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)
website

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