Celebrate Dad celebrate dad with a ball game
by John Boccacino
Rochester is a sports crazed community that is currently involved in a year-long love affair with its sports teams. Despite not winning the International League's Governor’s Cup since the 1997 season, more than 448,000 die-hard Rochester Red Wings supporters entered the gates of Frontier Field in downtown Rochester in 2011 to watch the Red Wings play ball. These fans flocked to the ballpark despite a season that saw Rochester finish far removed from the playoffs with a 53-91 record.
Down the street less than a mile from beautiful Frontier Field sits Sahlen's Stadium, home to both the Rochester Rhinos soccer club and the Rochester Rattlers outdoor lacrosse squad. Nearly 62,000 fans took in a regular-season Rhinos game during the 2011 United Soccer Leagues' season (an average of 5,138 per home game), while thousands of lacrosse enthusiasts cheered on the Rattlers during the Major Lacrosse League season.
Father's Day is June 17 and what better way is there to reconnect with Dad then by taking him out to enjoy one of Rochester's numerous summer sports offerings?
Growing up, Matt Cipro remembers spending countless hours at Silver Stadium, the Wings' iconic ballpark for more than 50 years before moving to Frontier Field for the start of the 1997 season. Besides enjoying watching the Wings take on the best teams in the International League, Cipro's fond memories of summer days spent at the ballpark center around time spent with his family, especially his father, Paul Cipro, and grandfather, Al Cipro. It's no coincidence that after so many days happily spent at the ballpark, Cipro would pursue a career in baseball. He has worked as the Director of Marketing for the Wings the last 14 years, and even though he spends nearly every day working at Frontier Field, the simple joy of watching a ball game with his father never grows old.
That's the reason why Cipro and many children choose to take their fathers to a baseball game during the summer, to reconnect with their childhoods while also providing their dads a chance to reconnect with their own childhood days, too. "Baseball has been in Rochester for so long, and it has spanned so many different generations," Cipro says of the Red Wings organization. The Wings have been around since 1929, and this baseball-crazy town has fielded a squad nearly every year since 1877.
"Taking your father to the ballpark is a great way to give back. It's an opportunity to pay tribute to your dad for not only taking you to sporting events when you were a child, but for all the countless nights, weekends and early mornings spent Playing catch in the back yard, fielding pop ups and enjoying baseball," he adds. "It's a cool opportunity to relive some of [dad's] favorite childhood activities. Most people's fathers and grandfathers, if they spent any time in Rochester, have spent at least some time cheering on and rooting for the Red Wings. This sport, and this team, has a strong tradition that has always existed and it's something we hope continues for future generations."
The Red Wings have claimed 10 Governors' Cup championships in the illustrious history of the International League, but it's been 14 years since the Red Wings were last league champions. The last two seasons have been among the worst in franchise history, with Rochester compiling an overall record of 102-186 (a .354 winning percentage). The lack of a winning product hasn't stopped fans from checking out America's pastime, as last year's average home attendance of 6,493 fans per game for 69 home dates ranked ninth in the 14-team International League.
While the Wings front office staff cannot control how well the team plays on the field, it strives to provide the best game-day experience for its fans. During Fridays and Saturdays in the summer, fans can witness fireworks after Wings games, and several times a season the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra delights fans with post-game concerts.
Whenever the Wings play a home game on Father's Day, the club makes its field available for any interested fathers to enjoy a few tosses with their children in the outfield at Frontier Field. This year, the Wings will travel to Louisville for a Father's Day game with the Louisville Bats, but with 17 scheduled home dates in June, Cipro says there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate Dad with a trip to the ballpark.
For Cipro, himself a father of 2-yearold daughter Sofia, having the chance to share baseball together as a family is a priceless experience. "Being a father myself, it's fun to watch a ball game with my daughter and my family," says Cipro, who estimates he attends between eight and ten Wings games each year, when not working. "Sofia gets the opportunity to run the bases with Spikes and now that I work here, to see dads and sons enjoying the ballpark experience, it's definitely a cool feeling."
Baseball fans get to double their pleasure this year, as the Empire State Yankees, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, are calling Frontier Field home for 37 dates this summer while their permanent stadium receives a $43 million facelift. The squad formerly known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees was renamed for this most unusual of seasons, when all 144 of its games will be played on the road while PNC Field gets its upgrade. The venture has already paid off for the Red Wings, when more than 13,500 fans (the second-largest crowd in Frontier Field history) converged at the stadium on May 6 and watched as future Hall of Famer Andy Pettitte took the final step on his journey back to the Bronx following a one-year retirement.
The Rattlers outdoor lacrosse team kicked off its 2012 season with three straight road games, but lacrosse fans can take Dad out to Sahlen's Stadium to witness professional lacrosse starting with the home opener at 7 p.m. June 1, when they take on the Boston Cannons. Nathan Snyder, the Rattlers' vice president of sales and the assistant general manager, says more and more families are identifying with lacrosse, as first-, secondand third-generation players become new parents and decide to pass on their love of the sport.
"We get a lot of families who decide to take a special night out to watch our lacrosse games, which feature the best players in the world playing at the highest level," Snyder says of the Rattlers, who played in Rochester from 2001-2008, then dissolved before returning for the 2011 season. "Youth lacrosse players from our elite travel team and other youth lacrosse programs can come on the field and actually play lacrosse pre-game and at halftime, and that's great for parents who both want to enjoy lacrosse and get the thrill of seeing their son or daughter play on our field. We have a good number of secondand third-generation lacrosse players who enjoy taking their children to the games, and as these children become more involved in the sport, they in turn want to take their dad out to a game."
Adding to the ambiance, at every home game there is a pre-game concert and a post-game, on-field autograph ses- Sion. "The best part of our game-day experience is that it's a great family sport and when you come out to watch a game, you're really close to the field," Snyder says. "You feel like you're right on top of the action and you can see these extremely talented guys play the game at the highest level from really close up." The Rattlers have home games June 1, June 23 and July 6. Tickets, which range from $10-$25, can be purchased by calling (585) 454-5425 or online at www.RochesterRattlers.com/tickets.
The Rochester Rhinos soccer club, which has existed since 1996, has won the league championship three times and remains the only non-Major League Soccer squad to win the US Open Cup when it claimed the title in 1999.
The Rhinos will have three home dates in June: June 2 vs. the Richmond Kickers, June 8 vs. the Wilmington Hammerheads and June 30 against the Harrisburg City Islanders. Tickets range from $10-$20 and can be purchased by calling
(585) 454-KICK (5425) or online at www.rhinossoccer.com.
Our love affair with sports doesn't stop with team sports. An annual rite of passage during a Rochester summer is the annual Wegmans LPGA Championship, which draws more than 100,000 spectators to Locust Hill Country Club to watch the world's top golfers compete for one of four major championships on the golfing calendar.
This year's Wegmans LPGA runs June 4-10 and includes practice rounds, two professional-amateur competitions, a Conversation with Champions roundtable forum featuring four LPGA players and their caddies and the four-day competition itself, June 7-10. Ticket information can be found at www.wegmanslpga.org
John Boccacino is a freelance writer living in Webster, NY who reported on sports and local news for more than 6 1/2 years with the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. He is currently the Director of Sports Information for Keuka College.