Monday, July 13, 2015

West Virginia Power 0 at Greensboro Grasshoppers 1 (South Atlantic League) - July 11, 2015

After leaving the Charlotte Hounds game at halftime, I made the short drive to Greensboro for the main event of the day, a minor league ballgame between the Grasshoppers and the West Virginia Power.

The Hoppers play out of NewBridge Bank Park, located in downtown Greensboro. It opened in 2005 and still looks brand new. There are two official parking lots at $4 plus several unofficial lots operated by enterprising neighbours, but you can park for free on Cedar Street just two blocks away. The box office is right at the corner of Bellemeade and Edgeworth Streets and they were doing a booming business. Tickets are $11 for the box seats behind the netting, $10 for all other box seats, and $7 for general admission. I usually recommend the cheapest option, but on this night, there was a large walk-up crowd that left few seats empty, so I bought a $10 box seat. Many of these seats do not have a clear view of the batters box due to the netting atop both dugouts, which is visible in the photo below. If this bothers you, try to get a seat in the upper rows. I was fortunate that my seat looked through the gap between the back netting and dugout netting, affording me a clear view of the batter.

I walked down the third base line to where the Grasshoppers were warming up and I took a photo of Arturo Rodriguez (who played in two seasons in the Mexican League) to illustrate their logo and bright orange cap. Hey, it's the minors, colourful uniforms are a part of the game.

The left field corner holds the Grandstand Bar, where you can pick up three varieties of Natty Greene's brew - at $6.50 for 20 ounces, this is a relative bargain and well worth it. Natty Greene's is a Greensboro-based brewery that has yet to make inroads into the upper northeast from what I have seen, but they are very popular around these parts. The view from the bar area is below.

Behind the left field fence is Natty's Hill (below), one of the places you can sit if you buy the GA tickets, while the right field line includes a kids play area and a shade zone as well as more lawn seating.

Greensboro has a long baseball history and this is commemorated with banners around the concourse, one for each decade.

Overall, this is one of the nicer ballparks I have visited - they seem to have something for every type of fan. But what really made the difference was a few thoughtful promotions that show the staff here is trying to keep things fresh. The funniest promo was the "Car or Horse" bit, where a guy was given the name of a car that could also be a horse (Mustang, Charger, Pinto, Escalade, etc.). He had to guess if it was a car or horse; of course he was always wrong, going 0-for-5. The scoreboard would show the opposite of what he said (i.e. if he said car, a horse would appear on the board) while womp-womp played. I am pretty sure that this is intentional, and it is really fun to watch the guy get more and more frustrated.

Other touches included announcing "Gesundheit" when visiting catcher Taylor Gushue was announced and replacing Chase Simpson's picture with one of namesake Homer. You really need to pay attention lest you miss something amusing and it is great to see a game-day crew that is not sticking with the tried and true.

The Game

Michael Mader (above, 3rd round, 2014, Marlins #12 prospect) got the start for Greensboro against Austin Coley (8th, 2014), who came in leading the league with 10 wins. Both pitchers were on their game and we were scoreless through 5 when Coley was relieved, having thrown only 49 pitches.

His replacements was Jose Regalado, who managed to keep Greensboro off the board through the 7th. Meanwhile, Mader was superb, tossing 95 pitches through 8 scoreless innings while scattering 3 hits and a walk. It looked like he would not get the win as his offense had failed to score, but in the bottom of the 8th, Zach Sullivan (14th, 2014) led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second. Rony Cabrera (above) followed with a double to score Sullivan with the first run of the game.

Kyle Fischer (30th, 2014) was brought in to close things out and he promptly gave up a leadoff single to Cole Tucker (above, 24th overall, 2014, Pirates #9 prospect). Fischer then threw wild on a pickoff sending Tucker to second and the slim lead was in jeopardy. Pablo Reyes grounded out to move Tucker to third but Jordan Luplow (3rd, 2014, Pirates #25 prospect) could only muster a grounder to third, forcing Tucker to remain there. Michael Suchy (5th, 2014) was the last shot for the Power but his broken bat flare landed in the shortstop's glove and the Grasshoppers won 1-0.

The entire game took just 2:03, a great evening at one of the best ballparks I have seen in some time and what makes these trips worthwhile.



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