We all remember our senior year of high school when the superlatives were announced: Most likely to succeed (usually the valedictorian); Most popular (usually a cheerleader); most likely to crash on a bike and require surgery to repair a shattered wrist (usually…. oh wait, that’s me!)
Looking very Darth Vadar-ish after my surgery
Well, as the baseball season winds down and my magical mystery tour of minor league teams comes to an end, I thought I’d take a look back at the games I attended (both blog and non blog related) and come up with my own 2015 superlatives.
Best tiki bar – Philadelphia Phillies vs. Baltimore Orioles, March 16, Bright House Field
This was my first trip to Bright House Field, and I was very impressed. The minor league stadiums in Florida are like mini MLB stadiums, and Bright House is no exception. In the corner of left field they have Frenchy’s Tiki Pavillion, which is a great place to kick back in the shade (VERY important in Florida for day games) and enjoy an adult beverage!
Best celebrity sighting – Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Detroit Tigers, March 18, McKechnie Field
Prior to the game, we saw Joe Torre, Chief Baseball Officer for MLB, walking up the ramp. Caught off guard, I didn’t get a good photo of him at the time, but a few minutes later we spotted him standing in the upper deck.
Trust me, that’s Joe!
During the game, a group of guys were playing a betting game based on what was going on. Everyone antes up, and if certain things happened, whomever was holding the cup, they won the pot. If none of the events happened, the pot carried over. It was great fun watching these guys razz each other. For that, they win the best in-game game!
And as far as the game goes, very exciting. Detroit scored 4 in the top of the ninth to make it close, but fell 8-7 in front of the largest crowd ever (9,018) to date at McKechnie Field!
Best seats and most tv appearances – Tampa Bay Rays vs Minnesota Twins, March 19, Charlotte Sports Park
Not only did we have great seats directly behind the Rays dugout, which provided multiple opportunities to be on tv, we were shown walking into the stadium at the top of the broadcast. I didn’t realize this until after the game when I watched the replay on MLB.tv! If you have a subscription, you can watch it here. It’s about 5 minutes in, just as Dewayne and Todd cut to commercial after the opening comments. If not, here are a couple of screen shots:
Lathered in sunscreen at the far end of the dugout
Minor league games
Best non-seats – Potomac Nationals, April 12, Pfitzner Stadium
This was an embarrassing case of not reading my ticket correctly. I settled into row 1 of what I thought was my section. About the second inning, a couple of folks came down, and I checked my ticket. Ooops, wrong section! Oh well. They were good while they lasted!
Best seasoned food – Bowie Baysox, April 18, Prince George’s Stadium
One of the best eats on this tour has to be the Old Bay seasoned sausage at PG Stadium! And how appropriate that Old Bay is based in Baltimore, and the Bay Sox are the AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
It tastes as good as it looks!
Best historical site – Frederick Keys, April 25, Harry Grove Stadium
The Keys are named after the author of the Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key, who is buried in the adjacent Olivet Cemetery. they Keys (the family, not the team) have a family section where his parents and family are interned as well. It’s a nice drive through history at this cemetery, which dates back to 1852.
Best mascot – Reading Fightin Phils, May 30, FirstEnegy Stadium
By far the best mascot in all of minor league baseball goes to the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor! Not only does he come out as a guy riding an ostrich, he has his own entrance video, AND his own bobblehead! This guy rocks!
Crazy Hot Dog Vendor
And his own bobblehead!
Best road trip – Toledo Mud Hens, June 6, Fifth Third Field
I wanted to go to Toledo to see the Mud Hens ever since I heard Max Klinger mention them numerous times on M*A*S*H back in the 70s and 80s. The trip did not disappoint! Not only did I see a fantastic game (including a Justin Verlander rehab start), and another record setting crowd (13,300), I visited the famous Tony Packo’s restaurant. Fifth Third Field is consistently ranked as one of the best minor league stadiums and I can see why. The next morning I also ran (jogged? walked fast?) in a local 5k run through the neighborhoods of Toledo before heading back. What a great trip!
Great setting for a game
Oldest stadium – Hagerstown Suns, June 14, Municipal Stadium
Sadly, this game was rained out before it ever got started. But that didn’t stop me from getting to see the great history surrounding Municipal Stadium. Municipal Stadium has been around since 1930, and is one of the oldest minor league parks still in use on a regular basis. Depending on how you count, it’s either the third or fourth oldest minor league parks. The only other parks that are older are Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama (1910), Jackie Robinson Ballpark, aka “The Jack”, in Daytona Beach, FL (1914), and Susquehanna Bank Park at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport, PA (1926). It was a fun history trip and I still want to go back and catch a game!
She still looks great at 85 years old!
Best on field experience – Clearwater Threshers, July 3, Bright House Field
I made my way back to Bright House Field for a minor league game, and stopped by the promotions desk, where I ran into Corey and Craig (more on Craig later!). I got signed up to participate in an on field game, which was a blast! I’m not saying whether I won or not, but it was a fantastic experience!
Corey and Craig
On the field in front of a record 9,996 fans
First press pass and most excited – Harrisburg Senators, July 11, Metro Bank Park
My new mantra is “it never hurts to ask.” I asked for, and received, a press pass for the Senators – Sea Wolves game, and the fantastic staff of the Senators came through! I got to sit in the press box, chat with the scorers and staff, and got some great photos. I was giddy the entire trip up, and the experience is one I will never forget! Thanks so much Senators!!
My first press pass
Best food – Lehigh Valley IronPigs, July 25, Coca-Cola Park
With my new found confidence, I asked the front office of the IronPigs for a pass as well, and they came through! Thanks again guys!! This game, though, featured bacon, baseball, bacon, press box visits, and more bacon! I starved myself the entire day just to indulge in all the various pork alternatives, and even asked others about what they liked. Wow…. Hats off to the IronPigs for having the best stadium food!!
I was in hog heaven!
On the field pre-game with a rehabbing Jayson Werth
Best stadium statue and best matching give away – Wilmington Blue Rocks, August 1, “Judy” Johnson Field at Frawley Stadium
Outside of the stadium is a tribute to Negro League star, and baseball Hall of Famer “Judy” Johnson, who grew up in Wilmington and is considered one of the greatest third basemen ever to play the game. A great tribute to a great player!
William Julius “Judy” Johnson
It was also George Brett bobblehead night. Brett was always a favorite of mine growing up, and the next morning we had a little reunion: my 1975 Brett baseball card and his bobblehead!
Best announcer and friendliest fans – Altoona Curve, August 8, PNG Field
Biggest shout out of the season goes to Trey Wilson, Communications and Broadcasting Manager for the Altoona Curve. Not only did he give me a personal guided tour of the stadium inside and out prior to the game, but invited me up to the press box a second time during the game to catch all the action upstairs. He went above and beyond!! But he was just the tip of the iceberg. The entire staff, from the GM to the ushers, and especially the fans, were the friendliest I had come across all season long!
Trey showing me around
The game had some great action too!
Best tweet and best sunset – Clearwater Threshers, August 20, Bright House Field
I was back at Bright House Field this past week, not to do a blog but to just see a game. Who knew it would result in two more superlatives for the Threshers!?! Before the game, we ran into Craig again (see above), who actually recognized us! What a cool guy, going out of his way to say hi to a fan. How many fans does he come across during the season to remember one average All Things Ed blogger? So during the game, sent out a tweet, and the Threshers response wins best tweet:
Later in the game, we experienced the best sunset this season. What a great experience at Bright House Field!
Not included in this superlatives listing include some major league games I’ve gone to, including best rain delay, best stadium give away (a Jayson Werth chia pet), and best parking spot (found a completely shaded spot for a Rays game!). I’ll save those for later. Hopefully the mystery tour bus will get cranked up in September for some minor league playoff action. Until then, keep swinging for the fences, and remember to go out and see tomorrow’s stars today!