Saturday, August 13, 2016

Lexington Legends 2 at Augusta GreenJackets 3 (10, South Atlantic League) - August 11, 2016


I'm back on the road for one final minor league trip this year, completing all active ballparks in several circuits, including the South Atlantic League. My first stop was Augusta, known mostly for the Masters golf tournament every April, but also home to another type of green jacket, namely the Sally League team that plays just a couple of miles from Augusta National.

Augusta has had some form of baseball on and off since 1885 but the current franchise took up residence in 1988 as the Pirates. In 1994, they became the GreenJackets and a year later they moved into brand new Lake Olmstead Stadium, so named because it sits right next to Lake Olmstead, which is the centrepiece of a local park. Getting to the stadium is quite easy as it is less than a mile from Washington Road, the main thoroughfare that you take from I-20. Parking is plentiful, both on the street and in a free lot right next to the ballpark. The surrounding area is quite nice, so get there a little early and take a walk around if you have time.



Tickets range from $11 for the box seats in the first few rows behind the protective netting to $9 for general admission, which are bench seats along the baselines and the definite recommendation as you can sit where you want and have an unobstructed view, as you can see below.



There are three separate seating stands with a walkway behind the box seats, while the concourse is outside. You will find decent food options in this outer area, including an Auggie burger that comes with two patties, slaw, BBQ pork, and pimento cheese, all for $9. I'd suggest the $3.50 hot dog instead purely on affordability. It was Thirsty Thursday thankfully, with 12 ounce beers for $1 and 24 ounces at $2. For some reason, $3 gets you only 32 ounces, which makes no sense, but that didn't stop many fans from ignoring the math. Craft beers are also available for twice the price.



Auggie is the mascot by the way, an insect that roams the stands high-fiving fans. He is not the only insect though, as mosquitoes are plentiful due to the stadium's proximity to the lake, so bring some bug spray. The insect motif continues with the team shop, known as The Hive, where you can find a special item on sale every day that takes the sting out of the usual high prices of sports merchandise.



Augusta has had more than its share of championships, both before this franchise came into being (above) and after (below).



Although the team is now the Giants affiliate, they have been associated with a number of other clubs in their history, including Boston, and many MLB stars are honoured on large tarps hanging from the back of the stands.



More recently a Hall of Fame has been added, with gold plaques scattered about the concourse, including one for Pablo Sandoval, who has played for both San Francisco and Boston coincidentally.



The starting lineups are posted and the team has done a smart thing by placing all the player names on laminated paper so they can be moved around easily. Note that one of the visiting players is circled; he is the Bojangles Bo batter and if he strikes out, all fans get a coupon for a free biscuit at this southern fried chicken chain.



There is a fun zone behind the left field corner that costs $4 to enter, while the right field corner has a new party area that appears to be quite enjoyable if you have a large group. Neither area is particularly photogenic, so instead I offer a shot of the first base GA stand.



One nice touch is the 366 sign on the left field fence, along with Cobb above it. This is in honour of Ty Cobb, who played here as a minor leaguer in 1904-05 and finished his major league career with a record .366 average.



There is no mascot race here, instead 3 interns dress as caddies and battle each other in the Caddyshack race. Near the finish line, a guy dressed as a hamburger tries to knock one or two of them down for no apparent reason, which gets the fans excited. You gotta love the minors.



Overall, this is a very simple venue that ticks all the boxes that matter to me: free parking, ample GA seating, decent food, and a fun approach to the promotions with a bit of originality thrown in.

The Game

The Lexington Legends (KC) were visiting Augusta in the first of a four-game set. Scott Blewett (2nd round in 2014, Royals #13 prospect) started for Lexington, while the Jackets sent Grant Watson (16th, 2015) to the hill. Augusta scored an unearned run in the first when Legends catcher Chase Vallot (40th overall in 2014, #7 prospect) threw wildly on a double steal, and added another of the earned variety in the second when John Polonius (30th, 2011 by Cleveland) singled home Jean Angomas who had doubled. Lexington tied it in the third when Ben Johnson (11th, 2015) grounded to second baseman Jalen Miller (3rd, 2015, Giants #15 prospect) who yipped one wide of first, sending Johnson to second. A single by D.J. Burt (4th, 2014) scored Johnson, and Burt advanced to third on a throwing error by Angomas, later scoring on a groundout. So out of 4 runs, 3 were unearned. Like I said, you gotta love the minors.

After that shaky start though, both pitchers settled down as did the defense and the game remained 2-2 as we entered extra innings. After Ryan Halstead (21st, 2015) retired the side in order for Augusta in the top of the tenth, Dillon Dobson (23rd, 2015) led off the bottom half with a double. A wild pitch moved him to third, and after a strikeout and an intentional walk, Skyler Ewing (6th, 2014) laced a ball down the right field line to win the game for the home team and reward those who had stayed until the end. This was a really fun game that took exactly 3 hours, not bad for 10 innings. Note the Cobb 366 signage in the background of the celebration photo below.



My Player to Watch out of all that is Lexington's Brandon Dulin (12th, 2013) who went 3-4 and made a couple of outstanding plays at first base, including one where he reached into the stands to make a catch. He's probably too old to make it as a regular in the bigs, but if he keeps that up, he might get a call up sometime next year.

Notes



I stayed an extra day here to pick up a replica stadium (above), my favourite type of giveaway. I don't know what it is about Georgia abandoning ballparks after 20 years, but the team plans to move to North Augusta, across the river in South Carolina, for the 2018 season. So if you want to add Lake Olmstead Stadium to your list of visited ballparks, you had better do it next year.

If you are looking to see second-run movies, try the Masters Cinema 7 on Washington Road, where all shows are just $2.50, and they have a few matinees. It is a great way to cool down after an afternoon of touring before heading to the game.

Best,

Sean




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