Today I complete my road review for the I.L. North. Again, it has nothing to do with baseball. After 11 years in the league, the last 8 with the PawSox, I am qualified. And again, sorry if there are any hurt feelings.
Rochester- I feel like we come here more often than anywhere else. Of course, that’s not true. Rochester is a mixed bag. The hotel used to be pretty nice. It changed hands about 5 years ago and they have not made one single improvement since. Formerly known as the Crown Plaza, now it’s the Plaza. Their van drivers used to take us here and there for a gratuity. No more. There are good eats close by, though. Byblos, a middle eastern cafe serves a great hummus and tabbouleh. The Galleria, serves a great sandwich. In fact, before the Broad Street Grill in Lehigh came into the league, this was my favorite. Up the road, still within walking distance, is the Dinosaur Barbecue. Tremendous ribs and side dishes. Frontier Field still looks to be in impeccable condition. Great vantage point from the visitors’ radio booth. The staff there is beyond compare. Organist Fred Costello is a throw back to better days. Fred recently won the Spirit of the I.L. award for his contributions to the League. His son Thurm, runs the visitors’ clubhouse and I always look forward to seeing him. Chuck Hinkel is a great PR man.
what I like- Visiting with the great Joe Altobelli. Alto is Mr. Baseball in Rochester. He played and managed here, was the G.M. and broadcaster here, too. His number is retired and a statue has been erected in his honor at the park. Alto retired from the radio last year and he isn’t always there. I could sit and listen to him talk baseball forever. He is a treasure. I do like spending time in the friendly coffee shop at hotel.
what I could do without– As is the case in Buffalo, nothing distasteful about the trip to Rochester, other than the hotel. There is one waiter in the restaurant, a real wiseguy. Don’t know how he keeps his job. Besides being a lousy server, he’s very sarcastic.
favorite person to see– Over the last 8 years, I have become good friends with Red Wings broadcaster Josh Whetzel. He is an excellent radio man and a great guy. Always fun to have a beer and shoot the breeze with this guy.
Syracuse-This one is special for me. I lived in Syracuse for 12 years. started my career there. Had my daughters Eva and Carly there. Still have many friends there. In fact, at one point, (1997-1999) I was the voice of the Chiefs. As the years have passed, I see fewer of the colleagues I had, but it is always a treat to go back. Our hotel is familiar, but not the best. The Ramada Inn has seen its’ better days. Food options are OK, but to get to the good spots, you need wheels. Usually, we find them. I like Alliance Bank Stadium. I called the first game ever played there in April of 1997. Press box food is bad. The fountain soda they serve tastes like poison. I try to remember to bring a jug of water or something with me. The ‘Cuse is always a blast from the past.
what I like– catching up with old friends and co-workers is great. Going to the Change of Pace for chicken wings is the best. They are the best wings I have ever had. Owner Steve Grilli rolls out the red carpet. It may sound like blasphemy, but the hot wings have slipped into second place on the Hyde’s All Time list, ever so slightly behind the Garlic Parmesan. Grilli, incidentally, one of the nicest men in history, was the losing pitcher in the famous 33 inning game played at McCoy Stadium in 1981. His son Jason is currenty a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I also enjoy time spent with Jason Benneti, a recent graduate of Law School at Wake Forest University, an intelligent young man, who also happens to be the play by play voice of the Chiefs.
what I could do without– A pet peeve of mine is the constant mispronounciation of the name of our team. It should be pronounced “P’tucket”, not PAW-tucket. Their P.A. guy is a prime culprit. Nice enough guy, but get it right, please Brent.
favorite person to see– this is a tough one. I can’t even begin to pick one person without hurting someones feelings. Friends and co-workers are always a welcome sight. Life on the road is sometimes tough and mundane, so when you see a familiar face, it’s great. I guess I have to say (with no disrespect intended to anyone else) that I get the biggest kick out of the visits to the radio booth made by the retired Sports Information Director from Syracuse University, Larry Kimball. We travelled the roads for many years together and it meant the world to me wjhen I felt I had earned his respect and friendship.
up next- the I.L. West