A day after leading a field trip of six geographers to Portland, Maine, as part of the 2017 AAG Annual Meeting in Boston (read about it here), I made a solo trek to New Hampshire for a baseball game. Although I asked colleagues and friends to join me on the trip to Manchester to see the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, nobody was able to join me. I never object to company when driving or attending a sporting event, but it was nice to be back in my comfort zone chasing down another ballpark.
Like my visit to Portland the night before, I had previously attended a Fisher Cats game during the summer of 2007. As part of my week-long stay with a friend from graduate school, we attended a Fisher Cats game at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (née Merchantsauto.com Stadium). I was most excited because of the recent renovations made to the ballpark in advance of hosting the 2017 Eastern League All-Star Game (read the story here).
As excited as I was about seeing the new renovations, the first thing I noticed upon arriving at the stadium was snow. I knew it had snowed heavily the weekend prior to my trip, but was surprised by how much snow was piled up in the parking lot right in front of the stadium and especially struck by the small pile in front of the main gate (see it on my Instagram account). I got a bit closer to take my standard ballpark entrance photo for the blog, so you don’t see any snow in this picture.
|Ticket office and main entrance to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.|
The gates are adorned with banners of famous former players, so I had to take a photo of one of the team’s most famous alums…
|Right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman came up through the Toronto Blue Jays organization,
and was a pivotal piece of the U.S. team winning the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
After climbing the stairs, I immediately saw some of the ballpark’s newest renovations. I saw the Sam Adams Bar & Grill, which overlooks left field. However, the waterfall is the much more interesting feature.
|A majestic waterfall greets fans following their ascent up the main staircase like fan ascended to heaven.|
Behind the waterfall and facing toward the Sam Adams Bar & Grill is a tiki bar with a live music stage. According to the Fisher Cats, bands will perform on the stage on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
|A band performing on the live music stage by the tiki bar.|
The band played some classic rock and ’80s music, so I was in heaven. Although I was the only person telling “Roll Tide Roll” at the correct spots when the band played “Sweet Home Alabama.”
After enjoying some music, I decided to check out the concession stands so I could make an informed decision about my dining options. I saw one stand that surprised me (Wrapery), but the other selections were the usual ballpark suspects.
|I was surprised to see a stand serving wraps, but they certainly had a line on this chilly day.|
|I also found pizza and the usual lineup of hamburgers and hot dogs.|
|A bit later in the game I got picture of another set of concession stands featuring hot dogs, hamburgers, and BBQ.|
While exploring the concourse studying my food and beverage choices, I stumbled upon the lineups and Eastern League standings. I also learned something about the game, which I did not know when I hit the road.
|Starting lineups for April 8, 2017.|
Checking out the standings led me to discover that Binghamton and New Hampshire did not play their scheduled games on Thursday OR Friday. So, as the lineups showed, there would be two games instead of one tonight.
|Eastern League standings entering play on April 8, 2017.|
Perhaps the most interesting thing I discovered while exploring the concourse is that the Fisher Cats cover just about everything conceivable with a team photo. That includes Fungo on a vendor door, which may be excessive but is really cool because that’s what a Minor League Baseball stadium should be like. It should be a place promoting and celebrating that local team.
|Photos of Fisher Cats mascots Slider and Fungo adorn doors in the ballpark.|
Eventually after I felt like I had done enough exploring (and taking pictures), I decided to take my seat behind home plate and watch the start of the game (and season for these teams).
|New Hampshire Fisher Cats starting pitcher Sean Reid-Foley delivering the first pitch
to Binghamton Rumble Ponies center fielder Champ Stuart.
I usually take some action photos of the game to show off the uniforms, but today’s games presented a different opportunity. The Toronto Blue Jays assigned five of their top eight prospects to the Fisher Cats to start the season (read the story here), so I wanted to be sure to get some photos of these players.
So I was happily surprised when I realized during the game that I had taken a closeup of the Jays’ number two prospect Sean Reid-Foley, who was the first game’s starting pitcher.
|Closeup of Toronto Blue Jays’ No. 2 prospect and Fisher Cats starting pitcher Sean Reid-Foley
with third baseman Emilio Guerrero in the background.
It wasn’t until warm-ups for the second game that I started to take photos of the other top prospects. So I’ll come back to those photos at the appropriate time because after getting a few shots of Reid-Foley on the mound I wandered around the ballpark to take some pictures of the stadium during game action.
People who closely follow Minor League Baseball know that the Hilton Garden Inn beyond the left field wall is the most memorable view from Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Unfortunately, I did not get to stay overnight at the hotel, but naturally had to take a photo of it from the ballpark.
|The famous Hilton Garden Inn just beyond left field, as seen from the first base line bleachers.|
The post wouldn’t be complete without the Hilton Garden Inn, but the rest of the stadium has some great views, too. Like the Sam Adams Bar & Grill…
|The Sam Adams Bar & Grill was a key part of the stadium’s renovations before the 2017 season.|
Although people rarely come to the ballgame to see a beautiful grandstand, I think it’s an important part of the stadium and gives people perspective on the seating bowl.
|A view of the grandstand, press box, and luxury suites.|
While taking some of the photos, the Fisher Cats celebrated a young fan’s birthday on the field. That meant he got to meet the team’s mascot, Fungo.
|A young fan celebrating his birthday on the field with Fungo and the team’s on-field emcee Zwick.|
With Fungo on the field, I quickly took advantage of him departing the field to have my picture taken with him.
|Me with Fungo.|
Finally after watching a few innings of play and exploring, I decided it was time to get a bite to eat and a beer to drink. I settled on the Great North Tie Dye Ale, which is widely available at the concession stands, and the Live Free burger, which I got at Burgertopia.
|The Live Free burger featured bacon, mushrooms, maple syrup sauce, and Swiss cheese.|
The Live Free burger was truly a mess, but definitely enjoyable. I expected the maple syrup sauce to be like pancake/waffle syrup, but instead it was much thicker and creamier. It is a pleasant surprise, but also dripped all over my fingers while eating it.
The Tie Dye Ale was good, but did not live up to the description of a “summer ale” as described by the concession stand employee. According to the brewery’s website, it is a dry-hopped pale ale. So it was quite a bit hoppier than I expected, although it was very true to the style. It is a beer that hop heads would enjoy.
Ironically just after I finished eating my burger the crazy flamingo-riding hot dog vendor made an appearance and tossed hot dogs into the crowd.
|The flamingo-riding hot dog vendor tossing franks into the crowd.|
After a bit, I checked out the team store and talked with the store manager Jake Moore because I had hoped to find a New Hampshire Primaries hat with both the donkey and elephant on the cap. I learned that the team only sells those items during presidential election years, so I was a year late. So perhaps I’ll return in three years to get a cap with the elephant and donkey on it.
I eventually got to see the end of the first game, so I snapped a few more pictures of the game action and the videoboard.
|Binghamton right-handed relief pitcher Cory Burns on the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning of the first game.|
|A view of the videoboard in right field.|
Following the conclusion of game one, the teams had a 30-minute respite before beginning the back end of the doubleheader. I hadn’t planned on taking more pictures, but decided I wanted to capture a few more pictures. I wanted to get some shots of the Blue Jays’ top prospects, and lucked out getting one of the New York Mets’ top prospects (No. 22-rated P.J. Conlon; see the full list here).
|Binghamton Rumble Ponies starting pitcher P.J. Conlon in the bullpen before the start of game two.|
So back to my primary goal: capturing pictures of some of the Blue Jays’ top-rated prospects. Specifically, I was looking to get photos of No.3-rated prospect outfielder Anthony Alford, No. 4-rated prospect shortstop Richard Ureña, and No. 6-rated prospect right-handed pitcher Conner Greene. I was pretty successful, too.
During warm-ups, I got a pair of the prospects in the same picture.
|Richard Ureña (#4) and Anthony Alford (to the right) are both top-five ranked prospects in the Blue Jays’ system.|
|Fisher Cats shortstop Richard Ureña is the Blue Jays’ fourth-ranked prospect.|
|Fisher Cats starting pitcher Conner Greene is the Blue Jays sixth-ranked prospect.|
I was not able to get a picture of right-handed pitcher Jon Harris because he did not pitch in either game, but it was pretty cool getting photos of four of the five top-rated prospects assigned to the Fisher Cats.
Considering that the Fisher Cats lost the two games, top-rated prospects are maybe not the best close to my stadium visit. Although I enjoyed my visit immensely, ate some great food, and drank a good beer, the game was really marked by the cold temperatures and a constant struggle to stay warm on the Opening Night of the season.
|The pitchers in the Fisher Cats bullpen do their best to stay bundled up and their heads warm by wearing tossle caps.|
I was also a bit cold from watching the majority of two games, so I opted to skip the fireworks and headed for my car for the hour-drive back to Boston and my conference. Despite being a bit tired, I was quite happy about my visit back to Manchester. The stadium renovations definitely added to what was already an excellent ballpark.