Monday, July 31, 2017

NECBL day trips can be quite the experience

By Zachary Baru

With the support of readers like you, and one person's excellent advice to get started, I have had the pleasure of writing this blog since 2012, and there is one thing I do not believe I have ever done - used the word "I".  But for this post, I don't think there is any other way to express how adventurous, fun and special a New England Collegiate Baseball League day trip can be for a fan.

A League Like No Other

Sometimes it is easy to forget how interesting, and amazing this summer collegiate baseball league is, and how how fortunate we are to have a two franchises right here in Western Massachusetts.  

The NECBL is a summer collegiate baseball league showcasing college talent and prospects every year throughout its 13 teams in New England.  With two divisions, North and South, markets all over the region are represented, with franchises from Danbury, Connecticut to Sanford, Maine.  The bottom line, the NECBL gives baseball fans the ultimate day trip - a chance to explore beautiful regions of New England, all within a days' drive.  And to top it off, the best part is actually the baseball setting itself, which can be truly unique places to watch the game.

The Journey Begins

It all started when the two of us were trying to figure out what to do on a hot, sunny Western Mass. summer day.  The idea came about of taking a day trip to North Adams to see a SteepleCats game.  Maybe its because they were playing my hometown Valley Blue Sox, or the fact that I am constantly reminded how much I want to see a game since the classroom I teach in is more or less a private suite overlooking Mackenzie Stadium.  Either way, we knew we wanted to take the trip to North Adams, and we were not disappointed.  

After getting the GPS ready and buying a couple of drinks from Sonic, we were off.  During the trip, I was busy trying to figure out where the best place to sit at the game would be, and a certain someone was glued to the window admiring the scenery while trying to find a moose on the side of the road.  While she did not succeed, the trip through the Berkshires was as beautiful as expected, and the the best part was still ahead.

A Spectacular View

Unfortunately we did not leave enough time to venture around North Adams, but we were able to secure great seats at the park.  Although its not the major leagues, there still was quite a crowd already there well before the first pitch.  But a couple things were much different from the majors - free and convenient parking, and the fact that I was able to walk into the game with $20, buy two seats, and still have money left for concessions.  Tickets were $5 for General Admission Adult, a truly great deal.  

Right before we entered Joe Wolfe Field, we passed a sign commemorating Noel Field, the former stadium before Joe Wolfe Field was built on the site in 1986.   The sign recognized the impressive history of professional baseball at the site, and the legends that played at the field dating back to the early 20th Century.   

If that's not enough to make a baseball fans' day, the view from the seats certainly were.  As soon as we entered the 1,800-seat stadium, we were taken away by the view of the mountains past the center field fence.  From North to South, and East to West, they surround the view of the field and make for an unbelievable back-drop, only NECBL baseball can provide.  

As if that wasn't enough, there were post-game fireworks.  As the sun set, the mountain-view transitioned to the perfect setting, as fireworks illuminated the night sky.

It was an amazing ending to a perfect day.  A day full of adventure, scenery, baseball, a little history, and great entertainment.  Excluding the gas, all of this for less than $20.  We even had money left over after the concessions.

From A Mountain-View to the Ocean

The interesting part is this is just one of many potential day trips the NECBL has to offer.  For the Western Mass. residents outside of the Pioneer Valley looking for a good day trip, Mackenzie Stadium in Holyoke offers a great setting to watch baseball, with the mountain-view of Mount Tom in the background.  The 4,100-seat home of the Blue Sox has a history of baseball in Holyoke dating back to 1933, and the former home of the Holyoke Millers of the "AA" Eastern League from 1977 through 1982.

Looking for a day trip with some ocean views mixed in?  The NECBL also has a team in Newport, Rhode Island.  The Newport Gulls play at 3,000-seat Cardines Field, another historic New England stadium built in 1938.  The combination of baseball history at the stadium blended with the culture, scenery and history in Newport, makes for another great NECBL day trip.

There are so many other destinations throughout this fascinating league.  So for baseball fans, or just anyone in general who enjoys scenery, history and a great New England road trip, consider an NECBL day trip.  It is an experience that can remind you how fortunate we are to live in a region like New England.  

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at  Zach has also written the blog since 2011.