Monday, August 17, 2015

Augusta GreenJackets 10 at Asheville Tourists 9 (South Atlantic League) - August 16, 2015


The final stop of my first six-game tour of the Carolinas was Asheville, where the oldest minor league ballpark hosts the Tourists, one of the minor’s longest-serving names. Yes, there’s lots of history here and the team is celebrating 100 years of the Tourist nickname, although there have been many different franchises who have called themselves by that moniker it and there were several periods where the name was not in use. The current incarnation arrived in 1976 when the South Atlantic League was known as the Western Carolinas League.



McCormick Field was first opened in 1924 and has been called the oldest minor league ballpark, but as mentioned in a previous post, Burlington’s Centennial Field is older, having opened in 1906 but has undergone significant structural changes since then, which seems to disqualify it.



The park is located about a mile from downtown in the middle of a hill. The free parking lot is atop the hill, next to Memorial Stadium which has a seating stand with a view of the ballpark from the air.



Walk back down the hill to the main entrance and check out the seven different seating options. The dugout suites (below) are $30 and obviously not worth it as you still have to look through netting.



I recommend the reserves at $9, particularly for an afternoon game as you can sit under the roof.



The view from the top row in Section EE is below. You can also see the Memorial Stadium stand in the middle of the trees.



If you last visited before this season, all the benches have been replaced with stadium-style seating as you can see, with cup holders for every seat. As seems to be the norm in the South Atlantic League, the protective netting extends to the far edge of the dugouts, but there are small openings next to each dugout that afford clear shots of the batters.



The plaza behind the seating bowl contains all the concession stands and there is very good variety here, with your typical fare available at reasonable prices and a few specialty items, including a Philly Cheesesteak cooked right in front of you for $7. The Cheesesteak Nachos are the same price and were a very popular choice.



The dimensions here are very small – only 297 feet down the line and 320 to the right field power alley. If you want to see homers, this is a good place to do so.



For a place with so much history, I didn’t see that much on display. There are photos of players who toiled here on doors around the plaza (you can see Eddie Murray below) but nothing more descriptive. Although there might not that much to read on the stadium walls, the free program makes up for it with several detailed articles on Tourist players, their 30-year old manager Warren Schaefer, and the recent All-Star Game that took place in Asheville. It is the one of the best I have seen at this level.



There are a couple of mascots, including Mr. Moon (below), who seems to be the bastard son of Mr. Met. Meanwhile, the team shop is the most accurately named in the minors: the Tourist Trap. Brilliant.



Note the pennants atop the seating bowl – the Tourists won the SAL Championship in 2012 and 2014 and commemorate those accordingly.



Overall, this is a fine place to watch a game. The owners are the DeWine family and it is obvious that they have put much thought into the overall gameday experience without sacrificing the game itself or the stadium. Friendly staff and good fans made McCormick Field a great place to finish my tour. Too bad the players did not co-operate.

The Game

Augusta (San Francisco's affiliate) was in town. Rather than recap the game, I'll just show you the linescore (Visitors and Tourists, haha):



As you can tell, crap pitching, crap defense to go along with the crap umpiring (according to the fans at least). There were a couple of homers from Asheville’s Nate Gausey (19th round, 2014, below) and Augusta’s Skyler Ewing (6th, 2014, below that).





My Player To Watch is Chase Compton for a few reasons. First, he went 3-4 with a double (below) and a walk, scoring twice and driving in a run. In addition, Compton is a family name, so there might be some long-lost relation there, as well, his family was sitting in front of me and making lots of noise every time he batted. He is an undrafted free agent and came in hitting .182 (now up to .229) so not a prospect, but who knows, this could be the start of something big (leagues).



Notes

I had hoped for a quick one (less than 2.5 hours) as there were a couple of Appalachian League games just over an hour away but this one took 3:31. It is always tough to plan two-city doubleheaders in baseball as game length is so variable and I don't leave early no matter what.

Next Up

I’m heading back to New York to work for a few days before returning to Charlotte to start another quick tour of the area. I have two plans depending on the result of the first game in Charlotte – either way there will be lots of baseball and lots of new stadiums, so check back on Saturday to see where I ended up.

Best,

Sean

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