Thursday, December 29, 2005


Is there really a need for a World baseball tournament ? Aren't all the best players already playing in the Major Leagues ? And does it really matter to most which country has the best team ? Bud Selig has done an admirable job of promoting the WBC and trying to get people to buy into it, but I don't think it will be the success that he probably wants or is expecting. There are several reasons why the WBC won't fly :

1) It's happening during spring training while the players are just starting to get ready for the regular season. It is hard to imagine that any player will be trying too much harder than they do during a normal spring training game. I would be quite surprised if the intensity level is any higher than it has been in the recent All-Star games. After all, players realize that their loyalty should be towards their employer, not their country.
2) Some of the best players wonÂ’t be participating. If the most famous American player (ARod) and most famous Japanese player (Matsui) arenÂ’t playing, how serious can we really take the WBC ? Maybe Commissioner Bud will twist their arms and ultimately get these guys to play, but I doubt it. It is clear that some teams are frowning on letting their players participate. They are just looking out for their own well being, just as they should be. Can you imagine the outrage if a great player got hurt while playing in a meaningless exhibition ?
3) Are there any fans inside the United States that even care about the WBC ? Ok, there may be a few soccer fans that enjoy international competition, but the vast majority of people could care less about countries competing against one another. This is why the Olympics are largely ignored in the U.S. compared to in other countries.

Maybe I'll be wrong, but you won't catch me attending any games or watching any on TV (will they even be broadcast ?).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Why Not Champs ?

It's official - the Vermont Expos have changed their name to the Vermont Lake Monsters. And frankly, I'm not a big fan of the name change. Apparently "Champs" was far and away the most popular name submitted by fans, so why didn't the team choose to go with this name ? It would have made perfect sense since Champ is the name usually associated with the infamous Lake Champlain monster. And Champ is the name of the hugely successful mascot who has been entertaining Vermont fans since 1994. Despite being the fan choice, general manager CJ Knudsen trumped it, claiming that the name wouldn't sound right if the team was doing lousy in August. Another reason floated is that the Champs sporting goods store objected. Both are lame excuses and completely ignored what the fans wanted. So why even have a "Name that Team" contest if you're just going to completely ignore the fans overwhelming selection ? Maybe they should have just stuck with the Expos moniker ...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Baseball Landing in Plymouth ?

According to recent articles including this one from today, it appears that baseball may be coming to Plymouth, MA in time for the 2007 season. A new 5,500 seat ballpark is proposed as part of a complex that would include a sports dome and banquet facility. No word yet on what league they would play in, but speculation is that it would be the Can-Am League. With teams in nearby Brockton and Lynn, Plymouth would be a natural fit. Further details will be available on November 7th as a press conference is scheduled for that day. The proposed team even has a website up and running already.

Speaking of the Can-Am League, the alignment for next year is up in the air right now, but should be settled soon. Nashua apparently is trying to gain entrance, in which case they would drop out of the Atlantic League. With a full season team in nearby Manchester, Nashua would probably be better off playing in league with a shorter season. The CAL is also looking at Augusta, NJ as a possible location after the Cardinals flew off to State College. I'd like to see the league expand to 10 teams next year, but it's looking like that won't happen until '07 unless a road team is utilized again.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A New Landscape ?

What is Mike Veeck up to now ? With the recent announcement of three teams leaving the Northern League (and now four with the Sioux City announcement yesterday), many are wondering what Veeck's plan are for this new league of his. This article reveals a few details which seem to indicate where Veeck (and Miles Wolff) believe that independent baseball should be headed. It seems to be a rather radical new vision, and frankly I'm not sure it's one that makes a whole lot of sense. The fundamental idea that Veeck is pushing towards is making indy baseball more national. There is talk of having interleague play among the several independent leagues as well as having a combined all-star game and "world series". But my question is, for what purpose ? Do casual fans (which make up the majority at minor league games) really care about who the opposing team is or where they're from ? Are more fans going to come out in Elmira if Sioux Falls is coming in for a series ? I would really doubt it. To make this "interleague" play possible, other leagues would have to cooperate by reworking their schedules. With no obvious benefit, why would leagues disrupt their schedules to play what would in essence be exhibition games ? Maybe I'm missing something or perhaps Veeck's plan hasn't been properly described yet, but to me this just seems like a publicity stunt by Veeck to get himself and the St. Paul Saints some attention, which they haven't gotten in several years. Perhaps Veeck is once again ahead of his time. Or perhaps his vision will never get off the drawing board. Whichever, it should be interesting to watch over the next few months and years.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Cathedrals of the Game

For those who have HD television and get the INHD channel, there is a series on baseball parks that is currently airing called Cathedrals of the Game. Each half hour episode features a detailed tour of a current MLB park as well as a look back at the history of baseball in the respective city. A look at their website indicates that episodes have been made for 14 different parks as well as one about the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The shows are produced in conjunction with MLB which allows for an "all-access" pass to the ballpark including a look inside the clubhouses and other areas that the average fan would never see. Unfortunately the host, Michelle Beadle, is basically just a pretty face and has a limited knowledge of baseball so can't get much out of the interviews she conducts with team personnel and players. Despite this, the shows are definitely worth watching, if for nothing else the stunning photography that comes across with high definition. And though the content is geared towards the casual fan, even the hardcore ballpark fans might learn a thing or two that they didn't already know. Catch the episodes while you can as it's doubtful they will be airing after October.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Need a Towel ?

When it was first announced earlier this year that a NY Penn League team would be moving to State College, most people (including myself) assumed that the team moving would be one of the western New York franchises, most likely Jamestown. But rumors have been swirling the past couple months that the team headed for State College is the New Jersey Cardinals. While on paper this would seem surprising, the reason is apparently because of an unfavorable (expensive) lease. And during my most recent visit to Skylands Park this past weekend, it is easy to see that the team is desperate to increase revenues. Box seats are a whopping $12. Parking is $4. Programs are $4. Concessions are expensive, portions are rather small, and quality is subpar. But the biggest indicator to me was the unusual appearance of attendants in the bathrooms. After visiting over 200 parks, this is something I'’ve never seen before. The attendant was there to hand out paper towels, but his purpose seemed more to collect tips as he had a jar with a prominent sign that read "Tips are greatly appreciated"”. Just ridiculous.

While it would be a shame if Augusta lost their NY Penn League team, I'm sure that one of the independent leagues (probably the Can-Am League) would scoop up this ballpark in a heartbeat. Being only 12 years old, Skylands Park is simply too nice to sit idle.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Purest Experience

I made my annual voyage to Cooperstown this past weekend, and as usual was able to take in a game at Damaschke Field in Oneonta. I'm glad to report that nothing has changed - the atmosphere is still pure baseball. No between inning games, no mascots, no beer, no bratty kids. They do use some music and sound effects, but even many of these are baseball related and don't detract from the experience. Oneonta is the closest thing to the minor league experience I remember as a kid growing up in the early 80's and attending games in Holyoke (MA) and Burlington (VT). Damaschke Field really is like a time machine. Hopefully it will remain for many more years as an example of what the minor leagues were before corporations and sponsorship took it over.

Speaking of time machines, did someone put Ryne Sandberg in one ? Or did he just forget when he played baseball. From listening to his Hall of Fame speech, you'd think he played 50 years ago. Apparently to get on the good side of all the HOFers, Sandberg felt it necessary to bash the current ballplayers as having no respect for the game, swinging for the fences too much, and for using steroids. Sorry to tell you Ryne, but you are part of the same generation that you are criticizing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Walk Like A ... Blind Man

It's not often that I'm amused at a baseball game. Because I've been to so many different parks and seen so many different promotions and mascot antics, there isn't much that surprises me any longer. But something happened in the Somerset-Newark game on Saturday night at Riverfront Stadium that genuinely made me laugh. And it actually was something that happened on the field with the game participants. In the 14th inning (the game would go 16), a Newark batter clearly swung and missed at a pitch in the dirt. But the umpire rules that the batter foul tipped it. This brought an argument from Somerset manager Sparky Lyle who proceeded to get ejected from the game. But Lyle, who apparently never leaves quietly, put on a great blind man routine as he was exiting the field. He grabbed a bat and walked the entire length of the dugout tapping it on the ground as a blind man does with his walking stick. This brought a roar of laughter from the remaining fans (of which there many since fireworks were to be shot off after the game). I found out later that this is something that Sparky does whenever he's ejected. Still, it was a treat for me as I had never seen anything like it. Was it inappropriate and a bit tasteless ? Probably. Is it showing up the umps ? Probably. But was it funny ? Yes, it absolutely was and I don't mind admitting that I got quite a chuckle out of it. And this is just another reason why you should never leave a game early.

As for the game, both teams were anemic offensively on this night, which led to 16 innings being played before it was settled. What's strange is that the teams bookended this game with an 11-10 battle on Friday and a 13-10 doozy on Sunday. Apparently Newark was out of pitchers on Sunday which led to Brent Bilingsley pitching a complete game with this line : 9IP, 12H, 10ER, 147 pitches thrown. Fortunately he got a win for his effort. It's not often you see a line like that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Kiss Kam

It seems that the big trend sweeping the nation at minor league (and some major league) ballparks is the Kiss Cam. If you have a video board, it is a requirement that you do this at some point around the 5th inning. To me, I never understood the fascination with wanting to be on the video board - it's not like 99% of the people in the park will know who you are. And I guess now it's not just good enough to be shown, you have to be shown doing something (in this case canoodling with your spouse or SO). And if this weren't annoying enough, now teams are trying to be funny by pointing the camera at two players on the opposing team, who either end up ignoring the camera or giving each other a small peck to the delight of the crowd. And for those teams without a video board, I'm sure they will be getting one soon, just so they can do Kiss Cam !

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Big Trip

I have just returned yesterday from my big trip of the summer which took me through the upper midwest. Saw games in 12 new parks (and 15 overall) and had the best weather I've ever had on a trip. I'm sure glad I wasn't touring down south this year ...

Full reviews and photos will be coming soon to my website, but until then here are some quick comments on the new parks I saw games in :

Appalachian Power Park (Charleston, WV) - the downtown location is great and the structure a bit different, though it does need some covering (a canopy is supposedly in the works). I love the old building they have incorporated into the park.

Champion Window Field (Florence, KY) - a very typical FL park, similar to both Gateway and River City. The multi-colored seats are ugly, but they didn't bother me as much as the annoying Rascal fans. Obviously the team has some public perception issues to overcome as the fans are not coming out in droves.

Silver Cross Field (Joliet, IL) - the actual structure doesn't break any new ground, but I love the setting. It is nestled nicely into the downtown where it seems there is quite a bit or nightlife.

Hawkinson Ford Field (Crestwood, IL) - a funky little stadium, as many of the FL parks are. Being so close to Chicago I would expect them to be a better a draw. But now I know why - anyone that needs to drive south on Cicero Avenue to get there wouldn't bother fighting the traffic.

Pohlman Field (Beloit, WI)- a rather crappy stadium, but a great community feel. And how can you not love a park where the fans get more excited about "Roll Out The Barrel" than "YMCA" ?

Veterans Memorial Stadium (Cedar Rapids, IA) - while the park itself is fine (except the lack of a wraparound concourse), the numerous commercials and shout-outs from the PA announcer make for an annoying experience. It's almost as if they wanted to make the experience the exact opposite of the old Vet.

Lewis and Clark Park (Sioux City, IA) - a generic ballpark with a lousy setting. Probably the most unmemorable stop on my trip.

Sioux Falls Stadium (Sioux Falls, SD) - if you didn't know there was an old park, you'd think it was built brand new within the past decade. I love the elevated berms down the 3rd base line. Great eats and a lively atmosphere make this park a treat.

Newman Outdoor Field (Fargo, SD) - not the greatest of settings (college campuses usually aren't), but still an intimate park with a good atmosphere.

Fox Cities Stadium (Appleton, WI) - another uninspired setting for ballpark. While the park itself is fine (very similar to South Bend), the atmosphere was a bit over the top and fans seems more excited about getting free stuff rather than the game. Also, the brats were losuy which should NEVER be the case at a Wisconsin ballpark.

Community Field (Burlington, IA) - renovations over this past offseason have added a new building (for concessions, gift store,ticket office) and a large roof over the concourse and part of the grandstand. Like Beloit, it has a great community feel as everyone seems to know one another.

Oldsmobile Park (Lansing, MI) - unlike most downtown ballparks, this one doesn't feel intimate at all. Too much bench seating and the sightlines aren't the greatest. At least the concessions are top-notch.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Going Too Far

It's understandable that minor league teams need to do promotions to draw fans in, but when these promotions change the fundamental nature of a baseball game, they have crossed the line and gone too far. And this is exactly what has happened with the new video game promotion announced by the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League. The team is offering two fans the chance to determine the outcome of the first two innings of a real game on July 16. That's right - they will play two innings on Xbox which will be shown on the video board at the ballpark. Then the actual teams will play the final 7 innings. Is this a serious promotion or just a publicity stunt that the team will back out of eventually ? So far it seems to be real. The league and both teams have apparently signed off on this silly gimmick. Shame on the Northern League and shame on any fans who come out to support this shameless promotion. Here's hoping someone wises up and calls off the promotion.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

New Jersey : Home of the Brattiest Kids ?

Is it just me or does New Jersey have the brattiest kids of anyplace in the country ? If last night's Somerset Patriots game was any example, the answer would have to be yes. I understand as well as anyone that minor league teams need to attract kids and cater to them. Relying on hardcore baseball fans (like myself) is not enough for a minor league team to survive. But if a team is going to invite a whole Little League to their ballpark, they had better take some responsibility for controlling the kids. Last night at Commerce Bank Ballpark, it seemed as if there were hundreds of kids running around without any supervision whatsoever. All they were doing were annoying the real fans and the ushers (who were useless in trying to control them). Please, if you're going to invite a whole league of players, ensure there are enough adults around to supervise them. The night was summed up quite well by a fan sitting behind me who said towards the end of the game, "I don't care if I never see another kid again."

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Pair of NY Stadiums

Plans were announced for two new professional ballparks in New York this week. The first one which received all the press was that of the new Yankee Stadium. Despite the public not having to foot the bill, it doesn't seem like the reaction from fans was that positive. I suppose I can understand their love of the current Yankee Stadium, but they have to realize that it was rebuilt in the mid 1970's, so in no way resembles the original ballpark. Yes, the field is the same, but that's about it. To me, having only visited the current Yankee Stadium, I never got the same sense of aura or history upon entering it as I do going to places like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. So I really didn't care one way or another if Yankee Stadium was replaced.

The other ballpark news out of New York this week (besides a new Mets ballpark), came from upstate in Sullivan County. A NYC developer has plans to build a 3,000 seat stadium in Monticello in which a Can-Am League team would be placed. This market has been tested before (a team played in Baxter Stadium for several years in the late 1990's), but the location seems to be better this time. And with a rapidly growing population in neighboring Orange County, the time might be right for a team to succeed in this market. Newburgh is probably a more viable market, but with an older stadium and a not so great reputation, it is understandable why perspective owners have stayed away.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Walkoff Weekend

The weather this past weekend was certainly not conducive to sitting outside and watching a ballgame, but despite this, I took in games in Nashua (NH) and Worcester (MA). And I'm glad I did as they both ended with walkoff wins for the home team.

I had not been to Holman Stadium in Nashua since 1998, the first year of the Atlantic League. While the team that plays there is the same, the park has undergone some changes. Prior to the 2002 season, new luxury boxes were built and all new seats were installed. While it will never be a great ballpark, there is nothing inherently wrong with it either. It may not be as glossy as the new Manchester park, but it is just as functional. Some may think the Pride are a lame duck team with the Fisher Cats so close by, but it didn't appear that way on Saturday night. It wasn't close to being a sellout, but the crowd was lively and into the game. Maybe the Atlantic League won't stick around in Nashua forever, but it's hard to imagine some team not playing there. As for the game, it had a great finish. Jonathan Nathans hit a three-run walk-off homer to end it in the 10th and send everyone home happy.

On Sunday, I went to the brand new Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field in Worcester. It still feels a bit unfinished, but that's to be expected when a team only has 2 months to get it built from the ground up. Hopefully by the end of the year it will feel a lot more polished. The game featured the Tornadoes hosting the New Jersey Jackals, who jumped out to a 7-2 lead after 7 innings. But for some reason, the Jackals manager decided to try to steal an inning and save his bullpen by using his worst pitcher. The move backfired as the Tornadoes scored 4 in the 8th, one in the 9th to tie it, and one in the 10th to win it.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Welcome !

Welcome to the Baseball Parks blog, a companion to my website, Here I will post comments on various parks I visit and address ballpark news and issues. I'll try to post here on at least a weekly basis. Hope you enjoy and please send me your feedback and/or comments.