Monday, May 25, 2015

Rochester Red Wings 3 at Norfolk Tides 1 (International League) - May 24, 2015

The second stop on my Memorial Day weekend trip was in Norfolk, home of the AAA Tides, affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. I drove 3.5 hours from Fayetteville, NC via 1-95 and US-58, arriving in time for the 1:05 start on Sunday afternoon.

The Tides play out of Harbor Park, located along the Elizabeth River just next to downtown Norfolk. Highway ramps are on the north side of the ballpark and it can be tricky to find the parking lot if you don't know exactly where to go, as even the street signs are a bit misleading. You need to get on Water Street, which is a small side street off Waterside (shouldn't those be reversed?); from there you go straight to the parking lot ($5). There is limited street parking on Waterside and surrounding streets, worth checking out if you are on a budget. If you are staying in Portsmouth across the river, ferries are available from North Landing at $1.75 each way.

The ballpark was opened in 1993 with the expansion Ottawa Lynx the visitors for that first game, won by Norfolk 2-0. Despite being just 22 years old, it seems to have been built in the previous era of  ballpark construction, i.e. pre-retro. There are only two ticket windows and when an indecisive fan mulls his options, the lines move slowly. Prices start at $13 and rise all the way to $14. No typo, the good seats are only an extra $1. There are no real cheap options, even the child/senior/military discount is only $2. You can also save $2 buying in advance, an option not available to road trippers who get shafted if the game is rained out.

As Norfolk is a port town, the ballpark is designed to evince a nautical image with light towers that
resemble the shipyard cranes you see in the distance. The main entrance leads to a staircase that takes
you to the concourse, another feature that made me think this park had been constructed in the 1950s.
There are nearly 9,000 lower deck seats and 2,800 upper deck seats, but my favourite place to watch
was the standing areas along the first base concourse, where you can rest your drink and scoreboard on a counter while taking in the action (view below). According to some local fans, these are new additions and I wish every ballpark would have them; I don't mind standing for an hour or two.

There is a full-service restaurant in the right field corner known known as "Hits at the Park" which offers a complete view of the playing field, though I did not check it out. You can see it in the photo below. I did have the usual hot dog and soft ice cream, which are reasonably priced for AAA ball. There is also a special hot dog stand called Hot Dog Nation, which offers specialty dogs including the Oriole Dog (Norfolk is Baltimore's affiliate) which comes with crab meat and mac 'n' cheese.

There are upper deck seats down the lines as you can see above, and these are good for those wanting to avoid the sun. There are two scoreboards in right field that show lineups, replays, and stats, including the pitch count, which is something you rarely see in the minors.

Overall, I found this ballpark to be a decent place for a game, but with nothing particularly memorable. After seeing over 200 baseball venues in all levels, it takes something unique to surprise me and Harbor Park just didn't have anything along those lines.

The Game

Rochester (Minnesota's affiliate) was visiting and recently demoted Tommy Milone (above) was on the hill for the visitors. Coming in, he had pitched 23.1 scoreless innings in AAA, and that streak continued, though with some help from his defense in the 2nd. Nolan Reimold (below) singled to open the frame and Cuban Dariel Alvarez followed with a single. Audry Perez (who had exactly 1 PA with St. Louis in both 2013 and 2014) then grounded into a double play and Michael Almanzar popped out to end the threat.

In the top half of the third, Jose Martinez (below) homered leading off, and when he added a sacrifice fly in the fourth, the Red Wings led 2-0.

A Danny Ortiz (4th round, 2008) homer in the 7th made it 3-0 for the visitors and that was more than enough for Milone, who sparkled on the afternoon. He entered the 9th angling for the shutout, but Christian Walker (4th round, 2012, Baltimore's 3rd-ranked prospect) mashed a one-out homer to end Milone's AAA scoreless streak at 31.2 innings. A.J. Achter came in to get the last two outs for the save as Rochester won 3-1 in a very quick game that lasted a mere 2:18.


Milone was called up to Minnesota a week later when Ricky Nolasco was injured and should remain in the Twins rotation for a while.



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