Monday, August 8, 2011

Prince George's Stadium

All photos of Prince George's Stadium available on Flickr.

It's pretty much impossible for me to go on a summer vacation and not somehow fit a ballgame into it. I was in the DC area this past weekend with my fiance Lauren visiting friends and attending a wedding, and of course I immediately checked the local ball schedules after we booked our flights. The closest game I could attend in a stadium I hadn't yet been to was in Bowie, Maryland. Lauren stayed behind playing with her friend Claire and her baby, while Phil and I drove about a half-hour from Silver Spring southeast to Prince George's Stadium, where we met up with my friend Emilie from grad school for a little Sunday Night minor league ball.

Bowie is about 20 miles east of downtown DC, just beyond the Beltway and the end of the orange line, and is host to the Baysox, the AA-affiliate of the Orioles. As we read in the gameday program, all of the Orioles' affiliates are within about 4 hours of Baltimore, with only AAA-Norfolk actually playing outside of Maryland. It must be nice to be able to cut down on the moving and traveling if you're an O's prospect; however, Bowie seems to be just a huge suburb and nothing to write home about. The stadium is located off of a major highway and shares a parking lot with a restaurant and a Home Depot, which is a large indicator of just how rapidly the city has grown. For once, this was actually a stadium I was glad was not in an urban setting, because ballparks in outlying areas are generally cheaper, safer, and easier to get to. It was far enough outside of the Beltway that we didn't have to contend with the frustrating DC traffic, the free parking lot was a welcomed rarity in the metro area, and Prince George County does not exactly have a stellar reputation, so the lot also made me feel safe walking back to our car at night.

While most suburban ballparks boast ample parking and accessibility, they generally lack in aesthetics and context. Approaching the monumental front gate from the lot, I remarked to Phil how it actually reminded me of another O's affiliate park we'd been to in Aberdeen. I'm not sure if that's a coincidence or not. The inside was in a lot better shape than I thought it would be and gave the illusion of being "nestled" into a site because of the many trees beyond the outfield wall. It had the press box on concourse level behind homeplate like in Appleton, but unlike in Appleton there are actually suites, which look almost like motel rooms since they for some reason had curtains. The seating bowl is very tall and separated into an upper and lower section with an intermediate walkway halfway down. There is a a huge wall a few feet beyond the outfield wall laden with advertising that had to be at least 25 feet tall, which further contributed to that "nestled" feeling. There were only about two main concession stands, both of which featured the same items, but the food and beer they did have was very original and it was very hard to find even just your standard hot dog and light beer. The most unique part of the park was a children's carousel and an orange-and-white-striped, mini-golf-sized lighthouse in the right field corner. We got seats in the 2nd row right behind the 3rd base dugout and got to watch the carousel spin the whole game. Overall the setup was fairly memorable for a ballpark of that size.

Another unique thing about the ballpark is that it is pretty close to Fort Meade, so a bunch of guys from the military were there to present the colors and sing the National Anthem, which was pretty cool. It was also supposed to be "Happy Un-Birthday Night" at the ballpark but I never heard anything mentioned over the PA system about it, so that was kind of disappointing, but overall it was still a nice night for a ballgame after the rain subsided. The Baysox moved within a half game of first place in the Western Division with a win over the Fisher Cats, 5-3. I spent a fair amount of the game chatting with Phil and Emilie, whom I haven't seen in 4 years - much to the dismay of the sweaty old guy sitting in front of me that kept giving me the stink eye - so there were a few subtle aspects to the game that I missed. For instance, I see from the box score now that 2B Greg Miclat had 4 steals for the home team, giving him 46 on the season and putting him only a few away from breaking the all-time team record. Also, I knew that the starting pitcher Mike Ballard had a great game but had no idea that he racked up 10 strikeouts, en route to his 7th win of the season. Most of the offense came from 1B Joe Mahoney, who had a 2-run double in the 5th and also a sac fly. Steven Lerud also rang one off the right-field foul pole in the 6th for his 5th dinger of the year. One thing that didn't go unnoticed by me personally was the quality of the men in blue; it was such a relief to see good umpiring after what I've been subjected to in the Northwoods League for the past 2 months. The best part of the game was that former Phillie backstop Sal Fasano is the manager of the Fisher Cats and was also coaching 3rd right in front of us. His mustache is as glorious as ever, but he is not nearly as agile as he was in his playing days.

It was about an hour drive to Claire's house in Fairfax after the game, and what a wonderful way to cap off my vacation weekend back in my former city of residence. Random August stadium trip #2 is this coming Friday in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

park rankings and statistics:
aesthetics - 6 (outside blah, inside not bad)
views from park - 4 (trees)
view to field - 10 (not much protective netting)
surrounding area - 2 (DC about 20 miles away)
food variety - 7 (bonus points for unique items)
nachos - 4
beer - 5 (about 10-12 kinds but expensive)
vendor price - 5
ticket price - 4 ($14 behind dugout)
atmosphere - 3
walk to park - 2
parking proximity - 10 (adjacent lot for free)
concourses - 4
team shop - 5

best food - giant hot dog w/ sauce + grilled onions
most unique stadium feature - carousel
best jumbotron feature - turtle shell shuffle
best between-inning feature - tee-ball homerun derby

field dimensions - 309/405/309
starters - Deck McGuire (NH) v. Mike Ballard (BOW)
opponent - New Hampshire Fisher Cats
time of game - 2:40 (0:29 delay)
attendance - 2156
score - 5-3 W
Brewers score that day - 7-3 W

Brewers 65-50, +3.0 (3 @ Cardinals, 3 v. Pirates)
Reds 55-59, -9.5 (4 v. Rockies, 3 v. Padres)
Twins 51-65, -10.5 (3 v. Red Sox, 3 @ Indians)

Erik - 11
Peter - 33

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