The RIBBE Takes A Road Trip To Cooperstown, NY – Part 1, The Detour

As a preface to this blog and those upcoming, I just want to say what a thrill it was to visit one of the most incredible villages in the entire United States of America. To write just one story, to post one article, to include one set of photos will just not satisfy my enthusiasm and respect for the trip I just took to Cooperstown. So, I will be sharing my trip to Cooperstown in a series of blogs this week and hope to spotlight the people, the small businesses, the fields, and the connection Rhode Island baseball teams, players, and organizations have in Cooperstown, NY. Here is Part 1 of my story:

Cooperstown, NY was supposed to be an add on bonus experience for me in late October. Through a work related conference, I was supposed to travel to Troy, NY on a Wednesday, stay for the conference on Thursday, travel to Cooperstown Thursday night, and then spend Friday in Cooperstown before heading home. Jumping at the chance to be in the “area” of Cooperstown (Troy is about 80 miles east), I began an email conversation with the National Baseball Hall of Fame staff, including Scot Mondore, Director of Licensing & Sales/Marketing Coordinator. I mentioned my baseball blog, my social media pages, and my goal to promote Rhode Island baseball, whether it be in Rhode Island or elsewhere. Scot and I spoke on the phone about Rhode Island in the Baseball Hall of Fame and chatted about where I may be able to locate these Rhode Island baseball references. He mentioned that he would compile a list of names, places, and exhibits that featured Rhode Island born players or teams or fields and would email me that list. A few short days later, I received the list, very thorough, and was immediately so impressed by Scot and his staff for their efforts. I messaged Scot back and mentioned that I would be visiting the Hall on Friday, October 29th and he set aside 2 tickets for me (and Rachel who was to accompany me on my work trip.)

About 1 week before my work related trip was to happen, the conference was postponed. Since I had already reserved a hotel room in Cooperstown and booked my visit to the Hall of Fame on Friday, I put it for the two days off at work and was granted the okay by my boss. Around late morning, with no power at the house in North Kingstown, Rachel and I departed for Cooperstown, NY. From North Kingstown, we headed up 95 North to 146 West to the Mass Pike (Massachusetts Turnpike), then into New York on onto the New York Thruway. Since it was mostly highway miles, we got into NY in decent time and thoroughly enjoyed what was left of the fall foliage along the Mass Pike and onto/into the New York Capital Region. I started to get excited on Route 88 when I saw a sign that had two options for getting to the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame – Exit 21 and Exit 24. We ended up taking Exit 21.

Since there was still plenty of sunshine, the views on our trip from Exit 21 to our hotel in Cooperstown were absolutely breathtaking. Living in a mostly sea level elevation town for most of my life, hills/mountains/valleys always grab my attention. The winding roads of Routes 20 and 166 and 31 and 52 (I just listened to the GPS and took a left/right when I was told) took us through horse farms and cow pastures and mills and cornfields galore and farmlands where the houses were merely a dot on a ton of acreage. Because of the twists and turns and hills and climbs and sharp descents and massive inclines, it took some time to get from the highway to our landing spot at the hotel but it was so worth it.

After resting a bit and grabbing a bite to eat, Rachel and I decided to venture into the Village of Cooperstown before it got dark to preview our Friday adventures. Leaving the hotel with no clue which way I was going, I decided to take a left out of the parking lot. And out of the corner of my eye, like a pitcher spotting a baserunner at first taking a wicked big lead, I spotted the Cooperstown Dreams Park entrance. I was so stunned, I drove right past the entrance and had to pull a U-turn down the street at a farm. Here is what I saw out of the corner of my eye:

This looks interesting, I thought to myself and pulled into the Cooperstown Dreams Park entrance. Two booths with “stop” signs ahead so I slowed down to greet someone and ask some questions. As I pulled up to the booth, there was no one inside. Ahead of me, I saw one of the many baseball fields in the complex and a sign that read “visitors must check in” so I proceeded into the complex. It was super quiet there, no cars, no sounds of baseball, no people at or around the fields. As I drove down the driveway towards the check in center, I noticed a line of cars driving past me towards the exit. Each car paused and the driver peered at me sort of perplexed. Some would pause for a second or two as I drove by. Finally, I reached what looked to be an office park and a woman pulled up and rolled her window down. “You guys are closed, I take it,” I said sort of embarrassingly. “Yeah, we won’t re-open up until Spring,” said a nice lady who giggled at my presence there. “Sorry about that,” I apologized and she laughed and said “No problem, make sure you come back in the Spring to see a game.” Without a hint of negativity, this woman had invited me back to a park/place I was not supposed to be in. This theme of welcoming strangers would be a common theme on this trip.

GPS directions are a wonderful thing if you utilize them. If you do not, you end up where I did after taking a left out of the Cooperstown Dreams Park lot. Driving down Route 28 into Milford, we saw a ton of baseball themed businesses (mostly closed for the season) and ended up in the village area of Milton before pulling over to see if we were going the right way. Nope, we were going in the opposite direction of the Village of Cooperstown. Another U-turn, which I am quite accustomed to due to my miniscule sense of direction, and we headed back up 28, past the Dreams Park (still closed), past our hotel, past Index and into the Village of Cooperstown, NY. We parked at Doubleday Field despite tons and tons of available parking spaces in the village itself. And headed over to the famous baseball field for a glimpse at baseball history.

Stay tuned this week for more photos and commentary from my trip to Cooperstown, NY. I wanted to end Part 1 on a personal note. As I was preparing notes for these articles, I learned of the passing of Red Sox legend Jerry Remy. Remy was a fantastic talent, a local New England (Somerset, MA) kid who played for the California Angels and the Boston Red Sox, then became as colorful a color commentator as there has ever been in sports broadcasting. His laugh was hilarious, his views of baseball were spot on, his relationships with players and local New England celebrities were infinitely entertaining. He will be missed and I was so happy to see Jerry Remy throw out one more pitch at Fenway Park this off season. Rest in Peace, Jerry Remy.

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