7/2/94 Princeton, West Virginia
Over the last couple of years I have taken a great pleasure in visiting minor league ballparks through out the southeast. My trips have taken me from Spartanburg South Carolina to Elizabethton Tennessee to Princeton West Virginia where I am presently.
It seems to me that the lower the league the more unique the stadium or field. For instance, here in Princeton most of the bleachers on the right side, while on the left side there are only a few reserved seats behind home plate.
The Appalachian League to me is professional baseball at it's purest. Right now I am observing the Princeton Reds high-fiving each other in preparation for their game against the Burlington. I notice another player for the Reds attempting a hand stand. Besides seeing Ozzie Smith do his back flips, I would never see such youthful exuberance in the majors.
Middle of game: I just won a dinner for 2 at Roma III. A local italian eatery. Tonight after the game is the only time I can use this prize. Of course I am by myself and I already had a hamburger, but what the heck!
Here is a photo of this ballpark.
July 4, 1994--Kingsport, Tennessee
I am presently sitting in a football grandstand that was opened up for fireworks night here at J. Fred Johnson Stadium. For most games during the season these stands are closed to the public, but because of the fireworks coming later this evening, they were opened to the public. The stadium itself is a converted football stadium sitting on the Dobyns-Bennett High School campus.
The bleachers, for the baseball part of the stadium, are the tallest that I've ever seen in class A level. However, because these stands are so far away for the playing field, it is not very conducive for any intimacy between the players and the fans.
This has to be one of the strangest fields in the minors that I've been to. For instance, the scoreboard was made for football games. When each team is batting a possession goes on the side of the team batting. When looking at the scoreboard I almost feel that time should be elapsing from the time clock.
Thank goodness that Kingsport Mets will be getting a new stadium next seasons. I've been told that it was supposed to be ready for this year but there were delays.
A fair is going on in the parking lot behind the first base side. I can see a ferris wheel from the place that I'm sitting in right field.
One thing that I've found in common with many stadiums in the Appalachian league are the scenic and sometimes mountainous backdrops. This stadium is no exception.
I think this is the first time that I can remember spending a fourth of July entirely by myself. Still, this year I wouldn't have it any differently.
For the most part, I find watching a baseball game, for the game itself to be rather boring. However, I find attending ballparks (especially the lower level minor leagues) to be extremely fun and thrilling.
I would say that probably 60 to 70 percent of the people are here to see the fireworks only. Personally, I prefer that there are fewer people in the ball park. I know that the ownership is ecstatic however.
It's neat to see the kids around the ball park playing with their Kingsport Mets mementos. They seem to get just as much of a thrill from this place as they would at a major league ballpark.
Only one more out to go and my baseball adventure through the Appy league is over. How ironic it is that as the last out is made the sun is about to set. In a way, I am very sad.
Even though the Mets just lost, kids are milling around wanting autographs from the met players. I'm pretty sure that after an 11 to 0 loss they really don't feel like signing.
Here is a picture of this
August 5, 1995--Knoxville, Tennessee
Alone in the right field bleachers. I love ballparks with some kind of urban backdrop and Bill Meyer Stadium is no exception. Behind the left field wall is a tall warehouse called the Knoxville plant. In a way it is a cross between the old and new ballparks in Durham.
All around the stadium there are kids and adults hoping that a foul ball will come their way. I'm glad to know I am not alone. There is a thrill to getting a foul ball. It's the same type of pride that a fisherman gets when they catch the "big one."
There seems to be two different worlds between the outfield bleachers and the grandstand. While the grandstand is sprawling with people, the bleachers have what I would consider a little league attendance.
After 5 1/2 innings Jacksonville 6, Knoxville 4.
Ball just hit over the centerfield head. Slight wind blowing left to right on this humid (not too) night.
Common occurrence in most minor league stadiums is a race between the mascot and the participant (usually) a kid in a race around the basepaths. Of course the kid always wins. In Burlington a clown runs against the kid and in Kingsport it's a pizza delivery guy.
Very easy to see the difference between a rookie league game and double A ball.
Foul ball hit to first base side. Spectator with child sitting on his lap caught it in one bounce. Got an ovation.
Spoke with guy standing outside in right field. He told me when balls are hit outside pare he retrieves them and sells them for $2.
Another older guy told me that back in the 60's if a player broke a window in the warehouse after he hit a homerun he would get a free pair of underwear.
Moved back to my spot in rightfield. #35 Chris Freeman a pitcher sitting in the bullpen was telling me that he got what seemed to be around 500 requests for a baseball. He said if he gave a ball every time a kid requested, the organization wouldn't pay him.
Since the game now is not very close a good many people have left the stadium. Now that the 8th inning is complete many fans are filing out of the park... Scoreboard is malfunctioning, no wonder why a lot of teams are switching to manual scoreboards. Scoreboard now turned off.
Another game nearing a close, always sad. Jacksonville 11 Knoxville 5.
Here is a picture of this ballpark.