Thursday, July 29, 2021

Buffalo Bisons 5 at Worcester Red Sox 1 (AAA East) - July 28, 2021

As you probably know by now, there are nine minor league ballparks that I need to visit this year to remain current with all 120 active stadiums. The closest new venue to me is Polar Park in Worcester, which is only about a three-hour drive from home. But with Amtrak offering ridiculously cheap fares, I decided to take the train to Boston, then backtrack to Worcester on commuter rail. As I was coming from my temporary summer home in Beacon, the trip took about eight hours, which was not very efficient, but still less expensive than a rental car these days.

I had waited this long because I wanted to see a night game followed by a day game, and with Toronto's AAA affiliate visiting, this was the perfect time to do so. As well, the Jays themselves would be at Boston on Wednesday evening, providing the opportunity to see a rare minor/major doubleheader featuring the same organizations. But as you can see above, weather again spoiled my plans as the night game was rained out. Fortunately, the heavens did not open up until after I had completed my tour, so I have plenty of pictures to share with you. 

Polar Park is right downtown, just a few minutes from the train station and with several lodging options nearby. After dropping my stuff at my hotel, I made my way to the stadium, finding myself on the wrong side of the tracks at one point (below). Make sure to go under the tracks at Green Street, lest you find yourself taking a much longer route to reach the ballpark. Green Street is also home to several bars, making it a good pregame stop.

You will notice plenty of construction here as well, as the entire stadium complex is not quite complete. A parking lot is one of the buildings under construction, which means that local lots can extort fans for the time being. I saw one charging $20! For AAA baseball! Ludicrous! Meanwhile, there are signs on the street that indicate that meter parking is prohibited for ballpark visitors. According to friends, free parking can be found if you drive a few blocks away, and it is definitely worth it, as the postgame traffic was quite horrendous.

From Green Street, there are a couple of small roads that lead up to the back of the stadium. A new mural is one attraction there; it was just being finished up as you can see above. I was not sure exactly what is being described here, so this article was very helpful in explaining that the subjects all played a part in the history of the Canal District, in which Polar Park is located. I thought the man on the left was Thomas Edison, but turns out it is Tobias Boland. Always good to see local history recognized and idiots like me can learn a thing or two from it. Babe Ruth is also featured here, as he used to drink at the Hotel Vernon.

There are two gates along Washington Street, but you will need a ticket to enter. Inside one gate is a giant bobblehead wearing the uniform of the Worcester Worcesters, demonstrating that unoriginal team names are not a new thing here.

For those without a ticket, you will have to make your way around the exterior of the stadium to reach the front of the park. You will notice the Smiley Face logo; it was designed by Worcester native Harvey Ball and goes well with the WooSox nickname. 

At the main entrance, you will see giant rings commemorating Boston's four World Series championships in the last 102 years. I'm not bitter.

Tickets here are somewhat overpriced, with the good seats behind the plate going for $27 (and more if you sit in the rows closest to the field), while those between the bases are $21. But fret not, as there is a very affordable option that is one of the best bargains in minor league ball. For $9, you get a general admission ticket, which might sound unappealing at first. Until you realize that all of the red stools are general admission and they come with a drink rail, and include spots behind the plate! Of course, you need to get there early to reserve a spot, but once you do, nobody will take it from you.

So once I had put my bag down on a stool, I began my tour. First up is the mascot lineup, which is just inside the main entrance. My photo below is missing the bottom row, which includes Ace. There are 27 MLB mascots represented, with the Yankees, Angels, and Dodgers the three clubs without one.

Go up the stairs and you will find a few items commemorating Ted Williams. There is a sculpture and some art that merit a few minutes of your time.

You will also find the Pawtucket Red Sox Hall of Fame here, which is a great way to pass time during a rain delay. I am sure that the Pawtucket faithful are still unhappy that their team left McCoy Stadium (the two ballparks are about 40 miles apart) but this is a good way to honour the franchise's history.

For a new park, there are a lot of features that really exemplify the local aspect. A Warholesque Smiley Face is but one example.

A pair of seats from a local ballpark that overstates its place in American folklore can also be spotted.

I guess you can laugh at the curse now that you have won four titles. This one is signed by David Ortiz and is being raffled off. Needless to say, I did not enter.

Inside the fan services area, I saw a game-used base. Hey Worcester, stop riding Boston's coattails!

Just next to here is a bobblehead display, with most of those featured being Red Sox. But the very bottom row includes several stadium replicas, which are my favourite collectible. So if you have any stadium replicas you don't need, please let me know.

With all of these extra features covered, it is now time to look at the actual stadium. If you happen to enter in centerfield, you will have the entire stadium structure in front of you. I like the blue colour scheme, even on the outside, though some critics are less appreciative

There is also a small kid's zone behind the batter's eye that my daughter really wants to experience after she saw this picture. "So many baseballs!" she exclaimed. A return visit is already being planned.

As you move toward third base, you pass by the generous berm, which is also part of the $9 general admission package, should you prefer to try to catch home run balls. Above here are some GA stools as well.

Continue along to one of the bullpen terraces, which are seats that are directly above the bullpen. Note how it juts out into the field, limiting the amount of foul territory down the left field line. 

There is a group area here known as the Hanover Deck, which is usually restricted to those with tickets, but I managed to sneak in to grab some pictures from the upper level.

Looking back toward first base from the Hanover Deck, you can see more detail of the stadium here.

From the third base line looking back, you can see how a small part of the scoreboard is blocked by the Hanover Deck and the bullpen terrace seats. Usually scoreboards are more towards centerfield so this sort of thing doesn't happen. From my GA stool on the concourse, some batter statistics were blocked, which can be mildly annoying if you are old school like me and prefer batting average to OPS.

Looking above home plate, you can see the DCU Club seats. There is a waitlist for season tickets here but it is possible you can find a seat for $50 using Craigslist. There are suites as you move down the first base line.

As always, the picture from directly behind the plate.

The concourse behind the plate is below was quite crowded during the rain delay. It is here that you will find a large bar that is sponsored by one of the mega breweries. Better beer options are available if you look around.

If you have ever encountered Table Talk Pies in your supermarket, you will know that they are cheap, tasty temptations that are hard to resist at a buck a pie. Table Talk is based in Worcester and their pies are available around the ballpark for just $2. Polar Beverages, who own the naming rights, is another local concern though their seltzers are marked up a lot more, going for $5 here.

The view from the first base concourse is below, with the scoreboard fully visible.

Craft Corner is a beer garden that is next to the rightfield corner, hence the name. GA seats can be found here as well. Above this is the Right Field Party Deck, while visible to the right of the picture below is The Bridge, another area that has open seating.

Continuing along brings us to the signature seating area here, the Worcester Wall. Note the Fair Pole, which is labelled as such in an attempt to stop the unenlightened from continuing to call it the Foul Pole.

Modelled on Fenway's Green Monster, these are seats above a high wall that includes the scoreboard (not manually operated in this case). 

There are seats directly above a drink rail as you can see above.  But there are group seating options as well, with tables shaped like home plate, as you can see below. Single-game tickets are $21 but they do sell out, so if you want to sit here, buy in advance.

The view from the Worcester Wall is below.

The wall extends into right center field and I'm including the photo below so you can see the difference. There are five full sections out here

Finally, the view from my GA seat for the afternoon game. At $9 for AAA, a bargain and well worth showing up early to grab this spot.

Overall, I think that Polar Park will soon be a top ballyard for stadium travelers. The ongoing construction poses a problem, as does the lack of parking and high ticket prices. But already they have so many cool little features and the GA seats are ideal for cheapskates like me. The location is great, with plenty of bars and restaurants a few minutes away. Once these initial hiccups are sorted out, I expect to see this venue at the top of many ballpark lists.

The Game

As mentioned, Tuesday's game was rained out, which was a shame since it was Copa de la Diversion that night, with Los Wepas de Worcester the home team. Wepa is an expression used to show excitement, similar to Wow! and goes very well with WooSox. The team wears special uniforms and uses a firework logo, so it was disappointing to miss this.

Thankfully, Wednesday's weather was much better. Both teams started rehabbing major leaguers, with Worcester calling upon Hirokazu Sawamura (below), who had pitched for Yomiuri for 10 years before joining the Red Sox this season. Meanwhile, Tommy Milone started for Buffalo. And as you would expect, both were removed after an inning without allowing a baserunner.

Kutter Crawford (a great name for a pitcher) came on for Worcester and was victimized by some bad luck, giving up single runs in the second, fourth, and fifth without a hard hit ball. Zach Logue was Buffalo's bullpen arm and he threw four hitless frames, yielding just a walk. Tyler Chatwood, freshly removed from the Toronto Arson Squad, pitched the sixth giving up just a walk, and Connor Overton followed with a perfect seventh. A no-hitter was possible, but Overton stayed in for the eighth and gave up a run on two singles and a groundout. Buffalo added a pair in the ninth for insurance, and Bryan Baker closed things out as the Bisons won 5-1.

A fairly pedestrian game, but I enjoyed it as Toronto's team won without too much trouble. Below is Jeter Downs batting in the ninth with Riley Adams catching. Downs was the last out, so this might be one of the last pictures of Adams in the Blue Jays organization as he was traded the next day to Washington for Brad Hand. Update: this trade cost the Blue Jays a playoff spot!


As I walked from my hotel to the ballpark, I passed the DCU Center and noticed a very cool statue of Bob Cousy, who went to Holy Cross before becoming an all-star with the Celtics long before I was born. If you think it looks brand new, you are correct; it was unveiled just over a month ago.

The Jays were rained out Tuesday and had a split doubleheader Wednesday at Fenway. They won the opener and then lost the nightcap to Boston in what will be the only scheduled 7-inning MLB game I will ever pay full price for.

Next Up

I'm off to St. Paul next week for another Tuesday night/Wednesday afternoon set as I continue my attempt to get current with all minor league baseball active stadiums. Check back to see if I got rained out yet again.



Thursday, July 22, 2021

New York Boulders 9 at New Jersey Jackals 0 (Frontier League) - July 21, 2021

Back in 2017, I went to a USL game at Montclair State University. At the time, I discovered that there was a ballpark nearby, namely Yogi Berra Stadium, home of the New Jersey Jackals. I immediately put that ballpark on my list to see, but with so many other more important venues to visit, I had to wait until this season to finally get back there. Which is sad, to be honest, because the stadium is less than an hour from Penn Station on NJ Transit's Montclair-Boonton line, which drops you off just a few minutes away. 

An 11:05 camp day start on Wednesday was ideal for me after seeing Danbury the night before and crashing at my apartment in Astoria. The train arrived at 10:35 and I was surprised that I was the only one to disembark. A short walk around an athletics track and up a hill brought me to the stadium gate (above). 

The Yogi Berra Museum is also here and there is a statue of him crouching just in front. The museum does not open until 12 and so I made a note to visit it after the game. 

The Jackals are now part of the Frontier League, which is partnered with MLB, though I am not sure how that impacts the overall quality of ball here.

At the box office, tickets are either $15 or $17 and I splurged for a front row seat behind the plate. There are benches well down the lines but without ushers, you can sit where you want.

This was the view from Section I, Row 1, Seat 18, an aisle seat. The large building in the background of many of the photos is the Overlook Corporate Center.

The stadium is completely uncovered, with the only shaded seats in the row directly in front of the press box, which is the structure on the left in the photo below. The stadium faces north, so the sun would not be much of a problem for night games.

It opened in 1998 and the seats are original to then, though now a dull pink after spending 23 years in the sun.

As it was camp day, the only concession stand was quite crowded, but with hot dogs on a 2-for-1 special, I lined up behind the campers. 

The Fork in the Road pub was closed for the afternoon game, but when we had a rain delay, the doors were opened up to allow us under cover. The bar, named for one of Berra's famous quotes, looked like a great place to grab a drink, but they did not open the taps, which made the rain delay extra painful. Thankfully, it was just a short storm and play resumed after about an hour.  

One interesting bit was a games booth, where you could either knock over cans, or knock down a clown, to win a prize. 

There is also a kids' zone down in the right field corner, while the only suite is actually part of the museum.

The team has played in a number of different leagues, which you can see with their championship banners on the wall behind the press box. They were the last champions in the Can-Am League, which merged with the Frontier after 2019. 

The scoreboard in left field included the highest level that the batter had reached; there were no former major leaguers in the lineup today.

As you can see, not a big crowd on hand for this one, though it was announced at 1,257, I think many of those were season ticket holders who prefer to avoid games with lots of rowdy kids.

There's not a lot else here when compared to some of the other newer independent league ballparks that I have seen recently. But what makes this place stand out is the museum. After the game, I had nearly an hour before the next train, so I paid a quick visit. Admission is $10, but with AAA you get $5 off. 

As you would expect, there is a very detailed biography of Berra that is worth reading. Did you know he and Joe Garagiola grew up on the same street and were good friends since childhood? In addition, there are a few pieces of memorabilia such as all 27 Yankee championship rings, and some interactive bits such as a speed gun and catchers mitts through the years.

There was also a special exhibit on the Negro Leagues, with photos and some interesting collectibles too. I spent about 40 minutes here and saw everything, but did not have a chance to read every panel. 

If you make it all the way out here, make sure to stop in to see this unique celebration of one of baseball's most famous figures. The view from the suite is below.

The Game

The visitors were the New York Boulders, who I had seen a few weeks back. Chris Tessitore started for the Jackals against Ryan Munoz. After a scoreless first, the rain hit in the top of the second and we were delayed by an hour. When the game resumed, both pitchers stayed in and were effective as we went to the sixth without a run.

Tessitore then gave up a single and a walk before being replaced by Reece Karalus, who followed a passed ball with a wild pitch to gift the Boulders the first run of the game while walking the batter. A double from Phil Capra, a sac fly from Phil Caufield, and a double from Jack Sundberg added 3 more. Munoz completed six innings yielding just three hits and two walks, and his bullpen was solid in relief. The Boulders batted around in the ninth, scoring 5 more to make the final 9-0.

Not as bad as the score indicates, though that last inning cost me some time at the museum.


This was my 317th baseball diamond at which to see a game and 856th venue overall. I would like to hit 400 and 1000 in the next few years.

Next Up

I will be off to Worcester next week to see the Woo Sox in Polar Park, one of nine new minor league ballparks, as well as checking out the Jays in Boston. Recaps will be posted a week from now, so see you then!