Monday, August 10, 2015

Auburn Doubledays 2 at Connecticut Tigers 4 (New York-Penn League) - August 9, 2015


In 2010, the New York-Penn League’s Oneonta Tigers moved to Norwich to replace the Connecticut Defenders, an Eastern League franchise that had relocated to Richmond. Thankfully I had visited Oneonta’s classic Damaschke Field, so it became my first inactive park in the league. Thus it was with a bit of irony that the franchise’s new home would become the final active NYPL ballpark in my quest to see all 160 minor league venues.



The Connecticut Tigers play at Dodd Stadium, named for Senator Thomas Dodd who spent two terms representing the state in both the House and the Senate. The stadium is located up a winding road just off I-395. Your GPS might suggest a shortcut along Plain Hill but the signs on the street suggest the longer route and seems to be what most fans were following. Either way, you will turn into the parking lot off Stott Avenue ($3) and be directed to your spot before paying. I have never seen this method used before but it works well enough, preventing delays at the entrance as drivers fumble for their wallets.



The stadium is a typical setup, with the ticket windows to the left and team store to the right. Hard to miss the statue of Tater, the team’s non-tiger mascot.



The Tigers do not draw well, so pick up the cheap $8 seats and sit where you want. The lower seats are silver and fold up, while the burgundy ones higher up are of the bucket variety. Not particularly comfortable, but you can use the seat next to you to store your essentials like the free program, line up card, and camera.



The concourse is wide with a number of concessions, including a Retro Beer Bar offering cheap PBR pints. In the left field corner lies Southpaws Bar, which was being used for a private party that day.



One nice touch – the section markers use the Tigers script C in the word Section.



The gameday staff is quite energetic, with Erica (the barely visible figure in the shot from the corner below) bouncing around the field for a promotion after nearly every half inning.



The mascot race was interesting and nearly disastrous. Tater was taking on a little boy as is the custom, and as the race started, another mascot emerged from the first-base dugout to throw softballs at Tater. His aim was off and the first throw hit the little boy in the back. He seemed not to notice in his all-consuming desire to reach third base before Tater. If that ball had landed a few inches higher and bonked the kid in the head, we might have seen the end of mascot races around the country!



In the end, Dodd Stadium is an average minor league venue, certainly too big for short-season A ball. That doesn't mean it is not a worthwhile destination; at just over two hours from New York (assuming no traffic, which is unlikely) it is close enough for a day trip, though you will spend more on gas than at the game.

The Game



This was my third Tigers game in a row, a quirk of the schedule. They started Ryan Castellanos (25th round, 2015, above), while Auburn sent Grant Borne (7th, 2015) to the hill.



Borne pitched two hitless innings before running into trouble in the third. A leadoff double to Shane Zeile (5th, 2014, nephew of Todd, above) was followed by a couple of flyouts and it looked like Auburn would escape. But Victor Padron (below) singled Zeile to third and then the next three batters followed suit, each with a single through the right side of the infield that plated a total of four runs.



Castellanos tossed five scoreless frames before being replaced by Jordan Smith, who gave up a couple of runs in the 7th to make things interesting, but two more relievers cleaned up, with Jake Shull (11th, 2015) picking up his 5th save.



Auburn did so little that I have no reason to post any of their pictures here. To add some colour, here's a shot of Rhett Wiseman (3rd round out of Vanderbilt in 2015, who was all-CWS in 2014).



Notes

I had visited Norwich back in 2009 to see the Defenders and rising phenom Madison Bumgarner, but a storm in the afternoon had soaked the field at Dodd Stadium, and the game was postponed. I have yet to see Bumgarner pitch, though I hear he is doing OK for himself.

My hockey buddy Dom and a couple of his friends made the trip and it was nice to sit with them and catch up on all the trip plans. Some 2016 minor league schedules have already been released and as Hartford has a new team, I'll be going there in April next year. That's one of the great things about the minors, there are always franchise moves to keep you going places.

Next Up

My August baseball extravaganza continues in Carolina on Tuesday with a trip to Salem, the first of 7 games in 6 days. Check back regularly for updates!

Best,

Sean

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