Embracing two minor league ballparks and one special third baseman

There is something special about minor league baseball. It has a certain charm and feel that is different from the major leagues. Certainly, the fan experience is different in so many ways.

That includes everything from the lower prices for tickets and concessions to greater access to the players to the between-innings fun and entertainment that you don't see in the big leagues.

There are probably some of you that actually prefer the minors to the majors.

When I was broadcasting Aberdeen IronBirds games from 2004 to 2006, I got to work each night at home in one of the best parks around in Ripken Stadium.

On the road, two of my favorite parks to visit were Keyspan Park (now known as MCU Park) in Brooklyn, home of a short-season Single-A Mets affiliate and Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island, home of the Yankees' New York-Penn League affiliate.

The Brooklyn park was just fun and festive and Coney Island came alive every night when there was a game there. Beyond the right-field fence, you could see the boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond the left-field fence were the rides of Coney Island and the original Nathan's. It was an awesome sight anywhere you looked.

On Friday nights at 10 p.m., there was always a fireworks show at the beach, and even with the game going on, the fireworks were going off and lighting up the skies just outside the ballpark. The Brooklyn Cyclones would sell out every night, so the atmosphere inside the park was always good.

The wind came blowing in with a ferocity off the water over the right-field fence. I think Babe Ruth would have had a hard time hitting one out there and I saw many a solid blast off the bat make it only to medium right many times at Keyspan Park.

The view from the radio booth at the Staten Island park was breathtaking on a clear night. First of all, the lights of Manhatten came alive beyond New York harbor and you could also see the Statue of Liberty from there.

Then there was the steady procession of vessels making their way to and from New York. That included many massive cruise ships and you could see the Staten Island ferry boats constantly on the move. It was quite a sight.

Several other parks in that league had great atmospheres and I always looked forward to going to Williamsport, Pa., and Lowell, Mass., home of the Spinners.

I think a lot of baseball fans would enjoy a game at any of these venues. I know that any Orioles fan would have enjoyed being in downtown Baltimore on Saturday and seeing the Brooks Robinson statue dedication.

It was so well done and the speeches about Brooks were so heartfelt. To see No. 5 himself choke up a few times, well, you could just tell what this day meant to him.

It reminded me of the great tradition of the Baltimore Orioles and how lucky the fans are to have had players like Brooks that were great not only on the field, but off it as well.

Scott Garceau, the emcee of the event, had a great line. He mentioned that he said to Brooks one time years ago, "Hey, Brooks, you know what a baseball memento is? That is a ball that you haven't signed."

At a time when fans can still feel the sting of losing Orioles like Mike Flanagan and Elrod Hendricks in recent years, having another chance to show Brooks how they felt was just special Saturday.

It was clear to see he felt that way, too.

Minor league parks and Brooks Robinson. Yeah, baseball can be fun. Remember?

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