A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Lake Olmstead Stadium- Augusta Greenjackets

We planned to see the Augusta Greenjackets take on the Drive, but the game was called before the gates opened. The rain was really coming down. They were justified in calling the game off.

When you map out a baseball trip, you know a rained out game pretty much means you won't be seeing a game in that city. We had to be in Savannah the next day, so we would not be seeing a game played in Augusta at all.

Still, you want to make the most of your stop at the park.

We were there at 6, the time the gates should open. We were the only fans around as many of the locals had likely watched the local news for info on the weather. They were aware of the situation, and didn't bother coming to the park.

I told a couple of staff that we were from out of town, and it would be appreciated if we could see the field. The gates were open, and no one seemed to mind us walking around with a camera and an umbrella.

We asked the very kind staff in the Greenjackets front office about hitting the gift shop. They were obviously dealing with closing things up because of the rain, but they still very kindly accommodated us. After putting up some signs that the scheduled game for the night would be played tomorrow and changing the teams voice mail, a very kind staff person took us over to the gift shop and unlocked it for us!

For a baseball fan like myself, seeing a game or visiting a new park is always a thrill. For the crew that runs the park, a rain out might mean some extra time to spend with their family or a rare evening to relax. I am sure the gang at the Greenjackets wanted to get home since they are there almost every night. They still enthusiastically assisted me while I was there.

My pictures aren't that great (again, because of the weather) but I still had a good time during my brief trip to Augusta!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

McCormick Field- Asheville Tourists

Our first stop on our trip was to see the Asheville Tourists. This is another great Carolina town that I was excited to see. After a day at the Biltmore, a bit of time checking out their downtown, and ending our day at McCormick Field, my brain felt overloaded.
McCormick Field is a few blocks from the town's active downtown area. I did not get to spend as much time down there as I would have liked, but it looked fun.

McCormick Field feels more like a New York Penn League type field to me. Even though you are in an urban area, there is a lot of green above the outfield fence. I definitely would not call this park very modern. That dated feel, in my opinion, is appreciated.

The atmosphere was very local and family friendly. I saw many parents with their kids around. The park had that very local feel too, I saw a lot of people talking to all of the other people in their sections.

Oh, these guys have a great vendor. He got up and danced on the dugout between innings, and he actually announced that he could go home after he made his sales. He then pleaded (in a very joking way) with people to buy stuff from him!

Their gift shop was a little odd and small. They did not have a stuffed mascot toy, which I thought was wrong. They did have very cool Crash Davis Tourists shirts though. Oh, and they have about the coolest souvenir cup I have found. There is a group photo of the park on the cup. Its not a cheap plastic add cup like many parks are using now.

I really like the South Atlantic League. I have been following it for several years, since the former SAL team the Lake County Captains played close to my old home in Cleveland, and the Lexington Legends are close by these days. I have watched the Tourists play on many occasions, and it was fun seeing them play, for the first time, at their home field.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fluor Field- Greenville Drive

Greenville is a fun place in general, and it is a great baseball town. This might be one of the nicest parks around.

The park looks very much like the big league team's Fenway. They have a replica of the Green Monster in left. There is an apartment building right behind there (having an apartment with a view of a minor league park is a fantasy of mine!). The exterior looks great too!

There were plenty of staff around, but they all seemed friendly and enthusiastic. They did not take away from the game experience. In fact, I chatted with a couple of staff who seemed excited about baseball and about their team.

Other teams take note! A lot of helpful staff who are excited about minor league ball is a plus! Having a lot of staff around who are concerned about where fans are standing, sitting, and generally trying to justify their job by annoying fans is a minus!

We had a nice, long talk with one girl taking tickets who really seemed to know baseball and the Drive. She talked a little about Shoeless Joe, the team, this park, and the old park.

The other staff we talked to at this park were helpful and friendly too.

The Drive have a great area with pictures of players who have passed through the Greenville.

The Drive have a gift shop inside and outside of the park. Both had a great selection of various merch. They have one of those Build A Bear mascot set ups, and I think that is totally cool!

Also, Shoeless Joe Jackson's house has been moved right next door. Unfortunately, the house keeps very limited hours, and we did not get to see the inside. I am sure many baseball fans saw the Learning Channel's show on Shoeless Joe's house, with Josh Hamilton doing a lot of work on it during the move. I will get an entry up on what we saw of his house soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book: Ty Cobb: My Twenty Years in Baseball

I picked this book up at the Ty Cobb gift shop at the Ty Cobb Museum.

Cobb wrote this book as a newspaper section originally. In fact, it was pretty much lost until a Cobb researcher came across it, and pieced it together as a book. Talk about discovering a lost treasure! The books intro explains how the book was rediscovered.

This book is a real treat because it is written by Cobb really at the end of his baseball career. Ty discusses his dad's initial opposition to his playing baseball as a career. He discusses being cut from his first minor league team, but making his way back to that team later, and eventually finding his way to the Tigers.

Ty Cobb reveals a lot about himself. He says that he has always taken everything in life seriously. He openly talks about how he had trouble when someone was joking with him. He admits that he had difficulty finding the humor in certain situations, and he could not recognize a funny situation until someone else pointed it out to him.

Cobb seems to me to be someone looking back at his 20 year career (at that point) reflectively. He does seem to say that he wishes he had handled some situations differently, but he doesn't make apologies, nor does he seem regretful.

He talks about his various rivalries, and he seems to express that he considers many of his old rivals to be friends now. He appeared to respect his rivals, as they were also giving 100 percent.

Ty talks about the famous incident where he attacks a fan in the crowd.

This is a very fun and easy to read book. It also gives a great first person account of playing baseball almost a century ago.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ty Cobb Museum- Royston, GA.

I wasn't exactly sure of what to expect from the town of Royston. The museum is in the front area of a bigger medical center building.

The town itself has a great small town feel to it. It is casual and relaxed.

When we first walked in to the building housing the museum, there is a gift shop to the right. You can buy your ticket to the museum there. It is $5 to get in, and you are buzzed in. On the day we were there, we were the only people in the actual museum area.

The museum itself is pretty small in size. The exhibits are grouped in sections with a lot of information. Though the actual museum is small, they have a lot of fun artifacts there. It is easily worth the $5 admission.

Many of Cobb's personal items were on display. The oddest item, hands down, had to be his dentures.

There is a very nice theater in the back with a great mural of Cobb's career. A 15 minute movie is shown.

I loved the gift shop here too. They had an impressive selection of books relating to Ty Cobb.

I picked up some postcards to send out, and the very friendly lady running the shop, museum, and some of the medical center operations asked if I would be mailing the postcards out from Royston. She advised me to send them from the post office just down the street, as a special Ty Cobb postmark could be applied. I did as she suggested, and had the cancel added to my postcards! The post office was friendly too.

She also gave us directions to Ty Cobb's final resting place (I will get an entry up with some pictures of that soon).

This museum is really great. It is affordable and very well done. It is easy to access and it is in a neat little community. The museum allows photography, and plenty of pamphlets on Ty Cobb are available.

There is a real recognition at the museum of Ty Cobb's contribution to this area which the community benefits from to this day. He paid for the hospital.

Also, I did not hear or see any mention of any players who came after Cobb and broke his records. I do love my Cincinnati baseball, but Cobb's career stands on it's own. No comparisons to tough players from later decades are needed. Ty stands alone.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wild Pitches

I don't have a lot to talk about at the moment. If you stopped by yesterday, then you know that I totally screwed up a post, but I quickly took it down. Man, I need an editor. Or I need to learn how to spell.... or focus.

I did put a link to Glynn Ligon's web site covering Colt .45s baseball cards up. This is a very comprehensive site covering known cards featuring Colt players. It is very well researched, and can be appreciated by fans and non fans of the team.

The Frontier League's season is about to get going. Anyone living close to one of the teams in this league is very lucky! My nearest FL team (the Freedom) is a good hour drive up the road. I will make that drive several times this year though, as they are a fun team in a great league!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Florence Freedom exhibition games.

The Freedom are getting their act together this year, and they have competed in some exhibition games! I made it up to Champion Windows field this past weekend to catch the Freedom.

I really love this area, and this team. They always put on a great game day experience, and the team always looks good.

The team did not look as strong as it has in the past. Then again, this was an exhibition game. Their opponents were stealing left and right on them. It was a little embarrassing. I am certain manager Toby Rumfield will be working with the boys on this.

The Freedom have a fun and witty staff. Their on field personality is the most animated I have ever seen. Most teams have some guy with a microphone fumbling over cards trying to make in between inning dizzy bat races sound interesting.

Well, the Freedom do the dizzy bat race too, but their on field announcer makes it interesting. She wears a head set microphone which allows her to do flips and other acrobatics during the game. Their announcer is smart too. He does a great job of announcing the players, and can make the occasional side joke too.

Their new mascot, Wally the Water Tower, appeared. The legendary phrase, "Florence Y'all" is part of his costume.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MMA event at Applebee's Park in Lexington

I am all for using minor league parks to their fullest. I am also a fan of MMA competitions. I was pretty excited to hear that MMA would be happening at my favorite ballpark.

There were some issues with the event going on. It was scheduled to start at 7, but the event really didn't get going until 7:30.

Then it rained. And it rained some more. So, an event that is usually held indoors had to suffer through rain.

I would hate to be too critical of a promoter trying to put on an MMA event. If not for the rain, this would have been a great evening of fights.

Anyone attempting to bring some exposure to young fighters, and trying to promote an MMA event gets respect in my books.

BB&T Ballpark Winston-Salem Dash

I mentioned before that we stopped here during a week day, and the box office personnel told us the actual park and a gift shop were unavailable (even though on the teams website, the team shop should have been opened at this time).

I did email the team about this. VP of baseball operations Ryan Manuel very kindly emailed me back to say that he was sorry about the situation. He even invited me to call him if I am in town to set up a time to see their park!

He explained that there is a building still being built and that will not be completed until 2011 and the team has a temporary merchandise shop set up inside. There was some confusion and chaos at the park the day I was there, as the staff was preparing for a game that evening.

It was disappointing to stop at a park and get brushed off at the box office, but I think Ryan's email was sincere and that I did catch the staff on a very off day. I would give this park a second chance if I am back in the area.
Check out my photos. It is an attractive facility.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wild Pitches

As I mentioned previously, we just made our way through some other states to the east of Kentucky. I am still sorting out my photos and will get them up soon.

Every park is exciting. It was great seeing the old Durham Bulls park from the movie, though their new park is full of character too. Seeing the old park used by the Greenville Braves was fascinating, as it has only been 5 years or so since organized baseball moved out, but it looks very abandoned these days.

We crossed paths with a couple of older guys (one of them admitted that he was in his 80s, though he didn't look it!). They were visiting parks and asked for directions. They had played pro am ball some time ago. One of the guys said he was DJ Mitchell (currently of the AA Yankees) grandfather!

We saw these guys a couple of times, as they were out visiting the same parks as us around Greensboro.

We talked to many cool people at each of the parks we visited. Savannah, Augusta, Kannapolis, and Hickory all had great staff who took time out to show us around and chat about baseball. More on each of those parks and their staffs later.

Even after visiting many parks, there are some things I see that I would love to see other parks do.

I think the "Build A Bear" mascot thing is cool. Call me a giant goofball, but I love mascots. A big, quality stuffed mascot is great.

Other merchandise that I like at parks includes postcards. More teams should sell postcards of their stadiums. Oh, and Kannapolis sells a really cool 6 foot long panoramic photo.

Kannapolis had a map up, showing where each of the members of the team are from. On a previous baseball road trip through PA, the Iron Pigs had a cool display. They had a huge map up, with pictures of fans wearing their Iron Pigs gear next to notable landmarks.

I do wish parks would try to get more original with their music. I wish the phrases "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea" and "Everybody clap your hands" would go away. And the YMCA. Yes, it is a cool song, but I am not sure if I would call it a family friendly song.

Still, you can't beat relaxing at a minor league park at the end of a day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Florence Freedom exhibition games

Hey, if you are anywhere near the top part of the state you should make a point to stop by Champion Window Field. They are having some exhibition games tonight, tomorrow night, and at 1 on Saturday. $5 to get in. They are also asking for items (canned food and hygiene) which will be sent to Nashville thanks to Two Men and a Truck. We all know Nashville needs some assistance at the moment.

The Freedom are a great organization, and always host a fun game day. They are once again showing a ton of class by trying to help our friends in Nashville. Hats off to Two Men and a Truck too.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Baseball in the Carolinas

I am about to get some posts up relating to our baseball trip through the Carolinas. We had a great time visiting the MANY great teams in the two states and in Georgia. This was new territory for me personally.

The only negative experience we had was at the Winston-Salem Dash's park. We asked the person in their box office about checking out their gift shop and the park. She suggested that I look at their web site for merchandise (I thought she was kidding at first when she suggested this). I know this is a newer team with a nice new park. I assume they are drawing good crowds. Still, most parks appreciate people stopping by to spend money in their gift shop and to see the park. If you are traveling through the Carolinas visiting parks and are unable to see them all, I would suggest skipping the Winston-Salem Dash.

We covered 14 parks and I tried to get some great photos at each. We also met some very interesting people along the way. We made stops at the Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson Museums (though Shoeless Joe's was closed while we were in town).

This is an amazing baseball area and I will be back.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book: Touching All The Bases by Ned Garver

I love stories from players who played on some of those great old teams that are no longer around, or that have changed significantly. For some reason, there is something especially fun about the Browns.

Ned played for the Browns, and he put out this easy to read book about his playing days.

Some of the tales could only come out of the 40s and 50s. For instance, his brother is in the military, and years of Ned playing pro ball through a paper with an article about Ned's success.

Ned also gets ripped off by the Mud Hens, who ship him to another team for a few days towards the end of the season so they don't have to pay him his bonus money for staying with the team the entire season. Ned writes a note to protest, but he does not get a response.

He has similar issues with the Browns later, as they lead him to believe he will get a call up to end a season with the big league club, and make more money, but then they don't call him up. He writes another letter of protest, again, not getting a response. Later, the Browns inform him that they got a copy of the letter he wrote.

Ned talks a lot about feeling flattered that he still gets asked for autographs, saying that he must get a fan letter each day still. He even says that, during his playing days, the players would encourage each other to sign autographs.

Speaking of autographs, Ned meets Cy Young once, and mentions that he was so amazed that he forgot to ask him for an autograph!

Of course, Ned's biggest accomplishment in baseball was winning 20 games for a struggling Browns team. Ned talks about this and his other accomplishments.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Larry Addington Field- Tri-State Tomahawks

The Frontier League is one of my favorites. They are starting to get some praise, but I feel like they deserve even more.

The league started in 1993. I wasn't keeping up with the league at that time but I have been following them for some time now.

Many of the first few teams in the league didn't make it. I won't go on with details about the early days of the league because Tim Perry's web site does a great job of that. Most of the info I know about the leagues comes from Tim's unofficial Frontier League History page (though it is linked to the official site of the league, giving it some level of "officialness").


Tim Perry does an amazing job of covering every team that has ever been in the league, including the short lived Tomahawks.


Also check out this site for more history and some better photos than the ones I have posted: http://www.digitalballparks.com/

I made the pilgrimage here a few weeks ago, because it did host professional baseball in the Frontier League's inaugural season.

"What's the big deal about that?" you might ask.

Think about how many parks in Kentucky that have hosted professional baseball. I can think of 4 active ones (linked to the left). The triple A Louisville team played at some before their current location, including one that is still standing. There are 2 former Frontier League parks that have hosted the pros in Kentucky.

Larry Addington Field is a very nice high school park. I enjoyed walking around there. I am sure the community is aware of how nice the field is. But it is not really a pro level field.

As I walked around, I thought about my favorite current Frontier League team, the Florence Freedom, and I tried to compare Champion Window Field (where the Freedom plays) to this park.

The Freedom are drawing very respectable crowds to the northern part of Kentucky these days. A Freedom game is exciting and happening. Most games I have been to have at least a few thousand in attendance. Parking is plentiful.

The two parks are totally different. One is a nice minor league park, the other is a nice high school park.

I cannot imagine opening night at the old Tomahawks park. According to the web sites mentioned above, the team drew less than 1000 fans for their entire shortened season. I would love to see some photos or really anything relating to that original Frontier League team.

But this park still stands, and the league is still around!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book: They Call Me Sparky by Sparky Anderson

Sparky starts out talking about how people are all the same. He gives a story about how people are always surprised that he still lives in the small house he and his wife build decades ago.

I appreciate the way Sparky says that he doesn't feel he is any better than anyone else just because he has been fortunate. In his book, Sparky comes off as humble and gracious.

He also talks about his feelings that players need to be aware of their status as role models.

The first several pages of the book are devoted to the baseball strike in 1995. Replacement players were used during spring training. They didn't even use players from the minors. Sparky was the only major league manager who refused to manage the replacements.

Anderson explains that he didn't really do it for the players, he did it out of respect for the quality of the game. He felt bad for the replacement players, as he felt they were being used.

Reading about the strike and the replacement players used during the 1995 spring training season leads me to feel curious about the teams in March of that year. I am going to have to see if a detailed book about that month of spring training is available.

Sparky covers the era's people would expect, including his time with the Reds in the 70s, and the 1984 Tigers. He touches on the bad season he had in Detroit, talking openly about his need to take some time off in the middle of the season.

Also as expected, Sparky doesn't trash talk anyone, and he takes responsibility for some things that happened here and there.

Sparky humbly talks about his trips to see kids in the hospital, and his charity work, but he doesn't linger on these topics.

He also talks a little about rumors that he has been black balled from managing, but he says he doesn't really feel that is the case. He says that he is grateful to the sport.

This is a fun book that could be read over an evening. This would be a great book for a young fan of baseball for many reasons. Sparky is full of optimism and positivity.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Postcard: Atlanta Stadium "Home of the Braves"

This postcard I found with some others at an antique shop recently simply reads "Background shows part of Atlanta's business district, City Hall and the State Capital."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book: Surf Laundry Detergent

I am not really sure how Surf Laundry Detergent got involved with baseball in 1986, but they did.

I found these 2 books at used book stores pretty cheaply. I happily scooped them both up!

Each book reprints all of the Topps baseball cards of the named team from 1952-1986. It is a really cool resource for the fan of the named team.

Each season has a brief description of how well the team did that year, and then smaller versions of the team cards from that year are printed, in color, at about 1/3rd scale.