by Mike McCann
Mike McCann, age 25, has been a baseball fan as long as he can remember. He has a goal to visit every major and minor league baseball stadium. This regularly-appearing column will follow the progress of "Bunko" and his quest.
Labor Day weekend is a significant point in the minor league baseball season. It is the last weekend of regular season games and the last chance for teams to make one final run for a playoff spot. For me, it is my final opportunity to attend a minor league baseball game. It is also a weekend with an extra day off from work, so there is an added incentive to take a little trip to see a few more games.
My girlfriend, Steph, and I decided it would be nice to make a trip to Niagara Falls. Steph had never been there, and I think that it is a pretty nice place and didn't mind seeing it again. This would be my third trip through Buffalo in the past five years, and now would finally be my chance to see a game there. I've driven right by the stadium before, but my trips never seemed to coincide with a Bisons game...until now.
During the day on Saturday, we went to the falls and saw some of the attractions there. In case you are interested, the Canadian side is much nicer than the American side. We were finished in plenty of time to make it to the Buffalo Bisons game. The start time for the game was 7:05, and we made it to the stadium around 6:15...only when we got there, we saw people walking out. I thought that this was quite strange. I found out that the game time had been changed to 4:05, and we had missed the game. Yet another attempt to see a game in Buffalo had been thwarted.
Then it hit me. I knew that Batavia, NY, was less than an hour away and that the Muckdogs had a home game that started at 7:05. I'm really glad that I looked up all of my options in that area; catching a New York-Penn League game would definitely be the best way to make the most of a bad situation. We got to Batavia during the 1st inning, so we really didn't miss much of the Muckdogs game against the Williamsport Crosscutters. It was also an opportunity for me to see Batavia's second baseman, Chase Utley, the Phillies first-round draft pick in 2000. Since I live just outside of Philadelphia and have been a Phillies fan my entire life, it was nice to see the Phillies farmhands.
I had been to a Batavia Clippers game at Dwyer Stadium in 1996, so I wasn't able to whittle away at my quest list. I was just happy to be able to see a baseball game. The game itself was pretty good as well. Batavia beat Williamsport, 10-8. The Muckdogs manager was arguing some of the umpires' calls and was eventually ejected. There is a different element to this argument when you can hear the voices from the field rather than those from the crowd supporting the manager's cause.
The following day we drove to Jamestown, NY, which is south of Buffalo. I had never been to Jamestown before, so this time I was able to cross another team off the list. We were able to see the Batavia Muckdogs again in their game against the Jamestown Jammers. At this game, I won the prize for dirtiest car in the parking lot. I really didn't think my car was that dirty, and I'm pretty sure that they picked my car since it was parked up front and slightly dirty from all the driving I had done the previous few days. Anyway, I went to the customer service area for my prize, a free car wash. I was saying how I wasn't from around there and would be able to use the car wash since I was leaving right after the game. They tried to explain to me where it was, but I decided that it would be better if I gave the certificate to the people sitting next to us. The game was pretty good as well, and Batavia won 7-3.
That seems like a pretty good Labor Day weekend to me. I was able to see two New York-Penn League games in western New York. Still, I need to get to that game in Buffalo. I will have to combine it with a trip to Erie, PA, sometime. Now that the offseason is here, I will need to start planning trips for the 2001 season...and the possibilities are endless.
One additional element, which makes my quest more interesting, is that when teams move, the number of active cities conquered so far in my quest may actually decrease. During the offseason, the Queens Kings moved across town to become the Brooklyn Cyclones. I do realize that both Queens and Brooklyn are boroughs of New York City, but it is still technically a move, so my active total drops from 31 to 30. I have seen games in 32 different cities (St. Catharines, Ontario being the other, no-longer-active city), and I have visited 33 different stadiums (both the old Memorial Stadium as well as Camden Yards in Baltimore, in case you were curious).
I'll do my best to keep you informed of my travels. Hope you are able to get out to a game yourself soon!
Mike is always looking for people to attend baseball games with him, so if you are interested, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about Bunko's quest to visit every major and minor league stadium: http://minorleaguesource.com/baseball.html
Visit Mike McCann's minor league history Web page: http://minorleaguesource.com/minor.html