Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Detroit Tigers 5 at Cleveland Indians 13 - June 28, 2021

On our recent trip through the Rust Belt, we spent three nights in the Cleveland area and I took in a game at Progressive Field. I had no reason to write about that visit until recently, when it was revealed that the Indians might not remain in Cleveland for the long term (article is behind a paywall). Considering the stadium opened in 1993 and the team has done well since then (no World Series however, just the two from long, long ago), I found this rather surprising. 

So this might have been my last trip to see the Indians. Well, it was definitely the last trip to see *The Cleveland Indians* as they will have a new identity (not Spiders as I had hoped, but Guardians) in 2022. But as it could be my last visit to Progressive Field, I thought I had better add a few photos. Below is a statue of Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League, joining the Indians three months after Jackie Robinson debuted with the Dodgers. Should the Indians relocate, I wonder what would happen to all of the historic features around the ballpark.

Anyway, I arrived downtown around 5:20 pm and parked on Prospect Avenue at 14th Street, just a block from the ballpark. Meters expire at 6 and cost a buck an hour, so I put in 65 cents and headed over to Southern Tier Brewing Company. This is another taproom belonging to the brewer that is based in Lakewood, NY (the Southern Tier of the state); this one has two levels and a similar menu to the one in Pittsburgh, though some of the beers are brewed right here in Cleveland. It was quite busy, and by the time I left, it was nearly 7:00.

I rushed over to the ballpark and was surprised to see a long line at the box office, so I grabbed the cheapest single on StubHub, entering just before first pitch. The view from my seat was quite nice as you can see above. The Indians were wearing their red jerseys, which were re-introduced in 2019 after being retired in 1977.

Matt Manning started for Detroit, and I was excited to see him, as he was the home starter when I completed all 160 active minor league ballparks in 2017. Unfortunately, Manning was not very good on this evening, giving up 2 runs in the first, 3 runs in the second, and 4 more in the fourth before mercifully being removed. The big blow was a 3-run homer from Jose Ramirez that was truly a miracle (StatCast above). Indians starter Eli Morgan was the beneficiary of the offensive largesse and managed to get through five frames while yielding 4 runs, including a homer from Miguel Cabrera, putting him in line for his first major league win. With the game not in doubt, I moved upstairs for some pictures.

The skyline at dusk is rather impressive. 

Note the Discount drug mart ad on the field in the photo below; this is a local chain that combines a grocery and a full pharmacy. There was one next to our hotel and it is quite the difference from what I am used to seeing in New York City.

While I toured, the Indians tacked on four runs off the Tigers bullpen, while a late homer from Robbie Grossman made the final 13-5 as Morgan got his first win. The game lasted less than three hours, its only redeeming quality.


I am trying to see all 30 major league teams this season. This is a trivial accomplishment while living in New York, but as I am out of town for much of the summer, it adds an interesting element to my planning. Games like this are ideal as I will miss both teams when they visit the Yankees. 



Thursday, June 24, 2021

Chicago White Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates - June 22-23, 2021

My recent trip to the Rust Belt was highlighted by a week in Pittsburgh, an underrated destination that has a lot to offer in terms of museums and other attractions. There's also some sports going on and I saw a couple of Pirates games as well as visited the spot where their most historic homer was hit. I don't like to write about repeat visits to stadiums, but PNC Park is my favourite venue and I had two different experiences that I would like to share.

The Chisox were in town for a 2-game interleague series, with a Tuesday night affair to get things started. I drove down in the morning with my family and parked in a lot near the stadium, hoping that it would turn into a cash lot for the game and allow me to park for free. We spent the day touring the area and then they returned to our hotel on transit, while I headed to the game. I walked over the Clemente Bridge as is traditional and started to look for a ticket. As I roamed the streets surrounding the park and talked to some scalpers, I was surprised to see Doc, a regular attendee at various games in New York. He is known for always wearing a Dan Fouts jersey and easily recognizable for that reason.

Although we are only acquaintances, he seemed happy to see me as there were few affordable single tickets on the street. So we bought a pair from a scalper he knows and entered together, picking up our designated driver sodas before taking our seats (view below).

It was good fun listening to Doc (real name Bob) discuss all of the games he had seen, including Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, where he was photographed jeering Pedro Martinez exiting the field. He had attended the Mets doubleheader at Citi Field the night before and driven to Pittsburgh on a whim. Must be nice. The game saw Lucas Giolito starting for Chicago (below, being inspected by the umpires enforcing the latest stupid rule) against Tyler Anderson. Adam Frazier homered for the Pirates in the third and scored on a Bryan Reynolds single in the 6th as Anderson cruised. But pinch hitter Yasmani Grandal crushed a 3-run homer in the 7th and Anderson was suddenly in line for the loss. 

Garrett Crochet came on for the White Sox and gave up three straight singles, including a bunt single by Kevin Newman that led to a throwing error from Yoan Moncada which knotted the score at 3 and allowed Anderson avoided the L. Another single plated two more Pirates and Crochet was removed without recording an out. Aaron Bummer came on and got one out before a walk and another single made it 6-3 for the home team, and that was the way it ended.

A very entertaining game that took 2:50, exactly what you would expect for 8 1/2 innings. Fireworks at the Clemente Bridge celebrated the victory. I bid adieu to Doc and returned to my car, and as I had hoped, exited the garage for free.

The next afternoon, I brought my daughter to the ballpark. With the garage not an option, I parked a few blocks away at a four-hour spot (a buck an hour) and downloaded the local parking app, which allowed me to renew when my time expired. It was perfect baseball weather and this time I picked up a ticket at the box office. The Pirates have a special for most games: a $30 ticket that includes $15 concession credit. With a toddler along, there would be no problem using that credit. I did not buy my little one a ticket and as we entered, I was told that she would have to sit on my lap. Capacity here is over 38,000 and there were maybe 10,000 on hand, so let's be sensible.

We wandered from place to place as the game progressed, going out to left field to get some sun (above) and then the upper deck along the third base line to enjoy the spectacular view (below).

I had arranged to meet my wife at 4:00 so that we could get to Southern Tier Brewing Company, which has a taproom nearby and is an excellent spot before or after the game. Of course, I neglected to consider that Tony La Russa is managing the White Sox and that meant a couple of long pitching changes as he trudged his 76-year-old body to the mound. The game lasted 3:37, ridiculously long for a 4-3 score, with Chicago salvaging a split. The only bright spot was my daughter giving the Parrot a consolation hug after the game. We still beat the rush to the taproom and enjoyed a great meal, picking up some beer to go as well.

After dinner, I walked to the river to snap a shot of the Bill Mazeroski statue, which commemorates his 1960 World Series winning home run. 

That took place at Forbes Field, which was the precursor to Three Rivers Stadium. Although it was torn down in 1972, a portion of the outfield wall still stands, and is just minutes from the Carnegie Museums.

It is hard to believe, but this is the interior of the wall, with the distance markings intact. It took me some time looking at diagrams and pictures of the field to get my bearings, but I finally figured it out.

The 457 foot sign is right behind the original base of the flagpole, but the flagpole itself is new. Back in the day, it was in play, but balls rarely reached it. 

Bricks inlaid in the ground mark the continuation of the wall and you can follow them across Roberto Clemente Drive and find the spot that the Mazeroski homer cleared the fence.

Home plate has also been preserved but it lies inside a University of Pittsburgh building that requires ID to enter due to COVID-19, so I was unable to see it. Still, well worth the short drive to Oakland to see where some baseball history was made. All in all, we had a great time in the Steel City and look forward to our next visit.



Saturday, June 19, 2021

Vermont Mountaineers 8 at North Adams Steeplecats 2 (NECBL) - June 18, 2021

The family roadtrip continued with a stop in North Adams, MA, a town in the Berkshires known mostly for being the home of MASS MoCA, a leading contemporary art museum that is well worth visiting. A less familiar resident is the team that plays in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), a wood bat circuit with 14 clubs scattered throughout the region. The North Adams SteepleCats have plied their trade here since 2002, and as luck would have it, they had a home game just down the road from our hotel on Friday night.

The SteepleCats are named for the four steeples that define the town's skyline and play out of Joe Wolfe Field, a small venue with a capacity of 1,800. It was constructed in 1986 and was named for the Joe Wolfe, who was instrumental in raising funds for it and who passed away shortly after it opened. As is the case with most ballparks in the wood bat leagues, there is not a lot here other than the seats, which are general admission benches between the bases. If you want to stretch out, bring a blanket and use the ample grass areas down the first base line, or sit at one of several picnic tables down the third base line. 

Tickets are just $5, and there is no stub, just pay as you walk through a small gate. From what I could tell, I was one of few strangers in the crowd, as the 300 or so fans seem to be well acquainted. Surprisingly though, I did meet another couple from Astoria.

As you would expect in a facility like this, the entire seating area is protected by a screen and large support poles block parts of the field, so you might want to sit in the first couple of rows to avoid them.

I had expected to attend the game alone, but my 3-year-old, no doubt enthused after attending the Mets and Boulders earlier in the week, wanted to join me. So after a brief stop in the seating area, it was time for a potty break. What I love about this level of baseball is that while I was helping my little one in the men's room, players were also using the facilities. Not an appropriate time to ask for an autograph however.

After that, we decided to move to the picnic tables behind third base. This afforded her the opportunity to move around without annoying too many fans. It also was right next to the visiting bullpen, which provided some entertainment during the game as the players heckled the umpire, tossed a football amongst themselves, and laughed at the many baserunning blunders by the SteepleCats.

The concession stand is here and much better than expected. Some of the food is freshly cooked (you can see the barbecue to the right above), and quite affordable. As well, Bright Ideas Brewing, a local brewery whose main location is at MASS MoCA, offers craft beer.

There are also cheap souvenirs here. T-shirts and game-used jerseys are just $5 for example. My daughter wanted a foul ball, but after five innings of having nothing come close to us, I bought her a souvenir ball autographed by members of the 2019 club for $3. Of course, in the next half inning, a foul ball landed a few feet away and I scampered to beat the eager youth of North Adams to capture the prize (above) for my daughter, her first foul ball. Note the slogan printed on the ball.

Make sure to take a look at the stone plaque honouring North Adams native Jack Chesbro, who holds the modern-era record (set in 1904) of 41 wins and 48 complete games, records that will never be broken. Chesbro is also a Cooperstown inductee, though controversially so.

Another memorial plaque stands next to the batting cage; this one for Jason Dupuis, who died in 1987 at age 14. His father, who passed away in 2016, had worked on the field and other venues in the area.

Overall, Joe Wolfe Field is the type of old-time ballpark that you will only find in these smaller leagues these days and a welcome change from the new, similarly designed stadiums that I am chasing. This was my first NECBL game but with 13 other teams in the area, it won't be my last. 

The Game

The Vermont Mountaineers were the guests, and they opened the scoring in the third with two singles, an error on a double play ball, and two wild pitches resulting in a pair of runs. An inning later, a triple by Casey Mayes (Michigan State) was followed by a walk to Anthony D'Onofrio (Hofstra). When D'Onofrio attempted to steal second, the catcher threw down allowing Mayes to score, much to the disdain of the home fans. Matt Schilling (Liberty) gave them something to cheer about with a homer to lead off the fifth, and he drew a bases loaded walk in the sixth to bring the SteepleCats within one. But Vermont got those back in their half of the seventh and then added three unearned in the eighth, including a two-run homer from Matt Oldham (Elon) that put the game away. Oldham was the star, going 3-4 with 3 runs and 2 RBI.

A very fast paced game, with 289 pitches taking only 2:40, for a PPM of 1.806. The average MLB game has a PPM of 1.5, about 20% slower. See, baseball can be played with pace if you eliminate the posturing, overly long commercial breaks, and other unnecessary delays. 


A number of NECBL alumni have made the majors, and the list can be found on their website.

Next Up

I'll be seeing games in Scranton, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland over the next week, but as those parks have been covered in the blog, won't be posting about the visits unless something extraordinary happens. I will finish the trip in Buffalo for the Blue Jays at the end of June, so check back after that for the next installment.



Thursday, June 17, 2021

Sussex County Miners 7 at New York Boulders 12 (Frontier League) - June 15, 2021

With the pandemic having ended in much of the northeast and the summer beckoning, I've started an extended road trip with my wife and kid, the first such endeavour with the little one in tow. With two other human beings along for the ride, daily stops at stadiums are not possible, but I will still see a few games on this three-week journey. First among those was at a venue that is a mere 35 miles from home, but difficult to reach without a car, namely Palisades Credit Union Park, home of the New York Boulders of the Frontier League.

The franchise joined the Can-Am League in 2011 as the Rockland Boulders, and became members of the Frontier when the two leagues merged in 2019. They also used the move to rebrand as New York to better represent the fan base, which comes from across the metro area. Still, there are plenty of Rockland logos about.

The Frontier League includes my hometown Titans, an expansion club that has yet to play a game due to the pandemic. You can also see the new Boulders logo, with Est. 2011 just below. In fact, the ballpark opened exactly 10 years ago to the day, so there was a birthday celebration throughout the evening. This included a lengthy pregame ceremony that pushed the start time nearly 30 minutes later than scheduled. But all was forgiven when cake was given out in the later innings.

The ballpark is located in Ramapo, just west of the Palisades Parkway off Pomona Road. Parking is $5 and there is more than enough space in the two lots. Getting out might take a few minutes, as there is just a single lane and traffic light, but it shouldn't be anything unreasonable.

The main gate leads to a plaza behind the stadium structure as you can see below.

There are several picnic tables here as well, though outside food is not permitted. There are a few concession stands offering limited options such as burgers and chicken tenders (recommended), with one stand (Mr. Miyagi) providing teriyaki bowls along with dumplings. More important is the Craft Beer Room behind third base, where there are eight taps to choose from. A 16-ounce pour is $6, while 20 ounces is $8, and actually slightly less value.

As is the norm these days with smaller ballparks, the suites are constructed in a separate structure above the seating bowl, allowing fans to stand on the concourse and watch the action from there.

The seating bowl is typical as well, with Kelly green seats from corner to corner, and the last couple of section turned in to face back towards the infield.

However, there are a number of unusual elements here as well. A bar area called the Short Porch lies just behind the right field fence. This is aptly named as the distance to the foul pole is just 312 feet. As it happened, this also honoured me for my 312th ballpark.

As you continue around the outfield concourse, there are some weather-beaten tables above the right field fence that seem to be original to the park's opening.

I do appreciate when the ballpark provides the ability to walk all the way around and capture the entire structure from center field.

More bleachers above left field, along with the batting cages just behind, which have windows to allow you to watch if you so desire. 

Note the bridge to the left of the foul pole in the photo above. That is the site of the Bridge Bar (below), a cool little area almost at field level that is open to the public.

The view of the seating bowl from the left field corner is below. As you can tell, there is really no difference between these independent league parks and those in the minor leagues. Now that I have seen every minor league ballpark, I will be adding Indy venues to the list as much as possible.

The concourse is more than wide enough for the crowd, and there are plenty of standing spots along here, though no drink rails. There are also a few picnic tables that are open to everyone.

What is most impressive about this ballpark is the number of amenities for children. There is a sandbox just inside the main entrance that was filled with toddlers throughout the game and kept my little one occupied for hours.

In the right field corner is an elaborate playground that appeals to slightly older kids.

Another unique feature is the mini-golf course behind the right field foul pole. It is $3 per person, or $10 for a foursome.

Finally, there is a small train that runs a loop from center field to third base, then all the way around to right field and back again. This is free and can be taken as many times as you like, though you have to line up when things get busy. Having brought my family to the game, I can see that these aspects really make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Overall, PCUP is a fun place to watch a game, with something for all types of fan, young and old. Unfortunately, it is a bit tough to get to without a car, so I doubt I will be back, but at least I had a memorable game.

The Game

What could possibly be memorable about an independent league game? Look at the visiting lineup for the Sussex County (NJ) Miners. Batting fifth was Todd Frazier, who had played two full seasons with the Mets as well as a few games last year. He started 2021 with Pittsburgh, but going 3 for 35 signaled the end of his major league career. A New Jersey native, Frazier signed with the Miners a couple of days before and was making his road debut for the team after a couple of home games. 

What makes this more interesting for me is that Frazier was the most hated player of a particular Mets fan who is part of our group that sits in Section 515 at Citi Field. Every time Frazier batted, this fan screamed "You Suck Todd!!!!" I did not understand the reasons behind the vitriol, but it was rather amusing, particularly when Frazier got a hit. For the record, Frazier (below) did not suck, sporting a career WAR of 25.2, an OPS+ of 107, two All-Star selections, and a Home Run Derby crown.  

Anyway, Frazier came up in the top of the second with his team leading 1-0 and was hit by a pitch after taking two strikes. He then came around to score on a grounder to first that went under the glove of Ray Hernandez and all the way to the Short Porch for a 3-base error. That was the first of five total miscues in what was an ugly game. 

As such, there is no need to recap the game in detail. Down 3-0, the Boulders scored five in the fourth, including a 3-run jack from Zach Kirtley, a former Cardinals farmhand. Tucker Nathans added a solo shot for New York in the fifth, and then the Boulders rolled with a six-spot after the stretch, with Kirtley supplying his second dinger of the game.

Frazier did hit a solo homer in the top of the ninth but that was too little, too late as New York won handily 12-7. By the time, my toddler was too tired, so I could not snap the final scoreboard. Despite the three Miner errors, all 12 Boulder runs were earned. The game took only 2:46 despite all the action, and finished with a 1.717 PPM, a faster pace than almost every major league game this season.


Frazier was put on the injured list for the Miners five-game series at Tri-City even though he wasn't hurt. Turns out that he rarely plays in away games, as he prefers to stay close to home, and the team needs his roster spot.