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.
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.
Fast and Furious, Vermont Lake Monsters style! https://t.co/ug9rE3OuVU
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 11, 2015
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.
The 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.
I enjoyed the view from out this way.
Also 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?
Beautiful night for baseball in Burlington. https://t.co/oVSwq6WBHd
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 11, 2015
A Skye Bolt appears amid tranquility:
A 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.
Speaking 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.)
I 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.
As 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.)
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.
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.
After 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.
Centennial 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.
Burlington 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.
Another 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.
The 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).
Nice “Hello Kitty” backpack, bullpen dude. Here’s hoping that you were able to withstand such a withering attack on your masculinity.
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”
Ballpark Character: Champ, named after the monster that allegedly resides in Lake Champlain, is a hero in these parts.
Your 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.