Sunday, June 10, 2007

Quick Comments on My Southern Swing

Have returned from my first ballpark trip of the summer. Saw games in 9 different parks, 7 of them being new for me. Here are some quick comments on each. Full reviews and photos will be posted to over the coming weeks, so keep checking back.

City Stadium (Lynchburg, VA) - I had visited the ballpark in 1999 before the extensive renovations. I was happy to see that the changes had not ruined the basic structure. There is still a large roof over most of the grandstand, yet the concourse has been widened and more comfortable seating installed. I wonder why new ballparks couldn't be built the same way.

Coastal Federal Field (Myrtle Beach, SC) - didn't expect much going in as the photos I'd seen made it look like Rome and Lexington, neither of which I liked. But this park is better than both of those. Lots of places to roam and some interesting features (i.e. The Beach). Despite almost no local flavor (since everyone is a tourist there), I enjoyed the atmosphere.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark (Daytona Beach, FL) - a real gem. I don't care for the big bleacher section which doesn't fit with the cozy grandstand, but overall I like this place a lot. Recent renovations have added a wide concourse (where a road used to be) and new seating under the grandstand. Great views of the water and a bridge just add to the beauty.

Ed Smith Stadium (Sarasota, FL) - probably one of the worst minor league experiences I've witnessed. The ballpark is cold and sterile and nobody comes to the games. It makes for quite a depressing place to see a game.

Brighthouse Networks Field (Clearwater, FL) - I'm sure it's a great spring training venue, but as with most of the FSL parks, it is simply too big for the small crowds. It's location along busy Rt 19 is its only detriment.

Legends Field (Tampa, FL) - ditto my comments on Brighthouse. With such sparse crowds for FSL games, this place is quite depressing. Fortunately I have seen a spring training game here as well when the atmosphere is quite lively.

Joker Marchant Park (Lakeland, FL) - tucked away in central Florida, this park feels like what spring training is supposed to be like. And even for FSL games, it's not too bad. The crowds are sparse but lively and the team really seems to be trying to create an old-time atmosphere.

Lake Olmstead Stadium (Augusta, FL) - finally got back here after getting rained out in 1999. A bit too much self promotion from Cal Ripken (he now owns the team), but overall a nice experience. The ballpark is truly unique, the setting serene, and the atmosphere laid back.

First Horizon Park (Greensboro, NC) - a nice new ballpark tucked into the downtown, but the atmosphere is over the top and crowds trend toward the hip side (i.e. non-baseball fans). Good thing the normal on field DJ (Spaz) wasn't there, or the atmosphere would have even been worse.