Monday, June 22, 2009

Eastwood Field, Niles OH

Basic Information
Team: Mahoning Valley Scrappers (NY-Penn League)
Game: Scrappers vs Jamestown Jammers-6/21/09
Team Website: http://www.mvscrappers.com/
Ticket Information: (330) 505-0000
Tourism Information: http://www.exploretrumbullcounty.com/ or (866) 360-1552
Online Broadcasts: http://www.wnio.com/ or http://www.mvscrappers.com/

Team History: The Scrappers moved to Niles (a suburb of Youngstown) from Watertown, NY prior to the 1999 season. The Scrappers have always been an affilate of the Indians since moving to the Mahoning Valley.

Affiliation: The Scrappers are the short-season A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

How About That Name: When the stadium was opened in 1999, it was known as Cafaro Field, having been named after a prominent local family. Prior to the 2005 season, the home of the Scrappers got it's current title, taking the name of the development company that owns the shopping center in which the stadium is located.

Getting There: From Cleveland, take the Ohio Turnpike east to I-80 east. Upon getting on to I-80, take to Rt 5 (exit 209). Take Rt 5 east to Rt 46 (Rt 5 becomes Rt 82). Go south on Rt 46, and follow to Eastwood Mall. The park is located behind the Mall. An alternate route would have you take I-80 to US 422 west. Take 422 west for approximately five miles to Eastwood Mall.

What to Do Before the Game: Eastwood Mall is a fairly substantial shopping area, so you can kill a few hours there. If shopping isn't your game, contact the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau for a list of things to do.

Where to Eat Before the Game: As with any shopping mall, there are myriad choices to chow down at. At Eastwood Mall, there is an O'Charleys, a Steak and Shake, an Olive Garden, and a Red Lobster, amongst other choices.

Where to Stay: The Scrappers' team hotel is the Days Inn and Suites in nearby Girard. For information, call (330) 759-9820.

Tickets: The majority of Scrappers game tickets are $9.00 (reserved/box seats), with general admission seats going for $7.00.

Parking: Parking is plentiful in front of the park, and costs $2.50 per car. Interestingly enough, if you walk in the gate next to the parking area, they will still charge you $2.50 per person, so it makes more sense to just park near the ballpark.

The Good Seats: Eastwood Field, which seats 5,907, is of the traditional "wishbone" or "V" shape, with all of the seats giving a good view of the field. The first six rows of the field put you right on top of the action, but you will be in the sun, so take that into consideration! If you prefer to sit in the shade, ask for seats on the third base side, preferably in sections 209 through 212. If you prefer the "old time" baseball feel, there is a substantial bleacher section down the left field side.

Stadium Food: Eastwood has a decent selection of food, albeit the typical ballpark fare. The hot dogs are fairly good, and not too expensive at $3.00 per. A plus is the supply of Cleveland's Bertman Stadium mustard on the condiment table. It's a spicy brown mustard which has been a ballpark staple here in Cleveland for years. Once you try it, you'll swear off any other mustard!
Linda sampled the pepperoni rolls that were served in the stands. They were a pretty good buy at $4.00, and were tasty. Another bonus is the Handel's ice cream stand behind first base. Handel's is a local brand of ice cream, which I HIGHLY recommend.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Eastwood Field boasts a top-flight video scoreboard in right center field. The PA announcer is good and informative.

Game Staff: I found it hard to find Scrappers staff during the game. However, there were a significant number of volunteers and interns around the park.

Souvenirs: There is a small, fairly well stocked souvenir store located just inside the main entrance to Eastwood Field.

Atmosphere: The Scrappers put on a good show for a "low-A" team. They let the game do the talking, with "distractions" limited to between innings. "Scrappy", the team's mascot makes the rounds of the stadium frequently, encouraging the fans, and giving hugs and high fives to the little ones. One of the more unusual promotions occurs before the top of the seventh, when a local laundromat sponsors the tossing of bars of soap into the stands.

Overall: Eastwood Field is a good place to watch a game. Much like visiting Marion, Niles might not exactly be on a list of "must see" stops, but if you're in the area, stop by and see the Scrappers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Modern Woodmen Park, Davenport IA

Basic Information
Team: Quad City River Bandits (Midwest League)
Team Website: http://www.riverbandits.com/
Ticket Information: (563) 3-BANDIT
Tourism Information: http://www.visitquadcities.com/
Internet Broadcasts: http://www.riverbandits.com/

Team History: The current history of baseball in the Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island, IL and Bettendorf and Davenport, IA) stretches back to 1960. It has teams with many names and affiliations including stints with the Milwaukee Braves, Anaheim (then known as the Los Angeles and California Angels), Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, and Minnesota Twins before becoming an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2005. The team's River Bandits moniker returned in 2008, after four season hiatus where the team was known as the Swing of the Quad Cities. The club was called the River Bandits originally from 1992 through 2003.

Affiliation: The Bandits are the single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

How About That Name: Modern Woodmen Park is named after a local financial planning company. It recieved it's new name after the 2007 season. The park's previous name, John O'Donnell Stadium, served the facility since 1971, when it was renamed after the long time sports editor of the Davenport Times-Democrat.
The park was originally opened in 1931, and has recieved several upgrades, most recently in 1989, 2002, and in 2007.

Getting There: Modern Woodmen Park is located in Davenport, just off the Mississippi River.
From I-80, exit at Brady St. Go south on Brady to River Dr. Make a right on River Dr, then make a left onto South Gaines, then follow to ballpark. From I-74, exit at Grant St. Go left on Grant, then go west on River Dr. Take River Dr. to South Gaines, where you will make a left, then follow to ballpark.

What to Do Before The Game: One of the things that the Quad Cities are known most for is that is the home of John Deere farm equipment. The company's home office is located in downtown Moline, not far from the mighty Mississsippi. Located near the main office is the John Deere Pavilion, where the company tells a little about it's history, as well as showing off some of the latest developments in farm machinery. Next to the Pavilion is the John Deere company store, which as you might figure, sells scads of merchandise, all featuring the green and gold running deer logo.
For more information about visiting John Deere, visit their website at http://www.johndeereattractions.com/.
Another interesting place to visit when you're in Moline is the Mississippi River Locks visitor center. While there, you can take a tour of the locks and dams which make the river navigable. Since the river is pretty busy, odds are you will be able to see a cargo ship come through the locks and see how it all works.

Where to Eat Before The Game: There is a pretty good selection of restaurants all over the Quad Cities, so it might be best to check with the front desk of your hotel for recommendations.

Where to Stay: The offical hotel for the Bandits in 2009 is the AmericInn in Davenport, and it is a good choice if you're in town. The AmericInn is located right off I-80 and is about ten minutes from the ballpark. It features good sized, well apportioned rooms, a welcoming lobby, and a complimentary breakfast. For reservations, call (563) 323-3303 or (800) 396-5007 or visit their website at http://www.americinn.com/.

Tickets: River Bandits tickets are $12.00 (Club Seats), $9.00 (Lower Box), $8.00 (Upper Box), $7.00 (Bleachers), $5.00 (Berm Seating).

Parking: There is a large lot adjacent to the stadium, where you can park for $2.00. The good news is that if you park there, you get the two dollars back in "Bandit Bucks", which you can use for tickets, concessions, or souvenirs.

The Good Seats: Instead of the normal "wishbone" or "V" shape, Modern Woodmen Park is almost semi-circular in shape. This means that there is a lot of foul territory. However, with that being said, the ballpark is quite intimiate, so all the seats have a good view of the action. However, Modern Woodmen Park does have one drawback, and that is there is very little shaded seating area. The only exception is the top two or three rows, which get shade from the concourse, so if you're not a "sun worshipper", consider requesting a seat up high.

Stadium Food: Modern Woodmen Park serves all of the basic ballpark staples at a decent price (two hot dogs and a large drink cost less than ten dollars). They also have specialty carts along the concourse, one of which serves Philadelphia-style Cheese Steak sandwiches. If I remember right, another cart features barbecue sandwiches. The club also has a Tiki Bar in right field if you're into the umbrella drinks, and an air-conditioned sports bar behind home plate.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Modern Woodmen Park has a large scoreboard/video screen in left center field. It shows high-quality video images, but can be a bit washed out on a bright, sunny day like the one I had when I visited. In addition, MWP has a smaller video screen set into the right field wall, which provides information on the upcoming batters, hitter data, and assorted promotional announcements.

Game Staff: The River Bandits staff not only do their jobs well, they go out of their way to make a "guest" (they refer to their customers as "guests", not "fans") feel welcome to a ballpark that is virtually immaculate. During my trip to Iowa, I found that the people there were all friendly and very helpful, and the people at the park were no exception. Everyone I spoke with, from the general manager to the young lady outside the souvenir stand had a smile on their face and welcoming words. Another thing I did notice was that if something spilled or was dropped on the ground, a Bandit staffer was there to clean it up almost before it hit the ground. It was almost like being at Disney! There are more than a few sports franchises I know of that could learn a few things about guest service by coming to a River Bandits game.

Souvenirs: There is a good sized, self contained store inside the main concourse. The team has a decent amount of merchandise at fairly attractive prices.

Atmosphere: The Bandits staff do a good job keeping the fans involved in the game. The team has the usual assortment of audience participation games between innings, and they have a lively mascot named Rascal circulating in the stands. In addition, the team has a series of humorous videos which are played on the scoreboard during the game discussing stadium procedures, promotions, and the like.

Overall: Real easy. I can't wait to go back to Modern Woodmen Park! It's one of the nicest, well kept up facilities in all of the minors, not just single-A. The people there were just incredibly friendly and genuinely interested in my travels. This was my second trip to the "QC", and if I have any say. it won't be my last.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary NC

Basic Information
Team: Carolina Railhawks (United Soccer League)
Team Website: http://www.carolinarailhawks.com/
Ticket Information: (919) 859-5425
Tourism Information: http://www.visitraliegh.com/ or (800) 849-8499
Internet Broadcast: no audio but games are available to watch on http://www.usllive.com/

Team History: The Railhawks joined the United Soccer League's First Division as an expansion team for the 2007 season.

Getting There: The WakeMed Soccer Park is located in Cary, a suburb which is located south of downtown Raliegh. From Interstate 40, get off at the Cary exit (exit 290). At top of ramp, make a right. Make left onto SE Maynard Rd. Follow to Chatham St, where you will make a left. Follow for a half mile to Soccer Park, which will be on the right.

What to Do Before The Game: Unfortunately, when I made my trip to Raliegh, we didn't have a lot of time for "sightseeing". Your best bet would be to contact the Visitors Bureau listed above.

Where to Eat Before The Game: Normally, I wouldn't recommend the post-game meeting spot for dinner, but SPIRITS, which is about a mile from the Soccer Park is simply outstanding. They have a terrific pub-style menu, with an outstanding selection of beers, local, domestic, and imported. I recommend the Roast Beef au jus sandwich. It's simply one of the best sandwiches I've ever had!
The Railhawks usually congregate there after the game also.

Where to Stay: Since the Railegh/Cary area is a fairly large city, there are lodging choices of all types within a decent drive of the Soccer Park. When the girls and I traveled to Raliegh last week, we stayed at the Red Roof Inn-Raliegh Southwest, which is located in Cary. It's about ten minutes from the Soccer Park, and has all the usual Red Roof amenities. For reservations, call (800) THE-ROOF or (919) 469-3400.

Tickets: Ticket prices run as follows: $20.00 (club), $15.00 (premium), $10.00 (spectator). Ticket prices increase $2.00 for all levels on game night.

The Good Seats: There is seating on three sides of WakeMed Soccer Park, with a small standing "berm" area on the fourth end. The "club" seats are in the center section of the West stand, with the remainder of the West stand and the entire East stand designated the "premium" level. The "spectator" seating is beind the south goal, and is where the Triangle Soccer Fanatics supporters group cheer on their charges.

Parking: Parking is sufficient, but costs $5.00 per car.

Stadium Food: There are two main concession stands at the Soccer Park, located behind each main grandstand. They sell the usual assortment of food, but also serve "healthy" wrap sandwiches. In addition, there was a portable trailer serving Mexican food behind the West stand.
One of my more unusual experiences was when I went to the concession stand behind the West stand to order a hot dog (which was pretty good, by the way). I got my package, wrapped in aluminum foil, and proceeded to walk away. When I opened it, I noticed there was no weiner inside, just a bun. I went to complain, but the woman behind the counter explained that I had to go to the open air grill next door to get the meat portion of my sandwich. Ah well, it worked out well, since the freshly grilled dog was more than acceptable.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: The Soccer Park has one small scoreboard behind the north goal, giving basic game information. The PA announcer was good, doing his job without being overly noticable.

Game Staff: It seemed mostly that the staff was made up of volunteers wearing team t-shirts. There weren't too many "staff" members around. I guess they were mosfly working behind the scenes. There were ushers at several sections, but they weren't too difficult to deal with. I wanted to talk to a few of the 'Hawks players before the game, and after I explained what I wanted to do, the usher allowed me to get to the entrance tunnel, which was in the "club" section.

Souvenirs: There was a small tent behind the West stand which sold a small souvenir line. I believe there was another souvenir counter behind the East stand, but I didn't see it.

Atmosphere: Very, very good. The Railhawks wisely allowed the crowd noise and singing drive the stadium atmosphere, alleviating the need for any music or rousers.
I stood with the Triangle Soccer Fanatics for the game, and I found them to be knowledgable and enthusiastic, standing and singing most of the game. The only thing that I didn't like about standing with the TSF's was that after the 'Hawks scored the game winning goal in the dying moments of the game, someone tossed a smoke bomb on the field, which Cleveland City 'keeper Hunter Gilstrap tossed back into the stands. Now, I don't mind confetti or streamers, but smoke bombs can be a bit dangerous.

Overall: Simply outstanding. A terrific venue for USL-1 soccer that I would go back to in a heartbeat.


Marion Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Marion OH

Basic Information
Team Website: http://www.marionmayhem.com/
Ticket Information: (740) 387-4640
Tourism Information: http://www.visitmarionohio.com/ or (800) 371-6688
Internet Broadcast: http://www.continentalindoorfootball.com/

Team History: The Marion Mayhem, now in their fourth season, are a charter member of the Continental Indoor Football League, a "seven on seven" indoor league which is based in the Great Lakes region. The Mayhem recently clinched the CIFL's Eastern Division championship, the
first in club history.

Getting There: The Marion Veterans Memorial Coliseum is located on the Marion County Fairgrounds, approximately two hours south of Cleveland, and one hour north of Columbus.
From Cleveland, take Interstate 71 south to US 30 west (exit 176). Take US 30 to OH 598. Make left onto OH 598 and stay on for approximately 20 miles (OH 598 turns into OH 309). Make right onto Pole Lane Rd. After going a half mile, turn left onto East Fairground Rd (which turns into East Fairground St). Travel two miles and the Fairgrounds will be on the right. Follow access road to Coliseum.

What to Do Before the Game: I'm not entirely familiar with Marion and it's environs, so if you've got a little extra time to kill before the game and want to explore, contact the Marion Visitors Bureau at the contact information listed above.

Where to Eat Before the Game: To be completely honest, there is very little in the area near the Fairgrounds. However, there are some fast food outlets and smaller restaurants in the area right after you exit US 30 onto OH 598.

Where to Stay: As I had mentioned, there is nothing in the area of lodgings in the vicinity of the Coliseum. One of the Mayhem's sponsors is a nearby Super 8 motel, so that might be an alternative. For reservations, call (740) 389-1998.

Tickets: The front of the Coliseum has two entrances, each has a box office. Tickets cost $12.00 (center reserved sections) or $10.00 (remainder of seating).

The Good Seats: The Coliseum seats approximately 3,300, and is configured in a horseshoe shape. The Coliseum has approximately 15 rows from top to bottom and are pitched steeply enough that you have a good view no matter where you are.

Parking: Parking is plentiful at the Fairgrounds, and free.

Arena Food: There are two food stands at the Coliseum, one on each side of the building. Although the selection may be limited, the cost can’t be beat, as two pretty good hot dogs and a bottle of Pepsi cost me just $7.50. In addition, there is a table where you can purchase an ice cold 16 ounce Budweiser for just three dollars.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Coliseum has two wall-mounted scoreboards on each end of the arena, which provide basic game information. The building also features a center-hanging scoreboard, which is not in use. Mayhem officials told me that the center scoreboard is no longer funcitioning, but the arena board does not want to remove it.
The Mayhem have a very good PA announcer, Scott Shawver, who is also the station manager at one of the local radio stations. He has a good delivery, enthusiastic, but not too wild.

Game Staff: The Mayhem, being a "small budget" operation, have a limited staff. However, there are plentiful game night volunteers filling various positions around the arena.

Souvenirs: There is a small selection of souvenirs at a stand located on the concourse.

Atmosphere: Make no mistake, Marion is not the biggest market in pro sports, nor will the Coliseum be confused for Madison Square Garden. However, with that being said, the Mayhem fans, albeit not the biggest, are some of the most enthusiastic. They provide the proverbial seventh man for their team throughout the game. To keep the game moving, the Mayhem feature mascot Hardy the Mayhem Maniac and the Mayhem Dancing Divas to help things along.

Overall: While Marion may not exactly be on a "must see" list of anyone traveling in Ohio, if you're in the area, try and catch a Mayhem game at the Coliseum. It's inexpensive, family friendly, and fun.

Classic Ballpark, Eastlake OH

BASIC INFORMATION
Team Website: http://www.captainsbaseball.com/
Ticket Information: (440) 954-WINS
Tourism Information: http://www.lakevisit.com/
(800) 368-LAKE
Internet Broadcast: http://www.star97.com/ or http://www.captainsbaseball.com/

Team History: In 2009, the Lake County Captains are celebrating their seventh season in Eastlake. The Captains began their history in Columbus, GA as a South Atlantic League expansion team in 1991. They played one season as the Columbus Indians before changing their name in 1992 to the Red Stixx. They played under that name until 2003, when they moved to the suburbs of Cleveland.

Affiliation: The Captains are the single-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

How About that Name? The home of the Captains was known as Eastlake Ballpark until 2006, when Classic Auto Group, a local chain of auto dealerships purchased the naming rights.

Getting There: Classic Park is located in Eastlake, which is located approximately 20 miles east of downtown Cleveland.
From Downtown Cleveland, take I-90 east to Route 2 east. Exit at Route 91 (SOM Center Rd). At top of ramp, make a left, and follow a quarter mile to ballpark, which is on right side of Route 91.
From South, take I-480 east to I-271 east. Exit at Route 91 (the last exit before I-271 turns into I-90). At top of ramp, make right onto Route 91. Follow three miles to ballpark, which is on right.

What to Do Before the Game: Cleveland features some world class museums in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, dining all around the downtown area, and shopping at Tower City Center and the Galleria on E 9th St.
If you schedule your trip during the spring and summer, you might be able to catch a home game of the Cleveland Indians, who play at Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland. For Tribe schedule and ticket information, call (216) 420-HITS or visit http://www.indians.com/.
Closer to the ballpark, Lake County features some excellent parks and lake front beaches.

Where to Eat Before the Game: Directly behind the left field wall is a small strip mall which features Beef O’Brady’s, one of a chain of family friendly sports bars which are found mostly in Florida. It offers very good pub-style burgers and other menu items, as well as a children’s menu at manageable prices.
On the other side of SOM Center Rd, across the street from the ballpark is the Captain’s Club, which is more of an adult dining establishment.
South of the ballpark on SOM Center Rd there are several chain restaurants, including Steak and Shake and International House of Pancakes.

Where to Stay: A hundred yards from the front entrance of Classic Park is the Radisson Hotel & Suites. Easily accessible from Route 2, rates will run around a hundred dollars per night.

Tickets: All tickets are $9.00.

Parking: There is a large lot located across SOM Center Rd from the park. In addition, the team has opened a small lot, originally just for season ticket holders adjacent to the main entrance which is available on a first come, first served basis. Parking at both lots is $5.00 per car.

The Good Seats: Classic Park holds approximately 7,200 for Captains games, with the majority of those seats in a wishbone shaped main grandstand, which starts halfway between third base and the left field foul pole and curves around to the opposite location in right field. All of the seats in the main stand are pointed towards the pitcher’s mound, so the viewing angle is good. In addition, the main stand only has 19 rows, so all of the main grandstand seats are close to the action. Classic Park also has a bleacher section in left field, and has limited berm seating which is usually available after Memorial Day.

Stadium Food: This is one of the areas where Classic Park shines. The food is better than is served at some of the major league parks that I have been at, and is at a reasonable price.
There are two food stands in the concourse along each baseline, and these are supplanted by a smaller grill behind home plate, and several candy, ice cream, and specialty carts which are evenly spaced along the concourse. Hot dogs are of a good quality, and are $3.00 each. Coca-Cola products are poured at Classic Park, with a large being $3.00 as well.
New to Classic Park in 2009 is the Castaway Bar in the left field concourse. It features a full service bar, with a very good selection of beer and hard liquor.
On the suite level on the first base side is the Officers Club, where for an additional $9.00, fans can watch the game from the comfort of the bar.
At every Tuesday and Wednesday Captains home game, fans can enjoy an all you can eat selection of hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, popcorn, and mini corn dogs for an additional $6.00 per ticket.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Classic Park features a large scoreboard mounted out in the right field power alley, just to the right of dead center field. It has full message capability, and a large video board.
One thing that I noticed was that it seemed that the video board didn’t get as much use as one would assume. It seems to be only used for contests, video clips, and advertisements, with very little use for replays.
The PA announcer at Classic Park is very good. He has a good clear delivery, and is enthusiastic without being over the top. He is assisted by “Grover”, a roving MC who hosts all the in between inning entertainment.
Classic also boasts a very good sound system.

Game Staff: The Captains game night staff members are helpful and plentiful. There is a customer service area behind home plate on the concourse, where you can always find a staff member available.

Souvenirs: Located on the main concourse, the Cargo Hold features a large supply of Captains merchandise.

Atmosphere: Unlike a lot of minor league ball parks that I have been to, a night at a Captains game is very laid back, with the game being the focus, not the contests or the non-baseball “entertainment”. While the game is in play, the club keeps the “distractions” to a minimum, which allows baseball “geeks” like me to be able to enjoy the game without the sensory overload.
There is a kids play area behind the left field bleachers for the little ones to run around in. In addition, if you need to burn off a little energy, you can completely walk around the perimeter of the park while watching the action.
The Captains’ mascot, Skipper, makes his way around Classic Park frequently during the game, and is a big hit with young fans.
When you walk into Classic Park , you will no doubt be welcomed by Captain Tony, who has been a fixture there since the first days of the team. When he’s not greeting fans or signing autographs for the little kids on his own special baseball card, Captain Tony is stationed out in center field, where his job is to turn on the search light in the lighthouse past the fence when a Captains player hits a home run.

Overall: I don’t think there is enough good that I can say about an experience with the Captains at Classic Park. In my eyes, it’s virtually a perfect ballpark for single-A baseball.