Results tagged ‘ Jamestown Jammers ’

On the Road: Just in the Nick of Time in Jamestown

(Interested in perusing all of my 2014 “On the Road” content? Click HERE  to visit a continually updated “On the Road” landing page. Bookmark it, and read ‘em all!)

It’s official: In 2015, the New York-Penn League will be fielding a team in Morgantown, West Virginia. This marks yet another instance of geographic expansion within the 14-team circuit, which, in addition to its namesake states, includes teams in Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio and Connecticut.

But this growth comes at a cost, as the appearance of each new NYPL team means the loss of another. Inevitably, the cities that lose their franchises are those which operate in smaller, more traditional locales. The considerable charms of a classic baseball environment are no match for the two-headed team-slaying monster that is weak attendance and obsolete facilities.

The latest NYPL city to lose its team is Jamestown, New York, a charter member of the league. The Jamestown Jammers are Morgantown-bound in 2015, and while this had been rumored for well over a year it didn’t become official until, well, the day that I visited Jamestown.

On Sunday, August 24th, this was the headline in Jamestown’s local paper.

031So it was with something of a heavy heart that I pulled into the parking lot of Jamestown’s Russell Diethrick Park, as at the same time that I was saying hello I would also be saying goodbye.

002

004The ballpark, built in 1941 and later re-named in honor of Jamestown’s “Mr. Baseball,” sits adjacent to a soap box derby track. Races are held in late spring and again in the fall; it was not set up on the day that I was attendance.

076I began my afternoon on the roof of the ballpark, checking out the press box located thereon. Rooftop press boxes: a dying breed!

013

009It was a beautiful day, more beautiful than I seem to remember it being, and the roof offered some primo vantage points of the surrounding environs.

007

011The sign on the press box stairs reads “No Spikes Beyond This Point,” which I interpreted as a none-too-subtle bit of discrimination directed at the opposing State College Spikes. (The  Spikes had clinched the NYPL’s Pinckney Division the night before, so not much was on the line in this late season contest against the already-out-of-it Jammers.)

012Back on ground level, I surveyed the team’s no-frills concessions operations. Sahlen’s, a well-regarded local company, is the team’s hot dog brand of choice. (In a Minor League frankfurter coup, Sahlen’s was named the official hot dog of the Charlotte Knights in this, their first season at a brand new downtown ballpark. This marks a significant bit of expansion for the brand, which had been largely unknown outside of its western New York base of operations.)

015

Sahlen’s in Charlotte:

062

At Russell Diethrick Park, what you see is what you get. There is a covered grandstand and bleacher seating on both the first and third base sides. On occasion, you might catch a glimpse of a Bubba Grape the Baseball Ape.

016For the record, the “Jammers” name is an homage to the Jamestown region’s fertile grape crop. Hence, this logo, which, depending on your perspective, is one of the greatest or worst in Minor League history. There is no in-between. I for one think it’s grape, but enough of my purple prose…

bCxoCNrF

(For more on the logo, read this article written by a young, confused and impressionable Benjamin Hill in January of 2006. I’ve been doing this job for too long, maybe.)

Jammers in action.

018Sitting, standing, stretching and stooped in the bullpen.

019

The concourse separates the stadium from the clubhouses. Players traipsing about in their spikes, en route to the dugouts or the bullpen, were a common sight.

022

In this photo we see longtime thirst-quenching adversaries Powerade and Gatorade trying to make the best of their uneasy cusp-of-the-dugout existence. Powerade looks ready to throw in the towel.

021This “end of summer mega sale!” was, in actuality, an end of existence mega sale! I plan on holding one of those prior to my scheduled 2066 move into an assisted living facility.

023

On the flip side:

044

At the gift shop, one could acquire his or her own “Bubba the Grape Ape” t-shirt.

006Ducking into the restroom, I was delighted to find one of the last remaining trough urinals in Minor League Baseball. Truly, they are a dying breed. (Are there any left outside of the Appy League?)

024The Vineyard Tent Area, located down the right field line.

025Spikes weren’t allowed on the roof, but there were plenty of ‘em on the playing field.

027Grass and fence, separated by a granular warning.

028

The clouds were just beautiful on this particular afternoon. Everything was beautiful. Life is beautiful.

029Another view of the Vineyard.

030I made it back to the grandstand for the start of the ballgame, capturing six seconds of the National Anthem for posterity’s sake.

New York-Penn League baseball in action.

033Number 99, last seen wandering the concourse, was now safely ensconced in the bullpen.

035

On the concourse, I happened to spot this unguarded washer-dryer combo. I don’t think this is what they mean by “soapbox” racing, but I’ll get off of mine and not speculate any further.

038Given the news regarding the Jammers’ imminent departure, I thought it would be pertinent to speak to some of the team’s long-time fans. I didn’t know where to begin, but this smiling young man seemed like a good place to start.

040That’s 16-year-old Andrew Sisson, who has been part of the Jammers’ operation, in various capacities, since he was a little kid. He spoke with an understated eloquence that belied his young age, and his quotes are incorporated into a MiLB.com feature that I wrote about the Jammers’ departure. Sisson then recommended that I speak to the fans in section B, which I did.

They, too, were great to speak with. A loyal, good-humored bunch who were understandably saddened by the end of the Jammers’ era. On the whole, their remarks were characterized not by anger, but by resignation, frustration and melancholy.

047

The Jamestown faithful

For the sake of (ir)regulars such as those seen above, I hope that Russell Diethrick Park is able to find a suitable baseball tenant in 2015 and beyond. A return to affiliated ball is highly unlikely — it simply is no longer profitable — but landing an independent or collegiate wood bat team seems feasible. This is a charming ballpark with a rich history and it would be a real shame for it to go unused during the summer.

I mean, where else but here can Jamestownians enjoy culinary specialties such as these Buffalo chicken-topped french fries?

049 That’s all I have, food-wise, from Russell Diethrick Park. No one had volunteered to be designated eater prior to my visit (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits), and I wasn’t motivated to recruit one. For me, the primary prerogative of this particular ballpark visit was simply to soak in the atmosphere. This was the end of an era, and I wanted to convey what was being lost.

042

052

053At this juncture I spent a couple of innings hanging around with on-field host Corey Raymond and crew. Here, he is officiating an on-field pillow fight.

055

The guy on the right emerged victorious, and there was no doubt about it.

056

Man, down

Next up on the agenda was the “Chicken Dance,” performed by an extremely unenthusiastic chicken, who, at some point along the way, had lost his gloves.

057The chicken inaction:

While playing this game, the young contestant missed the target on his first two attempts.

058His third attempt? Well, it would have been impossible not to miss.

059In the game’s latter stages, Corey spent some time showing off his juggling skills.

060Sisson with the assist.

Throughout these late-game endeavors, I couldn’t help but feel a bit melancholy. Business was proceeding as usual, but business as usual was soon to be a thing of the past. Here, Sisson wipes the slate clean, a task that only needed to be done two more times.

Ever.

(The Jammers hit the road after this ballgame; and, due to an August 31 rainout, the only games to take place at Diethrick Park after this one was a Labor Day doubleheader against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers).

063I decided to end my day in Jamestown on top.

067The best seat in the house.

069

068

It was the top of the ninth inning at this point, and the Jammers had a 5-1 lead. Three consecutive singles narrowed the lead to three runs, but that would be all she wrote as the game concluded with a 6-3 double play and then a 6-3 groundout. My enduring memory of this half-inning is listening to the infield chatter of shortstop Tyler Filliben, as the sounds of his incessant encouraging banter filled the largely-empty ballpark. Filliben was hyper-engaged throughout, so it seemed fitting that he ended up being involved with all three outs in the inning.

The Jammers won, marking what would be the penultimate home victory in the history of the franchise.

071After the game ended, as I was preparing to leave the ballpark, Jammers general manager Matt Thayer intercepted me and suggested that I head back to the press box. There was something I had not yet seen, he said, something that was unique to Jamestown and worthy of commemoration.

And what he showed me was this, the only press box toilet in Minor League Baseball that provides a direct view of the playing field.

073But never again shall Jammers baseball be witnessed from the throne, as the door has been closed on this era of New York-Penn League history.

074

I’ll close, not with a picture of a toilet, but with this. In 1990, Candid Camera visited the Jamestown Expos and pulled a prank on pitcher Bob Baxter that would never fly in today’s Minor League environment. Can you imagine an MLB farm director allowing this to happen in this, the year of our Lord 2014? Also, this video provides a great glimpse of Diethrick Park during an era when far more fans were coming to the ballpark.

Because of moments like that, and many others both large and small, New York-Penn League baseball in Jamestown will not be forgotten. It is, after all, an enduring part of its heritage.

005benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: New York State of Mind, Part One

My latest (and therefore greatest) road trip took place from August 22 through August 31st, consisting largely of teams based in the great state of New York. MiLB.com articles from this trip have been appearing on MiLB.com over the past 12 days, and will continue to appear this week and the week thereafter. To check out those stories, and many others, please bookmark this handy landing page for all of my 2014 road trip writings. I’ll be glad you did.

Once my MiLB.com articles are complete, I’ll write a corresponding blog post for each of the 10 ballparks I visited. The season may be over, but so much material is still to come! Some of that material shall be delivered to you now via this post, the first in a series covering all of my non-ballpark explorations during this most recent road trip. My 10 stadiums in 10 days itinerary didn’t allow much time for such explorations, but I will share everything that I can.

Starting now:

August 22: Batavia, New York (home of the Muckdogs)

I left New York City on the morning of August 22, immediately setting out for the western New York town of Batavia (population 15,645). Now that the Jamestown Jammers are no longer (moving to Morgantown, West Virginia in 2015), Batavia is the only remaining charter member of the New York-Penn League. This plaque, located at the Muckdogs’ home of Dwyer Stadium, explains Batavia’s role in NYPL history:

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I arrived in Batavia a little after four p.m., and had an hour or so to poke around before heading to Dwyer Stadium. I briefly considered heading to the nearby town of Elba, which, per Muckdogs general manager Travis Sick, is the epicenter of the region’s much-beloved muck:

Muck is a very dark brown soil, appearing black when moist. It is a fine, loose, fibrous form of peat that feels like sawdust when dry. Onions are the main “muck” crop because they are hardy and thrive in loose soil. Elba, a small town to 5 miles to the North of Batavia, claims to be the “Onion Capital of the World” due to the amount of onions that are grown in the muck lands.

Given my time constraints, and a desire to not make muck ado about nothing, I opted to spend my pre-game time in Batavia proper. There is a lot of history and charm in this old downtown, although the charm quotient is greatly reduced due to Main Street’s heavy traffic and pedestrian-unfriendly street crossings. Via some on-the-spot Google research, I was able to determine that the Hotel Richmond, where the New York-Penn League was conceived in a fit of National Pastime passion, once stood at the intersection of Main and Court Streets.

This is what the intersection of Main and Court Street looks like now. I wonder if the owner of this black SUV, while waiting at the stoplight, paused to consider just how close he or she was to Minor League Baseball history. My guess would be no.

IMG_0160While the four lanes of traffic cutting a wide swath through the center of Main Street diminishes Batavia’s charm, charm is nonetheless still in abundance. Fire hydrants, traditionally slaves to pragmatism, have style and pizzazz.

003This is the police station.

004And this is the courthouse. It goes without saying, but “Genesee Justice” would make for a really good reality TV show.

Update! This is not the courthouse. Per reader Doug Schneider:

What you have identified as the courthouse is the former sheriff’s office, now headquarters to an alternatives-to-incarceration program called Genesee Justice. The court house is at the big intersection (5 and 63) just east of there.

005Oliver’s “Own Make” Candies was one of the more notable businesses I encountered. (I went inside and bought some cayenne pepper-spiced caramel corn.)

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007Oliver’s Candies represented the zenith of my Main Street peregrinations, as after visiting I headed back toward my automobile. On my return route, I passed several points of historical interest.

Capt. Charles F. Rand was “a native Batavian….officially recognized by the Congress of the United States as the first person to answer President Lincoln’s appeal for volunteers in the Civil War.” More info on him can be found HERE.

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The War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden.

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013Major General Emory Upton.

014I wish I had had more time to explore Batavia, in much the same way that I wished I had had more time to explore every American city that I have ever visited. But it was not to be, for duty called.

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August 23: Rochester, New York (home of the Red Wings)

Upon the conclusion of August 22’s Muckdogs game, I drove 36 miles northeast to Rochester and checked in at the Hyatt-Regency. It was one of the nicer hotels I stayed at this season — I generally stay in each city’s team hotel, where the visiting players stay –, and I was able to get a drink at the bar just before it closed (being on the road is all about small victories). I also noticed something which became a pattern on this trip: people in western New York pronounce the word “complimentary” as “complimen-tary. Can anyone back me up on this?

The jerks in the room next to mine at the Hyatt were extremely loud and kept me up later than I would have liked, but such is life. Looking for something to do in the absence of sleep, I took this photo out of the hotel room window at 2:30 a.m. A friend of mine told me that this photo reminded him of Man Ray and I hope that is true. Everybody loves Ray, Man.

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As for Rochester explorations, I regret to report that they were exceedingly minimal. I slept late the next morning, wrote for a nice chunk of the afternoon, and headed to the ballpark a little before three o’clock (the Red Wings were playing a doubleheader that evening, hence the early arrival). I did take a few photos on the way to the ballpark, however.

102Downtown Rochester was emanating saturnine vibes on this sleepy Saturday afternoon, but, nonetheless, it was easy to appreciate the architecture amid the malaise.

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25 East Main Street is an “historic site in journalism,” and deservedly so.

103The Post House is another building of historical note.

105Post Post House, I came upon the stadium and enjoyed a double dose of Rochester Red Wings baseball. After the game, I made it back to the Hyatt in time to get a drink at the bar just before closing. “You always come at this time,” said the bartender, which struck me as kind of comical since I had only checked in 24 hours before. As he got my drink, some tipsy ladies returning to the hotel from a bachelorette party sat at the bar and gave me a glow stick wristband. I said “Thank you,” took my wristband and drink up to my room, and did some writing in the Man Ray moonlight.

August 23: Jamestown, New York (home of the Jammers)

On August 23 I drove from Rochester straight to the Jamestown Jammers’ home of Russell Diethrick Stadium. After the game, I drove straight to Erie, Pennsylvania. I wish I had had the opportunity to explore Jamestown proper, but I did not. (If anyone wants to write a guest post on “Things to see and do in Jamestown” then you know where to get a hold of me.) There is very little I can tell you about Jamestown, but one thing I can tell you is that Jamestown is the birthplace of Lucille Ball and the town is now home to the “Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center.”

I can also tell you that I have plenty more material to share, and share it I will. But share it in this post, I won’t. Stay tuned for much more from the road.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Bone-In Pork Ribs and Other Delights

Yesterday’s post began with a look at the Memphis Redbirds’ highly-touted “Organ Donor” jersey, but it’s important to note that they’re not the only Triple-A club taking an inside-out approach to the theme jersey.

During last week’s “Halloween Night” promotion, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs took the field in these:

That’s manager Ryne Sandberg, who might have had a bone to pick with fans who gave him a good ribbing about his new look.

Ryan Feierabend took the loss, but nonetheless showed a lot of backbone out there on the mound.

Don’t worry, Ryan — to-marrow is a new day!

But we’re here to talk about that greatest era of American history — the exceedingly recent past. For instance, on Wednesday the Jamestown Jammers took the field in these.

Lucille Ball was a native of Jamestown, and this week marks the centennial anniversary of her birth. The town is in the midst of a multi-day “Lucyfest” celebration, with the Jammers’ “Lucy-Desi Night” kicking things off. The Jammers won 6-3; although perhaps it would have been more appropriate if they had been in the midst of a “Lucy” streak. (And taking a look at the box score — it appears tht Brian McConkey had the honor of serving as the team’s “Desi-nated Hitter.”)

The Toledo Mud Hens are another team to have recently honored a hometown hero at the ballpark. On Monday, the team gave away 1000 bobbleheads honoring this man. Guess whose back?

Any idea? Feel feel to argue amongst yourselves, I’m not above taking sides:

Okay — one can discern the surname “Walker” in the first shot and the first name “Moses” in the above.

But there the appellation trail goes cold, for this man has a middle name as well. It’s Fleetwood, mac!

Face:

the facts:

What can I say? I’m a big fan of Walker’s. Not only was he the first black player in MLB history, but he was also an inventor, newspaper publisher, social theorist, and entrepreneur. He also had a thirst for the drink, and in 1891 was acquitted of a second-degree murder charge.

Now that’s a life.

Also, this marked the first time a team sent me six high-quality shots of one bobblehead. I figured I may as well do something with it.

Who’s gonna be the first to send me seven?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

A Thoroughly Flawed Evening in Jamestown

Thumbnail image for bubba.jpgThis past Thursday, the Giants played the Patriots in a pre-season Super Bowl XLII rematch. Inspired by this gridiron pairing, the Jamestown Jammers staged “Salute to Imperfection Night” at beautiful Russell Diethrick Park.

I included this event in my final “Promotion Preview” column of the season, summing it up thusly:

“On this special evening, the club will pay tribute to the 2007 Patriots
and other “imperfect” teams (such as the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers
of 1976-77) in a variety of ways. Every fan wearing NFL gear receives
free admission, and mascot Bubba Grape will take part in a re-enactment
of Eli Manning’s famous completion to David Tyree. Also taking place
will be a “wide right” contest, in which fans will attempt to miss
field goals in a fashion similar to the Bills’ Scott Norwood in Super
Bowl XXV.”

I am happy to report that I have received a most amusing recap of the evening from Jammers director of baseball operations Scott Eddy, who breaks it all down in a succinct, point-by-point fashion:

“There was absolutely nothing perfect about this night at Diethrick Park in
Jamestown as A) The home team was down 6-0 after two innings and as much as 15-0
at one point before finally losing 15-2 to Auburn.”

imperfectscore.JPG 

B) There was rainfall for much of the evening

C) Our regular on-field host, an avid Bills fan, refused to
announce the “Wide Right” re-creation. Taking his place, I was
heckled quite heartily by many of the Bills fans in attendance. Brought back
bad memories, I suppose. Our contestant did Scott Norwood
proud- imperfectly wide right and he walked away with a prize.

wiiderightkick.JPG

D) The picture isn’t very clear, but although Auburn
took home a 15-2 victory, things weren’t quite perfect for them, either. Their
bus, parked alongside the stadium, was drilled with a foul ball, smashing one
of its windows.”

windowsmash.JPG

So there you have it, folks. The Jammers really couldn’t have asked for a more imperfect evening. Which begs the question: If one attains their stated goal of imperfection, is this, in itself, a form of perfection?

I, for one, am going to spend the remainder of my day pondering this deep philosophical query.

A Jam-Packed Night in Jamestown

jammers.jpgLast week, I blogged about the State College Spikes’ epic “Night of 100 Promotions”, and wondered if any other teams would soon follow suit.

One has: the Jamestown Jammers.

The Jammers have toned the concept down a notch while also adding a unique hometown twist. The club is currently in first place in the New York-Penn League’s Pinckney Division, and just 14 wins away from a franchise-record 42 victories. In honor of this march to immortality, tomorrow will be “The Night of 42 Promotions.”

Utilizing the hard-nosed investigative journalism skills that I have built my reputation upon, I was able to secure a complete list of the Jammers’ promotions (thanks to Director of Baseball Operations Scott Eddy). Tiny font, activate!

1.  Answer some fun and exciting trivia and win a
small prize that will last forever!

2.  Through out the game so you do not forget the
stats or your favorite players, we will be giving away colorful post-it
notes!!!

3.  Free Bubba Hugs

bubba.jpg

4.  Learn the Robot Dance with Bubba!

5.  Receive 100 of this special prize and you
will have a $1.00 aka Penny Giveaway!

6.  Number 1 music hits from around the world on
the PA all night long

7.  Meet the wonderful Jamestown Jammers staff of
2008!!!

8.  Attempt to start the largest Wave in Chautauqua County history

9.  Join in while we do the Macarena

10. Bull-pen player name game

11. You have been wondering?
Ask the GM one question of your choice!

12. Salute to the chia pet

13. Watch your Jamestown
Jammers interns take on one another in the Intern Olympics

14. 42 bugle calls

15. 15% of a non-sale item in
the Gift Shop

16. Salute to the Yodel

17. Jammers Card set toss into
crowd

18. Electric Slide on the
field

19. Look out for flying
peanuts! Catch them if you can!

20. Wrestling theme music

21. Tribute to 42nd
President Bill Clinton

22. Pay tribute to your
hometown girl by doing I Love Lucy impressions!

lucille_ball.jpg

23. J-E-L-L-O toss on-field

24. Kids bring your muscles to
join in on a tug of war challenge

25. Test your running skills
by running in clothes backwards

26. Anyone who throws 42 at
Speed Pitch wins a prize!

27. Water balloon toss

28. Salute to our manager,
Darin Everson

29. Salute to baseball caps

30. Meet the grounds crew

31. Meet outfielder Ray White

32. Moment of silence for our
troops

33. Come to the game with your
blue tooth and win a small prize

34. Salute to the Eggplant

35. Free high fives

36. Spend a fun filled inning
with Bubba!

37. Jr. PA Announcers

38. Free T-shirt toss

washington-state.jpg

39. Salute to Boy Bands

40. Salute to the 42nd
state,
Washington

41. Free stadium tours

42. Free pocket schedules

I will now elaborate on a few of these most-exciting innovations.

#3: Bubba is the Jammers’ mascot, whose full name is the quite awesome “Bubba Grape the Baseball Ape“. It is fitting that he shares a name with 42nd President Bill “Bubba” Clinton, who the club will be paying tribute to that evening (see promo #21).

gooch.gif#6: In addition to playing #1 hits, the club might wish to consider playing the song that is currently #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart: “Realize” by Colbie Caillat.

#10: RIght-hander Wayman Gooch should be a lock to win the bullpen name-game.

#19: This sounds more like a threat than a promotion.

#22: Lucille Ball was indeed born in Jamestown.

#25: This is obviously preferable to running naked backwards.

Meanwhile the aforementioned State College Spikes are running full speed ahead with more innovative promotions. The club’s on-field play has left much to be desired this season (the Spikes are 18.5 games behind Jamestown in the Pinckney Division), so the front office has declared Friday’s game as “We Win, You Win” night.

If the Spikes win that evening, fans receive a ticket voucher for an upcoming game against Staten Island. But if they lose, then “General Manager Rick Janac and Director of Ticket Sales Chris Phillips
will walk around the bases on Saturday for the equivalent amount of
hours as runs the team is beaten by.” The full press release is located here.
 

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