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Insert Pig Reference Here

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 20, 2018

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I had a free Saturday Night and with the completion of an earlier game postponement before the second of a doubleheader, it was a good time to make another visit to Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA. The stadium is about an hour from my house and when I arrived at 5 PM, they needlessly had the tarp on the field. The game was delayed 50 minutes without a drop of rain before we got started (they need a weather service!) That was about the only thing the organization did wrong though on this night as I was thoroughly impressed by how Lehigh Valley is first class all the way around. Let’s count up the little things because they add up and matter in the end:

  • Many team employees direct cars and traffic, making entry and departure for drivers easy
  • Golf carts capable of shuttling 3-6 people from further away spots to the main gate
  • www.pigsfoodfinder.com
  • They have their own TV Broadcast team and the production is stellar
  • During the rain delay, the Phillies game (their affiliate and closest MLB team) was shown on the huge videoboard
  • Ushers politely hold all fans back from walking down during the middle of an at-bat

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I’ll add one more, but it is a personal one. Whoever runs the music portion of the game production clearly is an old-school wrestling fan. I counted at least six different tunes during the game, including the ancient WrestleMania theme, which I love. Typically, I don’t get too distracted by the side entertainment, but I do have to tip my cap to the mascot, Ferrus. As little brother to the famous Phillie Phanatac, Ferrus does his best to live up to his legacy and he is quite funny at times. I also love the scoreboard graphics where he pops up to do something goofy (like draw a mustache on the visiting batter’s picture). The ballpark itself is decent and while it may not be in the league’s top tier in terms of design, it has some good features. I like the 360 concourse, along with the upper-deck club level that is affordable ($18) and offers indoor club access. There are several corner and outfield special sections that focus on a bar-atmosphere / social space. They all have names with some derivation on the pig and that is a prominent thing here. That’s fine and fun and all, but I would have liked to seen some team displays more instead of facts and quips on bacon. There is also a ridiculous abundance of ads in the building and my feelings on that haven’t changed as I remember that clearly from my first visit in 2008. Lehigh Valley still draws well and even though only individual seats were being sold, we had about 70% in the house. Crowd atmosphere was just ok, nothing special as they were reactionary as opposed to getting involved on their own. They were also slow to recognize well-hit balls that were on their way to being long home runs. At least a few got to their feet to bring the team home when the visitors were on their last strike. The IronPigs went on to win 4-1 and they look playoff-bound next month. A fine ballpark, where the little things by the team add up to a great stadium experience.

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Hudson Valley Renegades vs Tri-City ValleyCats

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 18, 2018

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I did this for the first time a long ways back (eight years ago) and forgot how enjoyable it is doing a stadium comparison. Last month, I made a very spur of the moment stadium trip to see the Tri-City ValleyCats, up in Troy, NY. It was a nice visit and the stadium draws some of the largest crowds for an NYPL team. While driving back, I passed the Lower Hudson Valley and thought it would be interesting to compare the two stadiums, separated by 90 miles. For reference, the Hudson Valley Renegades are also in the NYPL and their stadium (Dutchess Stadium) was built in 1994. I visited the park in 2011. Joseph A. Bruno Stadium (The Joe) opened in 2002. Fun Fact: HV and TC were stadium visits #98 and #198. Let’s take a look at it all….Tale of the Tape style!


Location
Neither are great as each ballpark sits relatively alone in an open area. The Joe is on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College, but at least it has a couple quality restaurants near the entrance to the school along Route 4. It also has Troy, five minutes away. Not exactly a vacationer’s paradise, at least the downtown is architecturally intriguing. Can’t say as much for Dutchess.
………Slight win to Tri-City

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Accessibility/Parking

Gravel lots and an odd arrangement of cars at Dutchess Stadium gives the edge to the ValleyCats. Both are easy to get to, but the parking situation and traffic egress is a little better in Troy.
………Slight win to Tri-City

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Exterior
Lots of slight edge wins here for the northern team and the exterior is no different. Dutchess Stadium uses the classic kelly green / brick look that is so overdone in minor-league baseball. The Joe goes a different route, but is less appealing as the drab brown, tan and faded green isn’t a great look. The big difference is the outside landscaping as it is wonderful around Bruno Stadium.
………Slight win to Tri-City

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Concourse
It’s nice that Hudson Valley offers protection from the elements, however the main area is behind the seating structure and it is a little cramped (not to mention bathroom space is limited). The area is decorative at least. While The Joe’s concourse is almost completely exposed, it is wider, open to the field and features some nice, side hangout areas.
………Slight win to Tri-City

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Food
A win for the Renegades, but not to the fault of the ValleyCats. I loved my burger and salt potatoes from Buddy’s and also appreciated some of the local beers. Each stand had a main theme with multiple variations of the highlighted item. Where Hudson Valley got the win was the wide variety of both beer and food available. My favorite: the Edible Arrangement fruit cups (wonder if they still have them?).
………Slight win to Hudson Valley

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Cost
Ugh, they nickle and dime you all over the place at Dutchess Stadium: $5 for parking, $3 for a program, $2 extra on tickets to fireworks night. You don’t see any of those shenanigans in Troy, plus the tickets are cheaper.
………Win to Tri-City

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Interior
I flat out dislike the seating set-up at Bruno Stadium. It’s a spread-out set of sections that go way down the line, putting many away from the infield. The pitch of the seating bowl is very shallow too and it’s easy to have somebody’s head get in your way. Sightlines are a lot better at Dutchess Stadium. Not too say their ballpark is perfect (huge gap openings to concourse and not all seats are chairbacks).
………Win to Hudson Valley

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Scoreboard
These are practically identical.
………Even

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Displays
There is a lot of team recognition throughout Bruno Stadium and that always scores points with me. I loved the little touches here too, like the paws on the walkway and the sign that says “430 Feet – 79 Altuves” (as in Jose Altuve, who played here as part of the Astros organization). In Hudson Valley, they were missing a lot of the team stuff, but they did have a cool section on the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame.
………Win to Tri-City

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Fan Support
These two teams do very well in the NYPL attendance standings and on each night that I attended, there was a good crowd in the house. Playoff attendance over the last five years is staggeringly close as well with both averaging 2100 – 2200 (tops in the league).
………Even

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Atmosphere
Maybe I caught the ValleyCats on a bad night, but I was unusually annoyed at this game. There was more people than normal getting up and down during the game and they made a habit of just standing there in my way, either chatting with a neighbor or randomly contemplate something. They also managed to loudly cheer an out from a rundown despite the fact that it led to giving up two runs. Hudson Valley was more of a typical minor-league experience with only mild care to what was going on on the field. It just wasn’t as bad as Troy.
………Big win to Hudson Valley

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My Gut
These are both stadium experiences that are quite typical across the country. I have a hard time with this one because interior design and atmosphere are big components in what I want in a stadium visit. That advantages goes to Hudson Valley, while most of everything else, I liked better in Troy. I want to call this even, but that probably isn’t fair. I’m going to go with that I probably overvalued the atmosphere in HV and caught Tri-Cities on a night where I was particularly irritable, so the very slight edge goes to Joseph L. Bruno Stadium where I would rather watch a game.
………Slight win to Tri-City

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Final Result
Let’s add them up! One point for a slight win, Two points for a win and Three points for a big win. The head-to-head comparison is listed below, as is my Total Experience Ranking from each game. Atmosphere and Interior count a lot in those rankings as I value them highly, that’s why this is a close one. Tri-Cities wins the numbers game, I’m curious where you would rather go?
        Head to Head Final:                        Joseph L. Bruno Stadium 9-6
        Total Experience Ranking Final:    Joseph L. Bruno Stadium 60.5 – 59.5  

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2018 Ballpark Changes

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 24, 2018

SRP Park, new home of the Augusta GreenJackets (photo from Stadium Journey – Lloyd Brown)

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It’s a slow year for 2018 ballpark changes across the nation, but that’s ok, I’m happy with stability in the stadium world. In all of Major and Minor League baseball, we’ll find just one new ballpark. In Augusta, Georgia well, technically North Augusta, South Carolina on the other side of the Savannah River, SRP Park opens a new era for the GreenJackets. This new park is certainly a major upgrade and it has been warmly received by locals. They leave their former home, Lake Olmstead Stadium, a mere 22 years after debuting there. Thankfully, it remains alive as Augusta University will use it during their season. The Independent Leagues have a few notable changes, including the debut of the Chicago Dogs in the American Association. First, I love that logo! I don’t think any city uses their flag more than the Windy City. Secondly, would you believe yet another sports facility is arriving in Chicago? It is amazing how many they now have. Mere months after Wintrust Arena opened, we see Chicagoland open its 6th ballpark. This one is in Rosemont and it is called Impact Field. Over in the Atlantic League, we mourn the loss of the Bridgeport Bluefish, yet another casualty of the 1990s explosion of Indy ball along the I-95 corridor. The reason for this one is that the city decided to turn the Ballpark at Harbor Yard into an outdoor concert venue (angering the arena next door in the process). That’s too bad for baseball and ballpark fans. Although, Harbor Yard didn’t rate too well in my rankings as the experience there was 46th out of 57 ballparks.

In NCAA baseball, the for-profit Grand Canyon University continues their facility explosion. Baseball unveiled the rebuilt Brazell Stadium. Now called GCU Stadium, they have an amazing 3,500-seat place for ballgames. I don’t know how the money flow works, but their facilities are certainly a growin’. Elsewhere, Boston College quietly opened Bright Campus Baseball Field as I guess they needed something to look acceptable to their ACC cohorts. Down in the SEC, where they are absolutely dominating the world of College Baseball, the two Mississippi schools are in the process of getting ballpark work done. By the way, this week, conference tournaments are going on. My picks for places to go: the Hoover Met, for high-quality baseball and a stadium that only is alive during the SEC Tournament. Durham Bulls Athletic Park for the ACC Tournament, because I just went there and the city and stadium are fantastic (review will be finished in a few days). And MGM Park for the C-USA Tournament, because it’s another great place and Southern Miss fans rock that park.
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Bucket List – Ballparks

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 9, 2017

While in the area for a Mets or Yankees, make sure to stop by Brooklyn for a game

 

Back in the winter, I did a series of posts on Bucket List Stadiums for Football, Basketball and Hockey. The time wasn’t right for Baseball, but now that we are in the middle of summer, it certainly is. Ballparks are the genre that attracts the most amount of stadium road trippers as that group exceeds all the other sports combined. Warm weather and nostalgia are likely reasons why, but the main one is that baseball has a different type of fan. There are several people I know that love baseball dearly and pay little attention to all other sports. For me, while I certainly enjoy a ballpark visit, the length and dullness of the games put the watching of the sport live much lower than the other ones. There are still some beauties out there though that I love to see…

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Alex Box Stadium – LSU Tigers:  If you watched the College World Series this year, you’ll know why. Home of some of the best fans in college baseball, though the fans from two lines down may argue this.
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AT&T Stadium – San Francisco Giants:  Picturesque ballpark with right-field on the waterfront. Great support too as crowds haven’t waned even when the Giants do poorly (which can’t be said for many other MLB teams).
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Baum Stadium – Arkansas Razorbacks:  Similarly crazy passionate fan base to LSU. Those that get bored at times with baseball (like me), certainly won’t be so at a Hogs game. Lots of fun.
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BB&T Ballpark – Charlotte Knights:  Wonderful new ballpark in downtown Charlotte that has a major-league feel in miniature form.
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Blue Wahoos Stadium – Pensacola Blue Wahoos:  The design is basic, but it is the view and location that makes this bucket list worthy. Great spot right on the Bay and near the center of the city.
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Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles:  The ballpark that changed sports stadiums forever. It still stands the test of time 25 years later.
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Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Dodgers:  Janet Marie Smith is in the process of working her magic here.
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Doug Kingsmore Stadium – Clemson Tigers:  Aesthetically beautiful with a great design on a pleasant campus in Upstate South Carolina. Clemson is hot right now on the sports scene and expect to see a lot of orange.
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Dudy Noble Field – Mississippi State Bulldogs:  The biggest on-campus stadium in college baseball is known for their Left Field Lounge, a tailgating and in-game experience like no other in the sport.
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Fenway Park – Boston Red Sox:  An icon that has wonderfully moved into the 21st century.
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Frontier Field – Rochester Red Wings:  Best food in the minors! I got spoiled coming here often growing up in Rochester. Food certainly has stepped up in the last dozen years, but nothing comes close to the variety and quality at Frontier.
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Grayson Stadium – Savannah Bananas:  Thank you Summer-Collegiate Leagues for saving this ballpark. An absolute classic built in 1926. I love the ceiling fans underneath the overhang!
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Huntington Park – Columbus Clippers:  Great ballpark in a great city and a great neighborhood (the Arena District).
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McCoy Stadium – Pawtucket Red Sox:  Enjoy it while you can as Red Sox owners plot their move. Not many like these are left at the affiliated minor-league level.
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MCU Park – Brooklyn Cyclones:  Coney Island and the Atlantic Ocean are within a view of this ballpark, which you will be hard pressed to find one that fits in better with a neighborhood
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Modern Woodmen Park – Quad Cities River Bandits:  Right along the Mississippi River. Seriously, right on it, as in they have flooded multiple times. Not a fan of how the place has become a circus with the addition of a Ferris Wheel, but the setting is picturesque.
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Parkview Field – Fort Wayne Tin Caps:  Often a winner in Stadium Journey‘s “Best Ballpark”, this is a success story in terms of downtown development because of a ballpark.
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PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates:  Everything about this ballpark is done right. And for a fan of city skylines, this one is right up my alley.
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Riverwalk Stadium – Montgomery Biscuits:  Many ballparks go with the train theme, but none do it better than Montgomery. The stadium makes use of a pre-existing train shed for the exterior.
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Regions Field – Birmingham Barons:  Excellent use of a city’s history with the incorporation of steel in the design elements.
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Smith’s Ballpark – Salt Lake Bees:  Just look at that View!!!
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Target Field – Minnesota Twins:  All the new ballparks built within the last 10 years are great, but this one stands out above the rest.
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TD Ameritrade Park – College World Series:  Only because of the event it hosts. This is an otherwise soul-less ballpark that replaced a stadium still dearly missed (Rosenblatt). Thanks, NCAA
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UPMC Park – Erie Seawolves:  A neat park where tight confines dictated the design, leading to a completely different third base side from the first base one. Well worth going to the latter side and sitting in the upper deck.
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Wahconah Park – Pittsfield Suns:  One of the very few remaining with a wooden grandstand.
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Wrigley Field – Chicago Cubs:  The video boards and advertising somewhat take away from what was a unique professional sports experience in North America. Still an incredible ballpark and experience.
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2017 Ballpark Changes

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 20, 2017

Hartford’s new Dunkin’ Donuts Park (image from Ballpark Digest and Zack Spedden)

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This year, we have two new ballparks in the world of Major and Minor League baseball, both of which have been highly controversial. First, we have the Atlanta Braves leaving a facility barely 20 years old as they move into a ballpark that was built with lots of public money in some shady dealings. The new place, SunTrust Park, is one of the rare MLB stadiums to be placed in the suburbs. Despite the perceived open space of leaving downtown, parking is problematic and some fans have to walk over a highway bridge (another controversy) to get to the park. Ballpark Digest has a terrific preview of everything SunTrust Park that I suggest checking out. Next, we have the soap opera in Hartford, which finally looks to have come to a conclusion. After the new Yard Goats spent all of 2016 on the road, the city vs construction company fiasco was figured out enough to let another company finish the job and the team opened Dunkin’ Donuts Park last week. It may become a great ballpark, but for a city and state drowning in financial problems, it may be tough for citizens to let go how much money was spent here. I know I sound Debbie Downer despite my love of stadiums and fan culture, but the background of these two new ballparks is hard to ignore.

Elsewhere, this offseason saw a two-team franchise shift between the California and Carolina Leagues. Both Cali teams had ballpark issues as Bakersfield was not up to MILB standards while High Desert had rent squabbles with the city of Adelanto. Both of those stadiums will still house baseball though as they have teams in the independent Pecos League this Summer. The Carolina League picks up the loss of the Cali teams as Pro baseball returns to Kinston as the newly-named Down East Wood Ducks play in Grainger Stadium. The other team will temporarily play for a few years on the campus of Campbell University in Buies Creek until a new ballpark is completed in nearby Fayetteville. In the Florida League, the Washington Nationals moved their Spring Training to a new ballpark in West Palm Beach and that was enough to facilitate a move of the Brevard County Single-A team from Viera to Kissimmee. It’s “Back to the Future, Part II” as Osceola County Stadium is back with the Florida Fire Frogs. It’s been a very strange offseason as you almost never see a ballpark that lost minor-league ball get a team back and it happened twice this year.

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The Collegiate Summer Baseball Leagues…Saving the Historic Ballpark

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 4, 2016

Dunn Field Exterior

Classic’s like Elmira’s Dunn Field continue to host baseball a few months a year thanks to leagues like the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL)

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We live in a time where the lifespan of a professional arena/stadium has become 25 years. Well, the lifespan in the eyes of a team owner as we all know these facilities can go on much, much longer. Places like the Georgia Dome, Turner Field, Knights Stadium and Orlando Arena are just a few of the facilities meeting (or slating to meet) the wrecking ball after a short life. In baseball, specifically the minor-league world, the stadium boom of the 1990s meant that many of those wonderful early 20th century ballparks met their demise or sat empty as the team left a city for greener pastures. That is where Collegiate Summer Baseball Leagues have come in and unintentionally saved these classic wonders.

So what is a collegiate league? The basis is on college players looking to play competitive baseball for the summer and after their school season is done, those with remaining eligibility join up with a summer-league team, where they play from Early June to Early August. Host families give the kids a place to live and all of the leagues feature teams that are a bus trip away. The most well known is the Cape Cod League, which has been featured in documentaries and movies. Many of those teams play on high school fields that are endearing, but of the most basic variety. The Northwoods League often has the biggest crowds and they are part of a growing trend that has seen new teams form in markets that recently lost pro baseball. Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and Rockford are three recent examples. What this has done is keep perfectly functional ballparks alive and communities still enjoying a night out with America’s Pastime. In a similar manner, the Collegiate Leagues have saved the old ballparks. Take two of the teams in the Northwoods League: Duluth and Waterloo. Both were causalities of a changing era, especially Waterloo, who couldn’t meet new minor-league stadium standards. Instead of seeing Wade Stadium and Riverfront Stadium sit empty, the affordable-to-run summer league allowed for crowd-gathering baseball to continue in venerable facilities. These historic beauts feature that classic grandstand, obstruction poles and lack of luxury suites that make those that love baseball sit back and relax in a place that oozes pleasant memories. Inherently, those that love baseball, tend to love nostalgia and “pastime”, thus making the perseverance of a town relic all the more special. Plenty of other leagues aside from the Northwoods have great 60+ year old ballparks to share and a few examples include:

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Of all the sports, baseball is the one that draws the most travelers and road-trippers. They often focus on the minor-leagues, which is certainly all well and good. But I urge any out there to include the Collegiate Summer Leagues and make a stop at one of their local charming parks for a special night that often elicits feelings of yesteryear.

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2016 Ballpark Changes

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 24, 2016

fireflies

Welcome Back to the Minor Leagues Columbia as we say hello to your new ballpark

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Before getting into the return of Columbia, let’s start in the Nutmeg State with the biggest controversy this offseason. The Rock Cats of the Eastern League made their home in New Britain for the last few decades, quietly humming along as an average franchise doing fine. Surprisingly, news broke a couple years ago of the team looking to move 12 miles north to Hartford after their lease expired. The wheels turned and the state capitol got the team and a new ballpark emerged with a ridiculously high price tag for future development. The city (and taxpayers) ended up bearing the brunt of it and that’s probably not a good thing given Hartford’s history in this category. Construction and financing became delayed and Dunkin’ Donuts (yup) Park is opening late as the Yard Goats (yup again) will start much of the season on the road. Maybe the park will be great and do nice things for the city, but since the start, I haven’t been a fan of this project. The worst part…Check out the Mayor’s proposed budget….Ummm, probably not a good idea then for a $56 million ballpark! On a much more minor, personal level, this ballpark means that I no longer have completed the Eastern League Ballpark circuit, so expect me to firm that up next year with a trip to Hartford. As for New Britain Stadium, they will become home to an independent franchise as the Bees join the Atlantic League. Glad to see that happen. The Bees replace the Camden RiverSharks, who sadly leave the beautiful view at Campbell’s Field and no professional franchise will be there this summer. It’s too bad as that struggling city spent a money on a new ballpark and aquarium in the 90s to bring people into the city, now one of them is vacant. Take note cities that spend all this money on a facility to ‘revitalize’ the city. For every Fort Wayne, there is a Camden.

Elsewhere, affiliated baseball returns to Columbia, SC for the first time since 2004. Spirit Communications Park opened to an overflow crowd a few weeks ago as the Columbia Fireflies took the field, continuing the trend of funky baseball nicknames. I like this one and the glow-in-the-dark uniforms are a cool touch as well. Columbia replaces Savannah in the South Atlantic League, which is unfortunate as the league loses Historic Grayson Stadium. Thankfully, baseball will still be played as Savannah joins the summer-collegiate, Coastal Plain League. In Florida, the Lakeland Flying Tigers will play the year at tiny Henley Field as Joker Marchant Stadium experiences a significant renovation. These ballpark changes are not necessarily for the single-A team, but instead for Spring Training season when Detroit takes up shop in Lakeland for a month. It will be an interesting year for the Flying Tigers as Henley Field (still located within Lakeland) is an old-school park. Out in the Midwest, Lansing’s 20 year-old ballpark got a fresh (and pricey) makeover. Folks heading to Cooley Law School Stadium (man, these names get worse and worse) will find new seats, a wraparound concourse, a new scoreboard, new food and a fresh coat of paint this year.

In college baseball, perhaps the biggest news is down in Alabama, where the Crimson Tide returned to Sewell-Thomas Stadium after a complete makeover. The $42 million renovation turned the park into a modern facility with all of the amenities one would expect. At Clemson, Doug Kingsmore Stadium has received a nice facelift, which includes a museum, showcasing the Tigers baseball program. Wake Forest moved into Ernie Shore Field after the Dash moved to a new downtown facility and the Demon Deacons continue to do some work on the venerable facility. It has been renamed David F. Couch Ballpark after the former player made a significant contribution to create a new facility, which will lower capacity but greatly benefit the program. In a similar renovation/rename, Northwestern baseball re-opened Rocky and Bernice Miller Park and this ballpark is certainly a small jewel for a school not known for nice athletic facilities.

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Ranking the Maryland Ballparks

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 20, 2015

Camden Yards Interior

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With the trip completed to Southern Maryland a few weeks ago, I’ve now made a visit to every Maryland team that plays professional baseball. I found that it is a state heavily influenced by the Orioles, which makes sense given the popularity of both the team and ballpark. As you would expect, Camden Yards ranks at the top of the list (in fact, it is the highest rated stadium out of the 162 I’ve been to). Let’s take a look at how the rest of the Old Line State shakes out:

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1)  Camden Yards  –  Baltimore Orioles  –  Ranking: 89.0

Often copied, never replicated. Just a magnificent place that still holds the test of time. Loved everything here and the O’s resurgence the last few years means that Camden did not suffer in the atmosphere rating.

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2)  Nationals Park  –  Washington Nationals  –  Ranking: 73.5

This is such an underrated ballpark in MLB that doesn’t get enough mention. The use of steel, pre-cast concrete and glass give it a more modern look and the coloring fits in with some of the monuments and office buildings seen across DC. The team has gained a great following given their short history and intrusion into Orioles country. Loved the Presidents Race as each one has a unique comedic spin.

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3)  Arthur W. Perdue Stadium  –  Delmarva Shorebirds  –  Ranking: 65.0

Maryland’s minor league ballparks aren’t all that spectacular (save for the one in Waldorf), but what pushes Perdue Stadium above the rest is their terrific Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame. I could’ve spent an hour in here and really enjoyed this unexpected feature.

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4)  Ripken Stadium  –  Aberdeen Ironbirds  –  Ranking: 63.0

If you want to see what will become known as the cookie-cutter Minor League Ballpark, come to Ripken Stadium. It’s a fine place, but maybe I was down on it because by the time I got here in 2013, I’ve seen so many of these designs. One highlight…the food. Check out the menu at Conrad’s Crab and Seafood Deck

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5)  Regency Furniture Stadium  –  Southern Maryland Blue Crabs  –  Ranking: 62.5

The design here is awesome. In fact, out of the 52 minor-league ballparks I’ve seen, the interior set-up ranked 4th. So why the mid-level ranking? The location is not great, the food is eh and that darn Tie-Dye Guy kept getting in my way.

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6)  Harry Grove Stadium  –  Frederick Keys  –  Ranking: 56.5

I found Northwest Maryland to be an enjoyable place for a weekend with such a rich display of history. Harry Grove is an ok place, but I recommend it as an excuse to visit Frederick. Charming is such an apt description for a terrific downtown that includes a riverwalk and a plethora of decent restaurants to eat at.

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7)  Municipal Stadium  –  Hagerstown Suns  –  Ranking: 50.5

I wanted so badly to like Municipal Stadium as I adore the older ballparks and want to see them continue to live and thrive. But, it just struck me as cheap and in need of TLC. While I love an old-school baseball atmosphere, it seemed like it was done here because they’ve given up on Hagerstown and want to be somewhere else. A shame.

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8)  Prince George’s Stadium  –  Bowie BaySox  –  Ranking: 48.5

Blah, everything about the BaySox game turned me off. From the moment I walked up to the ballpark (which looks like an old Wegmans), I could tell there wasn’t much to like about this place. An attendance of about 37 people on a perfect early Summer night didn’t help.

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The Old Parks

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 14, 2015

 

FirstEnergy Stadium Interior

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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July 2014 Stadium of the Month – Frontier Field

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 12, 2014

The wide concourses at Frontier Field have a terrific array of concessions

The wide concourses at Frontier Field have a terrific array of concessions

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When I was trying to come up with July’s Stadium of the Month feature, I wanted food to be the focus as there are some stadiums (specifically ballparks) that have quality food options worthy of dining out for. I racked my brain for a little while and shame on me for temporarily forgetting my first minor-league ballpark that has stood above the next 43 stadium visits I have made. It is Frontier Field in my hometown of Rochester, NY! The community-owned Red Wings play in a facility that has highlighted food since its opening in1996. The food menu is much more than just 872 varieties of weirdly topped hot dogs like all other minor-league ballparks now offer (faking both quality and quantity). Rochester instead offers a selection that can take a visitor a good month of games to sample everything and it starts by staying local. City delicacies include the traditional Zweigles white hot dog (think of a more porkier version) and the garbage plate (may not sound appetizing but it is, make sure to eat with bread). Both can be found at Frontier and while the plate is not truly from Nick Tahou’s, it is close. More local favorites are abound throughout the park as Red Osier offers great Prime Rib sandwiches, Salvatore’s contributes their excellent Pizza and Chicken French or Chicken Parm can be found from Calabria Italian Restaurant. “I could go on forever baby” (thank you Angels with Filthy Souls), but I’ll just throw out a few more items worth trying: The Mac and Cheese, the Flowering Onion, the Crepes and the Chili. To top it all off, there is even a beer unique to the ballpark. Rohrbach’s, a craft brewery in Rochester, features four beers at their stand including “Red Wing Ale”, an excellent beer red ale specifically made for the team. If that’s not enough, traditional Genesee Beer can be found at the park as well (emmmm…Cream Ale).

Frontier still has a special place in my heart as those first smells of the concourse take me back to my childhood and all of the Red Wings and Rhinos games that I attended. Little did I know that over 15 years and 43 ballparks later, it stands above all in the food category. The park itself is decent with the downtown location offering a nice backdrop for games, including the Kodak building towering over the third base side. While I’ve never been fond of the generic seating bowl that seems to fan out from the field too much, the atmosphere for a ball game is very pleasant. Front-office management is top notch (led by Dan Mason) and the in-game stylings on the traditional organ by Fred Costello is much appreciated.

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