Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

Designated Eater: Joe Mynaugh in Bradenton

This season, my “On the Road” blog posts from each ballpark I visit will be split up into several installments. To see all of my posts from this visit to the Bradenton Marauders, click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

As many of you know, in 2012 I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Therefore, I recruit a designated eater at each ballpark I visit, and this individual is tasked with eating the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At the Bradenton Marauders’ home of McKechnie Field, this individual was a man by the name of Joe Mynaugh.

Hey, Joe. Where ya going with that bun in your hand?

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Joe is no stranger to the world of Minor League Baseball. He grew up in Aberdeen, home of the New York-Penn League IronBirds, and served as the team’s bat boy during the 2008-09 seasons. (I forgot to ask him what it was like to witness Tim Spooneybarger’s comeback attempt.) He moved to Florida last year so that he could work as a groundskeeper at Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium (Spring Training home of the Orioles). Currently, he is employed by Sarasota County. He is a Bradenton Marauders season ticket holder — $300 covers the cost of all 70 home games, and he is also able to attend the team’s road games for free.

“I work on a field during the day, and in the evening I just sit back and watch,” said Joe.

But this evening, Joe wouldn’t be sitting back and watching. No, he’d be wandering around with me and eating. The Marauders — and this is common throughout the FSL — generally stick to the basics when it comes to ballpark cuisine. Nonetheless, we carefully considered our options at the Pirates Cove Grill and The Pitt Stop.

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In the end, Joe opted for the most unique — and, at $10 — most expensive item on the menu: a pulled pork sandwich with mac and cheese provided by regional chain Sonny’s BBQ.

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On the Road: Game Time in Bradenton

This season, my “On the Road” blog posts from each ballpark I visit will be split up into several installments. To see all of my posts from this visit to the Bradenton Marauders, click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

Part one in this ongoing Bradenton Marauders saga covered that which occurred before the ballgame. In this, the second installment, we pick up with the start of that evening’s Florida State League contest between the Marauders and St. Lucie Mets (marking the first of three times on this trip in which I would see the St. Lucie Mets).

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Play Ball!

Of course, I rarely if ever watch the games that I attend on these trips. I just wander around and watch other people watch the game. Over in the visitor’s bullpen, the St. Lucie relievers kicked up their feet and relaxed.

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My view at this moment in time was similar, if slightly elevated. One of my goals this season is to be able to make more refined architectural distinctions, as all I can think to say in this moment is that McKechnie Field is a “classic” ballpark. Help me, Wikipedia!

[McKechnie Field was] built in a Florida Spanish Mission style, with white stucco on the main grandstand and cover bleachers over the reserved seating section.

Okay, cool, thanks:

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There are also palm trees all over the place, the sort of thing that, if you’re not from Florida, immediately reminds you that “you’re in Florida.”

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On the Road: Setting the Scene in Bradenton

This season, my “On the Road” blog posts from each ballpark I visit will be split up into several installments. To see all of my Bradenton Marauders posts, click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

You may recall that, in 2012, Pirates senior director of Florida operations Trevor Gooby helped deliver a baby at the Bradenton Marauders’ home of McKechnie Ballpark. This memorable moment even inspired a Marauders bobblehead giveaway:

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I bring this up for a reason, which is pretty much the only reason I ever bring anything up: to make a belabored, needlessly convoluted point. As I was walking around McKechnie Field prior to April 11’s ballgame — the Marauders’ home opener — broadcaster Nate March said the following.

“That baby is older than all of these seats.”

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The larger point that March was making was that, despite being a very old ballpark, McKechnie Field — pronounced Mc-Keck-Nee — is also a very new one.  The ballpark was built in 1923, but has undergone many renovations through the years. The most recent, in 2013, included the installation of 2000 new seats as well as the addition of a outfield boardwalk which includes a tiki bar (de rigueur in the Florida State League) and party deck. Then, prior to this season, an expansive new 22,500 square foot clubhouse and a two-story “performance center” was built just beyond right field.

McKechnie Field, then, is in a good place. It’s served as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Spring Training home since 1969, and the Marauders, the Pirates Class A Advanced affiliate, began play in 2011 (a development made possible thanks to the 2008 addition of field lights, which McKechnie Field had never before had). The Pirates, who own the Marauders outright, signed a 30-year lease extension prior to the 2008 season, so the current arrangement is poised to continue into McKechnie’s second century of existence.

I failed to get any exterior shots of McKechnie prior to entering the stadium. This was my first ballpark stop of 2015, and I was clearly not yet in midseason form. I did, however, get this picture of the area directly beyond the outfield. It at least gives some idea of what the surrounding area is like.

It is surrounded by automobiles:

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There’s No Place But Home

My latest (and therefore greatest) Minor League ballpark road trip wrapped up in Jacksonville on Saturday. Click here — and scroll down — to see a round-up of all the blogs and articles that have been produced so far; you can sleep well knowing that there’ll be plenty more where that came from.

That trip ended in Jacksonville, the home of the Suns, who are in the midst of a season-opening homestand that can only be described as “Brobdingnagian.”

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This sustained stretch of home games came about because the Biloxi Shuckers’ MGM Park won’t be ready until (at least) early June. Therefore, the Suns are playing in Jacksonville as the “road” team during their current (April 20-24) series against the Shuckers, in addition to regularly scheduled homestands from April 9-19 and 25-29th.

It should go without saying that hosting a homestand of such magnitude is an extremely taxing experience for the front office staff, who will be working unremittingly long days at the ballpark with nary a break in sight. If there’s one team that feels their pain, who have been there and done that, it’s the Rochester Red Wings.

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In 2012 the Red Wings’ Frontier Field served as the primary home ballpark of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who were forced to spend the season on the road due to an extensive renovation to PNC Field. The Red Wings’ front office ended up hosting a whopping 109 games that season, with several stretches of a duration comparable to what the Suns are experiencing right now.

The Red Wings staff, a sympathetic lot, feel the Suns’ pain and have sought to help them in their time of need via this handy list. Suns staffers are advised to print it out and put it in their wallets (or purses, or fanny packs, or what have you):

Top 10 Survival Tips for a Really, Really Long Homestand

10. Nothing but day games!

9.  On-site laundry service for all employees

8. Nightly anti-rain dance to prevent doubleheaders

7. For female employees with significant others, four letters: B-E-E-R

6. For male employees with significant others, three letters: F-T-D

5. Initiate a daily post-lunch siesta

4. Daily Red Bull happy hour for the staff

3. Give mascot “body optional, head required” days

2. Hire landscaping company to do staff lawns

1. Fans pull tarp after Day 10

Thanks to Dan Mason, Matt Cipro and the entire Red Wings front office for sharing these survival tips, and good luck to the Suns as they seek to survive. I’ll have much more material from my recent Jacksonville visit, hopefully before this current homestand finally, mercifully ends.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/thebensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Jacksonville Suns, April 18, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon returning to New York City’s comforting embrace, I will provide the unimpeachable blog coverage that you have come to know and love. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

April 18, 2015 — Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (Bragan Field), home of the Jacksonville Suns (Double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins)

Opponent: Montgomery Biscuits, 8:47 p.m. ET start time (after a rain delay of one hour and 42 minutes)

Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, from the outside: 

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The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, from within: 

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Culinary Delight: Salt and Vinegar Pork Rinds and Sweet Tea, from third party ballpark vendor Front Porch Kettle Corn:

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

Does this count as a joke?

At Random: Suns owner Peter “Pedro” Bragan Jr. in his office

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”

Next Up: I AM HOME. Click HERE to see all of my 2015 trip itineraries.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Brevard County Manatees, April 17, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, assuming that I return home, I will provide the scintillating blog coverage that you have come to perhaps know and maybe even love. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

April 17, 2015 — Space Coast Stadium, home of the Brevard County Manatees (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers). The stadium also hosts Washington Nationals Spring Training.

Opponent: Dunedin Blue Jays, 6:30 p.m. start time.

Space Coast Stadium, from the outside:

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Space Coast Stadium, from within: 

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Culinary Delight: No Wake Zone Burger (two burger patties with crispy fried onions, bacon, blue cheese)

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

I forgot to do one of these tonight. I apologize to my legions of fans. To make it up to you, here’s a Vine featuring one of the best first pitches that I have ever seen.

At Random: Men at work, kids at play. It’s all the same, really.

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Once again, the songs kept on playing long after the last fans had left. Here’s the last one I paid attention to:

Next Up: Jacksonville Suns — TONIGHT! — April 18.

4/19: Mama, I’m Coming Home

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: St. Lucie Mets, April 16, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my merciful return home, I will provide the exhilarating blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

April 16, 2015 — Tradition Field, home of the St. Lucie Mets (and also the Spring Training home of the New York Mets).

Opponent: Brevard County Manatees, 6:30 p.m. start time.

Tradition Field, from the outside:

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Tradition Field, from within:

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Culinary Delight: Taco in a Helmet! ($6)

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Her name is Grace, and she loves the Mets.

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Taio Cruz, “Dynamite”

Next Up: Brevard County Manatees — TONIGHT — April 17!

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

4/19: HOME SWEET HOME

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Jackie Robinson Game in Vero Beach, April 15, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my possibly  triumphant return home, I will provide the exhilarating blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. So let’s get to it!

April 15, 2015 — Holman Stadium, located within the historic Dodgertown complex (Spring Training home of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1948 through 2008).

Event: Jackie Robinson Game, between the Brevard County Manatees and St. Lucie Mets. Robinson trained at Dodgertown throughout the bulk of his career, and even hit the first home run at Holman Stadium.

Holman Stadium, from the outside: 

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Holman Stadium, from within: Some 6,000 people were in attendance, a huge crowd by Florida State League standards, no matter what the context.

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Culinary Delight: I skipped my usual food coverage, given that this was a one-time event. But here’s a shot of one of the main food and beverage areas. You can imagine how cramped this became once some 6,000 people were in the ballpark.

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Old signage is the best kind of signage.

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In Conclusion: Thanks, Jackie.

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Next Up: St. Lucie Mets. Tonight! April 16!

4/17: Brevard County Manatees

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Dunedin Blue Jays, April 13, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my (assuredly)  triumphant return home, I will provide the full, multifaceted, pun-laden blog coverage that you have have come to know and deeply appreciate. So let’s get to it!  

April 13, 2015 — Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, home of the Dunedin Blue Jays (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays).

Opponent: Bradenton Marauders, 6:30 p.m. start time

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, from the outside: Located in a residential neighborhood, approximately 600 steps away from salt water.

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Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, from within: Intimate!

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Culinary Delight: A sampling of meat off the grill.

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: In case anyone forgot what day it was.

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Last Song Played Over the PA: The Jackson Five — “ABC”

Next Up: Jupiter Hammerheads — tonight!

4/15: Jackie Robinson Game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach

4/16: St. Lucie Mets

4/17: Brevard County Manatees

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Tampa Yankees, April 12, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my (hopefully)  triumphant return home, I will provide the full, multifaceted, pun-bedecked blog coverage that you have have come to know and tolerate. So let’s get to it!  

April 12, 2015 — Steinbrenner Field, home of the Tampa Yankees (Class A Advanced affiliate of the New York Yankees).

Opponent: Lakeland Tigers, 5 p.m. start time

Steinbrenner Field, from the outside: Fans pass a statue of George Steinbrenner as they make their way to the main entrance. To the left of “The Boss” (your right) is Tampa’s version of Monument Park as well as a September 11 tribute.

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Steinbrenner Field, from the inside: Cavernous would be the word.

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Culinary Delight: The game was preceded by the inaugural “Taste of South Tampa” event, featuring dozens of local food and drink vendors on the concourse. Here’s a close-up of “Cheesy Crab Nachos,” courtesy of Pincher’s Crab Shack.

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Lego Steinbrenner Field!

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Frank Sinatra — “New York, New York” (even though the Yankees lost)

Next Up: Dunedin Blue Jays — tonight! — April 13

4/14: Jupiter Hammerheads

4/15: Jackie Robinson Game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach

4/16: St. Lucie Mets

4/17: Brevard County Manatees

4/18: Jacksonville Suns

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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