Thursday, June 19, 2008

Travel Log: Holyoke

Ah, the former home of the Navigators franchise - Holyoke, MA. As was the case in Sanford, Maine, this felt like a different world than Fraser Field. But while Sanford had small-town charm, Holyoke's McKenzie field was, to be frank, not so charming.

The surrounding area is picturesque. Beautiful houses line a street that runs beyond the centerfield fence. There's a smaller ballfield and a football field next door, all tucked in behind the local high school. The town was clean and everyone I met was friendly.

But McKenzie Field needs some work.

The Holyoke Sox have done some really tremendous work with the field, and they do a lot of things that we could definitely learn from. They have trash barrels in the stands (great idea), they have a steak and cheese vendor in the concessions area, and their merchandise selection is top-notch. They supposedly have a dance team that comes in on the weekends. It shows in their attendance - before last night, where the gate was hurt by a rain delay, they were supposedly drawing about 1,000 fans a game.

But the stadium isn't exactly aesthetically pleasing, or comfortable. The seating area is a big slab of bleachers all clumped together on one side, the press box is crumbling and from a horrible vantage point, and the place just looks old - not in a charming, Fenway kind of way, but in a worn down kind of way.

The looming rain clouds, of course, meant that we didn't really get much of a gauge on the atmosphere, as not many people showed up.

They didn't do much in the way of on-field activities, although, again, this might have had something to do with the lack of attendance. Their PA system was really crummy - for those who attend local football games: it sounds like the PA system at Revere's Harry Della Russo field. For those who don't: it sounds bad. Kind of like a guy talking through a rag into a bullhorn. They also were another test case in my argument that we should ban "Jock Jams" from baseball stadia until they figure out how to mix in some variety. Also, hearing the "LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE" Remix when there's less than 200 people in attendance always sounds kind of tacky.

Still, I can see why they'll probably do well in Holyoke - everything they do has a personal touch. I didn't dislike my experience, I just didn't like the field.

Concession options were standard, but good: steak and cheese, dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, chips, drinks. Prices were a little high - closer to Fraser prices than Sanford prices - but the cheesesteak wasn't bad for $4. They also sold team t-shirts ($15), sweatshirts ($30) and caps ($15), as well as membership to a kids' club.

Next to the concession area on the third-base side, there was something interesting: a set of rocking chairs from a local furniture store where you could sit back and watch the game. Not my cup of tea, but still a cool idea.

Also cool: they had a little slot in the fence behind home plate where you could get really close to the action and take good pictures. So, here's some game pics:

Adam Herter deals, Mike Provencher swings, and an overview of the field

Graham batting, Little bunting, and Jimmy Lisowski's mom enjoying the game

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