As I stated when the season began, one of my goals was to visit the new Marlins Park in Miami…and that goal was achieved Friday, August 31, when my wife, Edith and I saw the Marlins lose to the New York Mets, behind R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball. What a spectacular sight this park is…but I will tell you we were treated like royalty…something we did not expect. From the time we picked up our tickets to having dinner in the exclusive Diamond Club to sitting third-row between the Marlins dugout and home plate, it was the experience of a lifetime. Edith even had a very animated (how else would it be?) conversation with Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen before the game. Seeing a game from that point of view was extraordinary. The roof and windows were closed, so the 89 degree heat (and humidity) from the outdoors was not a factor. Neither were the Marlins’ bats, as Dickey completely stymied the Fish. It’s a shame the team has underperformed this year as this is a ballpark every fan should visit. Currently, the Marlins are averaging around 27,000, but it should be much higher…my guess is that within 3-5 years, owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Samson will have put together a competitive, playoff-bound team that the citizens of the greater Miami-Dade-Broward area will get behind and really support. And…buy a parking pass in advance. We did, and it saved us a lot of trouble.
As for minor league travels, so far in 2012 we saw our Asheville Tourists clinch the first-half pennant down in beautiful Fluor Field in Greenville, SC. This gem of a ballpark sits in a revitalized section of downtown (West End) and is a mini-Fenway Park (the Greenville Drive are the Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).
We also saw the Tourists play up in Lexington, KY this season. What a great park they have for the Lexington Legends (Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros). Whitaker Bank Ballpark, located just outside of downtown, our drive from my sister’s farm took about 20 minutes and took us past the University of Kentucky, through downtown and past Rupp Arena, right to the stadium. This 12-year-old ballpark looks anything but. Great concessions – enjoyed a delicious pulled-pork sandwich (seriously, you cannot pick it up…you have to eat it with a fork and knife) and treated myself to a local brew – Kentucky Ale. The beer, while pricey at $6.75, must have had some bourbon in it…tasted like it, smelled like it, so…They also had plenty of very friendly ushers and team representatives who were very helpful. Director of Broadcasting, Keith Elkins, was especially helpful (the man knows his concessions!). Thanks, Keith!
Last year, we were able to get to Washington, DC where we took in an Interleague game between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. I was very impressed by this ballpark, knowing what I do about its location. Located in Southeast DC, is not a place you would have gone to just a few years ago. But, it is safe and growing…apartments, condos, bars, restaurants and shops are being built around the beautiful ballpark.
We took the Metro to the Navy/Archives exit and walked just a few blocks to the ballpark. Fans were everywhere and it was a great atmosphere. Our son, Matt, purchased some great seats on the Club Level, so we had access to air-conditioned comfort. The food selection was fine and we enjoyed a couple of cold ones while watching the game.
I highly recommend going to Nationals Ballpark – in fact, plan a return trip there in 2012. We will be back, that’s for sure!
- Edith and I also visited a minor league ballpark in Hickory, NC last season. Working for the Asheville Tourists full-time during the season, I see enough baseball to last a lifetime. We did want to try to get to another park for fun…and to be fans. We chose Hickory, located about 90 minutes east of Asheville. An easy drive on I-40 and a couple of turns later we entered the spacious parking area…and luckily were told to drive down the third base side of the ballpark. We parked practically right next to the stadium…and walked in with a huge (for the South Atlantic League) crowd. There were a couple of different promotions going on that night…The ZooperStars and fireworks. The ZooperStars are hilarious, and we enjoyed seeing them while living in Michigan…so it was fun to see them again. The ballpark is about 10 years old and is in great shape. I visited a friend of mine, Hickory Crawdads Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations, Andrew Buchbinder up in the press box just before the game, and thanked him for the tickets. Andrew got us a couple of great seats right behind the plate. We enjoyed being fans for one night, and enjoyed the atmosphere in Hickory.