Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Real McCoy

I've written a lot about the increasing number of major league stadiums I've visited, but I've also been to my fair share of minor league games and parks as well. It just occurred to me, though, that other than a few Syracuse Chiefs (AAA) games when I lived there from 1989 to 1992, one Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA) game circa 1997, and two or three Eastern League (AA) games, the vast majority of these have been at the Single A level. Last night's trip to Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium was proof to me that, while games at the lower levels can be entertaining, there is a wide chasm in the level of competition when compared to the upper levels of the minor leagues.

There were four home runs hit in last night's game, three by the opposing Syracuse Chiefs and one by the PawSox. By contrast, the Hudson Valley Renegades have hit a total of six homers in their 22 games so far this season. The mere existence of more home runs is not necessarily the reason that the competition is better, but the fact that the hitters' skills have developed to the point where they can hit the ball out of the park is. There are a few potential reasons for this. It could be that it takes some time to get used to driving the ball with wooden bats, that the younger players' bodies are still developing, or that the superior coaching and weight training programs in professional baseball are to credit. In truth, it's probably a combination of factors, but the bottom line is it makes for a much more interesting game when it doesn't take three or more baserunners to score one run.

I have to give credit to the PawSox for not gouging for extras in their pricing. We paid $24 to purchase two tickets online before heading down, which was $10 per ticket plus a reasonable $4 service fee. They also offer limited free parking on a first-come, first-served basis. We didn't make it in time for that, but their regular parking cost only $2 per car. When I purchased my $7 ticket for the Lowell game a couple weeks ago, they tacked on $6.56 in fees and it cost $5 to park. So, in total we spent $26 for two to attend a AAA game and see the likes of Pawtucket's Jed Lowrie and Syracuse's Elijah Dukes and Corey Patterson, while the Lowell game was nowhere near the bargain, and included no notable players.

McCoy Stadium
In addition to the three players just mentioned, Pete Orr—of World Baseball Classic Team Canada fame—was also part of the action as the starting shortstop for Syracuse. Knuckleballer Charlie Zink was on the mound for Pawtucket, but he hardly looked like the second coming of Tim Wakefield. The knuckler wasn't dancing for him early, as he gave up eight runs on seven hits—including three home runs—and three walks in the first three innings, but remained in the game to throw three shutout innings thereafter. That allowed his team to rally from an early 7-0 deficit, although they still wound up on the losing end of an 8-7 final score.

One final observation from me is that, at the higher levels of the minor leagues, there aren't all the gimmicky promotions and silly games between innings. There are also fewer sound effects and much less nonsense from the public address announcer in general. This, of course, gave this game a much more professional feel than those at Lowell and Hudson Valley. Frankly, games at those places come off as a bit amateurish, in my opinion. KJ was a little traumatized by the fact that the PawSox, as the home team, resided in the third base dugout, but I think she'll get over that.


  1. Another good post.

    We have a good time at just about any minor league park we go to. It's great having the Cyclones relatively close. It's affordable for a family (there are 5 of us), and the between innings stuff works well for the kids.

    Frankly I enjoy watching the weaker level of play with the family. I like my kids to see just how tough it is to play at the highest level. You really appreciate a big league double play after watching the rookies cock it up again and again. Hey, the term "bush league" has its meaning for a reason!

    Ever get over to the Hartford area to see the Rock Cats (Twins AA)? Very down to earth stadium there. Level of play is much better than A.

    Do you ever go to non-affiliated pro baseball? We have the Long Island Ducks who play in the same league as Brideport Bluefish. Level of play is somewhere between A and AA. Always a good time...good beer, good can you go wrong?

  2. Thanks Joey. I should have mentioned that I realize the between innings stuff is mostly to keep the kids' attention. Pawtucket still did a good job of this, but mostly with songs, like the chicken dance, but also some radio-friendly stuff that the kids recognized as well.

    The thing I don't like is when they make sound effects and play songs between pitches. Sometimes this borders on bad sportsmanship when they do it to mock and/or distract the opposing players.

    I did see a New Britain Rock Cats game last year, and I went to a bunch of independent league games when an old umpire school pal of mine was working those games. We used to have the Nashua Pride, who were in the same league as Bridgeport and Long Island. I remember seeing Jose Offerman there as a visiting player, signing autographs and chatting with fans in the stands. This, of course, was before the unfortunate bat incident.

  3. McCoy has long been on my list of parks I want to see. As a kid I loved listening to the radio and the play by play of the Rochester Red Wings. I remember Pete Brown speaking fondly of McCoy. The old stadium went through some renovations recently, right?

  4. Actually, it was renovated in the late 90s. Definitely a major improvement compared how I remember it from the one time I was there prior.