BY: MATTHEW PRESLAR
Over the last few years we have grown to love the Astros organization. This passion of ours was birthed by stumbling on the then Greeneville Astros while on vacation in Tennessee. We loved how they made Pioneer Park home with banners of former players now in the major leagues. Many of the current World Championship team came through East Tennessee. Last season, we followed the organization to Buies Creek and saw a game at Campbell University. While we appreciated that outing, we really look forward to the presentation that is to come in Fayetteville, NC in 2019... with the addition of a brand new 5,200 seat ballpark downtown!
As baseball fans, we love exploring new ballparks and are anxious to see what Fayetteville Ballpark has to offer. Fayetteville is the top destination in our semi local market. We have kept our eyes on the rebranding and looked forward to sporting Woodpeckers merchandise in the stands.
Then we read about signing the beam in City Hall!
"Residents said they felt they were a part of history on Wednesday as they used a silver metallic Sharpie to pen their names onto the last beam that will be installed in the new Fayetteville Woodpeckers baseball stadium."
We could not pass up the opportunity to have our names etched in history of Fayetteville baseball, so we planned a day-trip with the children to take part in the experience. While in town, we knew we would want to visit the Woodpeckers team store and view the progress of the stadium.
And so we went... looking to be a part of NORTH CAROLINA baseball history. After a year where we visited FIVE Carolina League affiliates, how could we not see the progress of things in Fayetteville? After all, this rebranded franchise is the defending champions of the storied Carolina League, the Buies Creek ASTROS. Aside from that, Fayetteville is the home of Fort Bragg, one of the most notable Army bases in our great country. On December 21st, nowhere near the season that starts almost four months later, we got a taste of the area and the caliber of people associated with the Woodpeckers organization.
We decided to write to some of the Front Office staff within the franchise to hopefully gain some insight on stadium plans and exactly how the Fayetteville Woodpeckers came to be. Thankfully, our inquiry was answered by Austin Schwartz, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Based on his headshot and bio, we didn’t know what to expect when we met Austin, but what we learned about him is an example of what makes minor league baseball so great. Yes, Austin is very formally educated and represents the Astros organization very well. However, we really appreciated the personal touch and human element Austin represented. Much like us, he loves visiting different athletic venues and seeing what all they have to offer. He understands our quest to learn and see what all these franchises present. On what was a holiday to many, Friday December 21, Austin took a good bit of the morning visiting with us and showing us renderings of the stadium as it is a few months from completion.
Also in the lobby of their temporary office was the CAROLINA LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY won in 2018 by the Buies Creek Astros. I looked in awe. Austin gave me permission to pick up the trophy and take a few pictures. This was a special moment for me and made me feel a much deeper connection with the organization.
Also a warm face representing the Woodpeckers very well was Brittany Tschida. She is the manager of retail and was alone working the makeshift team store. While we were there, many locals popped in looking to purchase last minute Christmas gifts. All the efforts of the current team store only build anticipation and BUZZ for the franchise that is soon to be birthed. These two employees were an example of the “salt of the earth” type of people affiliated with minor league baseball and outstanding representatives of Fayetteville baseball.
Austin provided us with some information about the franchise and some hot topics to keep our eyes on. Much like other minor league franchises within the region, it appears the Astros organization was enticed to come to Fayetteville because the town and the private sector are willing to invest in the stadium and adjoining area. Similar to teams relocating to South Carolina, Fayetteville is willing to take that gamble and partner with the Astros. Other fun facts are soon to be announced about the Woodpecker franchise!
We were informed that naming rights to “Fayetteville Ballpark” will be released soon. We were also told to keep our eyes on social media to see the unveiling of an official team mascot. In addition, we were urged to expect three alternate jerseys to be announced. With Fort Bragg being in Fayetteville, undoubtedly one of these alternates will have a heavy military theme. For reasons he couldn’t yet share, Austin also told us to try to get to Fayetteville on the weekend of May 4th for whatever event they have planned. With all these major announcements, as well as a stadium to be completed soon, there is a lot going on in Fayetteville, NC!
While seeing the town, progress of the stadium, purchasing apparel, and meeting high level team employees were nice, these weren't the only reasons for Ballpark Adventures to take this trip in December. What we really wanted was to take part in the beam signing. After our team store purchases and visit in the front office, we took a short walk to Fayetteville City Hall. Sadly, when we arrived, we were told that the beam was full and there was no more room for signatures. We were disappointed as we stood around the table where the beam sat just a few days before.
As we left City Hall, we texted Austin to let him know the beam had been removed, in case he received more inquiry. He told us to wait a minute while he made some phone calls. Lucky for us, he was able to find out where the beam was being held, and he personally escorted us to a closed area in City Hall... and there it was! My family of four was able to finally sign the beam and etch our names in the history of “Fayetteville Ballpark”, to become a permanent fixture in the stadium.
We are very excited to join the Woodpeckers Family. We are proud of our shirts and hats and can’t wait to see the completed building and more Carolina League baseball. Once again, thank you to the Astros for pulling out of the California League and choosing to bring more baseball to a great American city in NORTH CAROLINA.
Want More? Watch this video of Fayetteville baseball stadium...