Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Greensboro Grasshoppers 6 at Delmarva Shorebirds 16 (South Atlantic League) - July 19, 2015

For years I’ve wondered about the Delmarva Shorebirds, a minor league baseball team in the South Atlantic League. Specifically, where the hell is Delmarva?! Obviously a quick Google search would sate my curiosity, and now that I am in the midst of visiting all minor league parks, I finally got around to it. The club plays out of Salisbury, Maryland, and it would seem like the Salisbury Shorebirds has a ring to it, but Delmarva is more inclusive, as it describes the peninsula surrounded by Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. So there you go. Or there I went.

Salisbury is off the beaten path, located next to US50 about 2.5 hours southeast of Baltimore. It is too far for a day trip from New York, but a nice drive from Charm City, where I had spent Saturday watching the Gold Cup quarterfinals.  Usually when you get off the Interstates, you find yourself on some nice, scenic road with little traffic. Not on the Eastern Shore though. I was anticipating a lot of people returning from the shore on Sunday afternoon, but what surprised me was the number of people heading east. The bottleneck is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a beautiful 4-mile-long span once you clear the toll booths, which caused a backup of a couple of miles. After traversing the bridge, traffic moved nicely through a few towns, until I arrived at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, just off the highway. You cannot miss the water tower signifying the ballpark, though it is need of a fresh coat of paint.

There is nothing in the immediate vicinity of the venue, so the ballpark is surrounded by a huge parking lot which will cost you $3 to enter. As you near the stadium, you will notice the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame to your right. It is open one hour before the game and is free to enter, though donations are gladly accepted, and has a very detailed history of baseball in the area, along with a docent to answer any questions.

General admission seats are $8 and the only option you should consider as they are benches that encircle the entire diamond (above), with the top few rows covered by the suites, protecting you from the sun. There are signs around the concourse noting that all maroon-backed seats are GA in case you get confused. If you do wish to sit closer, you will pay an extra $3 for the privilege. Note that the GA section behind home plate is actually a picnic area called the Hardball Cafe, a very nice setting for a group of 30 or more.

The main concourse here is very wide as you can see above and never presents any problem for getting around. Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is named for the founder of Perdue Farms (based in Salisbury) and although they are famous for their chickens, it is birds of another sort that can be found here as many Shorebirds grow up to be Orioles and there are small banners commemorating those who have done so, such as Jim Johnson.

The stadium was opened in 1996, just before the ballpark boom hit the minors, and so it lacks a lot of the distractions that newer parks have, which is a good thing in my books. I realize that many people come for more than the game, but some parks have taken it a bit too far. Not here, where the biggest attraction is a carousel down the right field line that spins throughout the game.

I really enjoyed the set up here, with an inner walkway between the two levels that included another concession stand for pizza lovers. At $3 a slice, it was just like New York! The picture below is taken from there.

I really love making these treks to minor league parks. Sure, after about 120 of them, it is tough to find something truly unique, but the fans and atmosphere at each stadium are always just a little bit different. Perdue Stadium is far enough away from the big cities that you are not going to happen upon it by accident, but a purposeful trip here is well worth your time. Even when you end up with a crap game like I did.

The Game

The Greensboro Grasshoppers (whom I had seen win a 1-0 battle at home just a week before) were the visitors, with Enderson Franco getting the start for them (above). Franco had recently been traded to Miami from Tampa Bay for an international bonus slot, which really has to be tough on your confidence. It certainly seemed that way as Franco struggled, giving up 7 runs in an inning plus, including a 3-run homer to Yermin Mercedes (below).

Shorebirds starter John Means (11th round, 2014, Baltimore's 30th-ranked prospect, below) had more than enough support as he lasted 5 innings giving up just a run while striking out 7.

The final score was 16-6 for Delmarva, with 8 of the 9 pitchers overall giving up at least a run. The only unblemished hurler was Nigel Nootbaar, a Tokyo-born graduate of USC (12th round, 2014) who threw a scoreless frame and thus earned my coveted "Player to Watch" award, primarily for his name.


My player not to watch is Ademar Rifaela, who can't even get the clubhouse guy to sew his name on right.

Next Up

Lots and lots of baseball to come through August as I finally get a break from work to take a couple of real sports road trips. I will be completing the New York-Penn League in the first week of August (6 parks total) and then a two-week trip to the Carolinas will see me finish off the International League (Gwinnett and Charlotte), Carolina League (Salem and Carolina), and the South Atlantic League (9). That's 19 new parks to visit, plus a trip to Buffalo, Toronto, and Hamilton. The full schedule will be posted here, so check back soon!



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