Results tagged ‘ New York-Penn League ’

On the Road: The Kids are Alright in Vermont

To see all posts from my July 11, 2015 visit to the Vermont Lake Monsters (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

As mentioned previously, my visit to Burlington, Vermont to see the Lake Monsters was not part of my end-of-season New England road trip. It was a standalone visit that took place on July 11, which I have since shoehorned into my larger New England narrative.


Centennial Field, home of the Vermont Lake Monsters. July 11, 2015

When in Vermont I stayed in neighboring Hinesburg with my cousin, Ali, her husband Jim, and their two kids Jason and Becca. (I call Ali my cousin, but her Mom and my Dad are cousins so technically I think we’re “first cousins once removed.” And her kids are, what? Second cousins once removed? It gets confusing really quickly.)

Ali, Jason and Becca accompanied me to July 11’s Lake Monsters game at Centennial Field, and I recruited the latter two to serve as my designated eaters (you know, the individuals recruited to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.)

Jason and Becca were joined in this endeavor by Jason’s friend, Devon. Jason and Devon are in fifth grade, while Becca is in second grade. Let’s meet them:

Centennial Field is the oldest stadium in Minor League Baseball (the grandstand was built in 1922, but games have been played there dating back to 1906). Operationally speaking, the Lake Monsters don’t have the capabilities to offer a wide array of outlandish and/or regionally specific items (the bread and butter of most of my food posts).

Furthermore, my designated eaters, being kids, did not have the most sophisticated palettes. They wanted the basics anyway, and the Lake Monsters are adept at providing the basics.

029Thus, we have Jason with a double cheeseburger…

034…Becca with a personal cheese pizza…

033…and Devon with a foot-long hot dog.

035This was all taking place within the picnic area located down the third base line.

036Let’s begin with Jason’s double cheeseburger, which he had kept in a pristine, condiment-free state:

030“I don’t like ketchup or mustard,” said Jason. “Mustard tastes weird. And I don’t like relish. I just don’t like it.”

He was far more charitable toward the cheeseburger itself, remarking that “It’s good. The cheese is actually melted and the bun is good, too. A double burger may sound like a lot, but it’s actually the perfect amount.”

As for what food he’d like to see at the ballpark, Jason said that it’d be great if the Lake Monsters sold Moe’s tacos. He then recanted this sentiment, wisely stating that “I take it back. I don’t want chains, I want people to know about local restaurants. So how about Public House? They have good baseball food, I think.”

Our focus then turned toward Becca’s pizza.


Becca, in this case, was a second-grader of few words.

“I think it’s really good,” she said. “The sauce is really good.”

She then added that her ideal ballpark food would be “Strawberry and chocolate donuts, and maybe even some coconuts.”

Becca might be the first kid in the history of kids to like coconuts.

Finally, we have Devon’s foot-long hot dog. Like his buddy Jason, Devon eschews condiments. Perhaps this is why they are friends.

031“I like ketchup but only on fries,” said Devon, seeking to clarify that he did not have an across-the-board anti-condiment philosophy. “This is the longest hot dog I’ve ever seen. I wish that on ‘Hot Dog Heaven Day’ [when the Lake Monsters sell hot dogs for a quarter] they would launch these into the stands.”

As for how the hot dog tasted, Devon offered a single word in response: “Good.” He then explained that his ideal ballpark food would be “Pizza and then edible baseballs. Like, a sphere cake, vanilla, with white frosting and red stitches.”

“They could call it ‘Cake Me Out to the Ballgame,'” I said in response. This was followed by an unamused silence.

Edible baseballs were not available as a dessert option. But Chesster’s ice cream cookie sandwiches, a Vermont convenience store staple, were agreed by all to be an acceptable alternative.

037Becca, Jason and Devon ate in unison.

038“The cookies are really good. They’re not hard and they don’t crumble,” said Jason.

“They’re really good with the creamy ice cream in the middle,” added Becca, who, for the record is also capable of making a funny face while eating a Chesster’s ice cream cookie sandwich.

039With the designated eating complete, I asked Devon, Jason and Becca how they would rate the experience on a scale of “One to 275,550.”

Devon: 2,700

Jason: 4/5ths.

Becca: What was the highest number again? [I told her.] Okay, that.

Alright, then. Any final words before we wrap this up?

Becca: Kids ruin everything. Except me. I’m awesome.

Jason: I would recommend going to Vermont if you’re close by. Except for Essex. Don’t go to Essex.

[Note: Jason and and Devon are on the same hockey team, and Essex is their biggest rival.] 

Devon: If you’re near the Vermont Lake Monsters stadium and they’re in town, then you should go.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself, Devon. Centennial Field is a good place to eat, and a better place to see a baseball game.


On the Road: Bolting Around the Field and Admiring the Skye in Burlington

To see all posts from my July 11, 2015 visit to the Vermont Lake Monsters (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The previous post in this Vermont Lake Monsters series was dubbed, accurately and originally, as Part One. In the interest of maintaining my high standards of consistency, this post shall henceforth be referred to as Part Two.

Part Two now begins with the game in progress. It was a beautiful Saturday evening, and the Lake Monsters were hosting the West Virginia Black Bears at historic Centennial Field.


Early in the game, I spent an inning or so talking to longtime season ticket-holder Skip Farrell. Skip’s devotion to the Lake Monsters runs deep, to the extent that he even got married at Centennial Field. His wife, Wendy, wasn’t with him at the time, so I promised to stop by later to say hello.

028Skip was keeping score at the game, which meant he had the honor and privilege of documenting Skye Bolt’s each and every at-bat.

IMG_1595Yes, Skye Bolt! It might not be as great of a name as Storm Throne, but it’s pretty close.

My more immediate concerns were tertiary, however, as I had been tasked with driving a lap around the infield in this glorified Go-Kart.


Specifically, I was tasked with delivering a bottle of water to each of the two umpires. I would then take a lap around around the field, collect the bottles, take another lap around the field and depart from whence I had came. And that’s what happened, more or less.


Driving and Vining. I should probably have gotten a citation for this.

For the rest of the evening, I stuck to walking. A stroll down the first-base line eventually led me to these fresh mascot tracks.

044The tracks led to an outfield area featuring a bar — Citizen Cider on tap! — and, beyond that, a Fun Zone. This is the perfect combination in that kids get to play while parents get to drink.


Vermont Frames Pavilion and Bar

I enjoyed the view from out this way.

046Also enjoying the view was my MLB Advanced Media co-worker Brian Bednarski, his wife, Carrie, and their son, Pete. They, like me, were enjoying some time away from the Big Apple. Pete’s looking over at the Fun Zone like “Oh, yeah — just give me a year or two and I’ll be the king of that place.”


The Bednarskis, birds, Burlington, Ben’s Biz Blog. It truly was a beautiful night for baseball.

What could be better than singing the seventh-inning stretch at Minor League Baseball’s oldest ballpark on a gorgeous summer evening?

A Skye Bolt appears amid tranquility:

IMG_1599Following Champ’s footsteps was one thing, but I eventually ran into Champ himself. Mythical creature or not, he’s a pretty big deal around these parts.

054A slightly more rigid iteration of Champ can be found guarding one of the Centennial Field entranceways. This sculpture was made by a local fan, out of just one piece of wood. A chainsaw was involved.

059Speaking of pieces of wood that the team acquired for free, this table used to be a Burlington Telecom cable spool. (This idea was borrowed by the Connecticut Tigers, who have done the same thing at their home of Dodd Stadium.)

056To the right of the spool tables, one could find local youths lounging in recliners by the dugout.

057To the left of the spool tables were tables of the picnic variety.

058It’s time to table this discussion, as under the grandstand there are no tables.

060With the game almost over, I checked in on Skip once again. His vantage point remained impeccable.

061 And this time, his wife was with him.

062It’s easy to remember one’s anniversary when one has said anniversary affixed to one’s seat. But isn’t weird that they got married on a Wednesday? Oh, wait…

065I also got a photo of Skip’s season-ticket holder cup, in order to satisfy all of the #cupdate fiends out there. The owners of these cups are entitled to $1 refills, all season long.

IMG_1601As I spoke with Skip and Wendy, the game came to an end. The Black Bears, having scored three runs in the eighth inning and three more in the ninth, won by a score of 7-3. (Skye Bolt, despite having a name worthy of a creator deity, went 0-for-4 for the Lake Monsters.)

064And that did it for my evening with the Lake Monsters.

While leaving, I mimicked an action that I had taken upon arrival: I took a picture of the house that is located directly across the street from the stadium.

067If a politician running for office used this as a campaign slogan, he (or she) would get my vote.

On the Road: An Old School Field in Burlington

To see all posts from my July 11, 2015 visit to the Vermont Lake Monsters (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Before delving into this post, a bit of clarification is needed: I didn’t visit the Vermont Lake Monsters as part of my end-of-the-season New England road trip. It was a one-off visit that took place July 11, as part of a long weekend in Burlington that was otherwise dedicated to non-Minor League pursuits (including, yes, a Weird Al concert).

But since the Lake Monsters are most certainly a New England-based team, I decided to shoehorn my Centennial Field visit into my ongoing New England ballpark narrative. Therefore, I am writing these Vermont posts as if they were part of the same trip. I mean, they could’ve been.

The Lake Monster play at Centennial Field, one of the oldest professional sports stadiums in the entire country. The ballpark is located across the street from a purple house bearing a tree-obscured message. That message is “Cut consumption, not foreskin.”


Longtime readers of this blog, who may exist, will remember that I’ve written about the above house before. This is because I’ve visited the Vermont Lake Monsters before. The year was 2009, when I was still tentatively dipping my toes into the roiling “exploring America through Minor League Baseball” waters.

Centennial Field is located on the University of Vermont (UVM) campus, behind a soccer field that has also been used for football and lacrosse. UVM teams no longer play on this field, but it is still well maintained.

012After traversing the width of the soccer field, one arrives at the baseball portion of Centennial Field. UVM cut its baseball program in 2009, which led to fears that the Lake Monsters would leave town. UVM agreed to a 20-year lease with the Lake Monsters in 2012, however, at the bargain price of $1 a year.

014Centennial Field was first christened  as such well over a centennial ago, and the grandstand dates back to 1922. No matter how you want to contextualize it, it is the oldest ballpark currently in use by a Minor League Baseball team (others built in the ’20s include Bowman Field in Williamsport and McCormick Field in Asheville). However, Centennial Field didn’t host Minor League Baseball until 1955 and not on a consistent basis until the appearance of the Eastern League’s Vermont Reds in 1984.

018Burlington is a good market for short-season Minor League Baseball, and Lake Monsters owner Ray Pecor is committed to the area. Otherwise, it is a near-certainty that the Lake Monsters would have departed for a city possessing (or constructing) a facility with modern amenities. The team has done what they can to upgrade Centennial Field, with Pecor contributing some $2 million for necessities such as field renovation, a new videoboard, new light towers and much more. Even with a $1 a year lease, running a team out of an ancient ballpark can be an expensive proposition.

One improvement that fans might not notice is that the visitor’s clubhouse is now located underneath the scoreboard. Previously, the players had been housed in this small building on the far side of the adjacent soccer field.


On the evening in which I was in attendance, the videoboard was highlighting the imminent battle of old (the Lake Monsters) vs. new (the visiting West Virginia Black Bears, playing their inaugural season after relocating from Jamestown, New York).

One thing that the teams have in common is that they are both New York-Penn League teams who operate outside of New York and Pennsylvania. Discuss.

021Another thing that the Lake Monsters have in common with the Black Bears is that they, too, began life in the New York-Penn League after relocating from Jamestown. Vermont played its inaugural season in 1994 as the “Expos,” and kept the Expos name through the 2005 campaign (at which point, they were the last professional franchise to bear the Expos name). The “Lake Monsters” appellation was adopted in 2006, a nod to the Loch Ness-like monster that allegedly resides in nearby Lake Champlain. In 2011, after 17 seasons with the Expos/Nationals, the Lake Monsters became an Oakland affiliate. Burlington is only 3,012 miles away from Oakland.

Despite the myriad improvements made to Centennial Field in recent years, it can’t help but maintain a rustic, throwback feel. This is a good thing, and I defy anyone (not involved with player development) to tell me otherwise.

020The concourse, such as it is, runs along the outside of the stadium. Narrow, low-slung pathways lead into the seating bowl proper.

026Outside of one such entrance way, Champ was mingling with his core demographic.

040The concession stands are located in standalone buildings on the other side of the concourse. Team offices are located in separate buildings as well.

029The team’s food offerings can — nay, should — be enjoyed from the picnic area located down the third-base line (there is also a new group area beyond right field — I’ll highlight that in the next post).

036And speaking of the next post, it’s going to be arriving in the very near future. That’ll do it for this one, as the game’s about to start.

Nice “Hello Kitty” backpack, bullpen dude. Here’s hoping that you were able to withstand such a withering attack on your masculinity.


On the Road: Fresh, Hot and Simple in Lowell

To see all posts from my August 31, 2015 visit to the Lowell Spinners (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Let’s get this requisite introductory paragraph out of the way as quickly and painlessly as possible:

At nearly every ballpark I visited this season, I had a designated eater. These individuals, hardy souls with good appetites all, are tasked with consuming the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners, my designated eater was Joe Beauregard.

Joe is a real nice guy.

IMG_0453In addition to being a nice guy, Joe is a Lowell native who now lives in nearby Chelmsford. He works in the sporting goods industry, selling products to local youth sports programs, and is a big sports fan himself. He’s also a family man, and two of his three sons were with him at the ballpark: 13-year-old Joey and seven-year-old Braden. (Middle child Jared, 11, opted to stay home).

As for why he wanted to be a designated eater at a Lowell Spinners game, Joe’s answer was simple and inspiring.

“If there’s eating involved, then I can do it. I’ve got the size and I’ve got the ability. I’ve been training all of my life for this opportunity.”

Okay, but what to eat? When it comes to their concessions, the Spinners prefer to keep it simple. In the past they’ve offered regional specialties like lobster rolls and alluring grotesques such as the Homewrecker Hot Dog, but currently their strategy is to focus on the basics and to do the basics well.

In other words: Keep It Simple, Stupid.


The above picture of the Canaligator Cafe was taken earlier in the evening. But it was at this same concession stand — or one just like it — where Joe and I procured an array of food.


First up was the cheesesteak, which in Lowell is apparently called a “Steak and Cheese.” That, to me, is kind of like calling a hot dog a “Dog and Hot,” but whatever.

Steak and Cheese, so be it.

IMG_0447Have at it, Joe. This is your time to shine.

“It’s flavorful. There’s enough cheese and enough steak, so it’s a good steak and cheese,” said Joe, whose logic was impeccable. “I recommend it.”

Alright, then. So how ’bout some garlic fries?

IMG_0448“I like the garlic, it’s got some flavor,” said Joe, a man who likes flavor.

We also got an order of the spicy fries, which were — you guessed it — spicy. Seven-year-old Braden gave one a try, kinda sorta.

IMG_0455Braden looks pretty laid back in that photo, but the only quote I have from him regarding the Spicy Fry experience is anything but laid back: “Spicy! Water!”

Water procured, we then moved on to item number three: A slice of pizza.


Joe, declaring himself a “Chelmsford guy,” immediately pegged this as Sal’s Pizza. Sal’s is a Massachusetts-based chain.

“They do a nice job with North End [Boston], Sicilian-style pizza,” said Joe. “Their’s a Sal’s outside of Fenway, and one in the [TD] Garden.”


Sal, folding in front of the field.

Having recovered from his Spicy Fry experience, Braden posed for a pizza pic alongside his Pops. It turned out great.

IMG_0458Cheese and steak, check. Two kinds of fries, check. Slice from a regionally known pizza chain, check.

All that was left was dessert. For that, we obtained a serving of deep-fried Oreos from a concourse kiosk located behind home plate.

IMG_0459Joey, Joe and Braden. Beauregards enjoying a bite.

IMG_0460“I love the surprise in the middle — the Oreo!” said Joe, apparently forgetting that this item was clearly labeled as a Deep-Fried Oreo. “I mean, fried’s good anyway, but when you get the Oreo? Hello!”

Hello and goodbye, unfortunately, for once dessert is done then what else can there be? Thanks to Joe and his small entourage of friends and family for an enjoyable couple of innings at the ballpark, sampling  the best of the basics.


On the Road: Dancing Ushers and Retiring Icons in Lowell

To see all posts from my August 31, 2015 visit to the Lowell Spinners (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

From the Spinners perspective, August 31 was not an ideal time for me to visit. Not only was it a Monday night, but school was now back in session. And if you know Minor League Baseball, you know that when kids are in school then parents are far less inclined to take them to the game.

But, hey, the show must go on.

IMG_0432UMass Lowell, whose campus is just across the street, was back in session as well. Here, it looks like a small group of students were check out the game for free from the top of an adjacent parking garage.

IMG_0438The Spinners had lost the previous night’s game, as well as three of their past four. Seeking to switch things up, they wore their red road jerseys despite the fact that this, obviously, was a home game.

I’m not sure if Scooby Doo, tasked with throwing t-shirts out of the Spinners’ Mystery Machine, was wearing a jersey at all.

IMG_0433Run-on sentence alert:

Shortly after the game began I was escorted into the bowels of the stadium so that I could suit up as a Minion and then participate in the team’s nightly “Minion Wipeout” obstacle course race.

IMG_0445While in the facility bowels, I passed the time by taking pictures of Hudson Valley Renegade players in the on-deck circle. Between them and me was some sort of waste bin.

IMG_0441As for the Minion Wipeout, it entailed running through cones and running over a balance beam and dodging water balloons as well as over-sized  boxing gloves. I’m not sure if the race was documented but please know that I won and, thus, the greatest minion of all time.

Costumed tomfoolery was also taking place on the concourse. This dragon attended the game along with a local martial arts academy, whose students had given a pregame performance.

But one doesn’t necessarily need a costume in order to draw attention to his or herself. This is Bob the Dancing Usher, who stays true to his name on a nightly basis. By dancing.

Bob,a Vietnam veteran, spent 30 years working for the Marblehead (Massachusetts) post office. He said that he began dancing on the dugout in 2005 or 2006, “on a whim.”

“I just got up there and got everyone clapping,” he said. “I just love it. I’ll yell, I’ll clap, I’ll scream. And I’m an old man. I’m 69….I’m bragging a little bit, but when people call the box office they’ll say ‘Hey, I want to sit in Bob’s section.’ Hey, if it sells tickets, it sells tickets!”

Bob, getting ready to dance:

IMG_0341 Bob, not dancing.

IMG_0470I also spent some time speaking with the one and only Dogman, longtime Spinners clubhouse manager (and former hot dog vendor) who retired at the end of the 2015 season.

IMG_0464I wrote a story about the origin and evolution of Dogman for You can read the story HERE, which includes one of Dogman’s favorite jokes to tell the players:

“I just tell ’em, I tell ’em, ‘Hey! The Red Sox are gonna change their name this year, to the Nylons. They’ll get more runs!'”

And since I’m on the topic of long-time team employees — Tim Bawmann, Spinners general manager, was celebrating his 50th birthday. The team’s new videoboard wished him well.

IMG_0461Tim celebrated his birthday by doing laundry in the visitor’s clubhouse until four in the morning (true story).

It is definitely a season of transition for the Spinners. In addition to Dogman, longtime Spinners media relations director Jon Boswell has moved on to a job at the UMass Lowell. I wish Jon well, but it’s a bummer that he’s no longer in the world of Minor League Baseball.

Oh, and the Spinners are currently for sale. Drew Weber, who has owned the team since its 1996 inception, wants to spend more time with his grandchildren in New York.

Meanwhile, returning to the on-field action of August 31:

The Spinners must have been thinking of changing their name to the Nylons. After eight innings, they were down by a score of 12-6.

IMG_0465I wouldn’t call a six-run deficit a “blowout”, but it was a wide enough lead that the Spinners decided to conserve the bullpen and have a position player pitch the ninth. That position player? First baseman Tucker Tubbs.

I spent a few minutes eavesdropping on Tubbs as he warmed up, and he continually mentioned that his “breathing was off.” But once he got out there, Double-T did all right. Though he allowed three singles, no Renegades crossed the plate in the frame and Tubbs is now the proud owner of a 0.00 ERA as a professional pitcher.

When it comes to my “Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day,” I am the proud owner of a 1.000 batting average.

And that just about did it for my night with the Spinners. The Renegades won the game, youthful fans ran the bases, tennis balls were tossed at various targets and then everyone went home.

IMG_0469Goodnight from LeLacheur Park, a place where you can read the media notes while using the urinal.

IMG_0322I remain number one,

On the Road: Milling About in Lowell

To see all posts from my August 31, 2015 visit to the Lowell Spinners (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The third stop of my end-of-season jaunt through New England was Lowell, home of the Spinners. I’d been here before. Twice, in fact. The first was in 2009, when I was but a young man and still figuring out this whole “traveling America through Minor League Baseball” thing. I used the occasion of a family wedding in New Hampshire to rent a car and drive to Lowell, marking the first time I’d ever visited a ballpark specifically as “Ben’s Biz.” That was six years and 30 pounds ago.


2009 file photo from my trip to Lowell

I next visited Lowell in 2012, this time accompanying my pal Zack Hample (yes, that Zack Hample) as he attempted to set the World Record for catching a baseball dropped from the highest, uh, height. During that visit, I dressed up as both a toothbrush and a boxing donut. That was three years and 30 pounds ago.

2012Which brings us to this present narrative, featuring me at my oldest and fattest. LeLacheur Park, home of the Spinners, is still looking good, though.

IMG_0416LeLacheur Park’s brick facade is consistent with Lowell’s dominant architectural theme. During the industrial revolution the city was a major hub of textile production — the Spinners name is a reference to the process by which yarn is produced — and many of the mills are still standing. Some have been converted into lofts and retail establishments and the like.

The stadium is located across the street from UMass Lowell. I attended the game on Monday, August 31, and school was back in session. This meant that parking was more scarce than usual, but what can you do? (To assist with the situation, Spinners gameday employees were stationed in the vicinity of the ballpark wielding “Ask me about free parking” signs.)

IMG_0419Upon entering the stadium, I immediately faced the sun and took a picture.

IMG_0421It’s probably better not to face the sun. Here’s the view from the third base side, complete with background smokestacks. Note, also, the train parked on the warning track, which is available for free pre-game rides.


A closer look at the view beyond right field.


This sign, posted on the concourse, highlights what may have been the greatest moment in New York-Penn League history. (It’s fitting that this occurred in the NYPL, or “Nipple,” league.)


Udderly ridiculous.

I also spotted this dry cleaning ad on the concourse. Subliminal advertising, or is it just me?


I soon ran into Spinners general manager Tim Bawmann, who told me to get my camera out and document what he was about to do. What he did was this.

IMG_0420Tim is hugging his 17-year-old son, Elijah, who was manning a concourse ice cream stand. Hugging Elijah was a pregame ritual this season for Tim, and getting hugged by Tim was a pregame ritual for Elijah. (Incidentally, Tim was celebrating a milestone birthday on this low-key Monday evening. The big 5-0.)

The Spinners really are a family affair. The team’s three mascots — Canaligator, Allie-Gator and Millie-Gator — are husband, wife and child. When this mascot family was introduced prior to the game, Allie pushed out Millie in a wheelbarrow. I don’t think there was a reason for this. Why would you need a reason?

IMG_0428In the above photo, one can see a portion of the “Foul Ball Fun Zone” located in left field. It includes a strong assemblage of various games and attractions.

IMG_0436Panning out a bit, note that the Foul Ball Fun Zone is located adjacent to the No Fun Dumpster Zone. Eagle-eyed observers will see that Dogman, the Spinners iconic clubhouse manager, is lurking amid the dumpsters. Dogman will be featured in the next post.

IMG_0435Speaking of the next post, it’s coming soon! Hopefully it will be a high-energy affair, sorry that this one was a little Lowell.

An Eponymous Burger and Whiz Wit Everything in Connecticut

To see all posts from my August 29, 2015 visit to the Connecticut Tigers (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

This guy, his name is Paul Woodin. He’s standing on the concourse of Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Tigers, waiting for the Burger Barn to cook him a couple of burgers.

042While he waits, let’s get to know Paul a little bit. He lives in Norwich and works for a local submarine designer and manufacturer — a major employer in the area — doing pipe drafting, design and development.

“It’s just drawing on a computer,” he said, modestly.

Paul is also a big fan of the Connecticut Tigers. He estimates that he attends 25 of the team’s games each season often accompanied by his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Rayne. Paul and Sarah had their first date at a nearby New Britain Rock Cats game, and he later proposed to her atop the dugout at Dodd Stadium. They tied the knot at Dodd as well.

“We got married at home plate,” he said. “We played on the field that morning, and then I showered in the clubhouse.”

Paul was waiting for burgers at the Burger Barn because he was the evening’s designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). The Burger Barn, which. predictably, sells burgers, was our first stop.


An array of burgers are available at the Burger Barn. Most of them are self-explanatory. Some aren’t. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody.


There was also a one-night only special, named in honor of — wait for it — me.

031The Ben’s Biz Burger consisted of bacon, habanero jack cheese and an onion ring atop a cinnamon bun.

043Now, some might consider this a form of cruelty — to name a burger after someone who has a medical condition that renders burgers (or at least burger buns) off-limits. Cinnamon buns are decidedly not gluten-free.

But I didn’t look at it like that. At my current level of initiative and accomplishment, nothing of substance is ever going to be named for me. There will never be a Ben’s Biz Bridge or a Ben’s Biz Ballpark, though one day I may undergo a Ben’s Biz Bypass. So I looked at the Ben’s Biz Burger as an honor, perhaps the pinnacle of my professional career.

046And this is why I have a designated eater in the first place, for crying out loud. So take it away, Paul.

“Oh my God! It’s so good! It’s the cinnamon bun!” exclaimed Paul. “The cinnamon bun and the onion both make it sweet.”

“The savory and the sweet work well together,” added Sarah, Paul’s wife, who couldn’t resist taking a bite.

“The frosting of the cinnamon bun, you can taste it more than the burger,” said Paul. “Maybe it needs ketchup.”

“No way,” replied Sarah, correctly.

Next up from the Burger Barn was “The Rabelo”, named after Connecticut Tigers manager Mike Rabelo. It’s a burger topped with American cheese and a split Italian sausage. And, unlike the Ben’s Biz Burger, its namesake can actually eat it!

045Extreme close-up.

048“I’m eating the manager,” said Paul as he directed the burger toward his maw.

049“It’s a meat lovers dream,” said Paul, after taking a bite of the manager. “It all flows really well, and the hot Italian sausage really gives it a kick. It sneaks up on you.”

The Burger Barn is located far down the first base line. Its third base counterpart is “Philly’s”, a ballpark outpost of a beloved Norwich cheesesteak purveyor.

This picture was taken earlier in the day, but it looked pretty much the same when we got there.

012Here’s a glimpse at the menu. I’ll tell you what — Philly cheesesteaks are one of the things I miss most now that I’m gluten-free. I also miss Reubens, fried chicken and not having to justify my food choices to people who shouldn’t care one way or the other.


Paul had just eaten two burgers, but no matter. He went for the Broad Street Bully aka “The Works.” As you can see from the above menu, the Broad Street Bully consists of rib eye steak, provolone, fried onions, mushrooms, sweet and hot peppers, pickles and Cheez Whiz. Oh, and extra rib eye steak.


052A closer look.

053If you’ve made a choice to eat The Broad Street Bully, then you’ve made a choice to get messy. Paul wisely positioned the sandwich container below him so that it would catch the inevitable spillage. This wasn’t his first rodeo.

055“It’s fantastic, really spicy. I can taste everything,” said Paul. “It was freshly made right in front of me, and now it’s falling apart everywhere. It’s nice to scoop up. It’s absolutely phenomenal and I pity you for not being able to eat this.”

Sarah soon joined in on the other end of the Broad Street Bully. This is true love right here, another chapter in a storied ballpark romance.

056Paul had had (more than) enough food at this point, so now it was time for an aperitif at the Tigers’ Retro Beer Bar. This is a haven for those who have eschewed the craft beer “revolution” and still prefer easy drinking domestics. Paul had Pabst Blue Ribbon, Ballantine Ale, Schaefer’s and Schlitz to choose from. He went with a PBR, which, if you drink enough of them, often leads to “blue ribbin'” at a baseball game. As in, an increased propensity to heckle the umpires.

Ah, nevermind. Have a beer, Paul.

058“It’s a nice refreshing drink on a little bit of a hot night,” said Paul.

And what else more could there be to say?

“I’m really full.”

On the Road: Perfect Strikes and Sub-tacular Views in Connecticut

To see all posts from my August 29, 2015 visit to the Connecticut Tigers (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Part One of this Connecticut Tigers blog series left us in the home dugout, as a “Happy” dance party came to a premature conclusion. But there was no reason for disappointment, as the highlight of the evening was soon to come.

I am talking, of course, about me throwing out the game’s ceremonial first pitch. I displayed perfect form, as always, and threw a perfect strike.

As always.

pitch 2 The pregame festivities then continued apace, as my security detail rushed me out of the ballpark and into this “General Dynamics Electric Boat.”

IMG_0292General Dynamics is a massive global aerospace and defense company whose electric boat division (or sub division, if you will) is headquartered in nearby Groton. The United States Coast Guard Academy, meanwhile, is located in New London. This thriving sub culture motivated the names of the Tigers’ predecessors at Dodd Stadium: The Norwich Navigators (1995-2005) and Connecticut Defenders (2006-09).

The electric boat seen in the photo above is a Class A Short Season-sized approximation of the Major League aquatic war machines made by General Dynamics. The Tigers’ version is attached to a trailer, used on land and accommodates just one person. This person is tasked with throwing t-shirts to the crowd, and on this evening that person was me.

Getting into the electric boat is no easy task, as it involves crawling underneath it and then climbing up within. Once ensconced, I snapped this photo of my chauffeurs (one of whom was snapping a photo of me).

IMG_0294But it wasn’t yet t-shirt time. First, the electric boat was parked in the outfield during the singing of our National Anthem. This was the view.

IMG_0295While parked in the outfield, I had this unfortunate Tiger in my crosshairs.

IMG_0296And now, a sub tweet.

Finally, it was time to display my sub dominance.

sub 2

A Me-Boat, not a U-Boat.

sub 4Once the sub was off of the field, the game began. I spent the remainder of the evening’s daylight hours gallivanting about with my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). Following standard operating procedure, that will be documented in the next post.

I then spent a couple of innings with Glenn Carberry, the man for whom the concourse is named.

059So why is the concourse named after Carberry? It’s an interesting story. 

Finally, it was wanderin’ time. Berm to the left of me.

063Bushes to the right.


Here I am, making my Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day.

I then became enamored and maybe a little obsessed with the name of this business. Paquette Electric. It’s just fun to say. It rolls right off the tongue.

065I took it upon myself to write Paquette Electric a slogan:

FullSizeRender Translated:

Oh, right. There was a game going on. It was now in the 10th inning.


The Spinners had scored three runs in the top of the 10th inning to take a 4-1 lead, but the Tigers weren’t about to go gently into that Norwich night. They scored two runs in the bottom of the 10th, at which point they had runners at the corners and one out. You won’t believe what happened next:


6-4-3 double play. Game over. Lowell wins.

070In what was certainly a rarity, especially on a Saturday night, there were no post-game activities. No fireworks. No launch-a-ball. No kids-run-the-bases. No scout campover. No live band on the party deck. No nothing. I found it kind of refreshing.

Therefore my evening at Dodd Stadium was complete. I had followed these simple rules, and everything worked out just fine.

Words to live by:


On the Road: Norwich the Way to Go in Connecticut

To see all posts from my August 29, 2015 visit to the Connecticut Tigers (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Okay, we’re in the homestretch now! Today’s post marks the first installment of substance in my “New England 2015” blog series, covering my final ballpark trip of the year.  The journey began on August 29 in Connecticut and ended on September 4 in Portland, at which point my season of ballpark travel was finally, mercifully, complete.

We’ll  begin at the beginning: Norwich, home of the New York-Penn League’s Connecticut Tigers (Class A Short Season affiliate of the Detroit Tigers). This visit completed the New York-Penn League for me, as I have now visited all 14 active teams in the circuit (as well as the now-defunct Jamestown Jammers).

The Tigers, perhaps aware of the historical significance of my visit, laid down the social media welcome mat for me.

Dodd Stadium is located in a Norwich business park, a rather unusual location for a professional stadium. It’s also an unusual location for a family-run diner with an attached batting cage. That diner is Stott’s At-Bat; I stopped by while en route to the ballpark.

006Stott’s At-Bat, as it looked immediately after I parked my rental car (a Dodge Charger) in front of it.

005I stopped by Stott’s because, prior to my visit, I had been informed by the Tigers front office that proprietor Jean Stott is “like a second mother” to the team.

003That story checked out and, thus, I wrote a feature story of my own about Jean, her business, and her relationship to the Tigers. Check it out HERE.

Stott’s At-Bat is located just down the road from Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, henceforth referred to as Dodd Stadium, which opened in 1995 as the home of the Double-A Norwich Navigators. The team changed its name to the “Connecticut Defenders” prior to the 2006 season, and after the 2009 campaign that franchise relocated to Richmond, Virginia and became the Flying Squirrels. The Connecticut Tigers took up occupancy in Dodd in 2010, after relocating from Oneonta, New York.

You got all that? There will be a test.

008In the above photo, please note that the Detroit Tigers logo on the right-hand side has been inverted into a “C” to represent Connecticut. The statue, meanwhile, is of original Norwich Navigators mascot Tater the Gator. His toes are also inverted.

041My Dodd Stadium tour guide was assistant general manager Dave Schermerhorn, which I believe he pronounced “Shermer-horn”. (Here in New York City, Schermerhorn Street is pronounced “Skimmer-horn”.) Dave is an atypical Minor League front office executive, in that he grew up in Norwich and was a diehard Navigators fan from the jump. He attended the first-ever game at Dodd Stadium:

Here, Dave poses with a picture of himself as a kid posing with a quartet of mid-’90s Navigators. I believe that one of the players in the picture is Tyrone Horne, the only man in professional baseball history to hit for the home run cycle.

072Dodd Stadium from the inside.

022A pleasant walk along the concourse soon ensued. Here, we have the “Retro Beer Bar,” which specializes in cans of cheap domestics. I found this to be an appealing counterpoint to the craft beer-mania that has swept through the Minors over the past several seasons. The menu consists of Pabst, Schlitz, Schaefer’s and Ballantine Ale. Next season, they should up the old man quotient and offer complimentary pickled eggs. (And who cares what the Board of Health has to say about it.)

034Out in left field is a ballpark offshoot of Norwich’s beloved “Philly’s” cheesesteak joint. It looks like some players and/or coaches were in the mood for a pregame meal. Or perhaps the guy on the right was attempting to dissuade his counterpart on the left.
012To the right of Philly’s is a BBQ Pavilion with a hard-to-pronounce but regionally appropriate name.

013Several cable spool tables dot the concourse, which the team obtained free of charge from Norwich Public Utility. This is an idea that originated with the Vermont Lake Monsters.

“We just sand ’em, lacquer ’em and put ’em up,” said Dave.

014Upstairs we visited the Yard Bar and Grill, comprising an area that used to consist of seven separate suites.

015There is an excellent array of artwork throughout the suites, much of it done by Dennis Lavorato. This, depicting players from the first Navigators team, is a work in progress as Lavorato changes the players so that they now represent the Connecticut Tigers.

017This painting is of Jake Robbins, who went on to pitch 1.2 innings over two appearances with the 2004 Cleveland Indians. In one of those appearances, he surrendered a home run to Jacque Jones.

026Suites are better from the outside, especially on a beautiful Saturday evening in late August.

023Back on the concourse, we strolled past the Burger Barn in right field.

030The evening’s special was named for me!

Oh, no, wait. This sounds more like a “Roethlis-burger.”

028Take Two:

031I’ll have more on the Ben’s Biz Burger, and the Burger Barn, and Philly’s, in a future post in this series.

For now, our concourse tour continues back down the first base line. This is the “Hole in the Wall Bar,” built prior to the 2011 season. Dave explained that the bar was built by a former groundskeeper as a form of therapy, as he was “pulling his hair out” after witnessing the damage done to the field during an offseason Relay for Life-style charitable race.

This bar’s name is literal, as the kegs are tapped through holes in the wall.

032At this juncture, the gates had opened.

033Some of the early arrivals were perusing the offerings in the team store. Note the netting. It’s a nice touch.

035I had no time to shop, however, as C.T. the Tiger was waiting for me down in the dugout.

036C’mon, everybody. Get “Happy”.

It’s always good to close on a note of disappointment. So thus concludes Part One of this CT Tigers saga.

About Last Night: Lowell Spinners, August 31, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

August 31, 2015:  LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).

Opponent: Hudson Valley Renegades, game time 7:05

LeLacheur Park, from the outside: 

IMG_0416LeLacheur Park, from within: 

IMG_0328Culinary Creation: Rail good food: pizza, fries and a steak and cheese sub.

IMG_0450Ballpark Character: The one and only Dogman.

IMG_0464At Random: Happy birthday to Spinners general manager Tim Bawmann, who turned 50 on Monday. Here, as part of a pre-game ritual, he hugs his son Elijah. IMG_0420Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: One day, all of America will recognize my genius.

Next Up: 

9/1: Pawtucket Red Sox

9/2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs


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