Since the list of MLB stadiums to visit was becoming increasingly small, we decided to branch out and start visiting minor league (MiLB) stadiums. At first, the radius for visiting MiLB ballparks was limited to places within a three or four hour drive from central NJ. Being avid Mets fans, we set our sights on Binghamton, NY, the home of the Mets AA affiliate. Our first visit occurred in August of 2014, and rather than make it a day trip, we planned our weekend trip to cover the last two games of a three game set with the Akron RubberDucks. The drive from central NJ to NYSEG Stadium, the home of the Mets AA affiliate, was fairly easy, taking about three hours following a mostly interstate route.
After checking into our hotel, we headed out toward the ballpark ahead of a 705 pm game start. NYSEG Stadium is located in the southern part of Binghamton, nestled between the Chenango River to the west and the Susquehanna River to the southeast, about a mile from our hotel. Arriving an hour before game time, we parked in a private lot across from the stadium on Henry Street. With the businesses apparently closed for the day, parking here was plentiful, and the price was certainly right (a mere $5). This was not our only option, but it appeared first as we approached the stadium. There is a Binghamton team-run lot behind the right field wall of NYSEG Stadium (which is closed on Fireworks Nights). Parking there is also $5, and the walk to the ballpark is only a little bit longer than the private lots just across the street.
Located in a mainly residential area, there is not much in the way of activities or places to eat in the immediate vicinity of the park. As a consequence, our normal tour of the outside of a new ballpark was fairly short, and we entered the stadium through the home plate entrance.
NYSEG Stadium is a modular ballpark whose appearance is similar to the majority of the modular MiLB parks we have seen in our travels. There are two decks of seats extending from just beyond the third base line extending behind home plate to just beyond the first base dugout. The lower deck stretches from the main concourse down to the first seven to 10 rows, and the second deck rises up from the concourse to near the apex of the park. Atop the seating area are luxury boxes and the press level, which are covered by a small roof (as is the top of the second seating deck behind home plate). In total, NYSEG Stadium hold about 6,000 fans, which is on par with other AA stadiums.
Like most MiLB parks, wooden advertising signs span the outfield walls, and there is a relatively small video board/scoreboard in right center field. The layout of the video board/scoreboard is vaguely reminiscent of the old Shea Stadium scoreboard, and perhaps the likeness was intentional, as the Mets are the parent club. Overall, the ballpark itself seemed unassuming. It was surprising to learn that NYSEG Stadium opened in 1992, because in some respects the ballpark seems older. This was especially true of the park’s inner concourse, where the bulk of the concessions are located. After walking around the inside of the park (which is typical for a first visit), we obtained a baseball dinner and headed toward our seats.
Akron had been playing well for much of the season, and seemed to be a lock for a playoff spot. However, leading up the series with the Mets, they had been playing uneven baseball, allowing Binghamton to move to within striking distance of the RubberDucks for a playoff spot. Starting for the Mets that night was 26 year old righthander Greg Peavey. Leading the Binghamton staff in wins and ERA during the 2014 campaign, Peavy pitched well enough to keeping the suddenly struggling RubberDucks down for much of the game, with the Mets beating Akron 5-2.
In the Mets’ portion of the sixth inning, we saw something I had never seen before in person. With runners on first and second, a line drive off the bat of Mets second baseman Dilson Herrera was nabbed in right field on a great catch by the RubberDucks’ Jordan Smith. The Mets runners were on the move, thinking the ball would find a gap in the outfield, and both runners were unable to return to their bases after the catch, resulting in the first triple play I’d seen live. Later in the game, when RubberDucks manager Dave Wallace made a pitching change, we were close enough to see the desperation in eyes, as though he was witnessing the season slipping away. When the Mets pitching coach Glenn Abbott questioned a procedural error by Wallace, we could hear him say ” What the f**k? Just let it go!”
Following the game, we headed across the street to retrieve our car and head back to the hotel for the night. My first impression of the stadium was that is was fairly non descript, and that the crowd was tiny (far less than the announced attendance of 3,800) for a team that was fighting for a playoff spot. We would get a much better look at NYSEG Stadium during the Sunday matinee, the third and last contest of the three game set. Not surprisingly, the streets in Binghamton were nearly deserted as we made out way back for a good night’s sleep after a long day of travel.
We had some time on our hands on a bright sunny Sunday morning after breakfast at the hotel, so we walked along the the Chenango River (which runs alongside the Holiday Inn in Binghamton). We then walked the streets of Binghamton on the warm and dry morning. It was obvious that the city had seen better times, and Binghamton was beginning to show its age. With that said, I was impressed by some of the architecture of the city. There were hints of Art Deco, Neoclassic design and even some Modernism in the churches and government buildings, some of which were built during the Great Depression. Never having been here before, I had no idea what to expect, but I was impressed with the part of the city we explored before heading out to the ballpark.
Once again we arrived about an hour before game time, and we were able to secure parking across the street in a private lot. We wandered around the park a bit more than the night before, and discovered that there were some souvenir stands near the right field foul line, as well as some games for the kids. As is often the case for a Sunday afternoon game following a Saturday night game, the crowd promised to be fairly thin, despite wall to wall sunshine, pleasant temperatures and low humidity. Our seats for this game were very good, near the front row of the lower section just behind first base. From that vantage point, we were treated to a good view of the beautiful hills to the northwest of the ballpark, and the train track lying just behind the left field fence.
Part of the attraction of coming to Binghamton (along with seeing the ballpark) was seeing rising stars in the Mets minor league system up close and personal in their home setting. Fortunately for us, much heralded left handed starter Steven Matz was on the mound for Binghamton, and our seats gave a great look at someone who would be a member of the 2015 National League Champion New York Mets. Matz was impressive in the start, lasting five innings, and allowing no runs on three hits with six strikeouts. Akron struggled against Matz and a trio of relievers, as the Mets took the last game of the series 5-0.
With the win, the Binghamton Mets edged closer to an Eastern League playoff spot. This team loaded with young talent that would at least make an appearance with the parent club in the near future, and would ultimately win the 2014 league championship. As we were leaving for our three hour trip home, I reflected on what we had seen. Because NYSEG Stadium did not have any single outstanding attribute, I felt as though the ballpark took a back seat to the Mets AA team. Having seen the park and the city of Binghamton, I felt as though we had seen all there was to see there, and did not anticipate a return visit.