Scott Diamond started for the Red Wings against Buffalo’s Dylan Owen. Diamond came into the game at 4-0 with an ERA just over 1.00. The start was Owen’s second of the year after five relief appearances (spoiler alert: he did not hit a homerun).
When: 1:05 PM, Sunday, April 29
Where: Coca-Cola Field (Buffalo, NY)
This is my second visit to Coca-Cola Field; Chris and I hit the Syracuse-Rochester-Buffalo trifecta last May. Yesterday’s game was mostly spent taking pictures and video and just enjoying the day (that’s code for, “I forgot to grab my notebook before we left and I wasn’t spending $10 for a new one at the ballpark.”), but I do want to include some of my notes from last season. The Bisons issued Chris a credential and comped me a ticket, so I figure I owe it to them to present some of my thoughts here (even if it IS eleven months later; there are no deadlines in my world).
Okay, first things first, some stuff that I liked. The video board is, in a word, AMAZING. Eighty feet long, 33 feet tall, high definition – it’s like watching TV in my living room, except I’m sitting at a ballpark enjoying a baseball game. It’s the best of all worlds. Chris’s early entry to the ballpark last season allowed him to watch the Kentucky Derby on this behemoth, a fact of which I remain supremely jealous.
They make sure to actually utilize the video board as well, integrating it nicely into their in-game entertainment and showing lots of replays throughout the game. I will never not be bothered by stuff like “MAKE SOME NOISE!” and “LOUDER!” at any point prior to the seventh inning.
I didn’t notice it this season, maybe because it wasn’t as much of a surprise, but last year I was surprised to note that the stadium’s speakers were in center field instead of around the seating bowl (Syracuse has the same setup). Compared to a place like Rochester’s Frontier Field, which I liked overall, it’s unbelievable how much easier it is to hear when you don’t have a speaker right behind you.
Something else I liked was the location. You get off the highway, make a couple turns, and you’re there. Chris referred to is as a downtown ballpark, which is a very good thing when you’re looking to get in, see a game, and get back out. For three bucks you can park a short distance away. We’re lazy, though, so we paid ten bucks and parked literally across the street from the ballpark.
The downtown location, though, impacts the backdrop, which is something I look for at most ballparks I visit. Where some places have mountains, or trees, or something cool like that, Buffalo has the highway. It’s not that exciting. On the other hand, there are some pretty cool buildings visible behind the main seating bowl, including the HSBC Building, which looks almost as though it’s rising up out of the top of the ballpark. It’s a very neat look.
A couple things I noticed last season in terms of sponsorships had either changed or weren’t as noticeable this time around: one, a promotion in which a kid would be allowed onto the field to get an autograph from a player during the pre-inning warmup, and two, numerous things that were sponsored for the first two innings (stuff like speed pitch). I don’t remember seeing them this time.
Something else different was the removal of the Bisons championship banner in the left field corner. It was pretty cool, a banner that listed the team’s league, Triple-A World Series, and division titles, but it was gone in favor of a sign touting the upcoming Triple-A All-Star game. Maybe they use that area as a sort of revolving door for different team-related information, so it’s not weird to see something different there. I’m not sure. But I liked the championship banner.
One removal that I enjoyed was the ball return over the backstop. Last season, the netting they had up made it difficult to see from certain areas behind home plate; this year, it was gone, leaving that area more open.
A piece of history that remains is the line of retired numbers along the wall in left-center. The players featured are Oliver Carnegie (known as “Ollie”, he hit 30+ homeruns four times for Buffalo), Luke Easter (three straight 30-homerun seasons), and Jeff Manto (a Bison for four seasons, including International League championships in 1997 and 1998).
Why: Billy and I were making a trip out to visit Chris in western New York for the weekend, which seemed like as good a time as any to take in a ballgame at a park we don’t usually get to visit. That originally was supposed to be Syracuse, but the call-ups of Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore and the fact that it was more out of the way than Buffalo led us to rethink our plans and head west to take in a game at The Coke (do they call it that? They have to call it that, right?)
What: We left in the eighth inning because Billy and I wanted to get back to New Hampshire sometime before he had to head to work this morning (actual arrival time: 12:05 am). By that point, the home team had busted open an early pitchers duel and reached Diamond for seven runs (Diamond came into the game with a 4-0 record, and at one point before all hell broke loose his ERA was below 1.00) on their way to an 8-2 win. Buffalo’s Owen was the winning pitcher, working seven innings and allowing one run on four hits.
Also of note: Buffalo’s catcher was Lucas May. I would like very much for him to be traded to Philadelphia and assigned to Double-A, at least for the time being. (I am truly disappointed that there has never been a professional baseball player named “December”.)