Our Minor League Stadium Crawl reached its halfway point last night at Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island. The Yankees got trounced 9–2, but it's safe to say that this field trip to Staten Island was far more pleasant than our last one. (A good rule of thumb: Little kids playing silly games between innings of a ballgame? Fun. Little kids humping the court during halftime of a basketball game? Not fun.) But can Staten Island take over the lead from Newark in our standings? On to the scores!
Venue: Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, Staten Island
Team: Staten Island Yankees
Ticket Price: $16, for row Q behind home plate
Facilities: As far as ambience goes, it's pretty difficult to beat a center-field skyline of downtown Manhattan, even if black drapery is just above the center-field fence so hitters have a consistent backdrop. (We can't imagine 40 Wall Street in the background is much help against a bitter slider.) For our money, though, the Ballpark At St. George really comes alive when a boat floats by: There's no stadium in the world that we know of that can boast an ocean liner occasionally passing through the outfield. But the Ballpark is more than just exteriors. We like the electronic ads in right field — they're more charming at minor league games than in the bigs — and the pictures of former Staten Island Yankees who made the majors posted all around the stadium. If you want a place where Chien-Ming Wang, Wily Mo Pena, and Jason Anderson are immortalized, this is it. Grade: 8/10.
Quality of Play: Having the Yankees affiliated with an actual major league team, unlike our other stops in Newark and Long Island, has its upside. The players hustle like crazy, the fans know and cheer for guys whose careers they'll follow for years, and there's a certain class to the whole organization, a "have fun down there but don't embarrass us up here in the Bronx" feel. The downside is that this is low-level minor league ball, with players just starting out, the vast majority of which will never sniff so much as Double A. Some of these guys have some talent, but they are all raw, so expect a lot of errors, a lot of walks, and a lot of what might be charitably called In-Game Practice. On two separate occasions, with the Yankees down by five runs in the fourth inning, they brought the infield in with a runner on third base. This made zero strategic sense, but it surely worked as a test run for young players learning how to react in that situation. That's great and all, but you're not paying for practice. Grade: 4/10.
Promotions: Staten Island, perhaps because of their affiliation with the no-nonsense Yankees, are not so into the wacky bobblehead and Lindsay Lohan Day promotions minor league teams are famous for. (And their Cyclones neighbors to the east have perfected.) Most of their "events" involve fireworks — hopefully they do them better than their Tuesday opponents, the Hudson Valley Renegades, do — and most of their days are honorable but rote. (CYO Day, Firefighter Appreciation Day, Military Appreciation Day, Law Enforcement Day, which seems REALLY fun) But if you can get nine of your friends together, you can pay an extra four bucks a ticket and enjoy the gluttony of All You Can Eat, all night. We recommend sweatpants. Grade: 2/10.
Adorability: It's unlikely, even with four ballparks remaining, that any team will top Staten Island's between-innings entertainment. A mock boxing match in which a little kid "knocks out" the mascot. A game called "Golden Oldies" in which a trio of older ladies try to smooth-talk their way into winning dinner and a movie. Teens throwing beach balls between their legs at garbage cans manned by a "human backboard." Kids attempting to toss water balloons into bowls positioned on top of a relative's head. Grown men in pink tutus ballet dancing. The participants had fun, and everyone watching them from the stands had fun. That's what we're looking for. Grade: 10/10.
Miscellaneous. A couple of qualms: The P.A. announcer, while enthusiastic, wasn't exactly channeling Bob Sheppard with his drawn-out player introductions. Our box seats cost a whopping $16, pricey compared to the other parks we've seen so far. And though perhaps this is too much to ask, one of the on-field games involved comically oversized cowboy hats, and no one thought to put one on Hudson Valley outfielder Burt Reynolds, thereby recreating a scene from this SNL sketch. However, Staten Island can boast perhaps the single-coolest detail we've seen thusfar: During a pitching change in the fourth inning, the video board in left-center showed not commercials but a Pixar short. Also, Scooter the Holy Cow is an inspired mascot name. Grade: 5/10.
Total: 29. Richmond County Bank Ballpark is deservedly the new leader in the clubhouse, surpassing Newark's score of 23. Next up: a trip to Coney Island's MCU Park on Tuesday, August 4.