Tagged: New Hampshire Fisher Cats 2015

Return to the Road: New England Fun Spots

Opening Day is less than three weeks away. Believe me, I am aware. But before debuting my 2016 road trip itineraries (coming soonish!), I’d like to finish my series of 2015 “Return to the Road” posts. (These posts, as you probably know, highlight my non-ballpark road trip experiences.)

My fifth and final road trip of the season was a late August/early September jaunt through New England. As you can see, the Vermont Lake Monsters trip was actually a one-off stop in July, but I’m going to write about it as if it was part of this itinerary. It’ll all make sense in the end.

neFrom Norwich to New Britain to Lowell to Pawtucket, this trip was a blur. Regarding those cities I have nothing in my files regarding anything that happened outside the ballpark. It was simply a matter of keeping one foot in front of the other as I mixed metaphors while bouncing from one place to the next.

The only random picture I have from those first four days is this selfie, taken at a Vietnamese restaurant somewhere in the vicinity of Lowell.

Beautiful.

IMG_0320The narrative, such as it is, begins on the morning of September 2. I woke up in Providence, where I stayed after having seen the PawSox the previous evening.

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IMG_0362Early that afternoon, I met my friend Jake for lunch. We were comedy scene pals in NYC, but he abandoned me in favor of pursuing a modeling career in Rhode Island. Go figure.

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Jake and I grabbed lunch from one of the food trucks set up in downtown’s Kennedy Plaza, and then took a seat in this rather idyllic wooded environment.

IMG_0363After lunch, we checked out the local waterways.

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IMG_0366Our time together was brief. Jake had to rush off to a photo shoot, and I had to make my way to Manchester, New Hampshire.

Before leaving Providence, I checked out the site of the proposed downtown ballpark that would replace Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium. For myriad reasons, this plan has since been abandoned.

What could have been

What could have been

I saw a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game on the night of September 2. The following afternoon, before leaving town, I made a pit stop at a local record store.

IMG_0389Unfortunately, The Music Connection was closed. But now I know where I’m celebrating my next birthday.

IMG_0390I had better luck later on in the day, when I swung by Pitchfork Records in Concord, New Hampshire.

IMG_0396Pitchfork Records had a ramshackle, curmudgeonly vibe. I know I bought something, but, at this late juncture, I can’t remember what it was. Just know that if I bought it, then it had to have been good.

IMG_0398Deeper into the evening, I made a pit stop in Laconia, New Hampshire. You wouldn’t know it by looking at this particular photo, but this building houses one of the world’s largest collections of classic video games.

IMG_0402I had arrived at Funspot, the iconic arcade that was prominently featured in the 2007 documentary King of Kong. Being a weeknight in September, the place was kinda dead.

IMG_0401My photos do not do Funspot justice, but for people of a certain age it is a major nostalgia trip. For people of a younger age than those of a certain age, it is a blast from an unknown and now largely incomprehensible past. Coin-op is dead. Long live coin-op.

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A tribute to Keith Apicary, video game legend:

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And this, I assume, is a tribute to a Minor League Baseball legend:

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I skipped the miniature golf.

IMG_0405But I did try my hand at candlepin bowling. Unlike standard “10 Pin” bowling, the balls and pins are much smaller.

IMG_0410Though I’m a fairly decent bowler, my candlepin efforts were abysmal. You get much less pin action than with “normal” bowling, and I could not get in any sort of rhythm. I was also confused by the fact that one gets three rolls per frame, but a spare only counts if all the pins are knocked down in the second shot. I didn’t get any spares.

Afterwards, I was too frustrated to join — or start — the party.

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On the Road: On Your Mark, Basnett, Go!

To see all posts from my September 2, 2015 visit to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (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!

At every ballpark I visit, I recruit a designated eater. This individual is tasked with consuming the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, the home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, that individual was Mark Basnett.

025Mark, an only child born on Christmas Eve, is 12 years old, in seventh grade and lives in Manchester. On the day I met him, the school year had just begun and he was none too happy about it. I think we all know the feeling.

“Trust me, summer is fun,” he said. “When summer’s over it’s like, ‘Boo.’ I don’t want to go back to school.”

Mark, who is autistic, is a regular attendee at Fisher Cats games along with his mom, Kristin. She explained in an email that “He is 12 and typically doesn’t like me around. You know, because I’m Mom.” Accordingly, Mark and I embarked on our designated eating adventures together while Kristin stayed and watched the game from her seat in front of the first base dugout.

I really enjoyed getting to know Mark, and think that you will as well. So, before we move into the meat of the post (so to speak), here are a few facts about Mark.

Favorite Food: Hamburgers “I eat them almost all of summer vacation. They’re my favorite with regular mustard. I hate honey mustard.”

Favorite Drink: Diet Coke “I love it.”

Favorite Restaurant: 99. “It serves good meals.”

Favorite (or at least most unique) Dessert: “One time for Halloween my Mom and Dad and I made a Jolly Rancher sour apple. My Dad melted the Jolly Rancher in a pan. It tasted really good.”

Favorite Movie: Pixels Because it’s like a real-life video game.”

Favorite Book: Diary of a Wimpy Kid “Because it looks hand-drawn. Maybe it is.”

Most Fun Thing He Ever Did: “Go on a Disney cruise. It was in Florida, and it sailed to different places. At the halfway point of the trip it turned around and sailed back.”

Okay, now it’s time to eat. The Fisher Cats have a variety of food choices at their concourse concession stands.

015Mark wasn’t too interested in expanding into uncharted food territory and the Fisher Cats’ concessions generally emphasize the staples anyway. So we stuck to the basics, and started with a cheeseburger.

Burgers, after all, are Mark’s favorite food.

026“Well, it only has cheese and mustard on it,” said Mark. “And meat. And two buns and that’s it.”

A closer look reveals that Mark’s assessment was correct.

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“The best cheeseburger is hot sauce and mustard,” Mark elaborated. “But there is no mustard on pizza, because that would be weird.”

Where there’s thunder, there’s lightning. And where’s there’s a cheeseburger, there are fries.

028“I eat fries like a normal human,” explained Mark. “Sometimes I lick the salt off my fingers, which some people think is weird.”

I don’t think that’s weird, Mark. I do the same thing.

030As mentioned earlier, Mark loves Diet Coke. So, of course, he just had to wash down the burger and fries with his favorite beverage.

031“Every time I take a sip of Diet Coke it makes the tears run down my eyes,” said Mark. “The Diet Coke tastes a lot more diet-y than the regular Coke does….Oh, man. I’m hiccuping already.”

I then asked Mark if he was interested in obtaining some dessert. He was.

“Could I have some chocolate chip ice cream? Mom and I once tried to figure it out, how not to spill it, because it was so full.”

That was Mark’s set-up. And here’s the punch line:

“You know what else is gonna be full in 15 minutes or so? This, right here.”

Mark was pointing to his stomach.

So off to the ice cream man it was. The Hood’s ice cream man, specifically. They did not have vanilla chocolate chip ice cream, so Mark had to settle for mint.

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Mark, who managed not to spill this oversized offering, said that “the mint is the reason why its minty, and the chocolate chips are the reason that its chocolate chipity.”

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And that was it for Mark’s designated eating experience. He thoughtfully insisted on bringing the leftovers to his Mom, explaining that “Now Mom’s kinda gonna be the designated eater.”

And, 12 years old or not, seventh grader or not, he seemed very happy to see her. The feeling was mutual.

035Thanks, Mark. And thanks, Kristin. It was great meeting you both.

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On the Road: Wandering Sharks and Airborne Chickens in New Hampshire

To see all posts from my September 2, 2015 visit to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (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!

On September 2 I visited Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Yes, it was a Wednesday evening late in the season. But I was there and I was alive and it’s always good to be alive because if you’re not alive you’re dead.

The Fisher Cats were playing their rivals to the north, the Portland Sea Dogs.

024My pregame wanderings and observations were documented in the previous post. Shortly after the game began, I met up with my designated eater (you know, the individual who eats the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits), and that will be documented in the next post.

So where does that leave us now? How about here, in the Fisher Cats broadcast booth, alongside Tom Gauthier?

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I spent an inning on the air with Tom, who came to the Fisher Cats after a stint with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. Here, he sets the scene.

The view from the booth.

037Tom’s current broadcasting partner is Ben Gellman-Chomsky, who last appeared on this blog in a post about the 2014 Winter Meetings.

061Ben and I have long been Twitter pals, at least in part because he is always up for a pun battle. Or always was up for a pun battle, as earlier this month he finally run out of patience with my wordplay compulsions. I think I need to join some sort of pun addiction treatment program.

After visiting the booth, I went back down to the concourse. Shockingly, the view was almost the same as it had been in the broadcast booth. It was just a little lower to the ground.

039I would soon go lower still, all the way into the bowels of the stadium.

040Things always get a little strange in the bowels of the stadium, it’s the Minor League Baseball equivalent of visiting the bottom of the ocean. Giant hamburgers lie in disarray in front of makeshift storage areas, which are guarded by walking bipedal sharks.

041I had entered into this netherworld to gain access to the field, where I would attempt to catch rubber chickens in a bucket. These rubber chickens were thrown at me by a lacrosse stick-wielding man in a chicken mask.

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I caught every rubber chicken that the man in the chicken mask flung at me.

047 What a great way to celebrate my 13th birthday. I hadn’t had this much fun since being born in 2002.

050I then walked back up to the concourse and was greeted by a giant, floating carton of milk. This was milk of the people, not of the 1%.

051The milk carton introduced me to his friend, Concourse Tractor, who turned out to be a repository of relevant information.

055Hamburgers, sharks, chickens, chicken-men, giant milk, Concourse Tractor. It was all getting to be a bit much, so I decided to find a quiet place to lay down.

056If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a hot door. So never mind taking a rest, I just kept on walking until I arrived at a deserted corner of the stadium. While within this state of isolation (my preferred state), I wrote and disseminated my Subversive and Groundbreaking Ballpark Joke of the Day.

A subsequent stop at the team store led me to observe that the Fisher Cats were selling apparel bearing the logo of a team that never existed: The New Hampshire Primaries.

IMG_0386The “Primaries” was actually the original name of the team, but after a public uproar the front office powers-that-be capitulated and subsequently decided via a “name the team” contest that an invasive species of mammal known for its wanton slaughter of domestic pets would be a better choice.

I personally love the Primaries team name and logo, and think that it is worthy of bipartisan support. Could that donkey look any smugger?


primariesAnd, yes, lest I forget: There was a game going on.

057It was an extra-inning game, in fact, as my notes helpfully explain that “someone hit a two-run homer to tie it in the ninth.” That someone was Shane Opitz of the Fisher Cats, whose blast over the center field wall tied the game 3-3. The tie score didn’t last long, however, as Manuel Margot singled to lead off the 10th, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a Sam Travis single. This gave the Sea Dogs a 4-3 lead, and this was the final score.

Congrats, Sea Dogs. Please converge into an indistinct heap upon the center of the diamond.

059But please don’t dawdle, as Launch-A-Ball awaits.

“Launch-A-Ball! Not to be confused with Lunchables, which are a delicious meal.” — actual sales pitch for Launch-A-Ball tennis balls that I had heard earlier in the evening.

It was a pretty slow night for Launch-A-Ball, but the show must go on.

060And that did it for my night with the Fisher Cats. Since they’re a Toronto affiliate, does that make them a “Double-Eh” team?

Capture

Alright, fine, whatever. I’ll show myself out.

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Checking Out the Inn, in New Hampshire

To see all posts from my September 1, 2015 visit to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (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!

On Wednesday, September 2, I woke up in a hotel room in Providence. After grabbing a food truck lunch with my friend Jake and taking a short stroll around downtown, it was time to say goodbye — or “biddadoo” as the French say — to Rhode Island. Next up on the ballpark road trip agenda was Manchester, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Just as the Pawtucket Red Sox are the only Minor League team in Rhode Island, the Fisher Cats are the only team in New Hampshire. They currently enjoy a state-wide monopoly on this whole “Minor League Baseball” thing, and they also enjoy a monopoly in the category of “naming one’s self after an invasive and vicious mammalian species.”

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The Fisher Cats play at a facility that is nothing if not awkwardly named: Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. It opened in 2005 (as Fisher Cats Ballpark), one year after the team relocated to Manchester from New Haven, Connecticut.

Upon arriving at the ballpark, which I prefer to refer to simply as “N Double-D S ,” I deposited my car in a lot reserved for VIPs such as myself. This lot was thoroughly protected from any wayward baseballs that might come skyrocketing out of the stadium.

004I did not enter the stadium from this location, however. I traversed from the lot to a sidewalk located behind the outfield fence and began walking toward toward center field. I soon arrived at this Hilton Garden Inn.

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At the back end of the hotel’s ground floor, one finds the Pavilion Restaurant. The restaurant’s patio directly faces the N Double-D S playing field. It does not include access to the stadium itself, nor does the stadium provide direct access to the hotel.

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009The hotel also offers rooms that look directly onto the field, though I unfortunately did not have access to that particular vantage point. Instead, I retraced my steps back out of the hotel and walked with resolve and confidence toward the main entrance of the stadium.

012The main N Double-D S entrance is at the left field side of the stadium. A staircase leads up and onto the open concourse.

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This is the view from behind home plate, with the Hilton Garden Inn as centerpiece. The Hood Milk sign at the far left edge of the shot (I skimmed a little bit off the side) used to reside at Fenway Park in Boston. It is not whole-ly out of place here, make sure to pass your eyes right by it.

IMG_0382 My concourse journey culminated at the far right field side of the stadium.

017In the photo below, note that there is a red cloth draped over the outfield wall. This cloth was covering Chris Carpenter’s number 29, which was to be retired during a pregame ceremony. Carpenter never played for the Fisher Cats, but he’s a New Hampshire native who went on to pitch for the Blue Jays (with whom the Fisher Cats are currently affiliated).

016I also found myself fascinated by the Sign Gallery billboard next to the right field foul pole. It’s like they took elements from three separate billboards and mashed them together into one chaotic whole.

016It was soon time to move from one CSI to another. Corporate Sign Identity gave way to Carpenter’s Speaking Ingagement. (Yeah, I know.)

Carpenter gave a short, gracious speech as his two kids looked on.

IMG_0383Fungo, who may or may not have eyes, approved of Carpenter’s oration.

020Carpenter then ceded his ceremonial first pitch obligation to his son, Sam.

021During the exchanging of the lineup cards, Fisher Cats manager Bobby Meacham was accompanied by 12-year-old Mark Basnett.

022We’ll be seeing more of Mark in the very near future, as he was my designated eater that evening (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.

But, for now, it was time to rise and remove hats for the singing of the National Anthem.

023And, after that, there’s nothing left to do but “Play Ball!”

024What a well-oiled machine this blog is. These posts just write themselves, and that’ll do it for this one. Stay tuned for Part Two from Manchester.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: New Hampshire Fisher Cats, September 2, 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! 

September 2, 2015:  Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays).

Opponent: Portland Sea Dogs, 6:35 p.m. start time

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, from the outside: 

012Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, from within: The Hood Milk sign in left field used to be displayed at Fenway Park. The Hilton hotel offers rooms with a ballpark view, and also features an outdoor restaurant from which fans can watch the game.

IMG_0382Culinary Creation: Designated eater Mark Basnett, 12, enjoys a cheeseburger.

026Ballpark Character: Chris Carpenter never pitched for the Fisher Cats, but he is a New Hampshire sports legend. Here, he gives a speech after having his #29 retired by the team.

IMG_0383At Random: 

041Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Next up: 

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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