We’re Back! 2012 Road Trip Coming Soon

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted.  I’ve been doing some writing over at Stadium Journey, and that’s curtailed my opportunities to write here on Ticket to the Game. I’ve made return visits to Hickory,NC  and Greenville, SC this year, as well as a first visit to Savannah, GA’s Grayson Stadium. But 2 weeks from today, I’m headed to beautiful Dowtown….  Milwaukee, for the start of a 5 day, 6 game extravaganza.

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The Agenda:

  • Miller Park, Milwaukee WI
  • The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Appleton, WI
  • Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs
  • US Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox
  • Madison Mallards, Madison WI…  College Summer Wood Bat league, with attendance approaching 10,000!
  • Beloit Snappers, Beloit, WI

Stay Tuned for details!  We’re doing Wrigley and US Cellular in the same day, and I’m excited to experience the Duck Blind in Madison… Supposedly one of a kind, with the greatest beer selection of any ballpark in the country.

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Ballpark Review: Fieldcrest-Cannon Stadium, Kannapolis, NC

Entarnce to Fieldcrest Cannon StadiumWhen you go to as lot of minor league games, it’s not uncommon for the buzz in the crowd to be about someone on the visiting team.  this was the case today, as Bryce Harper, the most heralded prospect in the minor leagues played for the Hagerstown Suns.  We arrived 15 minutes before the gates opened, and were in line behind 40 autograph dealers, lining up to get their shot at Bryce.

Sad for them, but my seats were front row, right next to the Hagerstown dugouts, and the ushers did a great job of making them move away from actual seat-holders.  We were surrounded by these dealers until game-time, and then they disappeared.  More about his later, or on a facebook post – but it’s really disgusting what these guys do.

On to the park…  Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium ( or, “The Cannon”) is the home of the Kannapolis Intimidators of the South Atlantic League.  When the park was built in 1995, they imported

Whisler's Sidearm delivery

the former Spartanburg Phillies and became the Piedmont Boll Weevils.  the thought at the time was to play upon the rich textile heritage of the region. The main entrance is reminiscent of a textile mill, to play against that heritage.

However, the rebranding of the team as the Intimidators pays homage to Dale “The Intimidator” Earnhardt. So now the park walks a line between NASCAR and textiles, and it sometimes feels a little disjointed.

The park itself is nicely set.  Our seats along the dugout were extremely close to the action, and literally sat at field level.  It’s a great view, but it can be difficult to always track the ball from that height, and an errant throw to 1st can add a level of excitement to a routine grounder.  not a great seat for kids…  I’d move back a bit next time for better game watching.

Bryce Harper deposits Whisler's delivery over the RCF wall

The luxury boxes are built into the “mill” building, and sit back a good ways from the action, but it’s a small park, so I don’t imagine that’s much of a detractor for those who might need a party suite. There’s a picnic pavilion down the left field line that allows them to do some catering, and provides one of the few shady spots in the ballpark.  There is no escape from the sun if you want to watch the game, however.  There ought to be an awning sponsor somewhere who wants to create a shady zone.  In late May, it was 92 degreees, and a woman in our section got dehydrated and nearly passed out going up the steps.

Concessions were unremarkable. There’s a very nice fresh-squeezed lemonade stand down the RF line, as well as a stand for a local vendor, Whatswaterice.com. The main concession stands stick to the basics – hamburgers, hotdogs, pretzels, beer. Soda was plastic bottles only, no souvenir cups of overpriced fountain sugar.

There were 2 desserts that were unique.  the first was called Apple Ugly.  This is basically an apple fritter, based on some local varieties. The 2nd was a Cheerwine cake. Cheerwine is a local cherry soda (that’s a cousin to the local Mountain Dew known as Sun Drop.

The Intimidator's Ride parked out front

Here in early Summer, I’d recommend sitting on the home 3B side, to keep the sun out of your eyes in the early evening.  Front row seats were $9, so bargains abound, and they’re not a huge draw, so walkup tickets are no problem.

It’s good pure low-minors ball, and a nice way to watch a game.  Check it out on your next NC baseball trip.


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Ballpark Review: Calfee Park, Pulaski, VA

Historic Entry to Calfee Park, Pulaski, VA

Original entrance beyond LF

Calfee Park, Pulaski, Va (photo gallery)
700 South Washington Ave Pulaski VA, 24301 (map)
Pulaski Mariners, Appalachian League

I’m not sure I could have picked a better start to a 3 day ballpark road trip than Calfee Park in Pulaski, Virginia. Here’s an historic baseball stadium in the tiny town of Pulaski (pronounced pyuh-lah-ski). It doesn’t have the amenities of a new baseball palace, or even the High A park I visited later in the week. Despite that, this may have been the most enjoyable day at the game I’ve had in a long while.

The Appalachian League experience is about atmosphere and people, not amenities. In this regard, Calfee Park is outstanding. The park has a beautiful historic stone entrance dating back to 1935 you can reach from the left-field parking area, that harkens back to the original Pulaski Counts (the town is named after Count Casimir Pulaski, a Polish soldier regarded as the “father of the American Cavalry”.)  Walking in from that vantage, the left field seats beyond the infield aren’t even really seats at all, but large concrete steps.  Fans bring their own bag chairs, like they were watching a little league game in the park.

One of the first things I noticed at this game was that despite a decent crowd, the park was nearly silent… almost reverentially quiet.  our seats behind home plate were incredibly close to the catcher, as there was not a lot of foul ground behind him, so every pop of the glove was the loudest noise we heard most of the night.  Although the seats were only $6 each, they were nearly empty, except for our group, some scouts, players charting pitches, and a couple of die-hards.

Official Scorer - Pulaski, VA

Official Scorer - Pulaski, VA

A group like this will remind you why the low minors can be so much fun.  There was a 10 year old boy sitting next to me, with a gentleman on the other side that I incorrectly assumed was his father.  Nope… this kid comes to almost every game and keeps a detailed scorebook. When the President of the Appy League came to town, this kid recognized him! When the Astros GM came through, he gave the kid a military challenge coin with an Astros logo on the obverse.  The man on the other side only knew him because they were both always there. The boy had to find different relatives to take him to the game each night, and his grandfather was happier in the bleachers, 30 yards away. Even the official scorer knew this kid, and would stick his head out the window to help him score a couple of tough plays.

As for the park itself, it’s mountain setting provides a beautiful backdrop for a game, and the large stands of trees may also add to the quiet factor.  There are only a few dozen box seats behind home plate, and in front of the press box. The “Luxury Boxes” are a group of seats with picnic tables that run along the 1st base line.  These boxes have no TV’s, no carpeting… no roofs or doors.  they are merely reserved patio areas with the names of the local businesses that sponsor and rent those spaces.  Very cool setup.

To fit in with the terrain, the park is much deeper in left field than in right, and the right field fence is twice as high with a berm behind it to compensate. bullpens are along the sidelines and are unprotected.  there’s not a lot of foul ground, so the backstop netting extends a long way down each baseline.

Concessions are split into two stands.  There’s the main stand that’s built into the back of the ticket booths along the 1st base promenade. The stand sells the hot dogs, candy, drinks, popcorn, etc. However, only the “grill” tucked back out of sight from the playing field does hamburgers and fries.  So if you want a dog and some fries, you have to go to 2 different stands.  If this were a larger park it would be inexcusable, but when total attendance is 829, it’s only a minor inconvenience.

Most of the food choices were straightforward, but the quality of the burgers was outstanding, and the prices were fantastic. Two burgers, fries and drinks was less than $20 – an unheard of price, even in high A ball. In addition to the standard fries, they also sold Mariner Fries, which were more like potato chips cut 1/4″ thick.  These were fairly unique, and very hot and tasty.

Calfee Park is a gem, and my experience there this year is easily in the top 5 of all games I’ve ever attended. The park is historic, unique, and the cool mountain breezes are welcome on a hot August night in the South. While they only host a few dozen games a year, and they market to a low-cost crowd, the park is immaculately clean and you have easy access to everything you may want or need. It never feels contrived or cheap. This is a must-see park.

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McCormick Field, Asheville, NC - A Step Back In Time

Historic McCormick Field is a step back in time, literally.  Built originally in 1924, it is one of the oldest active ballparks

40 ft high Right Field Wall

Right field wall

in affiliated baseball.  It did have a major rebuilding in the early 90′s replacing wooden structures with concrete, but the general facade and infrastructure remain the same.  The park’s dimensions are very small less than 300 feet down the lines and only 390 to dead center.  Right field has a 40 foot high wall with an integrated scoreboard due to it’s extremely short distance.

Stadium parking is almost non-existent.  There are about 100 on-site spaces, and those are reserved for premium ticket packages.  Many folks park in a grassy lot to the left of the paved parking for about $5 a car.  Beyond that, it’s likely you can find free or very cheap street parking a little further out.  With a capacity of about 4,000, I don’t think the crowds are overwhelming to the point where anywhere would be a long walk.

My understanding is that the team has some new owners, and they are trying to make some changes to modernize the experience.  They are taking advantage of the size of their market in an effort to create some unique experiences and special ticket packages.  These were really unique, so they are worth mentioning below, but the park is so small, that there really isn’t a bad seat in the place.

The Tyson Dream Seats offer a unique experience I’ve never seen in another ballpark.  With a Dream Ticket, you’re on-field for batting practice, you get to shag a fly ball in the outfield, and meet & greet a few players before the game.  Then, at game time, you head up into the club seating for an upscale buffet and one of the few elevated views of the game. Only 4 of these are available per game, so you need to book well in advance. The price is high for a minor league game, but at $35 a ticket, including food, beverages and parking, it may be one of the most accessible on-field experiences anywhere in baseball, and not exclusively for the sponsor/high-roller.

The Bojangles Dugout Suites feature the closest seats to home plate in all of minor league baseball.  The section is actually carved out behind the batter’s boxes and make an indentation in the usual backstop netting to accomodate the distance.  Tickets here include high backed seats, a Bojangles combo meal, and included beer wine and soda/water, as well as free parking.

Asheville, NC - McCormick Field - RF Stands

RF Stands and roof

The remainder of the seating is almost all behind some protective netting, but even that wasn’t enough to protect some fans at our game.  Hard foul balls ricochet off the cantilevered roofing very hard, and provided a sneak attack to more than one fan on this night.  As always, stay aware until you know where the ball has landed. The roof also traps a lot of heat.  We were sitting in the “Press Row” seats – premium tickets behind the plate, and directly below the actual press box. The view was great, but on a late-July night, these seats were also the warmest place in the entire facility.  Although we had waitress service, walking out to the concession stands was a welcome break from the heat.

Concessions here were a little disappointing.  The best I can say is that if you’re a beer lover, there were to separate local microbrews in the park, offering a variety of unique beer choices.  The French Broad Brewing Company‘s Rye Hopper was an enjoyable cool choice on a muggy night.

The food was pedestrian at best.  The brats had a nice spice, but were a bit mushy.  The Pulled Pork BBQ nachos also had a nice sweet flavor for western Carolina barbecue, but it certainly wasn’t on par with a Boog’s barbecue in terms of meat quality. Also, bottled water late in the game was tepid, and the concessionaires were unable to offer cups with ice. We were told that they used to have a signature dessert – chocolate dipped frozen cheesecake on a stick – would have liked to have seen that.  There just wasn’t much that made this stand out.

One last minor quibble: If there’s one modernization I expect at all affiliated ballparks in this day and age, it’s the ability to take debit/credit cards throughout the ballpark.  Like the commercial says, cash is slow and inconvenient, and your one off-brand ATM machine is not serving the will of the people at $2.50 surcharges.  Centerplate handles the food: there’s no reason not to modernize your payment systems.

First, in NC style, there was a high end Fireworks Friday display.  Fans were even allowed on the field (in foul territory) to sit on the grass and watch the fireworks… a very nice touch.  Secondly, the local fans brought tennis balls with them.  While the park was setting up for fireworks, fans had the opportunity to throw their tennis balls on the field.  If they landed in designated circles, they could win tickets and prizes up to $2,000 in cash. This really added to local flavor and small town feel.  Great promotion for the locals.

McCormick Field in Asheville is a great place to see a game, the way it used to be played.  The park is so small that everything feels more intimate, and you get the feel of town ball that you can’t get in even a 10,000 seat AAA park. Come and see it while you can.  It’s definitely worth the visit.

McCormick Field
30 Buchanan Place
Asheville, NC 28801 (map)

More Photos on Ticket To The Game’s fan page on Facebook!

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Coors Field

Coors Field - Denver, CO

Coors Field, home of the Rockies

June 22, 2010 marked my 2nd visit to Coors Field, and I returned from this one similarly impressed to my first visit.  It’s hard to believe this park has been open for 15 years already, because there’s so much about it that still feels new.

Coors Field was built in LoDo – lower downtown Denver, as the hub of a revitalization project. As such, it’s brick and steel facade fits neatly in the neighborhood alongside bars, restaurants and the landmark Union Station. The quickest entrance from union Station takes you into the left field corner, from which the entire park is accessible.

Although we went for a Wednesday night game, we definitely were treated to a playoff atmosphere. As part of the interleague shenanigans, this was Rockies / Red Sox, a rematch of the 2007 World Series, and it was also Ubaldo vs. Lackey, a premium pitching matchup.  The game was virtually sold out, but face value tickets were still easy to come by online, even in premium sections downstairs.

Coors Field - View of the Rockies from the upper deck

Coors Field - View of the Rockies from the upper deck

We sat along the 1st base side, about 20 rows up.  A similar seating to our last visit.  What I had forgotten, was that it’s a pretty tough spot to sit for the 1st few innings, as the sun basically sets in the eyes of the first baseman.   Once it gets dark, you have a spectacular view of the mountains from the upper deck, though… so there’s always a trade-off.  In the future, I’d definitely stick to the 3B side or OF seats to avoid shading my eyes for 5 innings.

Seats in the 2 sections directly over the dugouts on each side have ushers bring kids down over the dugouts every few innings to see if they can get a ball from a player coming in… a really nice fan-friendly touch.

Locals also like the party atmosphere of the Rock Pile, cheap day of game seats in dead centerfield,  The upper deck features a row of purple seats that mark exactly 1 mile above sea level, here in the Mile High City.

It’s also a great test of a major league park to see it function with a full house. in this case, Coors Field held up well, with only a few minor glitches. An early visit to a concession stand found them out of hamburger buns, but lines moved quickly, and the staff was friendly. The concourses were crowded, but passable, and the ushers did a good job managing entry to the seating bowl without disturbing the already seated patrons during at-bats.

Like all major league parks, concessions are expensive.  they do have a few signature items. The Rockie Dog is a quality footlong dog, served with peppers, onions and sauerkraut. Rocky Mountain Oysters are available, but I’m not going anywhere near them, nor would I know what made a good one. For a splurge, the Mountain Ranche Bar and Grille takes reservations inside the park, and Coors is also the original home of Blue Moon Beer at the Sandlot Brewery.

In summary, this is a place you could see a lot of games, and always have a good time.  this is a good thing, as if you live in the Denver area, you have the Rockies, the Sky Sox in Colorado Springs, or an 8 hour trip to Utah as your drivable choices.

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Ballpark Review: BB&T Ballpark - Winston-Salem, NC

BBT Ballpark - Ticket to the Game

BB&T Ballpark logo

BB&T Ballpark logo

This morning, when I woke up, I realized I saw the wrong game in Winston-Salem yesterday.  I caught the 12:00 noon game of a day/night doubleheader. While we had a great time even though the home team lost 5-0 in just over 2 hours, the second game was a contest for the ages. The Dash won game 2 in 20 innings over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.  I hate to think I missed a game by “that much” where the second baseman spent 7 innings in left field before he came in to pitch in the 20th and ended up with the win after 5 hours and 30 minutes. (Box Score / Recap)

The morning action was uneventful, as Myrtle Beach jumped on top in the first, and held the Dash to just 3 singles. As expected for a weekday afternoon game, the crowd was sparse as well.  However, that really gave us more freedom to explore the park and take it all in.

BBT Ballpark - view from beyond LF

BBT Ballpark - view from beyond LF

This is a GREAT new park. It’s a retro-style park – brickwork and girders, wide open concourses, and great sightlines from most seats. The seating is very vertical, in that the 20th row still remains very close to the field, as opposed to being pitched way back.  However, in such a small park (capacity is around 7,100, including lawn seating) it doesn’t give you any sense of vertigo.

We purchased field box seats for $11 a ticket, the second tier of price points, but our location was ideal.  in Section 106, we were at the end of the home dugout and right on top of the action at 1st base. Had we pulled a kid out of school, we would have ended up with a couple of baseballs without much effort from this vantage.

Section 106 also gave us another great vantage point… the bullpens are right there in foul territory, and there’s really not enough foul ground to do this in.  The two plates for the bullpen catchers are probably no more than 10 feet from the stands and 15 feet from foul territory.  We saw an errant throw end up in fair territory after it glanced off the catcher’s glove.  Fortunately they were between pitches.  I’m not sure if these are temporary bullpens or not (there’s an empty concrete area in left center that might be the eventual bullpen), but I like where they are, it really adds to the intimacy of the park, as you’re that much more on top of the players.

The field was in gorgeous condition. I have to claim a mea culpa here.  I was very skeptical that the grass wouldn’t hold up as I thought it was installed way too close to the beginning of the season to take root.  However, despite of the heavy rains NC has seen over the last few days, the grass was immaculate.  My bad.  Great job Dash Grounds Crew.

BB&T Ballpark - RF

BB&T Ballpark - RF anomaly and pedestrian bridge

Park dimensions are fair, if not a little short down the lines (315 to the left field corner).  The most interesting artifact is a “nook” in dead right field  an area where the fence just juts back into a grotto that reminded me of center field in the Polo Grounds. It didn’t come in to play in our game, but a ball where the right-fielder is beaten deep could create some very interesting bounces.  Also note the cool pedestrian bridge above the area that helps bring people around the park. (Park entrance was in right center field, so everyone has to cross this bridge to reach the main concourse.

The way the park is built into the hill also adds to the intimacy of the setting, again without feeling claustrophobic.  Despite all the struggles to build this place, their efforts paid off.  This is a great place to see the game. For the most part, this is a model of what a Carolina League game should feel like. Beautiful park, nice people, weird (really weird) between innings promotions… the works.

Where this park is lacking right now is in a concession identity.  The temporary Team store is sparse, and built into the back half of the Press Box, as an example. Where identity really lacked was in the ballpark fare.  Food options were really basic and didn’t have any local flavor.  As luck would have it, the best stand in the park was right behind our section.  They had a carving station with a BBQ sandwich and a nice brisket hoagie.  It’s also the only stand that sells a premium hotdog, including a Carolina Dog with chili and slaw, and a very nice representation of a Chicago dog with all the fixings… the peppers and celery salt really stood out, but all in all a very solid dog. I’m not a big drinker, but the Natty Greene’s Amber Ale was a nice local compliment as well.

But the place needs identity in this area.  You’re in Winston-Salem NC – the heart of barbecue country and all you offer is a little generic sandwich?  You need a Boog’s of Baltimore level barbecue pit, and maybe a Krispy Kreme stand (Krispy Kreme founded not all that far away).  The only local vendor we saw was Kernel Kustard… a popcorn and ice cream vendor, where the popcorn was reasonably priced but somewhat unremarkable.

For now, this is nitpicking.  Due to delays and snafus, getting the doors open was a bit rushed, so to that extent, I’ll give them a pass on some details.  The bones are here for a fantastic ballpark, and the window dressing will come with time. Sprinkle in a few more unforgettable moments like last night’s 20 inning marathon, and you’ve got the makings of an instant classic.

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Remembering Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell Statue

HArwell Statue at Comerica Park

As much as this blog focuses on the experience of a day at the ballpark, it’s hard to believe that I’ve yet to really mention the great broadcasters. This will make me sound old, but there was a time, when the broadcaster was as integral a part of the “at the ballpark” experience as the seats, the hot dogs, or the world’s largest HD replay scoreboard. If you’re over 30, you probably at least have some memory of listening to the radio at the game.  If you do, hopefully you’ll also have an indelible memory of Ernie Harwell.  Harwell, the legendary Tigers broadcaster, died yesterday at the age of 92.

We’re fortunate to live in an era where we bridge the gap from the traditional to the technological, and if we are willing to be patient and observant, we can carry truly indelible memories of the voices that provide color to this game for so many.  I was fortunate enough to sing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the presence of Harry Caray in both Mesa, AZ and Wrigley Field in Chicago.  I watched All-Star games and saturday afternoon broadcasts with Vin Scully at the mic, and now treasure every chance I get to hear him on my East Coast TV. I can still hear Harry Kalas every time I watch the Phillies, and I think of Ernie Harwell whenever I see the Tigers.

It’s an era that’s ending. An era of grace and professionalism that is seldom seen from today’s broadcasters. The description of the game is enough. You don’t have to inject yourself into the broadcast for me to “see” you. I think Charley Steiner understands that, and nis one of the few old-school broadcasters out there right now. I might put Jon Miller there too.  Matt Vasgergian? Joe Morgan?  Tim McCarver? I don’t think so. They make me turn the sound down, not up.

So, the next time you head out to the ballpark, dig a transistor radio out of your basement, and listen to the broadcaster instead of staring at the JumboTron. It’s a tip of the cap to the Great Ernie Harwell, and an experience you won’t soon forget.

If you can’t find a transistor radio, or don’t know what it is, you should be able to pick up your XMRadio feed or an iPhone app for MLB Radio. Not quite the same, but just as effective.

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Saying Goodbye to Rosenblatt Stadium

CWS Statue at Rosenblatt Stadium

College World Series Statue

As the season gets ready to kick off in ballparks large and small around the country, we begin the final curtain call for one of baseball’s most influential stadiums, Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. Rosenblatt Stadium has been the home of the College World Series for 61 years, as well as being the home of the AAA Omaha Royals / Golden Spikes / Royals again.  Starting in 2011, the College World Series will have its own brand new home in downtown Omaha, and the O-Royals move to suburban Papillon, Nebraska in a new $25 million facility.

Baseball America had a nice cover story recently called Rosenblatt Remembered, telling the story of the park from those who are a part of its lore. Ballpark Digest is chronicling nicely how the Royals will say goodbye, with special uniform patches, and a last-game event sponsored by AT&T.

I’ve only made one trip to Omaha, and I have to tell you, it’s a bit of a blur.  I was on assignment in Des Moines, IA, and I found myself with a free afternoon.  I had a rental car, and Omaha was only2 1/2 hours away, so off I went – due West to Omaha, with no real sense of how to get to the ballpark once I reached Nebraska.  Fortunately, once you cross the border into Nebraska, it’s pretty much on the left.. hard to miss.

Rosenblatt Sleeve Patch

2010 Rosenblatt Sleeve Patch

For a minor league game, it’s not a great park… with the expansion, it’s too big for the small gathering of baseball faithful I found there on a random Tuesday. You just always have a sense it’s meant for something more.  The energy and the crowds of the CWS almost haunt the space.  But it has a nice open feel, there’s plenty of parking, and lots of good seats generally available with room to relax.

It’s a closed concourse, meaning you generally cannot see the field from the walking areas behind the plate and down the baselines. I specifically remember two things about the food choices. First, there was an old Asian woman manning a cart selling mini egg rolls that were surprisingly good, considering my expectations for chinese ballpark food in Omaha.  Secondly, there was an “International” stand along the 3rd base line, generally offering Mexican fare. I ordered a taco, but received the equivalent of Hormel chili on pita bread. Not a classic combination.

There’s so much history here – the walls are teeming with it. If you’re local, I would recommend going back one last time to say goodbye. Not many ballparks last 60+ years anymore, and this one has served us well.

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The Lansing Lugnuts Know What It's All About

The Minor Leagues know they have to be different to stand out in a crowded entertainment market. The need to appeal to families, sure, but they also need to continue to surprise and delight us, and give us new reasons to come out to the ballpark for another season of fun and frivolity.

On Facebook, the Lugnuts have spent the winter trying to inject some of that fun spirit, while teasing out what will be new and different at Co0ley Law School Stadium (formerly Oldsmobile Park). They have a team page, and they also have a very active mascot page that fans can interact with.

While some may scoff at the gluttony of an All-You-Can-Eat-Night, here at Ticket to the game, we embrace it, because it usually comes with some great unique food options.  The Lugnuts have been slowly leaking some of those new food options on their fan page for the last 2 months are so, in anticiaption of Opening Night Eat-A-Palooza.  $15 gets you a ticket and a smorgasbord.  Let’s Take a Look at some of the new fare they’re rolling out:

  • George Costanza's Ice Cream at the US Open

    George Costanza's Ice Cream at the US Open

    Philly Cheesesteak Nachos: Sure, anybody can have regular nachos, or even super Nachos… but how about dropping a cheesesteak on top of the whole thing?  Sounds good to me.

  • Sweet Station family size Ice Cream Sundae: I get the idea that ice cream is grweat on a hot summer day, but a family size sundae is sure to make ther whole clan look like George Costanza at the US Open… Pass.
  • Buffalo Chicken Pizza: I’ve got a kid, so I’ve been to CiCi’s.  No it’s not great pizza, as I am classically trained in NY pizza, but it’s edible if you stick to what they do well and it’s cheap.  The buffalo chicken, and the white spinach pizza are the best CiCi’s has to offer, so I’m interested to see if the Lugnuts can make a good one.
  • Big Bone Smoked Turkey Legs: Smoked Turkey Legs are the bastion of state fairs and the Renaissance Faire.  Never been a big fan… never gonna be a big fan.
  • The “Spare Tire” Giant Pork Tenderloin Sandwich: How do you argue with that?  Not a word wasted in that name. Serve it up!

If you get out to Lansing this year, make sure you try some of these, and let us all know what your favorites were.

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Ballpark Preview: Winston Salem Dash

I’m excited about the new ballpark in Winston-Salem. It’s been awhile since there’s been a new park available to me within a 2 hour drive, so I plan on making a number of trips up to see the Dash this year.

Winston Salem Clubhouse

Dash home clubhouse

The Dash are doing a nice job of providing construction updates on their facebook page, and you can really start to see the park taking shape.  The seat installation seems to be going well, and they’ve shown a nice, if generic, endcap on the aisles. The video board is going in, and you can see the orientation of the field.

Ah, the field.  Something’s missing…  Oh yes, the grass! I’m more than a little concerned about the grass. I asked the Dash why other new parks, like Target Field, and Tulsa, and Nationals Park a few years ago, put their grass in in November, but sod installation in Winston-Salem isn’t scheduled till March.  Their staff was unconcerned, and felt that the 6 weeks they will have prior to the start of the season will give them plenty of time to get established.

A November installation gives the grass a full dormant season to really take root for the punishment a baseball season gives it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a few turf malfunctions in April and May as this grass gets established.  Should they have more issues once the summer heat stress kicks in, with brown patch or bare spots, that wouldn’t surprise me either.

The rich wood appointments of the clubhouse and luxury suites are starting to go in, and they look nice, but what we have yet to really see is any sense of personality.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in both the public and private space to make it unique.

This piece of branding is always a tough balancing act. You can go overboard and quickly go from classy and understated to a sort of strip-club cheesy chic. For example, years ago, I had the pleasure of viewing a Carolina Panthers game from a gorgeous double suite in the end zone. In an effort to carry the blue black and silver team colors into everything they do, the Panthers chose one of the most garish carpet patterns I’ve ever seen, and it quickly took the suite from elegant to gentleman’s club.

Personality is coming, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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