Friday, September 09, 2016

The Sawx of Summer: My Great Red Sox Nation Invasion of 2016

From the desk of:  GO FISK YOURSELF

Hello, my name is Michael, and I'm an incurable road tripper.  I pack light bags, fuel my car, and set about visiting multiple baseball towns over long weekends.  

That makes me happy.  In turn, seeking out new places to eat, drink, and be merry makes my wife happy.  It's what we do.   Like Corona and lime ... a perfect combination.  

Tip of the cap, Pook!

I've been venturing to Fenway Park since 1993, however I did not incorporate the Red Sox into this year's plans.  Instead, I finally set about accomplishing my long time desire of driving throughout New England and visiting Boston's affiliates.

It joys me to say things could not have gone any more perfectly.

Scheduling required splitting this trip over two weekends covering six days.  It involved six states, three hotels, five ballparks, one statue, and over 1,200 miles of glorious open road.


First, a bit of a recommendation, and some friendly advice...

I love staying in Quincy.  It's literally next door, about 10 miles away from downtown - an easy 15 minute drive.  All things being equal, booking a room there costs far less than in Boston.  On this next point, I'll be blunt.  If imbibing, the "T" makes Quincy an extremely convenient base camp as well.  

Getting there, I did something I wouldn't ordinarily do - drive there on a Saturday morning during 4th of July weekend.  I would have preferred driving Friday night and waking up there.  But such as life.
Besides, the plan was making this trip a hit and run affair.  

But, boy, did we maximize our time.

After checking in and freshening up, we continued driving deeper into Massachusetts.  Our first order of baseball was a 6:30pm game, with the Lowell Spinners hosting the Aberdeen IronBirds at LeLacheur Park.

The Red Sox were hosting the Angels that same evening.  We listened to a portion of the game during our drive back to Quincy.  Then managed to catch the rest of Anaheim's absurd 21-2 trouncing of the Red Sox over dinner.

Sunday morning and early afternoon were about checking-out of our hotel, and hanging out in Back Bay.

That's when it dawned on me to visit Cy Young's statue.  I can literally say I've been meaning to see it for decades.  One will easily find it neatly tucked into the nearby Northeastern University campus just off Huntington Avenue.  Hence, the Huntington Avenue Grounds of Boston's bygone era.  The site commemorates where Denton True Young helped the Sox win baseball's first World Series in 1903 over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  On this particularly hot summer day, his statue stood like an oasis under the protective shade of trees.

I would tell you the best part of "my" trip still lay ahead.  However, my wife says my face said it all - that visiting Cy Young was the true highlight of my trip.  I do know this ... when I imagined him still pitching for the Cleveland Spiders, my face warmed as if speaking to a burning bush.  Only she would notice that.

Ultimately, she might be right.  But visiting McCoy Field was the main goal of this trip. We bid downtown Boston farewell, and began the 45 mile drive south towards Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The PawSox were hosting the Columbus Clippers this evening.  It was a particularly special visit for me because McCoy Stadium is the oldest operating ballpark triple-A baseball.  Opened in 1942, next season will mark its 75th anniversary.  Despite a renovation in 1998, I spent every inning soaking in McCoy Stadium's unyielding nostalgic charm.

After a lemonade and one last stop in the gift shop, the time arrived to start heading home.  We predetermined waking up in Brooklyn on the 4th of July would be best.  Who wants to deal with that traffic?

Next morning after breakfast, I was boarding a train to Coney Island for the annual Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan's Famous.

Brooklyn ... how sweet it is.


We hit the road again one month later.  This time Portland, Maine was our main objective.  But you simply can not drive from Brooklyn to Portland without expanding your itinerary.  You must make it worth the time, effort, while still keeping it in budget - let's be real.  Otherwise, why bother?

After work on Friday, August 5, 2016, we commenced our two person exodus from the city.  

Traversing Brooklyn, Queens, and Bronx to the city line is pure torture no matter what time of day or night.  I wanted to make a late afternoon exit from the city.  At the same time, I didn't care to embark on a long distance drive too early in the evening.  I prefer driving on less congested roads late during the coolness of night.  As a rule, I don't care how long I drive so long as I wake up at my destination.

The situation called for a Bridgeport Bluefish game ... obviously.  

Roger Clemens sporting his familiar #21 for the Bluefish

After escaping city traffic the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Connecticut would serve as our staging area.  The break proved spot on, affording an opportunity to eat, drink, and refresh.  I personally enjoyed watching the Long Island Ducks defeat the Bluefish (featuring honorary manager Roger Clemens pictured above).

Hell of a way to kill time, I thought ... stopping to watch a baseball game on my way to see more baseball games. 

Life is good.

But it soon came time for making tracks deeper into New England.  Next stop, Manchester, New Hampshire for Fisher Cats baseball - Toronto's double-A affiliate in the heart of Red Sox Nation.

After a good night's sleep, Saturday's first order of business was eating breakfast.  With that out of the way, touring Manchester occupied the rest of our morning and early afternoon.

The real attraction, however, lay in the hotel itself.  Once checked in, there's really little or no reason to leave.  The plan was eating a late lunch at their full service rear patio, uniquely comprising the ballpark's left field stands.  Live music from the adjoining Sam Adam's Bar and Grill kept the atmosphere energized throughout the left field corner.

Dining while taking in warm-ups and batting practice was supremely enjoyable.  But as game time drew closer, we bid farewell to the patio because I need physical tickets!  I need pictures ... I need pins, and a program.  Basically I need stuff ... souvenirs ... evidence.  By the 6th inning, I was quite satisfied with my plunder.

We agreed taking in the rest of the game and fireworks show back at the patio was best.  Another round of wings and Coronas seemed a perfect way to close out our time well spent in Manchester,   New Hampshire.

After filling our bellies Sunday morning with another hearty breakfast, we continued trekking 
northward into moose country, Maine, for a 1:30pm game between the Portland Sea Dogs hosting the Akron Rubber Ducks.

Upon arriving, I tried investigating to the fullest of my NYC paranoia, every reason to avoid parking in one particular corner spot directly across Hadlock Field, and could not find one.  Luck was on my side I guess, as the spot turned out being fine.  I knew immediately that I needed to perform some sort of good deed once I returned home.

After the game it was on to the Portland waterfront, where we planned on eating a late lunch at The Porthole, featuring live music and damn good food.  We walked off our meal with a good walk about town.

We did not stay overnight in Portland, electing instead to start our drive back to ... Quincy!  That's right.  Going back to work on Monday was not an option.  We actually wanted to spend more time in Back Bay, but after the drive, settled for watching the Red Sox on TV again over dinner and wine at the hotel restaurant.

After Monday morning breakfast at our favorite spot, we took our sweet ass time getting home.

And so went my great Red Sox Nation invasion of 2016.

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