Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Harrisburg Senators

I am spending the summer on the island. Well, an island in the Susquehanna River. Not THAT island in the Susquehanna (if you are old enough to remember Three Mile Island. If not, do that Millennial thing and google it), but City Island. Home of the Senators. I heard there was a baseball game there so I showed up, mainly expecting there to be a lot of heated discussion, some finger pointing and nothing really getting done. Then I realized that the  Harrisburg Senators are professional baseball players and not actual politicians. Ba da dum.

City Island is sort of an entertainment retreat situated in the middle of the river and connected to the city of Harrisburg via a long foot bridge. You can also drive to it and take a boat ride, play softball, run, and other sorts of fun things. It is also the location of Metro Bank Park, home of the Eastern League’s Harrisburg Senators. Even better, the Senators were hosting the team with possibly the coolest name in baseball: the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Tuesday night was perfect for a game, it was very warm, humid, little wind and the smell of hot dogs wafting through the air.

Metro Bank Park is basically a newer park built on the foundation of the old ballpark. Some remnants of the former stadium remain, but for all practical purposes is it less than 10 years old. Harrisburg did a good job of supplying some hardball digs capable of withstanding the wrath of the Susquehanna when it decides to sweep over the island (it does flood). The park is constructed of a lot of custom block and siding for some of the outside. The main grandstand is covered and the other seats all offer a splendid view of the action. Most of the main concourse is open air and has a composite wood deck. While it is not the fanciest of parks, Metro Bank Park has a distinct aura of baseball. You simply cannot manufacture that.

Bun-fresh, just like I like ‘em.
Taste-the Kessler’s frank wasn’t awful, it just had no taste. Very bland.
Toppings-a tad sparse but having two types of mustard boost the score. And extra kudos for providing a local mustard.
Price-$2.50 is a deal. Get two.
Portability-the worst option, the viled paper boat. Those flimsy things are more aggravating than helpful.
It Factor-the regular dog only has two versions. But there is a hot dog stand called Spot’s in the ballpark. It used to be an old restaurant in downtown Harrisburg but after it closed the family resurrected the hot dog joint in the ballpark. They offer up some really creative and yummy specialty dogs and help rake in top score. Yeah…..I had one of those too.

Location-the footbridge connects downtown to the park. It really is a cool stroll.
Access-walk from downtown, drive.
GA Ticket Price-$10 for the cheapest seat could be better. It is always nice to offer a super cheap seat to draw in fans (like me) who are on limited incomes. But that said, that $10 gets you a really good seat.
Cleanliness-I give the park a little latitude since it has been flooded several times. They did an excellent job of cleaning it up and enough to rate top score.
Fans-I have seen more people at a bar mitzvah. I had an entire section to myself.
Ambiance-Harrisburg does a great job of making you feel like you are at the ballgame. A decent baseball vibe courses though the stadium and the Mayflies give it a personalized touch that only they can provide (trust me, one of those bugs WILL end up in your mouth).

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability2GA Ticket Price5
It Factor5Fans2

The lack of fans hit the Senators hard and kept the ballpark portion of the rating from getting a perfect score. A paper wrapper and new frank supplier would  really boost the hot dog’s rating (I can give you Hebrew National’s number). A few adjustments and the Senator’s will be among the best ballparks to bite a dog.
Mayflies...they don't taste too bad.

Did I mention that the ballpark is in the middle of a giant river? In case you have never been in the east; summer plus river plus humid weather equals lots and lots and lots of bugs. The Mayfly is the unofficial mascot of the Senators. About mid-game they make their appearance by the tens of thousands. I couldn’t calculate the biomass per cubic foot in the air but trust me, it was significant. And I was told it wasn’t a bad night for bugs. All I could think is there must be some really fat fish in that river. It makes a Senators game…..unique. So grab your glove and a gallon of DEET and head to Metro Bank Park to down a Spot Dog and take in of of Pennsylvania’s finest diamonds.

**The book about this trip "Gone to the Dogs" is now more than 10% funded! Take a look a the kickstarter video and decide it you want to be part of baseball and culinary history by bringing "Gone to the Dogs" to print!**

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