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Here’s the itinerary of Ben’s next trip

From Central New York down to eastern Pennsylvania
July 21, 2023

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

Over the years, as I have honed my content dispersal methods, I’ve become adept at creating the illusion that I am always on the road visiting Minor League ballparks. The reality, should you wish to pay attention to the man behind the curtain, is that I only travel, on average, one week per month. In fact, my entire month of July has been, and will remain, devoid of professional travel.

August will be a different story, however, and right from the jump. I’ll start the month by hopping in my 2008 Subaru Outback (L.L. Bean edition, mind you), loading up the six-disc changer with the heaviest riffs and sickest beats, stocking up on Red Bull and Andy Capp’s Hot Fries and setting my coordinates for the following quartet of Empire and Keystone State-based Minor League Baseball entities. It’s a healthy lifestyle!

Aug. 1: NBT Bank Stadium (Syracuse Mets)
I was last in Syracuse in 2018, a veritable blink of an eye ago. As you can discern from the above photograph, the Mets played as the Butter Sculptures on the evening in which I was in town. For those unfamiliar with the strange rituals and arcane customs of central New York, butter sculptures are a long-running tradition at the New York State Fair (which takes place a veritable hop, skip and a jump from NBT Bank Stadium).

This time around I’ll be in Syracuse for a comparatively sedate Taco Tuesday. Sculpting opportunities will be minimal, but I’ll do my best.

Aug. 2: Mirabito Stadium (Binghamton Rumble Ponies)
Traveling 73 miles to the south, and one rung down on the Mets’ Minor League ladder, will bring me to Binghamton. For many years Binghamton’s team was known as the Mets, but the Rumble Ponies era began in 2017. "Rumble Ponies" is a reference to Binghamton’s coterie of classic carousels, and I’m looking forward to another merry-go-round at Mirabito Stadium. Elvis was there the last time I visited, and I’m not sure if he’s since left the building.

Aug. 3: PNC Field (Home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders)
For the last couple of weeks I’ve asked you, the presumably loyal reader, to share memories of your first Minor League game. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons were mine, at some point during their inaugural season of 1989. I didn’t realize it was the inaugural season; it was all new to me. The impetus for my (and my family’s) attendance was that my grandparents had purchased a house in the Poconos and the Red Barons’ Lackawanna County Stadium was about a half hour away.

I don’t remember specifics regarding the first game I attended. We probably went to a dozen or so games over the course of 1989-’95, and while I have a lot of memories in the aggregate, curiously none of them have anything to do with what I went on to cover in my Minor League Baseball writing (food, mascots, promos, etc.).

For me, it was all about the baseball. The Red Barons were a Phillies affiliate and I was a Phillies fan. I thought it was so cool that the ballpark (since torn down, rebuilt and renamed) was a miniature version of Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. I remember cheering on the likes of Jeff Grotewold and Steve Scarsone, being fascinated by players who had been in the Majors and were now back in the Minors (Rochester’s Steve Jeltz, SWB’s Rick Schu) and thrilling to MLB rehab appearances for both the home team (Darren Daulton) and visitors (Darryl Strawberry, with the Columbus Clippers).

Despite my emotional connection to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s International League team, I have only visited them once in a professional context, in 2014. I’m looking forward to returning for a rollicking Thirsty Thursday against the Rochester Red Wings. Hopefully Steve Jeltz will be there.

Aug. 4: Coca-Cola Park (Home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs)
The Phillies had their Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from 1989-2006. In 2009, following a two-season pit stop in Ottawa (RIP Lynx), they settled into their current home of Lehigh Valley (Allentown, specifically). As illustrated with the above graphic, the IronPigs will be playing as the Scrapple during the evening I’m in town. There’s nothing quite like celebrating an indistinct fried meat mush on a hot summer night. I’m looking forward to it.

The usual spiel: Would you like to be a Designated Eater at one of the stops on this trip, eating the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits? If so, email me at [email protected] and tell me why you want to do it. And, as always, get in touch if you have any recommendations regarding things to do and see in the ballparks and the surrounding areas. See you out there, maybe!

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.