Reviewing my 2017 ballpark resolutions

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time for the annual review of my New Year’s resolutions.  Unlike people who resolve to lose weight or be kinder to others, which are all great goals, mine focus on travel and more specifically they focus on baseball travel.

My first resolution for 2017 was…

While attending the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Boston in April, I organized a field trip to see the Portland Sea Dogs and got to meet Josh at the game.  It was great getting to talk baseball and our travel experiences during the game.  I wrote about my experience at Hadlock Field, too (read it here).

In addition to attending a Sea Dogs game, I also made it to a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game during the AAG Annual Meeting.  Josh did not join me at the game in Manchester, but it was still a great visit.  I stopped at Stark Brewing before going to the game, and got to watch a doubleheader because of bad weather that canceled the previous night’s game (read about it here).

It’s easy to assess whether I accomplished my first resolution, which is a resounding yes.

My second resolution for 2017 was…

Although I did not blog about my trips, I did attend a few Birmingham Barons games this past season. My first visit was in April to celebrate my bachelor party with some friends. I also attended a game later in the season with my now wife Katie. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Mobile or Montgomery for a baseball game. So I can clearly acknowledge that I did not accomplish this resolution.

My third resolution for 2017 was…

When I made the resolution to see the Biloxi Shuckers with Katie, I had no idea when I was going to make that trip. However, Katie and I were both intent on making it happen because we had planned to visit in 2016 to celebrate her birthday, but we had to cancel those plans at the last minute.  But this year, we made the trip to Biloxi in mid-July after returning from our honeymoon to Southeast Asia.  We spent a long weekend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and visited a number of breweries in addition to attending a Shuckers game.  I blogged about my brewery visits (here) and wrote about my visit to MGM Park (read it here).  So clearly I accomplished this goal.

My fourth resolution for 2017 was…

Following the trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Katie and I visited family in Atlanta and made it to an Atlanta Braves game.  Although we spent several hours exploring The Battery Atlanta and having drinks at the Terrapin Taproom & Fox Brother BBQ, we did not get to explore much of the ballpark because of an extensive rain delay.  So I have opted not to blog about my visit to the ballpark because I feel like it was an incomplete visit.  However, I firmly feel that I accomplished my resolution to attending a Braves game at SunTrust Park.

Recapping the Resolutions
Unlike previous years, it is pretty easy to determine the success of accomplishing my 2017 resolutions.

#1: See a New Hampshire Fisher Cats or Portland Sea Dogs game with Josh Pahigian.  Goal accomplished.
#2: See all three Alabama MiLB teams (Birmingham Barons, Mobile BayBears, and Montgomery Biscuits).  One of three stadiums visited.  Goal unaccomplished.
#3: See a Biloxi Shuckers game at MGM Park with Katie.  Goal accomplished.
#4: See an Atlanta Braves game at SunTrust Park.  Goal accomplished.

On a grand scale, I accomplished three of four resolutions (0.750).  If I measured each individual component of my resolutions, I accomplished four of six objectives (0.666).  Either way, I feel good about upholding my resolutions for the past year.

Visiting the first World Series site in Boston

Normally my baseball stadium visits are to current ballparks, but over the years I have ventured to see historic sites of former ballparks.  I made one such visit while in Boston earlier this year.

Just down the street from my hotel was the site of the Huntington Avenue American League Baseball Grounds.  The facility was better known as the Huntington Avenue Grounds, which was the first home of the MLB franchise now known as the Boston Red Sox (known as the Boston Americans from 1901 to 1908).  The Red Sox played at Huntington Avenue Grounds from 1901 to 1911, and moved into Fenway Park in 1912.

The ballpark was torn down after the Red Sox moved to their new ballpark.  The site is now home to Northeastern University’s Cabot Center, which is home to the university’s women’s basketball and volleyball teams.  A plaque on the building is the first sign that a Major League Baseball stadium used to be at this site.

A plaque on the Cabot Center commemorating the former site of the Huntington Avenue Grounds,

The plaque details what really makes Huntington Avenue Grounds important within American baseball history as site of the first World Series game, which pitted the National League’s Pittsburg Pirates against the American League’s Boston Americans.

Around the corner from the Cabot Center you will see a sign for World Series Way, which directs people to the most important aspects of this site.

Sign for World Series Way with the Cabot Center in the background.

The plaque on the Cabot Center was erected in 1956, but it wasn’t until 1993 that a marker commemorated the location home plate.  In addition to home plate, a statue of Boston starting pitcher Cy Young on the pitcher’s mound was also dedicated.  Those are found in a courtyard just to the left of the World Series Way sign.

Current sight line from home plate to the pitcher’s mound at Huntington Avenue Grounds.

 

Robert Shure’s statue of Boston Americans starting pitcher Cy Young,
who was the first person to throw a pitch in a World Series games.

 

Closeup of text etched into the statue near Cy Young’s foot.

Unfortunately there is nothing left from Huntington Avenue Grounds because like many ballparks of its era it was built with wood.  However, there is a marker providing some detail about the history of the site near the Cy Young statue.

Marker detailing the importance of Huntington Avenue Grounds within the history of American baseball.

If you are interested in seeing more photographs of Huntington Avenue Grounds as it appeared in October 1903 during the first World Series and other images during its history, you can check out an online display from the Boston Public Library (see it here).

John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Mass.

Prior to his death, John F. Kennedy explored potential sites for his presidential library in Boston around the campus of his alma mater, Harvard University.  He had wanted a library to be built near an academic institution to increase scholarly use of the facility.  However, following his death resident of Cambridge objected to the construction of the library because of the perceived negative impact on the community.

Eventually, a location on Columbia Point in the Dorchester neighborhood was chosen.  Construction of the facility began in August 1977 and was completed two years later.  The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum was dedicated on Oct. 20, 1979.  In 1993, a new museum opened as part of the facility that overlooks Boston, Dorchester Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean.

A special exhibit titled “Young Jack” was on display during my visit in April 2017.

The first permanent exhibit is “1960 Presidential Election.”

A special installation titled “Freedom 7 Space Capsule” is part of the permanent “Lift Off! The U.S. Space Program” exhibit.

U.S. Navy Commander Alan B. Shepherd Jr. piloted Freedom 7 during the first American manned flight in space.

The “White House Corridor” exhibit features a variety of gifts from heads of state.

Pope Paul VI gave Kennedy a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Robert Kennedy’s tenure as Attorney General is incorporated into the museum as the “Robert Kennedy’s Attorney General Office” exhibit.

“The Oval Office” exhibit replicates the office during his presidency.  The exhibit features film footage from 1963 that relates to the civil rights movement.

The museum also features an exhibit focused on the legacy of First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Some of Kennedy’s most famous words are preserved on a note card from a speech in 1963.

“State Visit to Europe” exhibit preserves Kennedy’s trip to Europe during the summer of 1963. A note card from Kennedy’s speech in West Berlin in front of the Berlin Wall on June 26, 1963.
Rotunda following the hallway retelling President Kennedy’s assassination.
A portion of the Berlin Wall commemorating Kennedy’s 1963 address in West Berlin.

The tour of the John F. Kennedy Library concludes with visitors entering the Profile in Courage Plaza.

My night with the Boston Red Sox – April 5, 2017

My first visit to Fenway Park was in June 1999 on the weekend of the NHL Entry Draft when the Atlanta Thrashers came into existence with the expansion draft and selected Patrik Stefan with the first overall pick of the Entry Draft.

While I have photos of my visit, I was still using a film camera as digital cameras had yet to become available at reasonable prices.  So I don’t have many photos of the stadium or game, but with a digital camera I was able to take a few more pictures of my visit this time.

Following my presentation at the AAG Annual Meeting about the intersection of Minor League Baseball and craft beer (read the abstract here), I made it to Fenway Park just in time to catch the national anthem.

Before making it into the park, my friends and I took a few pictures outside the iconic stadium.  We came up onto the stadium on Landsdowne Street, which is the back of the park and provides visitors with a view of the videoboard.

Street-level view of the videoboard.

Despite the presence of numerous bars and clubs, most fans don’t hang out on Landsdowne Street but instead spend their time on Yawkey Way.  Since 2003, the City of Boston has allowed the Red Sox to close Yawkey Way before each home game, which has led to the conversion of the space into a giant street party with food vendors, memorabilia vendors, and more.

The party scene on Yawkey Way before the game.

While the party on Yawkey Way has become synonymous with the Red Sox, the image baseball fans from around the world come to see is the brick facade that features the name “Fenway Park.”

Fenway Park facade with banners representing the team’s World Series and American League titles.

After snapping the photos from outside the stadium, we made it inside the ballpark just in time to witness the national anthem and take out seats in the Infield Grandstand before the game’s first pitch.

Once in my old wooden seat, I waited to snap a picture of the game’s pitch.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris delivering the first pitch to Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer.

Although I did not get my usual photo of first pitch from behind home plate, I did capture a close-up of Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer in the batter’s box from my vantage point.

Closeup of Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer leading off for the visitors.

From my seat I was able to get some great shots of game action, so I got a picture of one of my favorite MLB players: Andrew McCutchen.  I also made sure to get shots of a few notable Red Sox players like left-handed pitcher Chris Sale and second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Closeup of Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Andrew McCutchen.

 

Closeup of Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale.

 

Closeup of Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Before going to explore the stadium in search of food and possibly a beer, I made sure to take a picture of the franchise’s retired numbers which hang near the right field foul pole (a.k.a. Pesky’s Pole – read Boston Globe story from 2012 explaining its history).

The Right Field Bleachers with the Red Sox’s nine retired numbers plus #42 of Brooklyn Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson, who has his number retired throughout Major League Baseball.

The Red Sox detail the history of each of the nine men who have their number retired by the team, which you can read here.  Ted Williams (#9) and Joe Cronin (#4) were the first to have their numbers retired, which took place in 1984.  The most recent number retired belongs to Wade Boggs (#26), who has his number retired in May 2016.  In June 2017, the Red Sox are set to retire the number of David Ortiz (#34).

Eventually I hit the concourse to explore and find some food.  A few days before my trip I heard about the new outlandish food that Aramark (the stadium concessionaire) was offering for the season, so I felt like I should try out one of the lobster-based dishes (read about the food items here).  I was thinking perhaps lobster poutine.  Before finding the specialty food stand, I stumbled upon a jersey commemorating the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Original “Boston Strong” jersey created following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

After my brief stop to snap a shot of the “Boston Strong” jersey, it did not take long to find the appropriate specialty food stand.  Unfortunately in the 3rd inning the concession stand had already run out of all lobster dishes.  I responded by asking for the Italian sausage and peppers sandwich, but sadly there was none to be had.

After leaving the stand, I decided to get the simplest and perhaps most iconic food item: a Fenway frank.

A Fenway frank with spicy mustard.

During my first visit to the venerable ballpark, I ate a Fenway frank while enjoying the game from a field box on the first baseline.  So this was not my first Fenway frank, but it was still quite good.  I kept it simple with just adding spicy mustard because I wanted to be sure to taste the encased meat.  Respectfully of Bostonians, whom I’m sure love their Fenway franks, it was OK.  The dog did the job, but it wasn’t a particularly memorable meal.

So back in my seat after eating and watching the game progress, I felt like I needed to capture a few more pictures that people expect to see.  So as an urban geographer, I felt like I needed a picture showcasing the skyline.

The skyline from the third base line featuring the Prudential Tower and 111 Huntington Avenue (a.k.a. the R2-D2 building).

But no visit to Fenway Park is complete without a picture of the feature that makes the park so famous: the Green Monster.

The iconic Green Monster towering over Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi.

As has become tradition, I partook in the singing of “Sweet Caroline” during the middle of the 8th inning.  While I did not grow up rooting for the Red Sox and have not developed any love for the team over the years, I felt like it was appropriate to sing along as the tradition has become ensconced since 2002 (read a detailed history here).  I recorded video of the experience, which was pretty incredible.

As the game progressed through nine innings without a score, the debate began of how long should we stay considering the cold and a long travel day for myself and my two fellow geographers.  Sadly after a scoreless 10th inning, we decided it was time to head out for something more to eat, a beer, and a good night’s sleep (more on the beer and food in another post).  I hate leaving baseball game’s early, but felt like the long travel day merited an exception.  So we set out from the historic park.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 0, Boston 3 (12 innings)
Box Score

Previewing my trip to New England

As Opening Day for Major League and Minor League teams is upon us this week, I get set for two constants of my life during the month of April: attending the AAG Annual Meeting and attending some baseball games during the opening week of the season.

The 2017 AAG Annual Meeting is in Boston, so that will serve as the base of my journeys over the next week.

Map of my upcoming trip to New England.

I arrive in Boston on Wednesday, April 5, so I will start my trip by seeing the Red Sox that night.  It’ll be a harried day, as I am also making my presentation that afternoon.  My research presentation combines two of my great pleasures in life: craft beer and Minor League Baseball (read about it here).  I will have to virtually sprint from my session to Fenway Park if I hope to make it in the gates before the first pitch.  So I may also go back for the game on Thursday, which is a day game.

I hoped to make it to Portland, Maine, for Opening Day of the Minor League season, but my academic responsibilities prevent me getting there on Thursday evening.  So I will instead lead a small field trip of geographers from Boston to Portland to catch the Sea Dogs on Friday night.  At the game I’ll get to meet up with Josh Pahigian, and chat baseball.

There are several Minor League teams in New England, and naturally I’d love to see them all.  However, I’m at the mercy of the schedule in deciding what teams I can see.  So the only other team I will be able to see on this trip is the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who I will catch on Saturday, April 8.  I’m not leading a field trip to see them, but instead getting a rental car for one day and maybe taking a friend or two with me.

Although I’ve seen games at Fenway Park (in 1999 when I attended the NHL Draft), and Hadlock Field and Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (when visiting a friend who lives in Connecticut), all of those visits were before I considered blogging about my baseball adventures.  So I won’t get to add any new states or stadiums to my tally, but I’ll get to add three new parks to my blog.