Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Evansville Otters 4 at Trois-Rivières Aigles 7 (Frontier League) - May 29, 2022

After watching a couple of harness races at L'Hippodrome 3R, Sharpy and I returned to Stade Quillorama, home of Les Aigles de Trois-Rivières. Upon seeing the front of the ballpark, I commented on how it looked very similar to Stade CANAC, where we had seen a game the night before. As it turns out, both venues were built at the same time as part of a government initiative to create new sports facilities in the province and obviously used the same design. You can see 1938 in the cornerstones beside the entrance.

From a distance, it really looks like an old office block, with more windows than a typical stadium would have. Quillorama is a chain of bowling alleys by the way, making this one of the more interesting naming rights sponsorship in sports.

The box office is in a temporary structure that still matches the red colour scheme on the stadium. Tickets here range from $28 down to $16 for general admission, which is the best option if you want some space and to be under cover.

The layout inside is also identical to Stade Canac, with a roof from which the net hangs and walkways separating the levels. The seats are arranged differently however, with the general admission seats those in red. In other words, there isn't much advantage to getting the more expensive seats.

The biggest difference between the two ballparks is the field, as there is a still an entirely natural surface here, compared to the synthetic field in Quebec. There is also a pitcher's path between the mound and home plate, something you rarely see these days.

There are poles here too that can block your view if you sit in the wrong seat, but there are no advertisements on them.

Looking the other way, the press box hangs down from the roof here too, though there are no retired numbers on it.

Just like Quebec, there is an open area with a concession stand and tables down the left field line. It is hard to see in the picture above, but it is there, and just like Quebec, you can chat with the visiting team.

Sharpy and I headed to this area before the game and were happy to discover that the team has its own beer. At $8 a can, it is reasonably priced for a stadium (remember this is Canadian dollars) and surprisingly quite tasty. It also goes well with the poutine that Canadian law requires you to order if you are from out of town.

The mascot is Grand Slam the Eagle (if you haven't figured it out already, Aigles is Eagles in French) and he was down in the area entertaining some local youths.

The most unusual feature here is the lounge in left field, which has pushed the fence closer to home, to where it is a tempting 303 feet away. One batter hit a line drive that hit the top of the wall, but there were no homers into the lounge on this day. The retired jersey to the left is for Matt Rusch, who played here for five seasons and is now the club's skipper.

The view from our GA seats right behind the plate, next to the camera that was filming the game. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, there was no place I'd rather be.

Overall, Stade Quillorama is just as fun as Stade CANAC. I enjoyed my time here slightly more because of the horses, the afternoon game, and the beer, but the stadiums themselves are almost identical. Usually both teams are home at the same time so visiting clubs can play two series in Quebec, thus it is easy to plan a trip to see both ballparks. If you are a chaser, try not to miss these two stadiums that are nearly 80 years old and offer a glimpse into the past. Plus poutine!

The Game

The Evansville Otters were in town with a 7-7 record, while Les Aigles were a game behind at 6-8. The Otters opened the scoring by plating four in the third, with Justin Felix (below) contributing a two-run homer.

The Aigles fought back with two in the third and another pair in the fourth on a Canice Ejoh homer that tied things up. They then took the lead in the sixth when Carlos Martinez (not the Carlos Martinez you are thinking of) singled home a pair and Ejoh added his second dinger in the seventh for some insurance. Canadian Sam Belisle-Springer, pitching in his first professional league at age 27, gave up four runs and ten hits in six innings, but he got the win after three TR relievers combined to shutout the Otters the rest of the way. The final is below.

The game was played at a very slow pace (237 pitches in 2:57, or 1.33 PPM), but still provided for an enjoyable afternoon.


If you like chocolate, visit Chocolaterie Samson, located just a few minutes from the ballpark. They have plenty of uniquely shaped confections at reasonable prices and everything is very tasty. 

Next Up

I'm heading right back to Canada to complete the CFL after two years of cancelled plans. Games in Winnipeg and Regina on opening weekend, plus a couple of baseball tilts will make for a true sports road trip. As always, check back to see what happened.



Monday, May 30, 2022

L'Hippodrome 3R (Harness Racing) - May 29, 2022

After a surreal night at our rural hotel where we watched a group of elderly Québécois practice line dancing, Sharpy and I drove along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, a short but relaxing trek that brought us to Stade Quillorama, home of the Trois-Rivières Aigles of the Frontier League. We arrived 90 minutes before first pitch, which gave us some time to look around. The ballpark was built in 1938 as part of a provincial initiative to create new sports facilities, and much like Philadelphia and Detroit these days, the city smartly concentrated all of these new venues in the same area. There is the Colisée now named after Jean-Guy Talbot, which used to host the Trois-Rivières Draveurs of the QMJHL and still sees UQTR play their college hockey. It was locked on this day unfortunately.

Next to that is the Industrial Building, which now houses a COVID vaccination clinic. All of these edifices are constructed using the same Streamline Moderne architectural style and it is quite an impressive collection, though obviously looking a bit dated.

What really caught my eye, however, was a sign indicating a grand prix. This usually means a racetrack, but in this case, it was a hippodrome, a fancy word for horse track. When I saw a horse trotting by with a jockey in silks, I surmised that there might be a day of racing, so Sharpy and I headed over. We walked in the building, through the lobby, past the casino entrance, and out to the track just as the first race was starting. I couldn't believe my luck! A new venue in the most unexpected of locales.

This was harness racing rather than thoroughbreds, and the horses start behind a truck that pulls away, drawing in the fence in the process. These horses are also slower, as you would expect when they are dragging a harness behind them.

The race is a mile long, which means two laps around the track, and takes about two minutes (a thoroughbred runs a mile in about 1:36). The winning horse is then taken to the winner's circle, while the owners are driven over from the paddock area for a photo opportunity. That's Race 1 winner Notaword N, who was the favourite at 1.7 odds (paying $5.40 on $2 bet) and ran the mile in two minutes flat.

The races are only about 20 minutes apart, so we stayed for the second, with Yankee Up the heavy favourite at 1.75. Sharpy suggested that we should bet on him, but the odds were not that compelling, though they shifted wildly during the betting phase.

Of course, Yankee Up won (that's him leading above), just like the Yankees have been doing lately (ugh). He paid $5.50 on a $2 bet, so I guess I should have put a few bucks down after all.

Above, you can see the baseball stadium from the finish line area. For me, this was a serendipitous discovery that counts L'Hippodrome 3R as a new venue, since I saw an event from start to finish. It was only my fifth horse track to visit and the first for harness racing.



Sunday, May 29, 2022

Florence Y'Alls 2 at Quebec Capitales 4 (8, Frontier League) - May 28, 2022

I've spent a quiet week in Ottawa with family, but had a chance to get away this past weekend with a trip to Quebec, where two Frontier League teams are playing. Both the Québec Capitales and the Trois-Rivières Aigles were members of the Can-Am League that folded back in 2019, and both joined the Frontier League, though it wasn't until this season that they could enjoy a full home schedule. With the Capitales home Saturday night and T-R Sunday afternoon, it made for an easy jaunt from Ottawa and my friend Sharpy agreed to drive. After stopping at our hotel in rural Quebec, we drove to Stade CANAC, located in the Parc Victoria area of the Quebec City. The small parking lot in front was completely full, but there were plenty of street spots nearby. We then walked back and I snapped the picture above. From outside, the stadium looks more like an old office building. 

The game was originally scheduled for 7, but a rainout the night before had turned it into a doubleheader starting at 5:30. We arrived a few minutes before first pitch and were about to line up at the box office when were accosted by a gentleman who offered us a couple of season tickets right behind the plate. My French, which was once passable, has deteriorated to the point where I cannot come up with the most basic phrase, so rather than negotiate, we accepted his offer of face value. I was happy with the unique stub (below), which shows a couple of ladies drinking beer. Quebec has a more relaxed attitude than the rest of the country and it shows here. In a related note, if a smaller independent league team can issue season stubs like this, why can't all big league clubs? So frustrating.

The view from the seats wasn't that bad either.

The ballpark was opened in 1939 and known as Stade Municipal de Québec until 2016, when new management sold the naming rights to Canac, a retail hardware chain. At that time, an entirely synthetic field was also installed. This includes the basepaths and other areas that are usually dirt, which makes for some interesting sounds on foul balls near the plate. The interior concourses are small, but have plenty of history painted on the walls, though it is entirely in French. 

The stadium has an impressive history including a period when it hosted the Québec Carnavals, the Expos AA affiliate from 1971-75. Future stars such as Gary Carter, Steve Rogers, and Andre Dawson all played here before moving on to Montreal. You can read more about the stadium's colourful history on its Wikipedia page, which is quite detailed.

The Capitales have been here since 1999 and were in the Can-Am League for most of that time, winning seven titles, including five in a row between 2009-13, with all of them commemorated on the interior walls. Make sure to get here early to have a look around; the club has done a great job preserving not only their history, but that of the stadium too. Though everything is in French, even a rudimentary understanding would allow you to appreciate what is on view. 

The standings and the starting lineups (alignements partants) can be found here, as well as a large concession stand. Food and drink prices are reasonable when compared to the majors, with $2 hot dogs the special on this night. Look for the free magazine here too, as it provides some additional useful information about the team.

Even the stairwells have some art; management has done an excellent job keeping the ballpark fresh while retaining its historic appeal.

There are three levels of seating: loge (the blue seats next to the field); mezzanine (red seats); and general admission, which are the yellow benches at the top. Most of the seats are covered by the roof, but there are poles that might block your view in the GA section.

The GA benches still have red tape marking seats to be avoided due to COVID, but these are no longer necessary. Capacity is 4,300 and the team draws very well, with 3,111 on hand this evening. Last season, only 10 games were played here, with capacity limited to 2,800.

The shot below gives a good idea of the 3 seating levels; there are only two rows of loge seats between the dugouts, with five rows farther down the lines. 

The aforementioned poles, which also hold advertisements near the top. This is an interesting way to make use of otherwise empty space without disturbing the view, though I'm not sure how effective they are, as I did not notice them until I looked at the pictures.

The netting hangs from the roof around the plate but is lower down the lines, so foul balls are possible for souvenir hunters.

There are special group areas past the bases down each line, Along the left field line are more concessions that serve the same food as is available on the concourse, though with far fewer people, so better to go here if you don't enjoy waiting in line. You can also haggle for balls with the visiting bullpen.

The press box hangs from the roof and displays the retired numbers (Jackie Robinson, Gary Carter (number retired by the Expos but not the Capitales), and Eddie Lantigua, who played here for 11 seasons). The number 9 is for Jean-Philippe Roy, who played for the Quebec Diamants, a member of Quebec's Ligue de Baseball Junior Élite.

The mascot is Capi the Lion, which is not as apropos as you might think, since there is a lion on the Quebec coat of arms.

Overall, Stade CANAC is a great place to see a ballgame, as it combines history with some modern touches. Cheap concessions and good fans complete the experience. Quebec City is one of the most beautiful cities in North America, so there is also a lot to do before and after the game. If you are making a journey through La Belle Province, consider a stop at Parc Victoria to check out Les Capitales and perhaps make it La Balle Province for a night.

The Game

The Florence Y'alls were the visitors and wearing some sharp powder blue uniforms (below). Florence is a suburb of Cincinnati in northern Kentucky and has a water tower that displays Florence Y'all, hence the team's nickname. The Y'alls might have the best name, but they had the worst record among the 15 Frontier League home teams at 4-7 (the Empire State Greys, a travelling team, were 0-13) while Quebec topped the circuit at 9-3.

John Witkowski started for the Capitales and was solid, yielding five hits and two walks in six innings, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in his final frame. His offense managed just a run off Florence starter Billy Damon, who lasted four innings, while Matt Rietz pitched two scoreless stanzas in relief. As this was only a 7-inning game, I thought Witkowski might try for the shutout, but he was replaced by Samuel Adames, who threw like he had a couple of Sam Adams in the bullpen. A single, hit batsman, wild pitch, and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out. Then Adames settled down and struck out the next two batters. With two strikes on Ray Zuberer and the crowd standing in anticipation of an exciting win, Adames unleashed a pitch that catcher Jeffry Parra could not handle and the tying run scampered home from third. The passed ball meant that the run was unearned, so Adames maintained his 0.00 ERA. Zuberer grounded out to end the threat, but the damage was done and when Quebec failed to score in their half, we headed to extras.

Florence scored a run in the 8th, but Quebec quickly tied it when Webb Little singled home the ghost runner in the bottom half. This brought Kyle Crowl to the plate and he wasted no time ending things, driving the ball deep over the left field fence to give the Capitales the 4-2 win. At this time, I was down in the open area along left field and snapped a picture of Crowl rounding third (above).

There's the manual scoreboard being taken down immediately after the game, so quick that I couldn't take a picture in time. Notice how the visiting team has goose eggs instead of zeros.


None of these players ever made it to the bigs and few of them were even drafted from what I can tell. Brennan Price, a 6-9, 300-pound behemoth for Florence, was taken by Milwaukee in the 29th round of the 2016 draft as a pitcher and briefly hurled for the Jays Gulf and Appalachian League affiliates in 2017-18. He is now a power hitter in the mold of Rowdy Tellez and looks to have a career in the independent leagues. 

With a drive back to the hotel, we did not stay for the nightcap, which the Capitales won 7-2, going on to sweep the series with a 2-1 victory the following day. By that time, however, we were in Trois-Rivières, the subject of the next post.



Monday, May 16, 2022

Cincinnati Reds 0 at Pittsburgh Pirates 1 (Combined No-Hitter) - May 15, 2022

The original plan for this weekend trip was to drive to suburban Cleveland for another Frontier League game, but the price of rental cars and gas made me reconsider. When I realized that the Pirates were hosting the Reds at PNC Park, my favourite venue of them all, it made it an easy decision to change the plan. And I'm glad I did.

Having discussed PNC Park in some detail during previous visits, I had no intention of writing a post about this particular game, and thus took few pictures as I walked around the concourse. The display above is quite interesting and revealed a fact about which I was unaware: the Pirates fielded the first MLB all-minority lineup in September 1971.

After picking up my designated driver soda and an order of boneless wings, I set up on a table on the concourse and waited for the game to start. I much prefer stadium concourses that have a view of the field along with standing areas as it gives you the freedom to move around without disturbing others.

For me, the attraction for this game was Reds starter Hunter Greene, a fireballing rookie who was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. His fastball tops 100 MPH on occasion and is complemented by a wicked slider, which was working well as he got through two innings with three strikeouts while yielding a walk. Pirates pitcher Jose Quintana faced the minimum through two, with an Albert Almora Jr. single erased on a double play. 

I then moved upstairs to my ticketed seat to enjoy the view. The Clemente Bridge is undergoing some rehabilitation work so you have to walk across the Warhol or Fort Duquesne Bridges to get to the North Shore. After an inning here during which both Greene and Quintana retired the side in order, I headed for the farthest seat in the ballpark at the top of section 301.

I spent the middle innings here, watching boats meander down the Allegheny while Quintana and Green continued to duel. The Reds had men on second and third in the fourth, but Almora grounded out to end the threat. Greene, meanwhile, walked two more batters but had yet to give up a hit.

Sensing that something special was about to happen, I headed back downstairs for the final frames. Quintana left after seven with just three hits and a walk given up, but Greene was even better, finishing his seven stanzas with just three walks while throwing 103 pitches. I was sure that he would be removed, but after the Reds could not capitalize on an Alejo Lopez double in the top of the eighth, Greene emerged from the dugout for the bottom half. After getting Jack Suwinski to ground out, Greene walked Rodolfo Castro and Michael Perez, the former coming on a 3-2 pitch that should have been called a strike. Now at 118 pitches, the most thrown by a starter in a major league game this season, Greene's day was done: 7.1 innings, 5 walks, no hits.

I had moved down to the seats and was hoping for the Pirates to score without a hit. And Reds reliever Art Warren helped out by walking Ben Gamel to load the bases. Ke'Bryan Hayes grounded to Lopez and a double play was in order, but Lopez bobbled the ball and the relay from shortstop Matt Reynolds was late as Castro scored the first run of the game. Bryan Reynolds then popped out to end the inning and the no-hitter was still intact. 

All that was needed was for Pirates closer David Bednar to shut down the Reds, and he quickly got two outs. TJ Friedl pinch-hit and worked a full count before grounding to second (above). Josh VanMeter threw to Yoshi Tsutsugo and the game was over. A no-hitter! Except it isn't.

Back in 1991, MLB changed the rules so only a game in which the pitchers complete 9 innings without giving up a hit would count as no-hitters. Greene and Warren combined to throw 8 innings, but because Pittsburgh didn't need to bat in the 9th, it will not be recorded as an official no-no. So you might think I'd be disappointed by the outcome. Nope, look at the scoreboard below.

That is only the 6th time that a team has won a game without a hit. The first was in April 1964, when the visiting Reds beat Ken Johnson and the Houston Colt .45s 1-0, the only other time this happened in a National League battle. So this was the first NL game won by the home team without a hit! History! And I was one of the 10,559 fans to be there. And probably the only one to document it.


Although this doesn't officially count as a no-hitter, I am counting it unofficially. It is the second combined no-hitter that I attended this season, after seeing the Mets do it to Philadelphia just two few weeks before.