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Pictures of kids playing baseball.

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Just got back from the Finger Lakes. I was going to visit a ballpark with some interesting history, and then do the usual pix-and-lines writeup that I do when I go to a new (to me) ballpark.

But then my plans shifted and I ended up going to a much less interesting place — from a historical standpoint, and from a photographic standpoint as well.

Still, you gets the writeup and the pictures anyway, because that’s how I do.

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This is Maple City Park in Hornell, New York, a city-owned and -run park that’s home to the Hornell Dodgers of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. (This is a summer league for college-age players, financially supported by Major League Baseball.)

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The small (pop. 8,563) city of Hornell hosted affiliated minor-league ballclubs from 1942 to 1957. The best-known and best-remembered of them were part of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ massive minor-league network, though the city also hosted teams linked to the Reds, Red Sox and Pirates.

Tommy Davis, a sure-shot member of baseball’s Hall of Very Good, spent a season in Hornell in 1956. Charlie Neal and Don Zimmer — who both won World Series titles with the Dodgers, only to wash up with the ’62 Mets — played there in 1950.

Dick Tracewski, a two-time Series winner as a player and later one of Sparky Anderson’s trusted coaches, passed through in ’54.

And Frank Oceak played his last minor-league ball in Hornell in 1943. He never made the bigs as a player, but you might remember him as the Pirates third-base coach congratulating Bill Mazeroski after his Series-winning home run in 1960.

Those players and their teams also played at a ballpark called Maple City Park. But it ain’t the same one; that one was torn down in the early 1960s to make way for a new high school.

The school isn’t far from today’s Maple City Park — just up Seneca Street — but it seems likely that today’s park isn’t on the same site as the old one. Which kinda cuts down on the historical interest, compared to cities like Elmira and Geneva, which still have their old ballparks in play on their original sites.

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City-owned + next door to a school = no beer with your baseball.

To add insult to injury, the one set of fixed stands at Maple City Park is (a) set back from the field some, and (b) is fronted by a screen that completely covers the view. I understand why it’s there, but I don’t like watching baseball from behind a screen — especially at a little local field — so that cost the park a couple of points.

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That said, you can always bring your own chair and sit in foul territory, as a fair number of people do …

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… or if you’re too cheap to pay the $4 adult fee to get in, you can always pitch a seat right outside the chain-link fence and watch for free.

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While it’s not my favorite park in the world — or even in the Southern Tier — Maple City Park has a few things going for it.

If you don’t bother anybody, you can watch the game from small unscreened areas next to each dugout, which brings you a little closer to the action.

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The field is also surrounded by a residential neighborhood, a factor shared by some of my favorite college ballparks. There’s something great about seeing houses all around the field, especially when the houses are modest (though well-kept). Beats being at a ballpark that’s surrounded by acres of parking lots.

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I left in the fourth inning with the Wellsville Nitros ahead of the Dodgers 5-2. I didn’t much care who won, and I had to run a 5K early the next morning.

I probably won’t be back … but I’ll end with a couple more pictures, anyway.

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I wonder what the Los Angeles Dodgers think of the Hornell Dodgers. The Hornell team doesn’t use the familiar “Dodgers” script on its uniforms or website; this is as close as I remember coming to it at Maple City Park.

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Pregame stretch for the starting pitcher.

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A random passer-by offered to sell me this scoreboard; apparently it’s been down for two years and they still don’t know what to do with it.

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Bless the guys who umpire these games. I wonder what they get paid; I don’t imagine it’s much.

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Painting the batter’s box. It’s common for players at this level to do the groundskeeping as well.

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I’ve never been the Duke of Action Shots but this one tells the story: An errant throw pulls the first baseman off the bag while the runner scores from third.

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The two guys in the background at right played hoop for pretty much the whole time I was there.

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Well-used mounds in the bullpen. I believe the building in the background is the junior high (not the senior high that was built on the site of the old Maple City Park). Didn’t know they still put decorative windows like those into schools.

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3 BR, 1 1/2 baths, cozy charmer, walk to park.

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4 responses »

  1. Did they have lights? The last picture is dim and you left half-way through. Didn’t they start at 8pm or something?

    Reply
    • they did indeed start at 8, an hour later than I had expected. They do have lights, though not great ones. (My camera is also not that great in low light.)

      Reply
  2. “Much less interesting”? I think not. On the side of the proper garage or something, that scoreboard would be awesome.

    Reply
    • I was planning to go to the home of (what I’m fairly sure was) the only Seattle Pilots minor-league team east of the Mississippi. Maybe next summer.

      Reply

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