Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Clipper Magazine Stadium, Lancaster PA

Basic Information
Team: Lancaster Barnstormers (Atlantic League)
Game: Barnstormers vs Southern Maryland Blue Crabs-9/2/12
Team Website: www.lancasterbarnstormers.com
Ticket Information: (717) 509-HITS or www.lancasterbarnstormers.com
Tourism Information: (800) 723-8824 or www.padutchcountry.com
Online Broadcasts: WLAN-AM 1390 www.1390wlan.com
Local Newspaper: Lancaster Intellegencer Journal www.lancasteronline.com

Team Information: Members of the eight-team Atlantic League, the Lancaster Barnstormers have entertained the baseball fans of the area since joining the league in 2005. The arrival of the Barnstormers ended a 44 year baseball-less drought which started when the Lancaster Red Roses left the Eastern League after the 1961 season. The Barnstormers have won one league title, that being in 2006.

Seating Capacity: Clipper Magazine Stadium has a seating capacity of just over six thousand.

How About That Name (And Some History): On May 11, 2005, the culmination of a sixteen year battle ended with the opening of Clipper Magazine Stadium. In 1987, the city, led by Mayor Dick Scott, began to support the idea of bringing professional baseball and a new ball park to Lancaster. The push slogged on until 2003, when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, along with prospective team owners Opening Day Partners, agreed to split the cost of the $20 million dollar park. After several sites were proposed and rejected, all parties agreed on a site on the city’s northeast side in an old industrial park.
The park is named for Clipper Magazine, a local publication that produces shopping circulars and advertisement mailings for clients in 26 states.

Getting There: (from the Pennsylvania Turnpike/I-76 eastbound) Exit the turnpike at exit 247 (I-283 north). Take I-283 north to exit 1A (PA 283). Take PA 283 east for approximately 28 miles., exiting on Fruitville Pike. Take Chester Rd for a quarter mile, then make a slight right onto Fruitville Pike. Stay on Fruitville Pike, which turns into North Prince St. Follow to ballpark, which will be on your left.

Other Tenants: Clipper Magazine Stadium has hosted concerts, professional soccer, and political rallies in it’s past, and in the winter, a small public skating rink is set up on the park’s infield.

On The Town: Generally considered the “heart” of the Pennsylvania Dutch country, Lancaster is located in south central Pennsylvania, approximately thirty five miles southeast of Harrisburg, and approximately seventy miles west of Philadelphia. It is the seat of Lancaster County and has a population of 59,322, making it the eight largest city in Pennsylvania.
What is now known as Lancaster was originally called Hickory Town, it was renamed Lancaster, after the town in England, by one John Wright. The town’s symbol, a red rose, is also that of the English House of Lancaster. It was part of the charter that was given to William Penn by the King of England, and was incorporated as a borough in 1742.

Lancaster was, for one day anyway, the nation’s capital. In late September 1777, the British Army was on the verge of capturing Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress was in session. The members of Congress, fearing capture, escaped and on September 27th, met in session in Lancaster. The next day, the Congress moved again, this time farther inland, to the city of York, PA.

In 1795, the first paved road in the United States opened as the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, which is now part of US Route 30, which linked the two cities.

The opening of the West also came through Lancaster, when in the early nineteenth century, Lancaster became famous for the Conestoga covered wagon and the Pennsylvania long rifle. Both were made in Lancaster, and were vital to the country’s “Manifest Destiny”.

Famous natives of Lancaster include James Buchanan, the fifteenth president of the United States, nineteenth century congressman and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, and Robert Fulton, who built the world’s first fully functional steamboat.

Nearby Airport: The closest major airport to Lancaster is Harrisburg International, a forty minute drive away.

What To Do: As I had mentioned before, Lancaster is considered the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country, one of the top tourist destinations in the state. There are myriad things to do and places to see in the area, so I would check ahead with the local convention and visitors bureau for suggestions which fit your interest.
Linda and I spent a few hours before our visit to the Barnstormers a couple minutes north of town at the Strasburg Rail Road. Here you can take a short 45 minute ride up and down through the beautiful rolling farmland of the area in a lovingly restored steam engine. You can get a taste of what it was like riding in nineteenth century in the different cars. We decided to get the “Hobo Lunch” package which was served in the dining car. The lunch, which was served wrapped in a bandana like a hobo would carry his things in, included a sandwich, chips, beans, a home made chocolate chip cookie, and unlimited lemonade or iced tea. We selected the pulled pork barbecue sandwich, and it was simply outstanding. We both highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. For more information, call (717) 687-7522 or visit www.strasburgrailroad.com.

Where To Eat Before The Game: Along Route 30, which runs in and out of Lancaster, there are myriad places to eat or all types, ranging from fast food to the traditional Amish-style “all you can eat” buffet meals.

Where To Stay: We stayed in Harrisburg on this trip, so I really don’t have a recommendation here. Again, along Route 30 there are more than a few hotels and motels representing all the major chains. However, I have found that, being a major tourist area, hotels during the “season” are a little on the high side.

Ticket Prices: Barnstormers ticket prices are as follows: $13.00 (dugout box), $11.00 (field box), $7.00 (adult lawn seating), and $6.00 (youth lawn seating).

Parking: Parking is free at Clipper Magazine Stadium. The ballpark has three lots, one behind the main entrance, one behind the left field fence, and a third in right field. I wouldn’t recommend parking on the streets, since the neighborhood might not be one you’d want to walk around in after dark, but with free parking, why would you want to park anywhere else?

Getting In: Clipper Magazine Stadium has four entrance points: one behind home plate, one each behind the first and third bases, and a fourth in center field. The home plate entrance also features the box office, the team office, and the Inside Corner souvenir store.
The Good Seats: The main seating bowl is of the traditional design, with seats starting behind first base, curving around home plate, and ending behind third. There is plenty of room to move around, with lawn seating along the third base line and in left and center fields. A covered picnic area occupies the area behind the right field fence.

Two things that I really liked about the home of the ‘Stormers was that 1) the concourse allowed you to walk completely around the park without any detours, and 2) there was a single row of seats against the fence in front of the berm in left field. Those seats seemed like they would give a great view of the game, and if you’re into catching home run balls and/or berating the opposing outfielders, this would be the place for you.

Stadium Food: Whoa! The Amish that live in the area are known for their tradition of setting a fine table, and Clipper Magazine Stadium is no exception.

Along the main concourse there are two main stands, two of which serve the traditional ballpark food. Adjacent to those are two other stands which serve Lancaster-area favorites. Along the first base side is the Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand. Now anyone who has ever been at a shopping mall knows how good Auntie Anne’s are, so the ability to have that at the ballpark makes me smile. Along third base is the Pizza stand, which, ironically enough, was called Parma Pizza (for the uninitiated, Parma , OH is the world headquarters of The Sports Traveler). Also at this stand was the Carvery, which served assorted freshly trimmed meat platters.

In left field there is a large barbecue stand operated a local company called Hess’s. I would have stopped there, but, sad to say, I was still stuffed from the lunch on the train!

Linda sampled the ballpark hot dog (made by Kunzler’s), and this is what she said:

“Although it wasn’t exactly a quarter pound dog, it was a good size. It had a good all-beef flavor, solid and spicy, grilled, and served hot. The bun was fresh and better than average tasting. It was much tastier than the $6.00 “jumbo” hot dog I had in Frederick the night before!”

I decided to sample the ballpark pizza (after the Auntie Anne’s pretzel dog). As a native New Yorker, I had to say that I’m a pizza “snob”. I like my thin crust, and the Parma pizza didn’t disappoint! My pizza was freshly made, had a thin, well cooked crust, and was a decent size for $3.50. It could have had a bit thicker layer of toppings, but that wasn’t a deal breaker.

Here is a selection of the concession prices at Clipper Magazine Stadium:

Hot Dog: $3.75   Hamburger: $5.25   Pizza Slice: $3.50   Nachos: $4.75   Large Soda: $4.75   Ice Cream: Various    French Fries: $3.50   Draft Beer: $4.00   Pretzel (Auntie Anne’s): $3.50

Soft Drinks: Pepsi products are served at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

ATM: A Fulton Bank ATM is located behind home plate near the souvenir store.

Souvenirs: Inside Corner, the ‘Stormers souvenir shop, is well designed and well stocked with team goodies. It is located just in the main concourse just to the left of home plate.

Restrooms: Big, well supplied, and clean. I mean REALLY clean. I mean Disney World when it opens clean.

Mascot: “Cylo”, a large red cow, is the Barnstormers’ mascot.

Dance Team: None.

Program: “First Pitch”, a nice sized full color program is presented free to all fans entering the stadium.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Clipper Magazine Stadium has two scoreboards. The larger one is above left center field, and is a good sized video board, which shows replays, player data, and advertisements. The game score is kept on a smaller screen mounted in the fence in right center field. This has all the pertinent game data, but in between innings, the score is changed to advertisements, which was kind of annoying. The PA and game music were both excellent. The gentleman behind the “stadium voice” had a great and enthusiastic delivery, and the music selection was first rate.

Stadium Staff: Simply a bunch of nice people who always had a smile on their faces. A special thanks to team president Lisa Riggs for her warm hospitality and the lady in the customer service center (I didn’t get her name, unfortunately) who was more than happy to give me directions back to the highway and found out what station I could catch the end of the game on (she felt horrible that she didn’t know right away, but her friendliness more than made up for that).
Atmosphere: It seemed kind of flat since there was only fifteen hundred or so in attendance, but that I chalk up to a 6PM Sunday start and threatening skies (Lisa told me that they had a crowd of over six thousand the night before).

Ballpark Features: In 2008, the club installed a pool with bumper boats and other items in right center field next to the picnic area.

Overall Rating: Clipper Magazine Stadium is one of the nicest ballparks you can visit, and Linda and I couldn’t recommend it higher.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Harry Grove Stadium, Frederick MD

Basic Information
Team: Frederick Keys (Carolina League)
Game: Keys vs Carolina Mudcats-9/1/2012
Team Website: www.frederickkeys.com
Ticket Information: (301) 815-9939 or www.frederickkeys.com
Tourism Information: (301) 600-2888 or www.fredericktourism.org
Online Broadcasts: 1450AM "The Source" www.thesourceradionetwork.org
Local Newspaper: Frederick Call-Post www.fredericknewspost.com

Team Information: Named after Francis Scott Key, the author of the Star Spangled Banner, the Keys have called Frederick home since 1989, when the Baltimore Orioles moved their “high-A” affiliate from Hagerstown. The team played one season at a small recreation park in 1989 until Harry Grove Stadium was opened in April 1990. The Keys have won the Carolina League championship four times: 1990, 2005, 2007, and 2011.

Affiliation: The Keys are the Carolina League affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

Seating Capacity: Harry Grove Stadium has a seating capacity of approximately 5,400.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened on April 19, 1990, the home of the Keys was named after Harry Grove, one of the founders of the Frederick Hustlers, a baseball team that played in the early to mid twentieth century. The Grove family also donated a quarter of a million dollars to help in the building of the project. From 2007 through 2009, Harry Grove Stadium underwent some major upgrades, which included a new playing field, new seating and field lighting, and a state-of-the-art scoreboard. The renovations also included bringing the park up to the most recent standards from the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Getting There: (From I-70). Exit I-70 at US 40 (exit 54). Go north on US 40 for approximately a quarter mile and make a left onto Market St. Follow Market St for less than a quarter mile, then make a left onto New Design Rd. Take New Design Rd to Stadium Dr and make a right. There is parking on Stadium Dr and on New Design Rd.

Other Tenants: None.

On The Town: The city of Frederick is located in north central Maryland, fifty miles west of Baltimore and fifty miles northwest of Washington, DC. With a population of 66,000, Frederick is the second largest incorporated city in Maryland, after Baltimore. The city is located on I-70 which runs east to Baltimore and west into West Virginia, and I-270, which leads into the nation’s capital. 
No one is exactly sure how Frederick got its name. According to sources, the most likely answers were that it was named after Frederick Calvert (one of the proprietors of Maryland), Frederick, the Prince of Wales, or Prussian king Frederick “the Great”. Despite that, the town was originally designed by a land speculator in 1745. The first settlers in what is now Frederick were German immigrants, who set up a church and school, and this small town became a starting point for successive immigrant groups who moved onto the Shenandoah Valley and into North Carolina.
Frederick was a focal point in battles during the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Civil War. During the revolution, British forces set up a fort, and garrisoned it with Prussian (Hessian) troops. After the revolution ended, the Hessians had no way to return to Germany, so they made their permanent homes in the area. During the Civil War, Frederick served as a major crossroads, and troops led by some of the war’s most noted generals, “Stonewall” Jackson, Jubal Early, and Lew Wallace passed through town on their way to battles in nearby Antietam, Monocacy, and Gettysburg.

Francis Scott Key was born and raised in Frederick county, and is buried in Mount Olivet cemetery, which, ironically enough, is across the street from the ball park where his namesake baseball team plays.

Other notable natives of Frederick include Barbara Fritchie, who as legend goes, waved a United States flag in defiance of Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson during his march through Frederick, longtime NFL running back Chuck Foreman, and NBA basketball stars Fred Carter and Michael Beasley.

Nearby Airport: The closest major airport is Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which is 51 miles southeast of Frederick.

What To Do: Linda and I didn’t have a lot of time to sightsee on this trip, but if you’re a history buff like me, there are many Civil War and Revolutionary War sites in the immediate area of Frederick. I would contact the local convention and visitors bureau for more information.
Where To Eat: I didn’t see a lot in the immediate area of the ballpark, so I would contact the convention and visitors bureau for suggestions.

Where To Stay: On this trip, Linda and I stayed at the Comfort Inn just south of Frederick, and it was a good decision. The hotel, which is located less than ten minutes south of the ballpark, is easily accessible from I-270 and I-70. I found the hotel to be extremely neat and clean, with large, well furnished guest rooms, and for $89.00 per night for a double, was a good deal. The hotel features a fitness center, complimentary hot breakfast, and free wi-fi. For more information, call (800) 4-CHOICE or go to www.comfortinn.com.

Ticket Prices: Keys tickets are priced as follows: $12.00 (field seating-level 100), $10.00 (reserved seating-level 200), $7.00 (youth reserved seating), $9.00 (general admission) and $6.00 (youth general admission). Note that there is a $2.00 increase in prices for tickets purchased on game day.

Parking: As I had mentioned earlier, Harry Grove Stadium has two large lots, one behind the main grandstand and the other beyond left field. Parking is free in both lots.

Getting In: The main entrance to Harry Grove Stadium is on the third base side of the park, just to the left of home plate. The box office is located next to the main entrance.

The Good Seats: Harry Grove Stadium is designed in the traditional “V” or “wishbone” shape wish seating stretching from first base to third base. The main grandstand is a two level affair, with a good sized walkway dividing the upper and lower levels. The main concourse of the park is situated above the upper level of seating, which means you have a good view of the action even if you are waiting to get a hot dog or a beer. Seating is mostly of the plastic, flip-up kind with the exception of the “general admission” sections, which are metal bleachers.
Stadium Food: Harry Grove Stadium has a very good selection of concession choices for a stadium of it's size. I sampled the park's signature hot dog, made by Philadelphia's Dietz and Watson. It was fairly tasty, but it could have been a bit warmer. However, the presentation of the hot dog was excellent, as it was served on a fresh, pristine bun and in it's own paper "sleeve". Linda sampled the crap dip and pretzel combo, which she said was quite good and filling.

During the game, Linda and I sampled the "Double Play" Slushie, which was a combination of orange slush and vanilla ice cream. While it was quite refreshing on a steamy night, it was a bit too tart for my tastes, however, it was still pretty good.

Concession stands are located all along the main concourse. Stands which serve the ballpark standards are located on the first and third base sides. Down past the main seating area on the first base side is an outdoor grill which serves Angus Beef hamburgers, sausages, and pulled pork sandwiches. Along the third base line is a stand which serves crab-themed concession items, and immediately adjacent is the Keys Creamery.

Here is a sampling of some of the concession prices at Harry Grove Stadium:

Hot Dog: $4.00   Hamburger: $6.50    Draft Beer: $7.00   Pretzel: $3.50   Large Soda: $3.50   Ice Cream: Various Prices   French Fries: $3.00   Pizza Slice: $4.00  

Soft Drinks: Pepsi and Pepsi products are the beverages of choice at Harry Grove Stadium.

ATM: A Woodsford Bank ATM is located on the main concourse near home plate.

Souvenirs: There is a small souvenir stand located on the first base side of the concourse, and just next to that is another small “hole in the wall” stand. This is an area I think needs some improvement, as the line of merchandise could have been larger, and it could have been organized a little better.
Restrooms: Located on the first and third base side of the concourse, they are all clean, well stocked, and are of an appropriate size.

Mascots: The main mascot is “Keyote”, which you may or may not assume, is a large, yet lovable wolf-like figure. He circles the stands throughout the game interacting with the fans. I was also told that the team has another mascot “Frank” Key, who only appears when the team needs a rally. Apparently Frank is affiliated with the local convention and visitors bureau, as one of the pages in the team’s program is dedicated to facts and places to visit in Frederick and features Frank.

Dance Team: None.

Program: "Game Day Magazine" is free and given to fans upon their arrival at the park.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: This is one of the areas where Harry Grove Stadium shines. The park features two large scoreboards; a game data board in right center, and a large video screen in left center. The right field board has a large line score display (including pitch speed), and a message area that shows the pitch count (a plus to the true baseball wonk, like me). The video screen is impressive in itself, featuring a crystal clear display. The team utilizes it to its fullest, which includes having a “movie night” when the team is out of town. The upcoming movie (the last of the season), is “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, whose trailer was played before the game. The PA was good and clean, and the music was good as well.
Stadium Staff: Everyone was pleasant and helpful.

Atmosphere: The game we attended drew a crowd of almost seven thousand, despite weather that was threatening at best. The good crowd was probably due to the post-game fireworks show, a rehab start by Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel, and an appearance by Rudy Ruetteger, the undersized “no-hope” walk-on who made the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team, and was the subject of the movie “Rudy”. I had the chance to chat with Rudy during the game, and he is definitely one of the nicest, humblest guys you will ever meet. I told him that after finding out that he was appearing at the game, I called to tell my mom and dad, who were big fans of the movie. He smiled and said “tell your mom and dad I said ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’”. A class act all the way.

Overall Rating: Although Harry Grove Stadium is now in its third decade, it is still serves the people of Frederick well. It is clean, very easy to get to, well maintained, and is very fan-friendly. A visit to see the Keys is absolutely worth your time if you’re in the area.