Minor League Baseball & Family Fun

So last week we headed to Worcester for a Tornadoes game. The Worcester Tornadoes are one of the many local minor league teams in the New England region. It seems like every fifth town has a minor league team here in New England. This is fantastic! There are few seasonal pleasures that compare to knocking down a hot dog and slugging a beer at a ballpark, while watching America’s past-time, especially at an admission price that has yet to come face to face with former President Jackson. Having lived within about a mile and half form a Alexian Field, home of the Schaumburg Flyers, prior to my arrival here gave me a definite taste for the minor leagues. Simply put, if you love the game, the minor leagues offer the greatest bang for your buck experience out there. Of course
Red Sox
tickets are scarce and expensive and the quality of play is undoubtedly better, but there is a romantic quality to the small, family friendly parks of the farm systems.

Here is a nostalgic glimpse of the Flyers’ Alexian Field. With a fairly steady stream incoming small aircraft lining up their landing approach and flying diagonally across the mound and first base line, to the adjacent airfield, it is still one of my favorite baseball sites anywhere.

Photo: Alexian Field in Schaumburg, IL

Worcester is no exception here. Fitton Field, also home to the College of the Holy Cross’ team, is a park with both the appeal of intimacy and newness, while rising above bare-bones lesser collegiate stadiums. The seats are cheap, close to the action, and almost all in the range of foul ball collection. It offers a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Based on the crowd that turned out for the game, I am not the only person that feels that way. My only complaint about the park was that it was situated almost in reverse, with the left field wall facing almost directly west, creating sight problems, as well as completely throwing off the whole notion of the south-paw. The picture below illustrated this, but it is a fairly minor issue, no pun intended.

Photo: The Stadium at College of the Holy Cross

The game itself was pretty good, overall. There was a paucity of hitting initially, but things started to heat up a little in the middle to late innings, as expected. It was full of everything, except a home run. We saw great plays and awful ones, including the opposing shortstop rifling the ball over the head of the first baseman and into the right side stands. Best of all the home team pulled out the victory.

What is always most interesting to me are the players. Unlike other games I have seen this group seemed to lack any of the grizzled veterans who had a shot in the show at some point in their careers and are either washed up or making that last gasp campaign to get back. The players of Worcester and New Haven all looked young, simply full of hope and desire to keep playing a game with the outside chance of making a legitimate living at it. It is refreshing to see guys take the field that are still green and looking to make a splash. Plus, before the game many of them were part of the pre-game family festivities and contests, which is a much rarer and media savvy phenomenon in the big leagues. With this group it was evident that more than anything else, they just loved playing the game.

Photo: Tornado Player After Sun Sets on the Park

Ali, Keri and I were all in attendance that night. We had hoped to get the rest of their family, but they were already slated to go the next day by complete happenstance. The greatest drag of this was that we missed their father Henry’s championship twirl in the mid-innings classic dizzy bat race, where at home plate, with head placed on the knob of a bat standing upright on the ground, he spun around and around ten times, only to rise and erratically race a competitor down the third base line to tag the mascot for a wobbly win. So, good on you Henry! Entertaining your family, as well as thousands of spectators you proved yourself a true competitive champion, even after a few ballpark brews at that. I have to say that this alone would have been worth the price of admission, for me. We were all sorry we missed it. I am most sorry that I don’t have any pictures of your victory!