Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Greeneville Astros 3 at Johnson City Cardinals 4 (Appalachian League) - July 19, 2016


The last two games on the trip are at ballparks that are just eight miles apart, giving me a chance to look at the pitching matchups and promotions before deciding on what game to see. I was originally going to see Elizabethton on Tuesday and Johnson City on Wednesday, but changed my mind because Kingsport was visiting Elizabethton and Jake Simon was starting for the Mets; I had seen him just last week in the first game on this trip and wanted to see another Mets prospect. So I headed to TVA Credit Union Ballpark instead.



This stadium was originally built in 1952 and has undergone a few upgrades in the intervening 64 years. It goes by many names, the current sponsor only acquired the naming rights for this season, so other monikers are still applied, such as Howard Johnson Field at Cardinal Park, which is still the name shown on the Cardinals website. The official name is TVA Credit Union Ballpark at Howard Johnson Field, which is really just too long. I'll call it TCUB going forward.



Located a couple of minutes east of I-26, TCUB has a large free parking lot just off Main Street. The box office (above) is next to the main entrance. General admission tickets are $5 and these are what you want to get as they are under the roof, while the $7 box seats are mostly uncovered during the early innings. As you can see below, much of the seating bowl is under the roof, but there are two sections further down the lines that are slightly separated from the rest of the stadium.



The GA seats are benches, but not that uncomfortable as they have backs. Note that there are posts supporting the roof as well as thinner poles for the protective netting, so a perfectly unobstructed view is difficult when you are behind the plate.



The sun sets behind third base, so your best bet is to sit under the roof for 3-4 innings and then move to the open bleachers along first base.



There is a small walkway between the two levels of seats, so you might want to avoid the first couple of rows in the GA section.



There are no lights under the roof, so if you are scoring, you will need to sit in the open air once the sun disappears.



The main breezeway leads right behind home plate, with standings and starting lineups posted here. The person that posted the lineups screwed up 6 of the 9 positions for the visiting Astros, earning my Intern to Ignore award for making my scorecard a mess (update: the team told me that the Astros manager changed the lineup late, thus he earns my ire). You might note that there is a MacDonald on Greeneville, that's Connor from Brisbane, Australia, the only MacDonald in the minors.



There is a single concession stand next to the breezeway with a few interesting options. The Waffle Sandwich is apparently rather soggy, so I went for the $3 bologna burger and can recommend that. There are picnic tables but even those umbrellas can't protect you from the blazing sun, so they were not being used on this night.



There is no "Road to the Show" display, though a few former Cardinals are shown on bathroom doors, such as Yadier Molina.



That's about it. This is a very simple facility that draws a pretty decent crowd on most nights. In the Appalachian League, that means more than 1,000 fans and they are pretty vocal, adding quite a bit to an already enjoyable atmosphere. Check out TCUB next time you are in Johnson City, you won't be disappointed.



The Game

It was Tennessee Pride Night, so the Cardinals wore special powder-blue jerseys with the three stars of Tennessee on one arm.



Greeneville was in town after their come-from-behind win last night over Bluefield. They started Jorge Guzman, while JC countered with Frederis Parra. Both teams scored a run in the first and another in the third, and then the Astros scored another in the fourth to make it 3-2. Guzman was taken out after just 2.1 innings and replaced by Ben Smith (17th round in 2014 out of Coastal Carolina) who kept the Cardinals off the board until the 7th, when a walk, double, and sacrifice fly tied the game. It was still 3-3 as we entered the bottom of the ninth, with Lucas Williams (40th, 2016) on in relief of Smith. DeAndre Asbury-Heath (15th, 2013) led off with a double, was sacrificed to third, and scored on a single by Allen Cordoba as the Cardinals won 4-3 in walkoff fashion. Parra gets my Player to Watch award for his 6 innings of work without giving up a walk.

Estalin Arias got the win with a perfect 9th for Johnson City. This was another fun game to watch; I've been lucky over the past few days with some well-pitched games, something I didn't expect at this level.

Notes

Elizabethton won 8-7 in walkoff fashion, but the game took 3:27 (compared to 2:56 at Johnson City) so it looks like I made the right decision so far.

Ever since I got a foul ball at an Albuquerque Isotopes game earlier this season, I've been trying to get one ball for every minor league, without having them tossed to me. As I drove to the ballpark today, I turned into an alley behind the fence of the stadium, thinking it led to a parking lot. It did not. But there was a ball lying there, so I stopped to pick it up, thus adding to my total. I've now got balls from 5 minor leagues (IL, PCL, Eastern, Texas, and Appy), which leaves 9 to go.

This was my 670th venue and 260th ballpark lifetime.

Next Up

As you probably figured out, the last game on the trip will feature Kingsport at Elizabethton. Check back for a recap tomorrow.

Best,

Sean

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