Of course, the 2007 season brought some unwelcome (to me, at least) changes. Several teams shuffled their AAA affiliations, and the Phils shuffled their allegiance to a new Allentown team. My least favorite team swooped in and unimaginitively rechristened the S/W-B club as the Yankees, lest I try to forget who I was watching. The new ownership did everything they could to make a buck, including selling naming rights to the stadium to PNC Bank, charging a parking fee (it's a minimal one, but $2 is still more than the zero that it once was), draping garish sponsor's ad banners around the upper deck, and - most hurtful of all - reclassifying the bleachers as season ticket sections. That's right. If I want to go to a game now, I'm stuck up in the nosebleeds. Thanks a lot, guys.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Brad Pennington, 1993 Bowman Foil #361
Tomorrow I'll be driving up to my family's lakeside cottage in Northeastern Pennsylvania for a long weekend getaway, but I'll leave a little something behind to tide you over. I was also hoping I'd be able to take a side trip to PNC Field to check out the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (hey, Yankee affiliate baseball is still baseball), but their homestand ends tomorrow night and I don't think we'll be up for the 40-plus minute drive after the five-hour trip that morning and afternoon.
I'm sitting here reflecting on my past experiences at that ballpark. Since I was an awkward middle schooler, I've enjoyed going to these AAA games with my father every time we got the chance. For much of that time, the team was known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, and they were the highest affiliate of the Phillies. Lackawanna County Stadium (as it was then known) was built in 1989, and it was a nice cozy place by minor league standards. There was a wooded area and rock formations directly beyond the outfield fence, giving the impression that the stadium had been carved right out of the mountain. There were aluminum bleacher benches down the third base line, and they were cheap and general-admission and offered a great view of the field. They also afforded a close proximity to the visitors' bullpen, which meant that you could get a good look at relievers, coaches, and catchers as they made their way to and fro. Over the years, I saw many future stars and starters of the Phillies; I particularly remember the buzz about Chase Utley. The Red Barons faithful sitting near us raved about the young second baseman, and they weren't disappointed.
But no matter what they do to dampen the fan experience on Montage Mountain, I'll always have my memories. Like the time I heckled Brad Pennington as he strolled to the visitors' clubhouse from the bullpen in his Durham Bulls uniform. Or the night I joined several thousand Red Barons fans in jeering Darryl Strawberry as he went 0-fer while rehabbing with the visiting Columbus Clippers (they played police siren noises every time he came up to bat). Those were the days.