The Ballparks

I visited ten different minor league ballparks in the summer of 2010. I’ve divided them into three categories:

Worth a special trip:

Photo of First Energy Stadium

Centennial Field

Home of: Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League Single-A affiliate, Washington Nationals)
Location: Burlington, VT
Built in: 1904
Capacity: 4500
Pros: Sit in the same seats where your great-grandparents may have sat. Baseball stripped to its essentials. Sited in a nice residential neighborhood in a great little city. A cool Vermont summer evening is worth the trip in itself.
Cons: Stands are a long way from the action (especially behind home plate). Narrow wooden seats are made for a long-gone American body type. Baseline stands are concrete risers, with no seats. There’s a good chance that minor league baseball won’t stay in Burlington much longer.
Photo of First Energy Stadium

First Energy Stadium

Home of: Reading Phillies (Eastern League Double-A affiliate, Philadelphia Phillies)
Location: 1900 Centre Avenue, Reading, PA
Built in: 1951
Capacity: 8000
Pros: Terrific sight lines. Wonderful atmosphere. Good sausages. Attractive Tooth Fairy cleans the bases between innings. Yuengling Lager on tap. A singing usher. A sense that the ballpark is at the center of the town’s life.
Cons: Hmmm. Let’s see. I’ll think of something. Oh, right: the seats don’t fold up.
Photo of Hadlock Field

Hadlock Field

Home of: Portland Sea Dogs (Eastern League Double-A affiliate, Boston Red Sox)
Location: 271 Park Avenue, Portland, ME
Built in: 1994
Capacity: 7400
Pros: Fenway Park Green Monster replica in left. Park named after local high school coach. Attentive and appreciative crowds. Many local beers on tap. Understated announcer. Family-friendly music between innings. Excellent merchandise. Walking distance from downtown.
Cons: No shade on summer afternoons. Miss the on-field action when you go to the concessions. Can’t get close to the Sea Dogs players as they warm up (unless you have a special ticket). Limited parking beside the stadium.
Photo of McCoy Stadium

McCoy Stadium

Home of: Pawtucket Red Sox (International League Triple-A affiliate, Boston Red Sox)
Location: 1 Columbus Avenue, Pawtucket RI
Built in: 1942
Capacity: 10,000
Pros: The right mix of historical features and modern amenities. Paintings and photos of former PawSox players adorn the interior walkways. Restrained use of audio. Free parking in the neighborhood. Can picnic with your family on the grassy berm in centerfield. Mascot is tolerated, not encouraged.
Cons: Surrounding neighborhood is a little sketchy. Dugouts are at field level (not really dugouts), so even the closest seats are 15 feet above the playing surface. If you’re a Red Sox fan, you’ll feel blissfully at home. If not, welcome to the Nation.

Stop by if you’re in town:

Merchants Auto.Com Stadium

Merchants Auto.Com Stadium

Home of: Manchester Fisher Cats (Eastern League Double-A affiliate, Toronto Blue Jays)
Location: 169 South Commercial Street, Manchester, NH
Built in: 2005
Capacity: 7500
Pros: Neat and clean. The Merrimack River runs behind the stadium on the third-base side. You can watch BP from the Hilton Garden Inn beyond left field before the gates open, and stay in the hotel after the game ends. Lots of kid-oriented amusements. Decent merch.
Cons: Feels slightly sterile, like a mall. Not as close to the action as at Reading or Portland. Audio levels are tolerable, but verge on annoying.
Photo of Harrisburg ballpark

Metro Bank Park

Home of: Harrisburg Senators (Eastern League Double-A affiliate, Washington Senators)
Location: Championship Way, Harrisburg, PA
Built in: 1987
Capacity: 6300
Pros: Located on an island in the Susquehanna River. Recently renovated. Very laid-back vibe (possibly too laid-back). Good beef brisket from Momo’s. Local craft beer on tap. Batting cages at the entrance to the park.
Cons: What if they had a game, and no one came? Atmosphere is more like high school baseball than the minor leagues. MC tries to make up for lack of attendance with booming announcements. Bar at center of action requires special ticket to enter.
Photo of Binghamton ballpark

NYSEG Stadium

Home of: Binghamton Mets (Eastern League Double-A affiliate, New York Mets)
Location: 211 Henry Street, Binghamton, NY
Built in: 1992
Capacity: 6000
Pros: Simple and understated, the way minor league baseball used to be. Spiedies (garlicky grilled pork kebabs) and Belgian beer (!) served at the minimal concession stands. Friendly staff. Limited aural intrusion. Walking distance from town.
Cons: A little shabby and tattered at the edges (patches of dead grass in the outfield). Park is built largely out of cinder block.
Photo of Scranton ballpark

PNC Field

Home of: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (International League Triple-A affiliate, New York Yankees)
Location: 235 Montage Mountain Road, Moosic, PA
Built in: 1989
Pros: Surprisingly low-key for a Yankees franchise. Upper deck offers a respite from the sun on hot afternoons. Located outside of town (in this case, a good thing).
Cons: Outdated “cookie cutter” design that’s reminiscent of Veterans’ Stadium. Scranton appear to be a city without charm or attractions. Stadium itself is far from endearing.

Don’t Bother:

Photo of Lancaster ballpark

Clipper Magazine Stadium

Home of: Lancaster Barnstormers (Independent Atlantic League, unaffiliated)
Location: 650 North Prince Street Lancaster, PA
Built in: 2005
Capacity: 6000
Pros: Attractive modern stadium in a great historic town. Quirky short porch in right field. No-alcohol section for parents of young children, AA members, and Mennonites.
Cons: Insanely, poundingly, aggravatingly loud. Slightly depressing to watch ex-major leaguers grind out one last year of pro ball.
Photo of Lehigh Valley ballpark

Coca Cola Park

Home of: Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League Triple-A affiliate, Philadelphia Phillies)
Location: 555 Union Boulevard, Allentown, PA
Built in: 2008
Capacity: 8100
Pros: New and shiny. Good corn-on-the cob and local beer.
Cons: It’s really loud. I said, ‘It’s really loud here, don’t you think?’ ‘LOUD!’ I SAID, ‘IT’S REALLY LOUD…’ Oh, never mind. Can’t shake the feeling that you’re being fleeced, as with going to an amusement park.
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