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.

My night with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats – April 8, 2017

A day after leading a field trip of six geographers to Portland, Maine, as part of the 2017 AAG Annual Meeting in Boston (read about it here), I made a solo trek to New Hampshire for a baseball game.  Although I asked colleagues and friends to join me on the trip to Manchester to see the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, nobody was able to join me.  I never object to company when driving or attending a sporting event, but it was nice to be back in my comfort zone chasing down another ballpark.

Like my visit to Portland the night before, I had previously attended a Fisher Cats game during the summer of 2007.  As part of my week-long stay with a friend from graduate school, we attended a Fisher Cats game at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (née Merchantsauto.com Stadium).  I was most excited because of the recent renovations made to the ballpark in advance of hosting the 2017 Eastern League All-Star Game (read the story here).

As excited as I was about seeing the new renovations, the first thing I noticed upon arriving at the stadium was snow.  I knew it had snowed heavily the weekend prior to my trip, but was surprised by how much snow was piled up in the parking lot right in front of the stadium and especially struck by the small pile in front of the main gate (see it on my Instagram account).  I got a bit closer to take my standard ballpark entrance photo for the blog, so you don’t see any snow in this picture.

Ticket office and main entrance to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

The gates are adorned with banners of famous former players, so I had to take a photo of one of the team’s most famous alums…

Right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman came up through the Toronto Blue Jays organization,
and was a pivotal piece of the U.S. team winning the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

After climbing the stairs, I immediately saw some of the ballpark’s newest renovations.  I saw the Sam Adams Bar & Grill, which overlooks left field.  However, the waterfall is the much more interesting feature.

A majestic waterfall greets fans following their ascent up the main staircase like fan ascended to heaven.

Behind the waterfall and facing toward the Sam Adams Bar & Grill is a tiki bar with a live music stage.  According to the Fisher Cats, bands will perform on the stage on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

A band performing on the live music stage by the tiki bar.

The band played some classic rock and ’80s music, so I was in heaven.  Although I was the only person telling “Roll Tide Roll” at the correct spots when the band played “Sweet Home Alabama.”

After enjoying some music, I decided to check out the concession stands so I could make an informed decision about my dining options.  I saw one stand that surprised me (Wrapery), but the other selections were the usual ballpark suspects.

I was surprised to see a stand serving wraps, but they certainly had a line on this chilly day.

 

I also found pizza and the usual lineup of hamburgers and hot dogs.

 

A bit later in the game I got picture of another set of concession stands featuring hot dogs, hamburgers, and BBQ.

While exploring the concourse studying my food and beverage choices, I stumbled upon the lineups and Eastern League standings.  I also learned something about the game, which I did not know when I hit the road.

Starting lineups for April 8, 2017.

Checking out the standings led me to discover that Binghamton and New Hampshire did not play their scheduled games on Thursday OR Friday.  So, as the lineups showed, there would be two games instead of one tonight.

Eastern League standings entering play on April 8, 2017.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I discovered while exploring the concourse is that the Fisher Cats cover just about everything conceivable with a team photo.  That includes Fungo on a vendor door, which may be excessive but is really cool because that’s what a Minor League Baseball stadium should be like.  It should be a place promoting and celebrating that local team.

Photos of Fisher Cats mascots Slider and Fungo adorn doors in the ballpark.

Eventually after I felt like I had done enough exploring (and taking pictures), I decided to take my seat behind home plate and watch the start of the game (and season for these teams).

New Hampshire Fisher Cats starting pitcher Sean Reid-Foley delivering the first pitch
to Binghamton Rumble Ponies center fielder Champ Stuart.

I usually take some action photos of the game to show off the uniforms, but today’s games presented a different opportunity.  The Toronto Blue Jays assigned five of their top eight prospects to the Fisher Cats to start the season (read the story here), so I wanted to be sure to get some photos of these players.

So I was happily surprised when I realized during the game that I had taken a closeup of the Jays’ number two prospect Sean Reid-Foley, who was the first game’s starting pitcher.

Closeup of Toronto Blue Jays’ No. 2 prospect and Fisher Cats starting pitcher Sean Reid-Foley
with third baseman Emilio Guerrero in the background.

It wasn’t until warm-ups for the second game that I started to take photos of the other top prospects. So I’ll come back to those photos at the appropriate time because after getting a few shots of Reid-Foley on the mound I wandered around the ballpark to take some pictures of the stadium during game action.

People who closely follow Minor League Baseball know that the Hilton Garden Inn beyond the left field wall is the most memorable view from Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.  Unfortunately, I did not get to stay overnight at the hotel, but naturally had to take a photo of it from the ballpark.

The famous Hilton Garden Inn just beyond left field, as seen from the first base line bleachers.

The post wouldn’t be complete without the Hilton Garden Inn, but the rest of the stadium has some great views, too.  Like the Sam Adams Bar & Grill…

The Sam Adams Bar & Grill was a key part of the stadium’s renovations before the 2017 season.

Although people rarely come to the ballgame to see a beautiful grandstand, I think it’s an important part of the stadium and gives people perspective on the seating bowl.

A view of the grandstand, press box, and luxury suites.

While taking some of the photos, the Fisher Cats celebrated a young fan’s birthday on the field.  That meant he got to meet the team’s mascot, Fungo.

A young fan celebrating his birthday on the field with Fungo and the team’s on-field emcee Zwick.

With Fungo on the field, I quickly took advantage of him departing the field to have my picture taken with him.

Me with Fungo.

Finally after watching a few innings of play and exploring, I decided it was time to get a bite to eat and a beer to drink.  I settled on the Great North Tie Dye Ale, which is widely available at the concession stands, and the Live Free burger, which I got at Burgertopia.

The Live Free burger featured bacon, mushrooms, maple syrup sauce, and Swiss cheese.

The Live Free burger was truly a mess, but definitely enjoyable.  I expected the maple syrup sauce to be like pancake/waffle syrup, but instead it was much thicker and creamier.  It is a pleasant surprise, but also dripped all over my fingers while eating it.

The Tie Dye Ale was good, but did not live up to the description of a “summer ale” as described by the concession stand employee.  According to the brewery’s website, it is a dry-hopped pale ale.  So it was quite a bit hoppier than I expected, although it was very true to the style.  It is a beer that hop heads would enjoy.

Ironically just after I finished eating my burger the crazy flamingo-riding hot dog vendor made an appearance and tossed hot dogs into the crowd.

The flamingo-riding hot dog vendor tossing franks into the crowd.

After a bit, I checked out the team store and talked with the store manager Jake Moore because I had hoped to find a New Hampshire Primaries hat with both the donkey and elephant on the cap.  I learned that the team only sells those items during presidential election years, so I was a year late.  So perhaps I’ll return in three years to get a cap with the elephant and donkey on it.

I eventually got to see the end of the first game, so I snapped a few more pictures of the game action and the videoboard.

Binghamton right-handed relief pitcher Cory Burns on the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning of the first game.

 

A view of the videoboard in right field.

Following the conclusion of game one, the teams had a 30-minute respite before beginning the back end of the doubleheader.  I hadn’t planned on taking more pictures, but decided I wanted to capture a few more pictures.  I wanted to get some shots of the Blue Jays’ top prospects, and lucked out getting one of the New York Mets’ top prospects (No. 22-rated P.J. Conlon; see the full list here).

Binghamton Rumble Ponies starting pitcher P.J. Conlon in the bullpen before the start of game two.

So back to my primary goal: capturing pictures of some of the Blue Jays’ top-rated prospects.  Specifically, I was looking to get photos of No.3-rated prospect outfielder Anthony Alford, No. 4-rated prospect shortstop Richard Ureña, and No. 6-rated prospect right-handed pitcher Conner Greene.  I was pretty successful, too.

During warm-ups, I got a pair of the prospects in the same picture.

Richard Ureña (#4) and Anthony Alford (to the right) are both top-five ranked prospects in the Blue Jays’ system.

 

Fisher Cats shortstop Richard Ureña is the Blue Jays’ fourth-ranked prospect.

 

Fisher Cats starting pitcher Conner Greene is the Blue Jays sixth-ranked prospect.

I was not able to get a picture of right-handed pitcher Jon Harris because he did not pitch in either game, but it was pretty cool getting photos of four of the five top-rated prospects assigned to the Fisher Cats.

Considering that the Fisher Cats lost the two games, top-rated prospects are maybe not the best close to my stadium visit.  Although I enjoyed my visit immensely, ate some great food, and drank a good beer, the game was really marked by the cold temperatures and a constant struggle to stay warm on the Opening Night of the season.

The pitchers in the Fisher Cats bullpen do their best to stay bundled up and their heads warm by wearing tossle caps.

I was also a bit cold from watching the majority of two games, so I opted to skip the fireworks and headed for my car for the hour-drive back to Boston and my conference.  Despite being a bit tired, I was quite happy about my visit back to Manchester.  The stadium renovations definitely added to what was already an excellent ballpark.

Final Score: Binghamton Rumble Ponies 2, New Hampshire Fisher Cats 0 – Game 1
Box Score – Game 1
Binghamton Rumble Ponies 8, New Hampshire Fisher Cats 2 – Game 2
Box Score – Game 2

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.

Franklin Pierce Burial Place in Concord, N.H.

Following years of declining health due to heavy drinking, Franklin Pierce retired and became a farmer.  He split his time between Concord, where he gained notoriety as a lawyer before pursuing politics, and a cottage at Little Boar’s Head on the coast.  In September 1869, he returned to Concord full-time and died on October 8 from cirrhosis of the liver.  He was buried in Old North Cemetery next to his wife Jane, who had died six years earlier.

Overview of the Pierce family grave.
The Pierce grave is located in the Minot enclosure.