By Sandi Barrett, Contributing Writer
REGION – Baseball, our beloved national pastime, springs to life just a few hours’ drive from Central Massachusetts. Cooperstown is a charming village in bucolic upstate New York on the shores of Otsego Lake. Home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and a bucket list destination for baseball fans from around the world, you will love exploring the museum and the surrounding area.
Many Red Sox greats
David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz, our very own legendary Red Sox slugger, recently achieved the ultimate baseball career goal―induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame―Class of 2022. He joined fellow Red Sox greats like Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Dennis Eckersley, Carl Yastrzemski, Manny Ramirez, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, and so many other legendary players.
When you enter the Hall of Fame Gallery, true fans are overcome with a sense of awe. As you methodically move from year to year, beginning with The First Class of 1936, each honored player in the plaque gallery holds treasured baseball memories for museum guests. It can take over an hour simply inspecting each brass plaque, overtaken by a momentary thought about that particular play, and then moving on to the next honoree.
Diehard fans will spend hours combing over special pieces of baseball history. Highlights include a multidimensional pictograph of Fenway entitled The Curse is Dead, Tim Wakefield’s 2004 postseason jersey, Curt Shilling’s ALCS Game Two cleats, Ortiz’s massive cleats from his 313th career home run hit, and Bill Haselman’s catcher’s mitt from Roger Clemens’ second 20-strikeout game in 1996. Discovering these treasured moments in baseball history as you slowly absorb case after case of memorabilia is thrilling. It is inspiring to see the tributes to players, teams, coaches, fans and broadcasters showcased throughout the museum.
At Ortiz’s induction ceremony in July, the packed house (and packed streets outside) hung on his every word. His heartfelt speech, filled with praise for others, conveyed his love of Boston, his teammates and his fans.
“When I think about Boston, I also think about the last game I played, standing on that field at Fenway Park,” he recalled. “It felt like the whole city of New England and each one and every one of you was surrounding me and was showing me all your love. I will always be Boston and I will always be there for you, Boston. I love you, Boston.”
Where to dine
When you visit Cooperstown, there are lots of great dining options. Two standout restaurants are the Hawkeye Bar and Grill and Origins Café.
The Hawkeye Bar and Grill’s patio seating overlooks picturesque Otsego Lake. Relax and enjoy a pre-dinner adult beverage at the Fire Bar or watch the sunset from the sweeping lawn. The Hawkeye is located in the beautiful Otesaga Resort Hotel. Order the goat cheese brûlée as a starter. It is served with a slice of sourdough ale bread, and you may want it all to yourself; it’s that good.
The bohemian vibe of Origins Cafe is enhanced by its greenhouse location. Filled with lush greenery, your dining experience is immersed in a tropical atmosphere. Only open on select days, the chef-driven menu changes daily. You will love the tempting plant- and meat-based items that are cooked to perfection and stunningly presented.
Where to stay
The venerable Otesaga Resort Hotel is a grand old dame, steeped in history of bygone days. Perched on Otsego Lake, the hotel offers beautiful accommodations, a challenging 18-hole golf course, gorgeous lake views, and several dining options.
A casual alternative is the charming Cooperstown Bed and Breakfast. The BnB is just a short walk downtown yet located in a quiet residential neighborhood. A sumptuous breakfast served on the veranda and a jar of fresh-baked cookies in the afternoon make you feel right at home.
Baseball fans will need a minimum of two hours, some will need much more, to absorb the collections amassed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Cooperstown is a wonderful spot for a getaway weekend, and the drive from Central Massachusetts during the fall months is spectacular.