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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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Trenton Thunder Playoff Baseball

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 13, 2013

Arm & Hammer Park.

Game 2 of the AA Eastern League Championship Series was in Trenton Wednesday Night and this is a city that has become used to hosting the playoffs as the Thunder have made 7 postseason appearances in the last 9 seasons. This playoff game gave me a chance to re-visit their ballpark with the purpose of writing a Stadium Journey review. The two biggest changes from my last game there in 2007 are good (new widescreen video board in right field) and bad (name change to Arm & Hammer Park). Otherwise, this is a very typical, mid-1990s ballpark for the Northeast: Brick design, green trussing and seating, open concourse with press box behind home plate and single-level seating bowl split by a walkway. Nothing special, but not terrible and it ranks in the middle of the Eastern League pack for me. For dinner, I had the most bland and boring roast beef sandwich ever with nothing but a bun and four slabs of roast beef. Thankfully, the Water Ice I had later for desert salvaged the blah meal. I will say that the staff at the games are very nice, including the concessionaires and the ushers who frequently were chatting with regulars and saying their goodbyes in what was the last home game of the season.

The game itself was a see-saw affair that ended up being quite entertaining. While Trenton had the offense, Harrisburg made the most of their few hits and walks as they took the lead 2-1 in the fifth inning. Trenton answered back in the bottom half and then the Senators stormed right back in the top of the 6th for a 4-3 lead. The 7th was the deciding inning as Trenton loaded the bases thanks to a pair of walks and a single. Reggie Corona drove in the tying run and then Ali Castro sacrificed home the leading run as the Thunder went up 5-4. The two thousand or so fans on hand were very quiet earlier in the game, but their energy built to a crescendo and they really got into it in the 7th inning, as evidenced by the nice pop in their cheer on the tying run (see below). Trenton hung on during the last two innings and they took a 2-0 series lead to the Pennsylvania’s capital city, where they finished off the Senators to win the Thunder’s 3rd franchise title.
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Playoffs?!?

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 9, 2013

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With hot weather in place or arriving across much of the nation, that Summer feel has returned me into a baseball frame of mind, despite the excitement of this past weekend’s football (and despite baseball being the lower rung of sports likeness for me). So we’ll take one last venture to the ballpark this week before closing that chapter and heading to a football game later in the month. The Eastern League Championship Series, along with much of the minor-league playoffs, takes place this week and Trenton hosts Games 1 and 2. Since it’s only an hour away, I will head into the Baking Soda (Arm & Hammer Park) for Game 2 on a hot Wednesday Night against Harrisburg. This is a return visit from six years ago and will also serve the purpose of compiling and updating a new Stadium Journey review. Also want to a plug a pretty awesome stadium journey going on as Sean MacDonald is taking a season long trip to see a game in every NFL stadium this season. Follow along here and here and live vicariously through in Sean in this amazing venture!

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Eastern League Ballpark Rankings

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 26, 2013

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Over the last several years I have been fortunate enough to see a game in each ballpark for the 2013 version of the Double-A Eastern League. Hopefully the makeup of the league stays like this for awhile as immediately threatening is the potential of an Ottawa franchise (and that would be a difficult trip for me to make from here in New Jersey). Of course things are different now than when the first parks were seen several years ago, but I thought it would be fun to break down the league’s stadiums. Using my
Ranking System, let’s start by just straight up listing the ranking of each team and then break down the two best and worst in each category. At the end will be the “Prestige” category, which will basically be my personal favorites and non-favorites. Let’s get into it!
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Overall Ballpark Rankings

  1. Altoona Curve                                Peoples Natural Gas Field (2008)                78.0
  2. Reading Phillies                              FirstEnergy Stadium (2010)                         73.5
  3. Akron Aeros                                   Canal Park (2011)                                        72.0
  4. Harrisburg Senators                        Metro Bank Park (2013)                               71.5
  5. Portland Sea Dogs                          Hadlock Field (2009)                                    71.0
  6. Erie Seawolves                               Jerry Uht Park (2013)                                  70.0
  7. Trenton Thunder                             Arm & Hammer Park (2007)                        69.0
  8. New Britain Rock Cats                     New Britain Stadium (2013)                         64.0
  9. Richmond Flying Squirrels                The Diamond (2010)                                    59.5
  10. New Hampshire Fisher Cats              Northeast Delta Dentist Stadium (2009)     51.0
  11. Bowie Bay Sox                                Prince George’s Stadium (2010)                 48.5
  12. Binghamton Mets                             NYSEG Stadium (2007)                                45.5

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Location

………1.  Harrisburg  –  On an island full of family activities. Just across a historic pedestrian bridge is a downtown with the State Capitol and a Restaurant Row

………2.  Erie  –  A downtown spot with restaurants nearby. The lakefront is not too far away.

………11. Reading  –  There’s not much to see around the stadium on Route 61, just a bit north of the city

………12. Richmond – While the city itself has a decent amount of activities, the Boulevard only has great highway access going for its location

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Accessibility and Parking

………1.  Richmond  –  See above. Parking is also abundant surrounding the stadium.

………2.  Altoona  –  Hardly any traffic and right off of I-99. Very convenient parking garage in left field.

………11. Reading  –  Old stadium lends to heavy traffic and a hodgepodge of parking directed poorly. Took us 30 minutes to get out after a Fourth of July contest.

………12. New Hampshire – An unnecessary nightmare for a sport that usually features easy access.  Parking is limited in the city and ridiculously overpriced.

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Exterior

………1.  Trenton  –  Very solid opening brick facade that has a bit of a train station resemblance.

………2.  Altoona  –  Another decent brick exterior, however many fans miss it by entering through the outfield gate. Needs the stadium name out front to enhance it.

………11. Richmond  –  Classic drab 80s architecture with the concrete. Looks like a spin top or a huge spaceship.

………12. New Hampshire – A familiar name at the bottom of the list. Not only is there only an outfield entrance, but it is ugly as well.

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Concourse

………1.  Altoona  –  Rare double-decker that is wonderfully decorated with team logos and railroad motifs.

………2.  Harrisburg  –  This was part of the renovation that essentially made a new stadium. A 360 degree wrap-around includes cool bar-style seating in the outfield.

………11. Richmond  –  Though there are two levels, both are enclosed and feature some long lines for food. It took me 15 minutes before the game just to get a burger.

………12. Binghamton – This may be the darkest concession area as it is drab and hidden underneath the seating bowl. 

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Food

………1.  Bowie  –  This was the only good thing about the stadium. Surprisingly decent variety and an excellent Chicken Sandwich Platter with coleslaw and beans.

………2.  Akron  –  Wing Warehouse in right-field is the place for a pre-game dinner, while the rest of Canal Park’s concession options are good too. Try the Ice Cream Floats.

………11. Erie  –  It’s not that the food is bad or lacking, just that there is nothing that really stands out. The sausage stand is a little better than average.

………12. Binghamton  –  Yes, NYSEG Stadium has Spiedie‘s (Binghamton’s food specialty), but I have had it twice and both times, it sucked.

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Interior

………1.  Erie  –  My favorite in all of the minor-league parks I have seen. Remarkably unique seating arrangement due to the tight city block. First-base upper seats are the best

………2.  Altoona  –  While the Roller Coaster beyond right-field rightfully gets all of the attention, the rest of the stadium is excellent. Love the rock formation spelling “Curve”

………11. Bowie  –  Two other teams tied for this spot, but when pressed hard I would have to say Bowie. Did not enjoy the gently sloped sections and many bleacher seats.

………12. New Hampshire  –  Not a fan of single-level seating that features a small amount of rows all the way to the foul pole. Also stupid placement of hotel ruins view of city.

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Scoreboard

………1.  Harrisburg  –  One of the newest is expectedly the best. Very clear wide screen and the whole thing is not all that cluttered with ads.

………2.  Altoona  –  Similar set-up to Harrisburg with the large screen and box score. Just has a few more ads and is slightly off-center.

………11. Portland  –  The “Maine Monster” board is nice and all, but you would think that maybe it is time to remove the old, unused scoreboard instead of masking it with ads.

………12. Bowie  –  Simple with an old-school design in left-center and a dated video screen in right-center.

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Displays

………1.  Portland  –  I like the little Sea Dog message board outside the park and then thru the concourse are several displays. Great job too by honoring players/teams inside.

………2.  Reading  –  Lots of history with Reading and the tight concourse displays it well with a memorabilia case and other various touches. Just put up pennants on the inside!

………11. Richmond  –  This may not be the fault of The Diamond as the team rightfully seems to be distancing themselves from the Braves years in the IL.

………12. Bowie  –  A pathetic display of how not to decorate your ballpark. Only a statue on the outside saved them from a zero ranking.

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Cost

………1.  Akron  –  Great all around with tickets under $10. Free parking in all the downtown lots after 6 PM and on weekends is a bonus.

………2.  Altoona  –  Very reasonable and our 2008 visit included a ticket for just $7 in the upper-level. Cheap parking and free programs.

………12. New Britain  –  Eastern League costs are generally similar, but by a slight margin this was the worst of the bunch due to high parking rates and tickets being a tad pricey.

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Fan Support

………1.  Reading  –  Perennial attendance leaders that do a good job of filling the stadium. Both times I’ve been there, the place was packed.

………2.  Richmond  –  I think the loss of baseball for a season made Richmond realize what they had. Crowds have been pretty good for the Squirrels.

………11. Bowie  –  The game I attended on a pleasant summer Tuesday night featured about 500 people. Pathetic.

………12. Binghamton  –  There just doesn’t seem to be all that much interest and it shows in the stands. Most rumored team for a move…I think they may be better suited for NYPL

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Atmosphere

………1.  Reading  –  Having a nearby parent team (Philadelphia) helps and these fans are very supportive of both. Good baseball crowd that made for a festive atmosphere.

………2.  Portland  –  Similar passion thanks to the Red Sox, the fans in Portland brought great energy and paid close attention to every play on the field.

………11. Binghamton  –  See above. Small crowds and a general blah atmosphere. At least the setting is nice and peaceful, especially with the rolling hills in the background.

………12. Bowie  –  Hard to get any type of atmosphere going with so few people in the stand…I’d like to give them another shot

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Prestige

………1.  Erie  –  My personal favorite re-affirmed with a visit ten years later. Unique ballpark really made me want to come back.

………2.  Reading  –  History, old-school stadium with modern touches, great fans. This is a place baseball fans need to visit.

………11. New Hampshire  –  One of the very few times I just did not enjoy myself at the ballpark, which was a combination of many factors. This place should be so much better

………12. Bowie  –  Do you see how many times (five) they made the list as the “worst” in a category? 

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No Cookie-Cutter in Erie

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 26, 2013

Jerry Uht Park Interior

Nobody has really written about the Cookie-Cutter era of minor-league baseball stadiums, but I believe this is an existing period that needs to be discussed. I won’t get too deep here, but the sport in the 1990s and 2000s has some resemblance to the 60s and 70s multi-purpose major league stadium era, where minor-league teams keep building the same ballpark. Yes, they are much better with all the amenities and what not, however many look and feel the same: Brick, with green seats, single-level bowl split by a walkway, open concourse with a view of the field. Yes, its nice, but lately I’ve become sick of seeing the same ballpark over and over (Ripken Stadium being the latest example). That’s why a trip to Erie was so refreshing as the inside is so unique, different and awesome.

I was crunched for time, but was able to maneuver through PA I-80 construction to get to Erie right at 7 PM. While parking, I got to see the major renovations to the city’s hockey arena that really is making the place look brand new. At the ballpark, it is still the same ol’ ugly outside with a playground clubhouse like entrance. Once I got inside, memories came back as to why I love this park. They built it within a tight space and while the third base side has a somewhat classic look (lower seats, walkway and then most of the upper seats), the first base side is quite interesting. About six rows are very close to the field and then directly behind that is a concourse. Perched over the concourse is a true upper deck only about ten rows deep and pretty close to the field. Love those seats (except for the overly loud PA). Some of the more prominent new things I saw at the park were the addition of picnic decks at each end of the seating bowl. The multi-level party deck in the right-field corner really enhances the stadium as it looks good and includes a picnic spot, unique club seats and a beer garden. Also, with the expansion of Tullio Arena, the south end of the arena now acts as the left-field wall. Before there was enough space where fans could walk between the wall and arena. As for the game, it was thankfully fast as I had more driving to do afterwards into Upstate New York. It only lasted about 2:15 and Erie won 4-0. The Seawolves were led by a dominant Matt Crouse who went eight innings and gave up only three hits.

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