Results tagged ‘ Vermont Lake Monsters ’

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.


About Saturday Night: Vermont Lake Monsters, July 11, 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 return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

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

Opponent: West Virginia Black Bears, 6:05 p.m. game time.

Centennial Field, from the outside:


Centennial Field, from within: 


Culinary Creation: Foot-long “Monster Dog”

031At Random: Oh say can you see that this unfortunate Lake Monster was the last relief pitcher to have surrendered a home run?


Ballpark Character: Champ, named after the monster that allegedly resides in Lake Champlain, is a hero in these parts.
054Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: In the spirit of this message, emblazoned on a house located directly across from the main entrance to Centennial Field, I cut this recurring feature from today’s blog post.


Promo Year in Review, Part Three: Celebrity Appearances


Minor League ballparks are hospitable places, rolling out the red carpet for sitcom stars, sexagenarian wrestlers and eccentric hurlers alike.

Today’s edition of “Promo Year in Review” features my top six celebrity appearances of the year, highlighting a half-dozen bold-faced names who graced the ballpark with their presence. But, as always, I need YOU to tell me who I’ve missed. Get in touch via email or Twitter and let me know, as suggestions for this and previous categories will be accepted through 10 a.m. Monday.

My six nominees, in ever-so-sensible alphabetical order. Click on each individual’s name to see how his ballpark visit was originally covered (and, yes, they are all men. Don’t shoot the messenger).

Fresno Grizzlies — Alfonso “Carlton” Ribiero (as part of “Mad Tight ’90s Night”)


Lakewood BlueClaws — Jeff “Chunk” Cohen (as part of “Goonies Night”)


(note: that’s Cohen on the right, judging a “Truffle Shuffle” contest)

Oklahoma City RedHawks — Peter Mayhew (aka “Chewbacca”)

Thumbnail image for Oklahoma City -- Chewy2.jpg

Reading Phillies — Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins

Thumbnail image for Reading_BeldingCarrot.JPG

Round Rock Express — Rojo Johnson (aka Will Ferrell)


Vermont Lake Monsters — Bill “Spaceman” Lee/Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd (on the same night!)

I don’t have a picture from this picture, but here are their respective Wikipedia photos:




Duty compels me to once again mention that I need your input. What celebrities caused a sensation at YOUR Minor League ballpark this year. And — hey! — I know you’re reading. There’s no escape. Get in touch. Are you going to let my complete neglect of sexagenarian wrestlers go uncriticized?

Unorthodox Bobbles, Burgers, and Domiciles

madison.jpgSo here’s a question for you:

What do Playboy model Holly Madison, impressionist Gordie Brown, ventriloquist Terry Fator, and comedians Carrot Top and Rita Rudner all have in common?

I can’t think of a whimsical joke answer, so I’ll just tell it like it is: the Las Vegas 51s will be honoring each of these individuals with their own bobblehead doll this season. Ms. Madison, in fact, will be honored on two separate occasions — in a baseball outfit on April 13, and then in a “Bo Peep” get-up on August 24. This latter wardrobe choice is inspired by the fact that she stars in a Vegas burlesque revue entitled “Peepshow”, but I don’t know anything about that sort of thing. Women are intimidating.   

In fact, all the aforementioned individuals are regular Vegas performers, so kudos to the 51s for finding a way to honor the local talent in a style unique to the “Sin City.”

— Burlington, VT is a long way from Vegas, both geographically and ideologically, so let’s travel there now in order to breathe in a fresh persepctive. 

Astute readers will remember this post from last summer, in which I praised the unique design sensibilities of the house located across the street from Centennial Field (home of the Vermont Lake Monsters):

Thumbnail image for vermont house.JPG

Well, the occupants of said house are looking for a new roommate, and in an ad on Burlington Craigslist they link to my post in order to give interested individuals a glimpse at the house’s exterior (I am very proud of this).

Rent is an eminently reasonable $366 a month, and perks include “vegan common spaces, wood floors, washer/dryer, 2 full
bathrooms, a cat, big woodsy yard with hammock, geodesic dome, and
compost, and a large woods and ravine behind the yard.”

The ad fails to mention the most significant perk: You will get to live in a purple house with pink polka dots that is emblazoned with anti-circumcision rhetoric.

How about it, vegan members of the Vermont Lake Monsters front office? The commuteThumbnail image for vermonsters.jpg between home and office would be nothing more than a walk across the street. You’d be the envy of your peers, and could provide George “The Animal” Steele with a free place to stay the next time he rolls into town for a promotional appearance.

— Finally, in decidedly non-vegan news, the Kannapolis Intimidators announced the three finalists in their Build-A-Burger Contest. Vote for your favorite HERE, and tell them Ben’s Biz Blog sent ya.

Resolved: To Stop Blogging Until 2010

On Location In: Vermont

Thumbnail image for vml.jpgLast week, I was able to (finally) share some video and images of my trip to Lowell, MA. Today, my sluggishly-paced travelogue continues — this time in the idyllic counter-cultural confines of Burlington, VT.

I (along with my cousin and her family) attended July 10’s Vermont Lake Monsters game at Centennial Field. This summer has been anything but kind when it comes to the elements, but on this particular evening the weather was just about perfect. A Friday night in July at an old ballpark in New England — what could be better than that? The following video, while lacking in picture quality, really helps to convey what the Lake Monsters experience is like. Enjoy the ambience:

While there may be issues with ancient Centennial Field from the player development side of the equation, it remains an excellent place for the fan. A raucous small town atmosphere prevails, part county fair and part high school football game. A little background on the stadium, explained in plaque form:

centennial info.JPG 

The stadium itself is set back from the street, and one first walks past the visitor’s locker rooms (this is a long way from the bigs) and the University of Vermont soccer field in order to get there.

visitor's clubhouse.JPG

footballl field.JPG

The inside of the ballpark is no frills — there are seats and a baseball field, and that’s about it. Therefore, things that would be located on the concourse in other stadiums — souvenirs, concessions, information booths, etc — are located on the outside of the ballpark.

pregame atmosphere.JPG 

volks bug.JPG


Lake Monster pitchers Graham Hicks and Jose Pinales manned the pre-game autograph booth:

Graham Hicks and Jose Pinales.JPG

Players from the visiting Lowell Spinners making their way from the locker rooms to the playing field:

pregame left field line.JPG

It was “Summer of Love” night at the ballpark, a celebration of the ’60s sponsored by the mighty Ben and Jerry’s (for a subset of Vermont residents, EVERY night is a celebration of the ’60s sponsored by Ben and Jerry’s…but I digress).

The giveaway was a tie-dyed Vermont Lake Monsters baseball, which I unfortunately do not possess a picture of at the moment. The front office staff got into the theme as well, as evidenced by the mighty afro of community relations man/on-field mc Denny Madigan.


Of course, Champ the mascot got in on the act. The affable lake monster (he hails from Lake Champlain, hence the name) entered the field on the back of a Ben and Jerry’s truck as “Bad to the Bone” blasted over the PA:

champ entrance.JPG

In the above picture, an unusually contemplative Champ is looking at his feet with child-like wonder. 1960s-themed promotions will encourage that level of introspection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if after the game he spent seven hours staring at a candle and eating oranges.

Here was the view from my seat, directly behind home plate. To the right:

pregame in the seats.JPG

To the left:

pregame to the left.JPG

And, finally, straight ahead (okay, I cheated a little in order to not take a photo through the screen:


At the end of seventh inning, the crowd of 3,569 fans thinned considerably. This wasn’t due to the commanding lead enjoyed by the visiting Lowell Spinners. Rather, it was because the Ben and Jerry’s truck was giving away complimentary cups of their fine product. I went ahead and got in line myself:

bj truck.JPG

Ice cream runs aside, the vast majority of fans stayed still the final out had been recorded. The crowd remained enthusiastic and engaged despite the lop-sided final score (Spinners 10, Lake Monsters 3), and one really gets the sense that Lake Monster fans are true baseball fans. The relative lack of stadium amenities and supplemental entertainment is more than offset by the opportunity to watch nine innings of baseball in a charming and historic facility.

Centennial Field is located in a residential area, and upon making my way back to the sidewalk I came face-to-face with a quintessentially Vermont abode: a purple house with pink polka dots, emblazoned with the message: Cut Consumption, Not Foreskins. It was too dark for me to get a quality picture of this unique structure, but rest assured I am working on obtaining one.

Playing Catch-Up On the Road, Vol. 4

verm.jpgGreetings today from beautiful Hinesburg, VT. Last night I was fortunate enough to see blues legend Buddy Guy in Burlington, and tonight I’m checking out a Vermont Lake Monsters game.

Next week I’ll be back in the comforting embrace of NYC, and I’ve got plenty of stuff planned for the blog: pictures and video from Lowell and Vermont (as well as belated reports from previous road trips), a new mailbag, and more.

Always more.

But for now, let me cap off this week of complete randomness by providing a picture of the seat cushion that the Lake County Captains gave away earlier this month. It is an example of perfect synergy between product and sponsor:

lake county seat cushion.jpg
And now, let us segue into the weekend. If you have info on other examples of symbiotic giveaway/sponsor relationships then please let me know. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 554 other followers