Thursday, June 16, 2016

Montgomery Biscuits 7 at Pensacola Blue Wahoos 1 (Southern League) - June 14, 2016


After watching an afternoon game in Mobile, I made the short drive to Pensacola to complete the two-state twinbill. The Blue Wahoos are celebrating their fifth anniversary though the franchise itself has been around since 1959 and most recently played in Zebulon as the AA version of the Carolina Mudcats. In 2012, they moved to the Florida Panhandle to play in Blue Wahoos Stadium, part of the Maritime Park area on Pensacola Bay.



Getting to the stadium is quite easy as it is just a mile or so from the end of the I-110 spur into the city. There is plenty of free parking around as meters expire at 5 p.m. and there is not much traffic downtown in the evening. From the outside, the stadium really doesn't resemble a ballpark, with the ticket window lineups the only obvious sign that a game is imminent.



Go through the main gate and up a staircase to reach the main concourse, making sure to note all the awards that the team has earned in its short history, which you can see above.



Blue Wahoos Stadium has the smallest capacity in AA with only 5,038 seats, so over the first few years tickets have been difficult to get, with many sellouts. This season though, the shine seems to be wearing off and there were plenty of seats available when I visited. Prices are very reasonable with a $7 GA seat a decent choice as there are plenty of standing tables along the concourse. If you want to sit, box seats are $12, with reserved seats down the lines $10 (add $2 to all tickets for Friday and Saturday games). Season seat holders can resell their tickets through the Blue Wahoos and these are an extra $1.50 for some reason.



You cannot walk all the way around, but you can get behind the outfield fence, which gives you a good view of the layout. There are no suites, though there are some club seats in the lower rows behind home plate.



The press box and team store are housed in a building behind home plate, along with a small bar known as Bubba's Sandtrap, named after two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson who is a minority owner, and who appears on the scoreboard several times throughout the game to exhort fans to cheer their team.



There is no cover over the seating bowl, so when it drizzles, fans move back to the concourse and seek shelter. Note the difference between the roof along third base (below) and the canopy along first (above). You might also notice that the foul poles are pink (rubine red actually), which shows support for breast cancer awareness according to the team.



Concessions here are quite nice too, with a good variety, much of it seafood based. There is also a dollar menu that includes mini pretzels, small bags of popcorn, and tiny cups of soda. There are two concession stands labeled Port Side and Starboard Side to maintain the nautical theme. The free program lists all available items and their price, something that all teams should consider.

There is an in-game host known as DJ Double Play who is not overbearing and runs the promotions efficiently. A wahoo is a type of fish, but the mascot Kazoo is simply called an aquatic creature.



Overall, Blue Wahoos Stadium is one of the top minor league parks in the country. Facing Pensacola Bay gives it one of the best views you'll ever get at this level; add in the affordable tickets and food choices and you understand why this is a premier destination for all ballpark travellers.

The Game

Montgomery (Tampa Bay) was in town to take on the Blue Wahoos (ironically the Reds affiliate) to finish up a 5-game set. The pitching matchup was very intriguing, with the two starters both former first-round picks: Nick Travieso for Pensacola and Taylor Guerrieri for Montgomery. Travieso was drafted 14th overall out of high school in 2012 and is working his way up the Reds chain, sitting as their #9 prospect at the moment. Guerrieri was drafted 24th overall out of high school in 2011 but Tommy John surgery and a 50-game suspension for drug abuse have slowed his progress, but he is considered the Rays #6 prospect this year.

After three scoreless innings, the Biscuits got on the board first when Travieso struggled with command. A hit batsman, a walk, and two wild pitches put runners on second and third and Cade Gotta (26th, 2014) directed a single to right to score both. Guerrieri lasted five frames, yielding just 3 hits, while Travieso completed six innings with just the two runs blemishing his line. This made it a battle of the bullpens, and Blue Wahoos were out of their depth here. El'Hajj Muhammad (49th, 2010, out of New Jersey) started the 7th and promptly gave up a double and misplayed a bunt. A suicide squeeze scored a run, and after a deep fly ball, Muhammad left with two outs and runners on the corners, to be replaced by Nick Routt (16th, 2012), who is not well named for a pitcher. When Routt was done, the rout was on as he gave up a walk, a bases loaded double to Patrick Leonard (5th round, 2011 by KC), and a single as the Biscuits took a 7-0 lead. Pensacola did manage a run in the 8th on a walk, two wild pitches, and a sacrifice fly, earning a sarcastic cheer from the few remaining fans.

The scoreboard turned off before I could snap a picture, so you'll have to trust me that I stayed until the end. A good game for six innings, but as is the case in baseball so often these days, it was the bullpens that decided it.

Notes

I saw three games along the Gulf Coast in just over 24 hours, and the home teams combined to lose all three by a score of 23-6. My deepest apologies for jinxing you.

Next Up

I'm off to Omaha for the College World Series next week and Denver for the Blue Jays just after. The schedule will be posted shortly, so check back for that.

Best,

Sean

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