Get Balls And Autographs at Dutchess Stadium

The Get Balls And Autographs at Dutchess Stadium
by Malcolm MacMillan
  • Teams sign willingly around dugouts during pre-game
  • Dutchess Stadium is one of the easiest parks to snag a ball
Visiting the area behind the outfield fence gives you a great chance at getting a batting practice home run.

If getting a ball at a professional baseball game in on your bucket list, you can almost get cocky enough to cross the item off before you visit Dutchess Stadium. Sure, that might be a little hopeful, but a visit to The Dutch should yield a baseball if you know what to do.

Like many parks in the lower minor leagues, Dutchess Stadium doesn’t have outfield seating, and when a park doesn’t have outfield seating, the area immediately behind the outfield fence is usually a field, forest or other largely unused area. Get to the ballpark about three hours before game time to ensure you’re present for batting practice. (As always, BP is rare during early games and days with rain.) After parking, head to the area beyond the outfield fence, especially if you can hear the bats cracking during BP. As you round the corner from the first base line to beyond the outfield fence, your odds are decent you’ll see a ball laying somewhere in the underbrush. If not, venture around a little and look for the little sphere you hope to add to your collection. Remember that balls can carry dozens of feet, so don’t limit your search to the area just behind the fence. Many balls will likely be hiding just out of sight in the brush – kick some branches and leaves aside and it shouldn’t take you long to find a ball.

A word of caution: You’ve got essentially no warning when a ball leaves the field, so stand back as far from the fence as you can. Sure, it’s tempting to ignore BP and just look for balls, but you’d be embarrassed to report to the ballpark’s first-aid office with a lump on your head.

When the game begins, take a few minutes to scour the seats to see if a foul ball during BP or an errant throw made its way to the seating bowl. Ushers are tasked with retrieving such balls, but that doesn’t mean they notice every one.

Once the game begins, you’ve got a couple good options. Dutchess Stadium has a nice, wide cross-aisle that wraps around the park’s seating bowl, and hanging out anywhere here allows you to move quickly to track pop-up fouls. If you want to have a shot at a long foul ball instead, try the cement pavilion in front of the picnic area in the right field corner. To try to snag a rolling foul ball, buy a ticket in the front row down the lines – especially if you’ve got long arms. Even if you miss, you might get lucky and have a base coach toss you the ball.

The lower levels of the minor leagues are a treat for autograph collectors, and even if the guys in the New York-Penn League are a few stops from starring on baseball’s biggest stage, there’s no better time to get their autographs. If you need a reminder about getting autographs from guys in the NYPL, just know that Josh Hamilton and Evan Longoria once starred for the Renegades.

Dutchess Stadium doesn’t have any defining characteristics regarding the collection of autographs. It’s as simple as getting down to field level as soon as the gates open, scouting out your favorite team or players and waiting patiently for them to approach. At this level, guys will routinely make a point of visiting the area around the dugout to sign for fans, but the ballpark has an intimate enough feel that if you politely shout to a player after he’s done stretching or tossing a ball around, you’ve got a good chance that he’ll come over to sign for you.

The Renegades dugout is on the first base side and you’ll typically find that more autograph seekers hang out in this area than around the visitors’ dugout on the first base line. (But if a hot-shot prospect is in town, the autograph-seeking masses will usually congregate on the visitors’ side.)

When I visited The Dutch in August 2012, I went behind the outfield fence during BP hoping to add a New York-Penn League ball to my collection. There were a couple ball searchers in the area, so I found an open space and retrieved my first ball in just a couple minutes after getting to the area. It was easy to find balls in the brush, and before long, I’d collected eight. I also had one go whizzing past my ear close enough that it gave me a start. After the close call, I vowed to be a little more careful during this type of activity, and you should, too.