Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Play Ball!

Don't let the excessive amounts of rain we've been having fool you; it is, in fact summer in Vermont. That being the case, I am obligated to write about baseball, the national pastime and a summer staple.

Let's say you want to take your friends and/or family our for a night of baseball, but don't want to drive 3.5 hours down to Boston and drop $80 a person on a Red Sox ticket. Let's also say you've noticed those really bright lights blasting into the sky from time to time over near the hospital. Hopefully, if you didn't already know, you're starting to suspect that there's a ball field right here in Burlington, where for less than the price of a movie ticket, you can take in a game.

Enough dramatic lead up. I'm talking about Centennial Field, one of the nation's oldest ballparks and one of the city's historic gems. It first opened in 1906 (though the grandstand wasn't built until 1922), and was originally used by the University of Vermont. Over the years, it has hosted not only the (now discontinued) UVM baseball team, but a variety of minor league teams including:

-The Burlington Cardinals (Class D Northern League) from 1935-1941
-The Burlington Athletics (Class C Provincial League) for one season in 1955
-The Vermont Reds (Double A Eastern League) from 1984 until 1987, when they became the Vermont Mariners.
-The Vermont Expos from 1994 until 2006, when the name was changed to the Vermont Lake Monsters (short season Class A, New York-Penn League).

Centennial has also been home to several well-known players on their way to the Majors, such as Ken Griffey Jr., Orlando Cabrera, Paul O'Neill, Chris Sabo, and Jason Bay. That's the great thing about minor league baseball: you never know when one of those young players you're watching will one day be headed toward the Hall of Fame.

Here's the details: tickets are $7 for a bleacher seat (for which you will want to bring a cushion) or $8 for a grandstand seat (highly reccommended). Home games usually start at 7:05 p.m. (or 5:00 on Sundays) and run about two and a half to three hours. Between innings, while sipping beer and enjoying your hot dogs, you'll be entertained by Champ, the Lake Monster's mascot, as he leads the crowd in chants or harasses the visiting team. For me, it never gets old, and never fails to make me feel a little like being a kid again during the summer time.

I have another reason for writing about Centennial though; as you may or may not be aware, there have been grumblings about Centennial's days being numbered. A recent article in the Burlington Free Press revealed news that Major League Baseball has some issues with the field that need to be addressed if it is to continue hosting professional teams. With UVM having axed
its baseball team, it's unclear who's going to foot the bill for upgrades.

Without pointing fingers, I'm going to simply say that it would be a huge loss for Burlington if Centennial went under. The upgrades could attract more fans, higher class franchises, and prolong the life of a historic landmark; not to mention continue to provide great local entertainment for Vermont baseball fans.

For more info, including game schedules, check out: http://vermont.lakemonsters.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t462



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