IBL vs AAA: How the Fat Cats stack up

Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse, NY

A couple weeks back, I was in Syracuse with the family for some back-to-school shopping (insert joke about me trying to find my way around a department store here). Of course, since Syracuse has a ball team, there’s no way that I wasn’t going to take in a game.

Alliance Bank Stadium, built in 1997, is home to the International League’s Syracuse Chiefs.

Coincidentally, the Chiefs were the away team in the last AAA game that I saw, which came on September 3rd, 2007—I’m sure that date is familiar for quite a few of you. If not, here’s a hint.

Anyway, I decided to make up a list of similarities and differences between how the Fat Cats and Chiefs run things. Let’s have at it!

Stadium

When you’re dealing with a stadium that currently hosts AAA versus one that had previously done so, the one that is in better condition and just generally better looking is going to be pretty obvious.

Walking into Alliance Back Stadium, the first thing I noticed was the pristine condition of the field. I haven’t been to a pro game since last summer in Toronto, so I was taken aback at how good the field looked. Ottawa’s grounds crew does a phenomenal job given what they have to work with and the unfavorable conditions this summer, but you can’t really stack it up to a AAA field.

Syracuse’s HD big screen puts our late 80s scoreboard to shame as well. I mean, Ottawa’s board does the job that it has to do and I’ve always thought that it has a certain charm going for it, but again the budget of the AAA team comes in to play with the scoreboard as it does with the field.

The other thing that I liked about the Chiefs stadium was how the concourse was open to the field. Unless you’re going to the washroom, you aren’t missing any of the action. You can wait in line at the hot dog stand while watching the game, which is something that we don’t get the pleasure of doing in Ottawa because of the closed off concourse.

Edge: Syracuse

Crowd/Atmosphere

The Syracuse fans actually dragged the experience down a bit. I will give them that there wasn’t much to cheer about, but even when things were getting a little intense in the bottom of the final inning with the Chiefs threatening, the noise level was still only a little higher than a Phoenix Coyotes game (ZING).

Maybe I’m just used to the rowdy Saturday night Ottawa crowds, but either way, Chiefs fans didn’t seem very loud or proud. Not nearly to the extreme that Fat Cats fans can take it.

Another thing; according to the post-game show on Syracuse’s sports station, there were 6,441 fans in the building. I guess a lot of people decided not to show up. Scroll back to the picture at the top of this post and tell me if you see over 6,000 fans—no way.

Edge: Ottawa

Fan experience

The game in Syracuse really reminded me how hard the Fat Cats try when it comes to on field promos and keeping fans entertained throughout the game.

Alliance Bank Stadium had no on-field entertainment or promotions whatsoever. There was an autographed jersey being given away (can’t remember who exactly the player was), but that was the only time that the MC was actually on the mic doing anything.

Compare that to Ottawa, and the experience is a little different. I’ve already gone though all the entertainment that the Cats dish out while on a budget that is imaginably much smaller than that of Syracuse, there’s no question that the Fat Cats clean up in this department.

Edge: Ottawa

Merchandise

I really don’t have to say much here. This is where the Chiefs show that they have more money to throw around than a semi-professional Ontario ball club. For any of you who have been in the Ottawa merch store, it’s rare that any decently-sized new era caps remain on the shelf. At the Chiefs boutique there’s an entire rack full of different kinds of those same caps. That’s just one example, too. I could go on about jerseys, hoodies and t-shirts if I wanted to.

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about this, because you can’t really blame the Cats for not keeping up.

Edge: Syracuse

Baseball

This is a bit of a weird situation. The caliber and quality of baseball is obviously better in Syracuse, so they will take the edge in this category, but in my opinion the quality of the ball doesn’t necessarily mean that the game is more exciting and entertaining for the fans.

The unpredictability factor is really on the IBL’s side here.

In AAA, you know that the infield will be able to turn the double play or that the centre fielder will be able to track down the fly ball headed for the power alley. That isn’t the case with the IBL, which I see as a positive. Some don’t see it that way and think that the intermittence of IBL ball just puts emphasis on the fact that it’s a low caliber of baseball.

I personally enjoy watching IBL games for the excitement that comes from it, and I choose not to look at things negatively. There are even some who refuse to watch IBL ball in Ottawa because it isn’t professional—there really doesn’t seem to be any logic in that.

Edge: Syracuse (kinda)

All in all, my experience in Syracuse was a good one. I got a couple funny looks while strutting around the concourse in my Rapidz jersey—I wonder if anyone picked up on which team it actually belonged to.

I recommend attending a AAA or affiliated game if you have the opportunity to. It’s very different than the quirky IBL atmosphere. I obviously prefer local ball, but it’s still nice to change things up every now and then.

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