July 20 - Edward LeLacheur Park, Lowell, MA
Lowell, MA is a former mill town which still posts a number of attractions in it's downtown area, including, but not limited to, The American Textile History Museum, my personal favorite Bead Store, and a host of fabulous restaurants in all sorts of cuisines from Pub food (Lowell Brewery), to Indian, to Greek (The Athenium), to French (La Boniche), and American (Cobblestones). Being Massachussets, of course it has colleges, including a branch of the University of Massachussets. Additionally, they support a number of large entertainment venues including their 7 year old baseball park, Edward LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners. The Lowell Spinners is fairly young team, only having existed for 9 years total. Their first two years were spent at Alumni Field in Lowell. The Spinners are the New York-Penn League Stedler League (A) affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
I didn't actually have any of the food, but I did listen to some of the prices as the hawkers walked around. The prices they quoted, $3.00 for cotton candy bags, $5.00 for peanuts, $1.00 for water, are relatively high, but not excessive. We did buy a program for $1.00 which i have not yet read, but it seems to be so crowded with advertisements that they could probably stand to give them away or charge less. Even the inset with the lineups was covered with advertisements. We also bought a Tshirt for hoppie at a reasonably priced $16.00, a "Canaligator" doll (the Lowell Spinners Mascot) was $12.00, and a Lowell Spinners mini-bat (available in choice of colors and styles; I chose green) was $5.00.
Between-innings entertainment: A
They even turned the 5th inning infield brushing into an amusing public service announcement/show about the joys of brushing one's teeth, and that was one of the very few inning events that didn't include audience participation in some way. They had a number of kid friendly contests with parents and children at the ballpark, some of these events include:
Bubble race (encasing each of two kids in a bubble and letting them race)
Run the bases (racing against the Canaligator)
Dizzy bat spin (turn around a bat 10 times, then run to Canaligator)
Sing for pizza (finish the song they start and win a pizza from a local pizza place)
Tshirt toss (they had both Tshirt guns AND a Tshirt slingshot with very good range, although we didn't get one.)
Sight lines: A
Not a bad seat in the house for this small but pleasant ballpark. There are no obstructed views and the ballpark is small enough that no seat is particularly far away from the action. Finally a ball park where you don't need to bring binoculars to see what's happening. The seats are properly positioned to provide a good view of the action. Off to the right, you can see one of the many bridges over the Lowell canal, and off to the left is a kids fun ground up until the 6th inning with a number of climbing structures for kids to play on as well as the bullpen.
While a number of the between inning action was interesting, there were no real standouts here. They also had a promotional giveaway and I have no idea how that was because I never saw it. It was listed as baseball giveaway.
Did I mention the park was in downtown Lowell? Well, if it wasn't obvious from anything else, it certainly was from the dismal parking options. There's no parking attached to the stadium, and very limited on street parking. The primary parking availability comes from a number of municipal lots that are happy to sell you event parking. We parked at a lot about five minutes away from the stadium (which is still closer and cheaper than the usual parking at Gillette Stadium.) for $5.
We got to the ballpark late and didn't actually try to talk to anyone, although we did think about trying to meet Gabe Kapler, but in the end, I'm just too shy, and hoppie wasn't interested, but they did seem to be interacting with people after the game. We watched the on-field post-game interview with Spinners 2nd baseman Jed Lowrie and while they were conducting it, other players seemed to be signing autographs. Outside after the game, the mascots hung around the front and posed for pictures with the kids, and shook hands.
Quality of baseball: C
This may sound a bit biased, but to me, all baseball is good baseball. That said, we saw a number of things that you probably shouldn't see in a well played game. The Batavia Muckdogs did not bring, if you'll pardon the pun, their A game. Their two errors, two wild pitches, and two hit batsmen, and two balks were a direct contributor to their 7-1 loss. By contrast, the Spinners only committed one error.
Starters went 4 and 5 innings respectively, and to be honest, the game could have been quite a bit worse for Batavia, but the manager did his best to keep it under control and no rally for the Spinners resulted in more than two runs scoring during an inning. And speaking of managers, St. Louis Cardinal fans will be pleased to recognize Luis Alicea who is the manager for the Spinners. I know I was.
Anyone interested in the full box score is encouraged to check it out. I will probably not be posting my score cards.
For those Red Sox player watchers, Gabe Kapler was playing at the designated hitter spot. He hit a (very generously scored) single to left field, advanced on a fielders choice, advanced to third on a wild pitch then was out at the plate on fielder's choice.
Oh, there was one other neat feature of the game. A runner was caught out at third by being hit by the batted ball.
Ease of Scoring: C
Scoring was VERY difficult. We missed the starting lineups, so it took awhile to get the full scorecard filled out, and the announcers made no attempt to recap the play. For instance, on the aforementioned runner being caught out, we had no idea what caused the out. The shortstop got the ball, threw to first, the runner at first was clearly safe, but the inning was over. The guy behind me proposed the idea that it had been base runner interference with the shortstop and that's how it is recorded in my scorecard. It wasn't until just now, looking over my score card and comparing it against the game log that I actually understood what happened. At another point in the game, the batman started trotting to base on a 1-1 count and we figured out eventually he had to have been hit by the pitch, but from our angle, we couldn't see it.
Overall grade: B
Overall, we had a great time. Such a great time, in fact, we're considering getting season tickets for future years. The most expensive seats are $7 which, even factoring in parking, makes the Lowell Spinners ideal for a night out with the family.