Trip 2: New York State of Mind

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Also known as the Increasingly Stressed Driver Tour, this trip begins in a small village in upstate New York and winds through the tranquil and picturesque Hudson Valley before dropping the hammer with a four-game set in four of New York City's five boroughs. History buffs will love the shrines to legends past at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Yankee Stadium, admirers of a terrific view will appreciate the minor-league parks in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and Shea Stadium is simply a must-visit for anyone who ever wanted to see a giant apple pop out of a top hat.

Look for dates for this trip in the Baseball Road Trip Planner
(Schedules for minor-league teams in independent leagues are not available)

ico_orbitz New York: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

ico_orbitz Albany: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum
Address: 25 Main St, Cooperstown, NY 13326
Web site | Directions

Abner Doubleday invented baseball in a Cooperstown cow pasture in 1839, so the tale goes. Today, the little village in upstate New York chronicles the game's history, memorable moments and greatest talents at the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.

Most any visitor to the Hall will begin at the first-floor Plaque Gallery, where the bronze casts of each of the Hall of Fame inductees are on display, from Hank Aaron to Robin Yount. A trip upstairs to the second floor is a trip back through time. Exhibits examining the history of baseball begin with "Taking the Field: The 19th Century" and continue through present-day with "The Game: The General History of Baseball." There are special displays dedicated to African-Americans and women in baseball, no-hitters, baseball cards and a small room just for the Bambino, Babe Ruth.

The third floor features an exhibit on the evolution of ballparks, "Sacred Ground," and a collection of World Series programs dating to 1903. Stats geeks will want to hit the Records Room for baseball's active and career leaders. Graffito-tagging Barry Bonds' 73 with an asterisk is prohibited.

ico_orbitz Cooperstown: Hotel

Driving distance from Cooperstown to Wappinger Falls: 153 miles

Ballpark: Dutchess Stadium
Address: Route 9D, Wappinger Falls, NY 12590
Capacity: 4,494
Opened: 1994
Team: Hudson Valley Renegades (Devil Rays)
League: New York-Penn (A Short Season)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule (June-Sept.)

With a capacity of less than 5,000 and no covered seating, Dutchess Stadium is about as intimate as ballparks get, and though the 'Gades regularly sell out their games, what the friendly small-town fans lack in numbers they make up for in volume. The metal bleachers become handy noisemakers at critical points junctures, and spectators -- egged on by four raccoon mascots -- happily bang them in support of the team.

The mascots, scene-stealers at Dutchess Stadium, are actually a family of four: husband and wife, Rookie and Rene, son Rascal and grandfather Roofus. The quartet mingles throughout the park during the game and even conducts "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," to the crowd's delight. The bedlam is augmented by goofy sound effects and a running commentary from the public address announcer, Rick Zolzer, who provides updates on the game, the mascots' antics and any other news as events warrant.

ico_orbitz Wappinger Falls: Hotel

Driving distance from Wappinger Falls to the Bronx: 60 miles

Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Address: 161st St & River Ave, Bronx, NY 10451
Capacity: 57,545
Opened: 1923
Team: New York Yankees
League: American (MLB)
Web site | Directions |

When it comes to sheer historic might among ballparks, Yankee Stadium sits on a tier all its own. Since opening in 1923, the House That Ruth Built has played host to 39 World Series, and if the giant banner over the infield doesn't remind you that the Bronx Bombers won 26 of those, then any Yankee fan will be happy to fill you in as a matter of polite courtesy. True, the franchise is the most successful in all of sports in terms of collective achievement, but it has boasted individual greatness as well. Yankee legends are enshrined behind the left-field wall in Monument Park, including the immortals, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle.

Likewise immortal -- albeit in a louder way -- are the relentless bleacher bums out in right field. Tickets for this section are cheap ($12), but bring your shrillest heckling voice for the players, umpires and even other fans who so richly deserve their verbal comeuppance. There is one endearing tradition at the top of the first inning, "Roll Call," when the bums chant the name of each Yankee on the field in succession and the players respond with a quick wave of the glove or tip of the cap. After that, no mercy.

ico_orbitz New York: Hotel

Driving distance from the Bronx to Flushing: 10 miles

Ballpark: Shea Stadium
Address: 123-01 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11368
Capacity: 55,601
Opened: 1964
Team: New York Mets
League: National (MLB)
Web site | Directions |

Poor Shea Stadium has been the target of incessant complaints in recent years as fancy new ballparks have popped up around the country. Yes, Shea might be an outdated dinosaur, but it's a child of the '60s, a product of the strange utilitarian era when multi-purpose concrete doughnuts were all the rage. In that context, it's virtually ahead of its time, and the truth is that it's just not as bad as people say.

Though designed to host both baseball and football games -- the Jets played there for 20 years -- Shea definitely has the feel of a baseball park. The open-air backdrop behind the outfield wall and its towering scoreboard offers scenic vistas of the parking lot and surrounding Queens neighborhoods, and views of the field from the lower bowl are solid, though they get progressively worse compared to newer parks the further up you go. Keep an eye on the giant top hat behind the center-field wall; an apple rises from inside every time a Mets player hits a home run.

Spearheaded by GM Omar Minaya's acquisition of Pedro Martinez, there's a new energy at Shea, with a bit of a Latin flavor. Also helps that the Mets are playing their best ball in several years.

Driving distance from Flushing to Brooklyn: 22 miles

Ballpark: KeySpan Park
Address: 1904 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
Capacity: 7,500
Opened: 2001
Team: Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets)
League: New York-Penn (A Short Season)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule (June-Sept.)

On the shores of Coney Island, not far from where Takeru Kobayashi annually decimates opponents and disgusts onlookers in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, stands KeySpan Park, the phenomenal venue that brought professional baseball back to Brooklyn. Constructed along the famous beach and boardwalk, KeySpan fits right in with its festive surroundings, with the Astroland amusement park (and the Cyclone roller coaster, the team's namesake) visible behind the left-field wall, and the ocean stretching out beyond right.

The park's exterior screams beach party, with its light brick, bright blue signage and almost art-decoish angles. Inside, the seating wraps around the infield and out to the corners on one tier, much like other cozy Single-A parks, and with the way Brooklyn has embraced this squad, games are often sold out. Be sure to grab a Nathan's Famous hot dog from the concession stand for a true taste of Coney Island -- and remember, Kobayashi's record is a mere 53 1/2 in 12 minutes.

Driving distance from Brooklyn to Staten Island: 10 miles

Ballpark: Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George
Address: 75 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301
Capacity: 7,171
Opened: 2001
Team: Staten Island Yankees (Yankees)
League: New York-Penn (A Short Season)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule (June-Sept.)

Much the way KeySpan has with Coney Island, Richmond County Bank Ballpark has incorporated its surroundings as a theme in its architecture, evoking a maritime look that echoes its location on the Staten Island waterfront. The light brown brick and low profile (the field itself is sunk below street level) resemble the nearby St. George Ferry Terminal, and what appears to be a trio of masts and sails over the entrance makes the park look almost seaworthy. The team also remains true to its major-league parentage in the "Legends Pavilion," which pays all due homage to the greats of Yankee history.

What really sets this stadium apart, though, is the sight from inside. The low wall in the outfield offers unobstructed views of tankers and ferries chugging through Upper New York Bay, and in the distance, the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

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