Earlier this summer I was lucky enough to score some free Rockland Boulders tickets though my wife’s job. For those of you who don’t know who the Rockland Boulders are, they are a professional “independent league” baseball team that plays in the Can-Am league. The Can-Am League has teams in cities that do not have Major or Minor League teams and do not have affiliations with either. The skill level of the players in the league are comparable to those in Single-A, minor league baseball.
When I arrived at the brand new Provident Bank Park in Pomona, NY (Exit 12 off the Palisades Interstate Parkway), I couldn’t believe such a nice ballpark was only minutes away from where I lived. I knew that there was a new team in town, but didn’t know how close the stadium actually was. With my 3-year-old daughter, wife, her friend, and her 4-year-old son, there wasn’t much time for me to take in the entire park.
After the Saturday night game, there was a fantastic fireworks show that all 5,300 fans in attendance essentially stayed for. I’m not sure how they came up with that attendance number considering the capacity is just over 4,500. The fireworks extravaganza is a Saturday night staple at Boulders game. So on the way home I kept thinking to myself that it would have been great to get to see the whole park and maybe get to meet some of the people behind the scenes of my local ball club. A few days later I sent an email to the Boulders Coordinator of Public Relations and Media, Steve Balsan. Steve was more than happy to invite me to the park and offered me media credentials for a game of my choice.
I decided to go to Monday’s game against the Lincoln Salt Dogs, which was the final game of the season for the Boulders. I figured with it being the last game of the season and all there would be plenty of buzz at the game. When I arrived at the stadium, I was greeted by Brian Hoffman, who happens to be one of the Boulders radio broadcasters. Brian took me into the stadium and over to the clubhouse. First pitch was at 2 pm, so there was no batting practice on the field. But, I did get to see the nice indoor batting cage that is down the right field line where the clubhouse is located. Brian then introduced me to Dave LaPoint, the manager of the Boulders.
A view of right field. You can see the Short Porch bar where the yellow umbrellas are. To the right of the white tent is the entrance to the clubhouse and batting cage. Just beyond the tent is the giant playground.
As some of you may know, Dave is a former Major League pitcher. He won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982, and pitched locally for the Yankees in 1989 and 1990. I got to sit down with Dave for a few minutes and asked him a few questions.
TSB: As you look back on the season, which player or players have shown you the biggest improvement?
Dave LaPoint: Rookie outfielders Qualon Millender and Jon Smith. Those two guys made this team from the open tryout. It was great to see them turn into everyday players for us.
TSB: Pat Moran gets the final start of the year for you today. How did he improve during the second half of the season?
DL: Pat had a few issues spotting the fastball earlier in the season. His mechanics weren’t very consistent. But once that got straightened out, he put together some real good starts for us and was getting real deep into games.
TSB: Who has been your best overall player this season?
DL: It has to be Ryan Scoma. The kid has played everywhere for us this year, and just look at his stats. He hits for power, average, and can really run. He does it all out there.
TSB: Keith Brachold was a new addition to the team this year. Did you know he has this kind of power? (Brachold was 2 homers away from tying the Can-Am league record of 31 in a season before today’s game.)
DL: We knew that kid had serious power. He killed us last year when we played Brockton. But we knew he’d put up some serious numbers with the “Short Porch” in right.
After speaking with Dave, there was a possibility I was going to get to go into the locker room, but it was only about an hour till game time and guys were getting ready. Just before the entrance to the locker room is a real nice indoor batting cage that a few players were in. I watched a player take a few cuts and noticed it was Ryan Scoma. Ryan was nice enough to take a few minutes before heading into the clubhouse to answer a few questions.
TSB: Back in 2009 you were drafted by the San Francisco Giants. How was that experience?
Ryan Scoma: It was great. Playing for my hometown team back in California was a dream come true. I made so many great friends.
TSB: Now that you are here, across the country, are you still close to any of those players?
RS: Yeah, Chris Heston was my roommate and we stay in contact all the time.
TSB: How has it been here with Rockland in your first season?
RS: It’s been pretty good. I’ve had a pretty good all around season, and the guys here have been great. As you can see we have a great clubhouse atmosphere here (Ryan was referencing to when I walked into the area between the batting cage and clubhouse door, there were two players Greco Roman wrestling in the hallway with a few kids watching. It was all good fun.)
TSB: With the season ending today, what are your off-season plans?
RS: I’m going to go back home and do some private instructional camps.
Scoma came across as a kid who was just living in the moment. While disappointed he wasn’t still in the Giants system, he realizes that he’s still young and has a really solid skill set. I’ve now seen him play a few times and he’s a legit player. He’s the type of kid you just can’t help but root for.
Time to enter the Press Box
When Ryan went back into the clubhouse, I was taken up to the press box where I’d be able to watch the game. As expected, the press box was located on the luxury suite level of the stadium, a little bit up the third base line. I was lucky enough to sit between three great guys. To my right was the Boulders Director of Player Development, Kevin Tuve. For the past two seasons, Kevin held the same position with the Pittsfield Colonials. The Colonials were unable to continue funding their team this season, so Kevin was lucky enough to be able to come back home and take over the same role with the Boulders. To my left was Mike Zacchio. Mike covers the Boulders for The Journal News/LoHud.com. And to the left of Mike was Mike McGinnis. Mike does the pre- and post-game radio coverage for the Boulders.
The Press Box is right above the yellow sign
Sitting up with those guys was a great experience. I got to watch how a reporter prepares his post-game recap during the game, and listened to some great stories between McGinnis and Tuve. Throughout the game we all talked about everything from old school WWF to some of the young players in MLB now. Somewhere around the 5th inning, there were a comedy of errors committed by the Salt Dogs, and that opened the flood gates for the “Major League” quotes. “This is where I’m supposed to be. This is my type of job”. That’s all I kept thinking about throughout the game.
To our right was where the road team sets up their radio broadcast. I was looking through the glass window separating us during the game just to see how they were operating. The play-by-play guy always had his binoculars out (I don’t know why, we were only about 100 ft from home plate) and was constantly hitting his mute button. To our left was where the Boulders audio/video room was, where they work the scoreboards and public address system. I didn’t know this until he dropped off the starting lineups, but Steve Balsan is also the Boulder’s PA announcer. I gotta say, he’s got a tremendous voice and he’s good at what he does.
View of the field from the Press Box
The game was a bit of a sloppy affair, but entertaining none the less. Like most people, the four of us up in the press box were fixated on Kevin Brachold’s attempt at the home run record. Unfortunately, during the previous game, Brachold appeared to hurt his leg trying to catch a foul ball over by the first base railing. To make things worse, later in that game, he was rounding third on an RBI single and pulled up a bit lame. For Monday’s game he was the Designated Hitter and clearly had nothing left in his legs. He hit one ball hard down the right field line, but other than that he didn’t challenge the fences.
In front of 3,451 fans at their final game of the season, the Boulders held on for a 5-4 victory. This season, the Boulders lead the CanAm league in attendance at 161,375 fans. That total was 5th most in league history. With Provident Bank Park’s seating capacity at 4,506, the Boulders played at 72% of capacity for the season. That seams like a successful season to me.
A view of the field from the first base concourse. You can see the Bridge Bar in the left field corner.
Boulders tickets are very reasonably priced. The most expensive ticket is behind home plate for fireworks on Saturday night, at $17. With low ticket prices and a good product on the field, I don’t see why attendance for next year wouldn’t be on the rise. The total cost for a family of four to go to a Boulders game is extremely affordable. Parking is $5, a hot dog is $3, chicken fingers with fries and a big soda is $11, and beer is $5. So all in, you can easily get a family of four to the ball park with dinner and parking for right around $100. The kids will be entertained between innings with all the typical scoreboard games and t-shirt launch, and mom and dad can kick back in comfortable seating. The stadium has two great bars down each foul line. The Bridge Bar is down the left field line and the Short Porch, which is in right field, is only 313ft from the batters box. Before or after the game, the kids can hang out in the monstrous playground down the right field line. Honestly, the playground is in the path of a well struck ball down the right field line. I tried to find out why it was placed there, but could not get any answer.
In closing, I would like to thank the Rockalnd Boulders organization for giving me the opportunity to come into their home and let everyone know how great Provident Bank Park, the players, the coaching staff and front office is. Again, I’d like to give special thanks to Steve Balsan for making this possible. It’s not everyday that you can send an email to a professional sports organization and actually get it answered. Thank you very much for making this happen.