BY: MATTHEW PRESLAR
Attending over 20 ballgames and visiting 16 ballparks in 2019... we had quite an ADVENTURE this season. Take a moment to read our 2019 Year in Review!
We made the drive to Winston-Salem to check out Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal in High A ball before they would be promoted to AA. The two were a combined 8-9 at the plate and by season’s end both would be two levels up to finish the season in AAA with the Charlotte Knights.
This was the Inaugural game in Segra Stadium as this Astros affiliate began play in Fayetteville, NC. The Woodpeckers had a great opening day filled with military participation from nearby Fort Bragg. Our family of four was also chosen with many others to hold an oversized AMERICAN flag in the outfield during the playing of the National Anthem.
One of several trips checking on our friends with the Charlotte Knights. A new neighbor from Nebraska, Michelle, joined us at BB&T. We always enjoy acting as ambassadors and introducing friends to the ballpark. This was a day game and I surely enjoyed having a cold draft beer at 11 in the morning.
This Memorial Day weekend ended up being safer than Memorial Day 2018. The first stop of the holiday weekend was Columbia, South Carolina The Fireflies play in a beautiful park with development of the surrounding community beginning to take off. I hope to see more progress year after year.
The main event of the weekend was a single ticket double header At SRP Park in North Augusta, SC. We attended this park’s opening weekend in 2018 and have a certain attachment to the GreenJackets. The humidity along the South Carolina/Georgia border is brutal by this time of year... baseball weather. By this second season of business several restaurants and a hotel are already operational on the grounds of the ballpark. This is truly a place your family can base for a few days with no need to leave.
The first stop on our long baseball vacation was Whitaker Bank park in Lexington, Kentucky. The Legends are in the Low A South Atlantic League and the facility was on par with the league. This was the first time we dressed in support of the visiting team, The Augusta GreenJackets. Wear their clothes and sit by the visitor's bullpen, and your family could leave with three baseballs gifted from the visitors as well!
The next stop was AAA baseball at Victory Field with the Indianapolis Indians. In a market very similar to home in Charlotte, NC we felt like we belonged. The Colts’ football stadium shared the same parking areas and hotels were within walking distance. This was a nice facility to take in a game.
We drove from Indiana, through a corner of Illinois, and crossed into Iowa. Early in the day we went to the “Field of Dreams” movie site in Dyersville and took in that piece of American history. Later that night we saw another Astors affiliate in the Quad Cities River Bandits. Playing out of Davenport, Iowa, this entire area was still recovering from major flooding and water levels from the Mississippi River were still dangerously close to Modern Woodmen Park. Matter of fact, games were moved from Davenport within ten days of our appearance.
With a travel day between getting settled into Chicago, my step children made their big league debut with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. With three affiliates so close to us in North Carolina, and many of those players “graduating” to Chicago’s South Side, it just made sense to go see them in person. Even with a loss to the Yankees this was still the most special Father’s Day I could ever imagine.
On the “better side” of Chicago play the Cubs. We toured Wrigley Field the day before and learned more about the “Friendly Confines”. On to game day: the White Sox came across town and the whole city took part showing their allegiance. We wore the Cubs blue even though we also love the White Sox. A close game throughout, we weren’t sad when Eloy Jiminez broke the tie in the 9th with a two run homer to give the White Sox the win.
We took the other side of the loop back home and stopped off at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio. We enjoyed the $1 hot dogs and popcorn for a few innings before we were ultimately rained out in the forth inning.
We returned to Fayetteville to see Segra Stadium and the Woodpeckers on a normal night, not an occasion. The place was a little more calm this time around. This was “Astros Night.” The giveaway for the night was Jose Altuve bobble heads. I don’t mind displaying the former American League MVP in my baseball room.
This was our first game in unaffiliated professional baseball. The High Point Rockers are members of the Atlantic League and play at BB&T Point. After umpiring baseball in the Greensboro area early in the day, we made the short drive to High Point. The overall presentation was less commercial than traditional minor league ball. The new, fresh all turf field was attractive as well.
One of the more famous franchises in minor league baseball is the Durham Bulls. Although division rivals with our Charlotte Knights, we don’t mind the couple hour drive once a season to support the Bulls. The home crowd isn’t there to just watch a ballgame, they are there to proudly support the Durham Bulls. Also with restaurants and hotels in walking distance, this is a great place for a few days vacation.
Also in the North Carolina Triad area play the Greensboro Grasshoppers. A townhome project finally completed behind right field for First National Bank Park’s 10th season. This made the area look more complete and crisp. We almost saw history as the Grasshoppers combined on a 1 hitter. Asheville’s only hit came with five outs to go much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
These were consecutive double header Saturdays at BB&T at home with our Charlotte Knights. This provided us two opportunities to be ambassadors for the Knights yet again. The first weekend with our Nebraska neighbors, the second with my younger sister. One of these weekends involved Yoan Moncada on rehab assignment for the White Sox. He received votes in this year’s American League MVP so it was a special event to see him back in town. Both weekends we enjoyed dinner in Uptown Charlotte before the game. The area has a lot to offer other than the great AAA baseball. These games were more meaningful as the Knights were in the playoff hunt. The Knights split both of these doubleheaders which came into play at season’s end.
Entering the last weekend of the minor league baseball season our Charlotte Knights were on the road at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Virginia. The playoff race was really tight. All of this sounded like a good excuse to go see the Knights vs. the Tides. This stadium offered unique scenery with a waterfront just past the outfield. The Knights lost the game and ultimately lost out on the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
Since we were relatively close in Virginia we decided we should head to the Diamond in Richmond. This is yet another classic stadium in the state and formerly hosted Braves AAA for years. All the great run of classic Braves played on this field. While the facility is getting old, there’s a lot of character in the building and RIchmond in general. This was our first stop in the AA Eastern League. 2019 featured many marketable occasions at the Diamond. This was the 10th season of the Flying Squirrels who also hosted the Eastern League All Star game. We bought merchandise commemorating both and thoroughly enjoyed our last Ballpark Adventure of 2019.
Thanks for following along with us this year...
We'll see you in 2020!!!