Minor League tour: Part I

Jonathan D. Salant and his 9-year-old son Izzy are visiting every Minor League ballpark in upstate New York, sandwiched around a trip to
Cooperstown and a youth baseball clinic during Induction Weekend. He
spent six years in Albany and Syracuse, moving to Washington, D.C., 20
years ago, and is catching up on all the ballparks built or renovated
after he left. Here is their first report:

Our goal of hitting nine ballparks in nine days was almost over before
the first pitch was thrown. No sooner did we complete the first leg of
our journey, from Maryland to Buffalo, than it began to rain. Our
schedule does not provide for any rain dates, so this was not a welcome

Nevertheless, we took the free light rail over to Dunn Tire Park,
umbrella in hand, in the hope that the weather would let up and we
could get a game in. What we discovered was instead of nine games in
nine days, we were about to see 10 games in nine days. The Syracuse
Chiefs and the Buffalo Bisons were making up an earlier postponement and
were playing a doubleheader, yes, in the rain.

Between the intermittent showers and our giant umbrella, we got to see
most of both seven-inning games without getting wet. It took some
getting used to, having the seventh-inning stretch and singing Take Me
Out to the Ballgame in the fifth inning. Buffalo defeated Syracuse in
the first game, and then batted around and scored seven runs in one
inning in the second game.

As with every Triple-A game I
have ever been to, we looked for players we knew, such as Andy Marte,
the key player in the Coco Crisp deal a while back, holding down third
base for the Bisons; and Wayne Lydon of the Chiefs, a former Mets
farmhand, who made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch right in front of
the center field wall, and then threw back to the infield to double up
the Bison runner who had begun on first base and already passed second.
Dunn Tire Park
is a beautiful place to watch a ballgame from, especially without all
of the advertisements that blanket other Minor League parks. I?m used
to seeing three tiers of ads in the outfield, those on the outfield
fence and two rows above that. Here, there were only a few ads on the
fence and no extra layers. This was the first of the downtown stadiums,
and the designer, HOK Architects, went on to design Camden Yards and
numerous other baseball stadiums.
As for the food, the
chicken wing stand was closed, as were many of the concessions on a day
that the crowd was sparse. But they did have beef on weck, another
Buffalo favorite.
Izzy collects baseball mascots — he has 19 of them — and his 20th
was a Buster T. Bison that he made himself at the Bisons? version of
Build a Bear Workshop. Buster shared a bed with Izzy that evening.
Tonight, we?re off to
Jamestown, and then Batavia on Wednesday, where I get to see the Mets?
short season farm team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. We?ll see the Chiefs
again next Monday at their new stadium.
Izzy?s report: I think
that the game had a lot of amazing plays. My favorite play was when one
of the Chiefs hit the ball and Eric Dubose, the pitcher, just stuck out
his glove and caught it. I can?t wait ?til tonight?s game.

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