Friday, May 6, 2016

Tulsa Drillers 7 at Arkansas Travelers 1 (Texas League) - May 5, 2016


My Texas League trip continued on Thursday with a game in Little Rock, about 3 hours from Springdale. Once again Google Maps suggested the quickest and dullest route, I-49 South to I-40 East. A much more enjoyable drive is through the Ozark National Forest - I took US-412 east and then zigzagged along State Highways 23, 16, and 21 before hitting I-40 at Clarksville. The winding roads are very scenic and devoid of traffic, making them a fun way to test your driving skills a little bit.



After a short rest at my downtown hotel, I made my way across the Arkansas River to North Little Rock, where the stadium is actually located. There are two bridges that span the waterway, but the Broadway Bridge, which leaves you right at the ballpark entrance, had both sidewalks closed. This forced me to use the Main Street Bridge, which is nice enough, but at night rather dark and deserted for the return trip. The detour did bring me past the Old State House (above), which is the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River and now a museum. (There is free parking right by the stadium, but I was close enough that it didn't make any sense to drive.)



The stadium was opened in 2007 to replace Ray Winder Field and is celebrating its 10th season. It is named for a pair of Arkansas brothers: Baseball Hall of Famer Bill Dickey and his brother George, who also caught in the majors, and businessmen Jackson T. and Warren R. Stephens, who donated the land. There are four plaques just to the left of the main entrance honouring these men (above).



The main entrances look more like railyards than a ballpark, but once inside, it much like any other AA stadium. As you can see below, there is a small walkway between six rows of lower seats ($13) and the upper reserved sections ($9). There is also a $7 beer garden area for those who want to socialize, as well as a GA ticket for the same price. Ushers don't check very aggressively, so as usual, buy the cheapie and sit where you want once fans have settled in.



The first thing to check out is the small Travelers Museum just behind home plate. It is free and has two large display cases with a lot of memorabilia, an old desk and some stadium chairs inside and alcove and photos of past Travs teams on one wall. The team has been around since 1963, and before that the Little Rock Travelers played in some form since 1902 (missing a few years here and there) so you will be surprised at the amount of interesting material inside.



With so much in the museum, there isn't a whole lot inside the stadium itself. Food options are pretty bland - the most unusual thing I saw was a Razorback Steak Snack, which is jerky, and a stand selling 8 strips of bacon for $6.



The view of downtown Little Rock behind right field is quite nice, but there are really no bad seats in this ballpark.



There are some tables along the third base concourse where you can stand and enjoy your meal; I spent the first three innings here before moving to a seat behind home plate.



Overall, Dickey-Stephens Park has a lot to offer, but it is concentrated in the museum. There isn't a large Road to the Show display on the concourse like in many other venues, and few other amenities. This is not a complaint as I prefer the simpler ballparks and Dickey-Stephens is just that. If you are in Little Rock during the summer, try and check out a Travelers tilt.



The Game

It was a AA battle of LA with Tulsa in town. Chase De Jong started for them; Blue Jays fans will remember that he was their 2nd round pick in 2012 before being sent to the Dodgers in return for some international bonus pool slots (he is now LA's 18th-ranked prospect). He faced Troy Scribner, an undrafted free agent working his way up the Angels chain. Andrew Toles (3rd round in 2012 by Tampa Bay), making his AA debut for Tulsa, homered in the first and that was all De Jong would need. He retired the first 13 he faced before giving up a single to Cal Towey (17th, 2013). The only other blemish was a lead off walk in the 6th as De Jong completed seven very strong innings to take my Player to Watch award. The Drillers offense added 3 runs in the 5th including a 2-run homer from Paul Hoenecke (24th, 2012, my PTW from the game in Tulsa) and singletons in the 6th, 7th, and 8th. An RBI double by Traveler Chad Hinshaw (15th, 2013, Angels #9 prospect) ended the shutout but Tulsa held on for the 7-1 win.



Coincidentally, Arkansas lost the game I saw in Springfield 7-1 as well, scoring their only run in the 9th inning then too.

Notes

It was Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that gets more exposure in the US than in Mexico. The Travelers did not have a promotion for it, but some fans dressed up in sombreros.



There were two other promotions however, with the first being "Strike Out Stroke Night" with a large walk-through brain outside, and Star Wars Night, with many fans dressed up in costumes from the film series, including a Tusken Raider below.



A sad note: the stadium is where Tulsa first-base coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed by a line drive in 2007. It was this unbelievable tragedy that led to all field coaches wearing helmets in baseball.

Best,

Sean

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