For all you Upstate New Yorkers, like me, this may aggravate you. Growing up as an thoroughly-obsessed Yankee fan, living in the foothills of the Adirondacks, where the only way to get to see the Bronx Bombers play in front of my-very-own-eyes would be to beg my parents to drive 5 hours downstate, surely tested my love. Where I lived, equidistant from Toronto and New York City, I complained that only seeing the pinstripes in person once every few years simply did not cut it. I wanted to talk about Wade Boggs (and I did during my third grade puppet project presentation), when all the other kids in school, 1- had no idea who I was talking about, and 2- were stuck in the Barney-craze. Sure, the city holds a dense amount of Yanks fans but upstate is covered with a huge rural blanket of die-hards wishing Yankees Baseball was more accessible.
Nobody told me. During the first years of my baseball fixation-the Yankees were in town. Well, of course not in my town of zero traffic lights and only 2,000 residents but in Colonie, northeastern NY, quite close to the Mass. border. If only I had known. I would have found rides there, organized field trips perhaps, but definitely milked my pigtail-ing, little-league-kid look to snag as many autographs as possible. Then, today I could have had balls and bats signed by Derek Jeter (what a freakin’ spring this guy is having), Andy Pettitte (welcome back!), Jorge Posada (miss you already), and Mariano Rivera (Mr. Sandman), who together formed “The Core Four” and amazing stories to go along with them. BUT nobody told me. Hell, at that point I was like 5 or 6 years old and although loved the game, had abso-freakin-lutely no idea the gravity that it would have over my life in the future or that minor league teams even existed for that matter.
It was not until four years ago (2008) my good friend told me that the Yankees farm system had been within my reach. I learned of the Albany-Colonie Yankees. Okay, they didn’t play at the House that Ruth Built at that point in time. But the AA affiliate had called Heritage Park in Colonie its home from 1985-1994. Heritage Park was occupied by the Albany-Colonie Athletics (Oakland A’s AA affiliate) from 1983-1984 and the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs (independent team in the Northern League) from ’95-’02.
Household-named Yankee superstars who played at Heritage Park were: Jeter (’94), Ron Guidry (’86), Al Leiter (’87), Pettitte (’93-’94), Posada (’93), Rivera (’94), and Bernie Williams (’89-’90). So a Yankees’ higher affiliate was once in upstate and one didn’t have to drive all the way to Scranton, PA or Trenton, NJ to see the future prospects. For 2012 only, Yankees’ fans sprinkled throughout the northeast can catch Baby Bomber ball games closer to home and for a fraction of the price of tickets in the Bronx, as the Empire State Triple-A Yankees play home games at: Syracuse, Rochester, Batavia, and Buffalo.