I’ve got plenty more “On the Road” content to share over the coming weeks, but today I wanted to take a brief break from all of that and head to the Staten Island Yankees’ home of Richmond County Bank Ballpark. On Saturday, the team staged “Game of Thrones Night” and Robert Pimpsner of Pinstriped Prospects was kind enough to send along a plethora of photos from the evening.
“Game of Thrones Night” turned out to be the most successful promotion in the history of the franchise, drawing a record crowd of 7.529 to the ballpark. The team, often referred to as the “Baby Bombers”, instead suited up as the “Direwolves”. And the creator himself, George R.R. Martin, was on hand as a special guest.
Martin is, yes, a Mets fan, but this didn’t stop him from visiting the home of the Yankees’ Class A Advanced Short Season affiliate:
I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, so forgive me that this post won’t be peppered with clever references to the show. It will be peppered with lots of photos, however, because on the internet photos > words. And Pimpsner more than picks up the slack with his photo captions.
The evening began with one of the most generous fan giveaways I’ve ever seen, as the first 2500 fans through the gates received Direwolves hats as well as copies of of the original Game of Thrones book and Martin’s 1982 novel Fevre Dream.
Martin addressed the crowd before the game:
Before the game the
SI Yanks Direwolves made a donation to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a charity chosen by Martin.
Representatives from the sanctuary brought along Flurry, an “ambassador wolf” who, yes, peed on the field!
Martin also spent an hour signing autographs, which resulted in predictably long concourse lines.
The Direwolves line up for the National Anthem:
Here, Direwolf Brandon Wagner circles the bases after a home run.
It was that kind of night for the Direwolves, who defeated House Lanister (the Hudson Valley Renegades) by a score of 10-1.
Everyone, that is, with the possible exception of Yankees special assistant to the general manager Hideki Matsui. He has no time for your theme night shenanigans.
Okay, that’s all I’ve GOT.
What Minor League team offers the best ballpark views?
In my now-established role as wandering MiLB ballpark minstrel, I’ve visited 24 of the top 30 ballparks in the current voting. Though I may not have sat in the exact seats or section highlighted in the Best Seat in the House contest, I can speak to the spectacular nature to the ballpark views found in these stadiums. What follows is my personal Top 10, presented alphabetically by stadium name (it’s already hard enough to choose 10, ranking them in a specific order would be too much for my fragile psyche to bear).
As an added bonus, each team name is linked to my corresponding blog post describing my visit:
AutoZone Park (Memphis Redbirds) — A downtown stadium should always have downtown views.
BB&T Ballpark (Charlotte Knights) — The city skyline threatens to swallow the ballpark whole.
Dell Diamond (Round Rock Express) — Okay, so this is a view of those enjoying the views. But it doesn’t get much better than watching a game from an outfield concourse rocking chair.
Modern Woodmen Park (Quad Cities River Bandits) — Centennial Bridge backdrop (the bridge crosses the Mississippi River, connecting Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois):
Pensacola Bayfront Stadium (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) — The Pensacola Bay lies beyond right field, and beyond the bay lies the Gulf of Mexico.
PNC Field (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders) — The outfield concourse incorporates the stadium’s natural surroundings very nicely.
Richmond County Bank Ballpark (Staten Island Yankees) — This is not the best representation, as this photo is from a foggy night. But the lower Manhattan skyline is visible from across the water. It is, as always, an awe-inspiring sight.
Southwest University Park (El Paso Chihuahuas) — The Franklin Mountains loom beyond left-center field. (Meanwhile, behind the ballpark, Juarez, Mexico, is clearly visible.)
Victory Field (Indianapolis Indians) — Technically, no one is allowed to sit up here. But the view from the roof is awesome.
Whataburger Field (Corpus Christi Hooks) — Harbor Bridge beckons.
Once again, you can vote in the Best Seat in the House contest HERE. Do you agree with my Top 10 picks? Who are you voting for, and why? Per usual, I’m amenable to having a conversation about this and all Minor League-related matters. Feel free to get in touch anytime.
Hello everyone. The italicized text you are currently reading is courtesy of I, Ben Hill, proprietor of the eponymous “Biz Blog.” Though I have run many “guest posts” on this blog through the years, what you are about to read is something a little bit different. Ashley Marshall, who has been writing for MiLB.com since the 2010 season, has agreed to become a regular contributor to this blog as well as some of my regularly occurring MiLB.com content (such as the long-running “Promo Preview”).
Therefore, when I am on the road, Ashley can keep you abreast of Minor League Baseball business and promotional happenings that I otherwise might not have had the time or sanity to write about properly. I’m considering this a win-win-win situation: I have a little bit less on my proverbial plate and can produce my “On the Road” material in a timelier fashion. Ashley, a Minor League Baseball renaissance man, gets to write more about an area of the industry that he is interested in. And you, the presumably loyal reader, get more of the material you have come to know and, yes, love.
So who is Ashley Marshall? No one knows the answer to that question better than Ashley Marshall himself. The floor is now ceded to him, so that he may introduce himself and then, as the title of this post implies, take you on a Pac-Man inspired tour of the Minor League landscape.
Hello and welcome to
Ash’s Ben’s Biz Blog. My name is Ashley and I’m entering my sixth season as an editorial producer at MiLB.com. You’ll see my name popping up from time to time in this blog as I contribute to the site and help Minor League Baseball’s chronicler of promotions during his road trips.
You’ve probably spotted my byline atop game recaps, prospect primers, league previews and Q&A’s over the past few years. Now you’ll see me pinch-hitting on the top pro Minor League blog on the Internet. Fortunately for Ben’s loyal readers, I share a number of interests with the master of puns himself. We both love viral content, thought-provoking analysis, eye-catching designs and curated information exploring the business side of baseball.
If you follow me on Twitter — and if you don’t, then you really should rectify that right now — you will know that I love anything made from a part of a pig, as well as photography, themed jerseys and all things British. If I could take pictures of a team playing in uniforms depicting the Queen of England eating bacon on a stick, I’d die a happy man. I think a lot of other people would get a kick out of that, too. Lehigh Valley, I’m looking at you.
For my first post, however, I wanted to share something that recently caught my eye, because one Easter egg that didn’t go unnoticed over the weekend was the gem brought to you by Google Maps and Pac-Man.
The concept was simple, the execution flawless. Take existing Google Maps, turn the screen into a playable maze, transform roads and paths into a grid of Pac-dots and guide Namco’s most famous two-dimensional character to glory.
Productivity nationwide took a hit when the browser game went viral. Now it’s about the take another hit. What’s better than helping Pac-Man evade Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde in your neighborhood? How about zig-zagging your way around your favorite Minor League ballparks?
I’ll take you on a virtual tour of Pawtucket, Jupiter, Albuquerque, Great Lakes and Staten Island, while inviting you to find other maps that appeal to your baseball and gaming sensibilities.
1) Guide Pac-Man down S. Bend St, and along Division St. to help him beat the McCoy Stadium level. The running track to the northeast of the stadium presents just one way in and one way out, so make sure you bring a solid gameplan to this Rhode Island task. Red Sox Nation can’t help you here, so you’re all alone at the plate. See Blinky, hit Blinky.
2) Roger Dean Stadium is bordered by back fields to the north, Florida Atlantic University to the south and Abacoa Golf Club to the west. The key to winning this map on Florida’s east coast is successfully navigating the traffic circle joining Central Blvd, Main St and Scripps Way. The Hammerheads may share the ballpark with the Palm Beach Cardinals, but you have this course all to yourself.
3) Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park sits in the heart of Central New Mexico Community College’s campus. University Blvd SE runs north-south and Avenida Cesar Chavez SE goes east-west, but the intricate combination of adjoining streets make it hard to pass this midterm exam. You’ll be going up and down more often than Joe Girardi in the eighth inning of a one-run game.
4) Located two hours north of Detroit between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Dow Diamond is surrounded by roads of every side that dissect Fournie Park and lead to the Tittabawassee River. Fortunately for Loons fans, you get to avoid Rt. 20 and instead stay on Buttles and State Streets. There are no season-ending trips to the DL in this map.
5) Richmond County Bank Ballpark sits at the north-eastern tip of Staten Island, a stone’s throw from the Hudson River and New York Bay. The four enemies start at the corner of Hamilton Ave. and St. Mark’s Place, giving Baby Bombers fans the chance to gobble up the pellets along the waterfront before Inky and Pinky catch you in a rundown.
Now you’ve checked out a few of my favorite MiLB mazes, why not spend a couple minutes finding your own team on Google Maps and seeing if you can get the cherries before your three lives run out. Reach out to me on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB or via email and share a screenshot of a map you enjoyed playing.
As I mentioned in my recent post(s) on the Trenton Thunder experience, I’m going to make an effort for the remainder of the season to visit Minor League teams that are easily accessible from my New York City base of operations. And few teams, if any, are more accessible than the Staten Island Yankees. They’re just a ferry ride away!
So, this past Wednesday, I left the office a bit earlier than usual and made my way to Richmond County Bank Ballpark. From MLB Advanced Media’s Chelsea-based offices, this involves a ride on the 1 train from 14th street to the ferry terminal.
Len’s Papaya is a new addition to the terminal’s food and beverage choices. Amongst NYC’s wide array of papaya-referencing frankfurter purveyors, Len’s is pretty much a non-entity. But, still, I picked up a papaya drink for the ferry ride. I figured this could be a new tradition for me, as in the past I’d always bought a Budweiser at the ferry snack bar (beer is now off limits to me, due to the celiac disease).
Within 10 minutes I was on the Staten Island ferry, which doesn’t cost a thing! One of the reasons that I have always enjoyed SI Yanks games is because it provides an excuse to ride the ferry — a 1/2 hour excursion filled with wonderful aquatic vantage points. Even the though the weather was less than ideal (cloudy, with scattered rain showers earlier in the evening), I still enjoyed the scenery.
I always do.
I wasn’t expecting a big crowd, due to the mediocre weather, but I was still caught off-guard as the ferry approached Staten Island. It was 7:30 and the game was underway after a 15-minute delay, but very few people were in the stands.
It was going to be a quiet night indeed! The ballpark is, more or less, next door to Staten Island’s St. George ferry terminal. While there are certainly a portion of fans who have driven (or walked) to the stadium, those who have taken the ferry come across this entrance first.
This outfield entrance is THE first impression ferry-riders have of the facility, and not once over six years of attending games here have I ever seen that ticket window open. I find this indicative of a larger issue: for whatever reason, the SI Yanks don’t do much marketing to the city at large (one of the biggest and most diverse media markets in the entire world!).
And call me naive, but I don’t think that this is a tough sell: a Yankees affiliate, easily accessible via an outright fun public transit journey, competing in a beautiful facility that offers a skyline view of the greatest city in the world! 2012 marks the first year in which the team is under the ownership of Nostalgic Partners LLC and in a press conference announcing this Nick Tiller, one of the group’s partners, said “We think a lot of people don’t know the team exists, and we hope to change that.” I sincerely hope that they do! To a large extent my job is to be an advocate for Minor League Baseball, and I would love to be able to champion the SI Yanks as they make strides toward realizing their immense potential.
Multiple requests, via the team, to speak to the new owners went unanswered. That will be a story to pursue for another day, but for now, what I have is merely this slice of SI Yanks life on a damp but otherwise pleasant Wednesday evening in early August. This is simply me, as a fan, trying to convey the experience. Take it for what it is…
The main entrance, like most main entrances, is located in front of home plate. It’s a bit of a hike.
For those looking for will call, the hike continues.
Finally, access was obtained. Poor weather and underwhelming crowd aside, this remains a beautiful place to see a game.
The visibility of the Manhattan skyline was compromised somewhat by the clouds, but nonetheless a case could be made that this is one of the most scenic ballpark environments in Minor League Baseball.
The team’s mascot is the Phil Rizzuto referencing “Scooter the Holy Cow.” He originally had a halo perched above that big old hat of his, but at some point through the years it fell off.
The SI Yanks have expanded their concession options this season, including a nacho stand and, yes, even a sushi bar. But on this low-attended evening these options weren’t available. The third base concessions stand was operating at full-steam, but beyond that the stadium was more or less in shutdown mode.
I soon went into shutdown mode as well, sitting behind the first base dugout with NYC-based Minor League travelers Rex and Coco Doane (last seen in Winston-Salem). And while I have been frustrated regarding the SI Yanks’ marketing and media relations techniques (or lack thereof) through the years, one area in which they have always excelled is in-game entertainment. The between-innings games and contests are well-organized and staged with professionalism, and helped redeem an otherwise sluggish evening (the time of game was an agonizing 3:45, plus it started 15 minutes late).
When the game script calls for you to dance on the dugout, then you dance on the dugout — even if it’s 11 o’clock on a misty Wednesday night.
The Auburn Doubledays were victorious, doubling up the hometown team by a score of 10-5.
And from there, there was nothing to do but catch the 11:30 ferry back into Manhattan — another appropriately late night in the city that never sleeps.
But ample motivation to set foot in the so-called “forgotten borough” is provided in the form of the Staten Island Yankees, who have competed in the New York-Penn League since 1999. The team has played at Richmond County Bank Ballpark for the past 10 seasons, a waterfront facility located a proverbial stone’s throw from the Manhattan skyline.
The water plays a key role in the Staten Island Yankees experience, starting with how one gets there. This past Friday, my journey began at lower Manhattan’s South Ferry Terminal (accessible via multiple subway lines):
The stout vessel that I ended up boarding was the Samuel I. Newhouse, 310 feet long and capable of carrying 6000 passengers.
While there is ample seating, I prefer standing along one of the outside railings (after stopping for a drink at the snack bar).
Budweiser in the foreground, Lady Liberty in the back, America all the way:
The ferry provides ample opportunity to view the Statue of Liberty, as well as the chaotic NYC waterways in general.
All while the city itself slowly recedes into the background:
Once arriving on Staten’s foreign soil, it is very easy to find the ballpark. Just look for signs with a baseball on them:
The scoreboard is visible immediately upon exiting the terminal:
So close, yet so far away as it turns out. The right field entrance is relatively nearby…
But the team doesn’t sell tickets from this area:
It’s a disconcertingly desolate first impression, and the only choice is to keep walking:
Finally, the front entrance comes into view:
But if you’re one of the poor souls who needs to procure tickets from Will Call…well, keep walking:
The hassles to actually get inside notwithstanding, this is an excellent place to see a game:
Red SI Yanks hats are distributed to those attending a game as part of a group. This seems to be a big part of the overall ticket sales strategy; standalone giveaway items and theme nights are non-existent on the promotional schedule.
But there are many entertaining between-inning games, including one that simply documents the hilarity that ensues after a baby is given his first taste of lemon:
As well as the ever-popular Hula Relay Race:
I apologize, my photos from the concourse didn’t turn out. Here’s the best of the sorry bunch:
The team’s mascot triumvirate, led by Scooter the Holy Cow (in honor of Phil Rizzuto, of course):
The scoreboard is top-notch, as is the view beyond:
The game was won by the visiting Lowell Spinners by a score of 7-1. But no mere defeat can get in the way of Friday Night Fireworks and post-game Run the Bases:
Finally, it was time to walk back in the direction of the ferry terminal:
The ride back to Manhattan always offers astounding visuals of the rapidly approaching city, but my attempt to capture these views photographically once again came up short. So all I can do is leave you with this quite sagacious-looking fish, who makes his home in Staten Island’s St. George Ferry Terminal:
I wish I could end this post as gracefully as that fish moves about within his aquatic habitat. All I can come up with is “Oh water night” and, sadly, that’s going to have to do for now.
Oh, water night!
Time is at a premium these days. The season is in full swing, and beyond my myriad professional obligations I am also very busy watching Conan O’Brien and playing in a pinball league.
Therefore, I must keep my blog posts short and to the point. With that in mind, let me share two photos I received from baby-bombers.com mastermind Robert Pimpsner. It seems that none other than Sopranos star Vinny Pastore threw out the first pitch at Sunday’s Staten Island Yankees game.
Here, he lectures a gaggle of patriotic youth:
And here he is on the mound:
And I don’t even want to get into what’s going in the league next week…there’s going to be both cross-dressing and liposuction, I can tell you that much.