electric City Trolley Museum. This explains the city’s nickname as the first trains that used electricity to move started here. While not as well-done or expansive as Steamtown, this museum was worth an hour, of which I truly enjoyed learning about the development of inter-city transportation with these trolleys. Of note to those coming to see RailRiders baseball, the museum offers Sunday trolley trips to the ballpark. $20 includes a ticket and a 10 mile round trip ride on the 19th century trolley. Very cool. Since it was Saturday, I went back to the car and drove 10 minutes to Moosic for the game.
I was last here in 2006 to watch a playoff game involving my hometown Rochester Red Wings. Before planning this visit, it took me awhile to figure out how to quantify this stadium. Is it renovated or do I consider it “new”? With Madison Square Garden, I decided it was a renovation because while the inside was gutted, the outside was the same, so was the roof, the name and the team, while the history of the building was still recognized. Here at PNC Field, everything is new. Plus, the team spent an entire season on the road while they essentially re-built a stadium, so I’m considering this a brand new park. It’s been a topsy-turvy 10 years as SWB has gone from Red Barons to Yankees to RailRiders. While I like the RailRider branding, the ballpark screams Yankees thanks to the outside name sign, interior blue seats and boring light color. This isn’t a fault of designers as the name was choosen in the middle of ballpark construction, but I feel there is so much missed opportunity here to go with that rail theme (see Altoona on how to get that right). And what’s the deal with the porcupine riding the rails on the logo? The whitewash of the team’s history is also disappointing as you won’t find any piece about SWB’s past, save for a small retired number on the wall.
None of that is to say this is a bad ballpark because it is indeed modern, clean and decent. The entrance opening is inviting with a band welcoming fans and message boards including game information if one is late. The concourse wraps around the park and the setting at the base of a huge incline is unique. As mentioned, it’s amazing that this site used to be Lackawanna County Stadium as PNC Field is totally different. The upper-deck has been replaced by a suite/club level and now wrapping around the field from each foul pole is a single set of seats. These have a decent pitch for sightlines. As for the game…yikes. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre forgot to wake up as their astounding 5 errors basically handed Pawtucket the victory. Typifying the contest was a key play in the 6th inning, where the RailRiders were down 2-1 and had a runner at third. Eddy Rodriguez fell asleep and got picked off, thus ending the threat and the inning. This was the first game of a doubleheader, so they just played seven and the PawSox won 4-1. It only took 1:41 to play, which is awesome! In fact, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins were playing Syracuse in Game 2 of their AHL Playoff Quarterfinal just 15 minutes away at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The short contest here would have been perfect for those looking for a two-sport day, something fellow road tripper Sean MacDonald loves (I have to try and meet up with him for the first time at one of these games). Alas, it wasn’t in the cards for me as I had to head home. Despite the chill in the air, it was a great day in Scranton and I’m now back on the board of seeing each of the ballparks in the IL North. Look for the detailed review (on the right) to come this week, along with a Stadium Journey write-up in May.