Friday, August 14, 2015

Lexington Legends 10 at Charleston RiverDogs 12 (South Atlantic League) - August 13, 2015


On my recent trip from Florida to New York, I had driven through Charleston but the RiverDogs were out of town then, so I had to make the return trip to see them play at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. The stadium is named for the long-serving mayor of the city (40 years in office in 2015) and is affectionately referred to as the Joe. It is located next to the Ashley River on the west edge of downtown. There is a neighbourhood around but street parking seems to require a permit, so you are forced to use one of the $5 lots nearby. On the day that I attended there was another event nearby so traffic was brisk and it took me a while to figure out that the best parking lots are on Fishburne west of Hagood.



As you walk up, you will see the ticket windows (above). The RiverDogs have one of the widest spreads in pricing, with the good box seats at $18 while general admission (3 upper level sections of benches beyond third base) are $8 with lower and upper reserved($14 and $10 respectively) in between. You can save $2 by purchasing in advance, while Friday games are a dollar more. The GA seats facing the setting sun for the first few innings as you can see below, so I would recommend picking up the upper reserved seats behind home plate or on the first base side. All reserved seats are on benches and it is rare to see such seats not the cheapest option.



There is a ramp to the third base entrance (below) that has some old pictures in the brick posts as you can see below. Worth a quick stroll up to have a look.



If you take the main entrance, you can proceed along the concourse behind the seating bowl (pictured below) where the majority of the concession stands are located. Excellent variety of food here, including beer shakes (which I did not try), and a BBQ stand selling brisket ramen bowls for $7. I tried a pep roll, a tad expensive l at $6 but made to order and served piping hot, taking about five minutes from when you order.



You can also head up stairs to Doby's Deck, where there are beer stands and picnic tables in the shade (barely visible to the left below). It was Thirsty Thursday (small drafts for $1) on this night and there was a DJ playing to get the crowd going, which he did quite successfully.



Along the concourse there are a number of historical displays, including one for the Scouts Hall of Fame, which can also be found in Fort Myers. There are also free programs being handed out which include rosters and stats.



Along the third base line, one of the breezeways has a misting station should you need to cool down. Along here you will also see a tribute to the two Cooperstown inductees who played here, including Roberto Alomar, who began his pro career here in 1985. The trip to Charleston is worth it just to see the picture of Alomar at 17.



The bullpens are along the lines and there are seats along third base that are right behind the visitor's pen, so you can chat with the players if you so desire, though the view of the action isn't so good from here.



Finally, behind the stadium lies a swamp, something I have never seen before. It is pretty picturesque as the sun sets, another reason to sit high on the first base side.



Overall, the setup here is very nice. It is a bit expensive, but you can mitigate that by buying the cheapest tickets in advance. Unfortunately, the game day experience was one of the worst I have endured and really soured me on the place.



I understand that the focus of minor league baseball is entertainment, but here it seemed like the game wasn't a consideration at all. I knew it would be a long night when the visiting lineups were rushed, and lacked any scoreboard confirmation of spelling. It got worse when the first strikeout was sponsored by some local business, as was the three-up, three-down "Clean Sweep" inning. It seemed like every event was followed by an announcement advertising something. Loud music punctuated inning breaks and the DJ kept playing so that if you were on the third base side, announcements were unintelligible. Simple things like announcing pitching changes were ignored (or I couldn't hear them); the single scoreboard did not show the linescore and count at all times; and mistakes were made when something happened. For example, an RBI single when the batter advances to second on the throw is not a double, but they showed the double graphic on the scoreboard. Am I being picky? You bet. Show the game and its fans some respect. The majority of attendees were young, most doubtless drawn by Thirsty Thursday and thus more concerned about going back and forth to get their next instalments than watching the game.

I tried moving around to avoid the noise and crowd and ended up behind the Lexington bullpen, but that was too far away (though good for foul balls). I finally ended up in the good seats and enjoyed the final three innings, by which time most of the drinkers had left and the atmosphere had settled down. It is possible that the quality of the game (more on that shortly) affected my opinion of the place, but I don't think so. I guess minor league ball has become more of a social event than a game and these sorts of experiences are likely to increase, a bad sign for grumpy old men like me.

The Game

After witnessing two well-pitched affairs to start the trip, I sensed a long one would be on tap tonight, and I was right. Lexington (KC's affiliate) was in town to take on the RiverDogs (NYY) and it was a typical minor league game, with errors both physical and mental the lowlights.



Yunior Marte (above, and I like those uniforms) started for the Legends and lasted all of 2.2 innings, giving up 6 runs (5 earned). His replacement was Niklas Stephenson who managed only 1.2 innings, walking 4 while allowing 5 more runs to score. Charleston's starter was Matt Wotherspoon (34th, 2014) who was equally gracious, permitting 7 Legends (6 earned) to reach home in his 3.2 frames. Josh Rogers took over and pitched a relative solid 3.1 stanzas and "only" 3 runs scored on his watch. Lexington was led by Anderson Miller (3rd, 2015, KC's 30th-ranked prospect, below) who doubled and tripled in his first two appearances, scoring both times.



No need to go over how all those runs scored, it was 11-10 Charleston as they batted in the 6th, and Vicente Conde (9th, 2014, below) doubled home another run for some insurance. I say that facetiously but in fact, that was the last run of the game as Brody Koerner (17th, 2015) pitched two shutout innings for his first save at this level. Conde wins my Player to Watch award with 4 hits, including 3 doubles and 5 RBIs.



There were 30 hits and 5 errors, but two plays that stand out were mental mistakes. First, Lexington's Luis Valenzuela popped up to lead off the 3rd but as the catcher, pitcher, and first baseman all gathered around, nobody called it and it fell for a single. Valenzuela stole second, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch. A true minor league run. Charleston was not without their brain farts. In the 8th, with runners on 1st and 3rd and nobody out, Isaias Tejeda broke from 1st and was immediately caught in a rundown. Austin Aune (2nd, 2012) on 3rd watched the play develop and decided to try for home just as Tejeda was tagged out. Of course, Aune was out at home, the old baserunning double play (2-6-3-5 for those scoring at home). Managers get grey hair for plays like these.

I'd love to show you the linescore, but as mentioned, there is only one scoreboard and the linescore disappeared before I could grab a picture, thus I leave you with the simpler message.



Perhaps the worst minor league game I have seen in the United States. Only the one I saw in Japan several years back can compare. Coupled with the noisy stadium and lack of fan courtesy, this is probably the least enjoyable minor league experience I have had. And even then, I enjoyed it and will look back on it fondly. There really is nothing like the minors.

Notes

It is about 260 miles from Hickory to Charleston, and you can spend the whole route on Interstates (I-77 and I-26) but if you have time, I'd suggest getting on some of the lesser used roads whenever possible. In this case, I took US-321 to SC-34 to avoid most of I-77 and then several back roads off US-76 before hitting I-26 40 miles out of Charleston. The mileage is about the same, and although the drive takes about 45 minutes longer, it is much more scenic and has much less traffic, allowing you to see more of the country.

This was my 575th venue lifetime and 222nd ballpark.

Next Up

I'm in Savannah to see the Sand Gnats, who will be moving to Columbia to become the Fireflies next season. I don't like franchise movement in general, but on the other hand, it always gives me new places to go. Check back tomorrow for an update.

Best,

Sean

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