As you’ve probably figured out by now, I spent this past weekend making a road trip through Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania. This was made possible by a weird scheduling quirk where all the affiliates were home during the same week.
It had been more than two years since I had been on such a road trip, the last being in June 2019 to see the new stadium in Fayetteville and maintain the claim that I’d seen every stadium in the Carolina League.
Well, the Carolina League is no more (or maybe it’s in hiatus until MLB can buy out the right people). But with two new affiliates in 2021, I wanted to see them both and get the pics that are now rotating as the headers for the site.
I’d been to Wilmington before in 2006, the year that I moved down here from Massachusetts but hadn’t had occasion to go back even though it’s a doable drive from Northern Virginia. Typically, my baseball road trips have a theme or a goal or places to visit, and “Let’s go see Jersey and Delaware!” hadn’t been one of them.
Frawley Stadium is a perfectly good example of a modest stadium that’s held up well from the 1990s stadium boom. It seats about 6,500, has ample (and FREE) parking, and the fans are into it, even if many of them are wearing Phillies caps. The concessions are boring, though the trend of ballpark food being more complicated than just burgers-dogs-popcorn-pretzels-beer-soda may rule the day until the supply chain is back to normal.
Photos to come, but the views are as you’d expect from a site just off 95, which you can see beyond the outfield fence. In a word, meh.
In case you hadn’t noticed, rental cars are now unbelievably expensive. Thus, I had to order my trip short-long-short to make sure that I could get the car back in just three days. Even that was well over $300 when in years past I could rent a car for an entire week for as little as $200.
So after a long drive through Amish country and passing by Harrisburg, I made my way from Wilmington to Rochester for the second game. This is when it struck me that normality is returning. There was a giveaway for a free t-shirt and thus a crowd at the gate, replete with religious nuts preaching and no one listening, which I hadn’t seen since the winter of 2020 at a George Mason basketball game (the large crowd, not the preachers).
Frontier Field is also a 1990s-era stadium that’s held up well. It’s a little on the small side for AAA, seating a little more than 10,000, but the concourses are big and wide and the concessions are quite varied (though not all were operating), from traditional ballpark fare to BBQ to deli, including a meatless variation on a local favorite called the garbage plate.
I was tempted but opted for an Italian Sausage and way-too-salty fries that I probably should have passed on with my high blood pressure. But it was a cheat day and I thought that was the lesser of the two evils.
Like Wilmington, Rochester’s ballpark is nestled downtown, but the view is nicer and there’s always something to be said about a ballpark near a railroad, as was the case in Syracuse and Fayetteville. Plus, they have an actual organist instead of a PA blasting a barrage of sound. Sorry, but that’s worth a full star more in any rating system, especially when so many have forgotten that baseball was meant to be pastoral and thoughtful, not an assault on the senses.
My last night of the trip was Harrisburg, which had been the last time I’d been to a minor-league game prior to the pandemic (I almost made it without mentioning it). Obviously, it was the best game of the three – Wilmington won, 8-4; Rochester was a near no-hitter – and it was a familiar comfort. I’ve made it to City Isle close to a dozen times, and win or lose, it’s always a consistently good experience, even if parking can sometimes be scarce.
And with that, I’ll sign off here. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.