Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tacoma Rainiers 2 at Nashville Sounds 5 (PCL) - August 17, 2016


Last year, the Nashville Sounds opened a new downtown ballpark to replace venerable but outdated Greer Stadium. Known as First Tennessee Park after a local bank bought naming rights, the new stadium received rave reviews and I was excited to finally see what all the ruckus was about. Not only that, but this visit would complete all active Pacific Coast League ballparks for me, a quest that began in 1991 when I moved to Vancouver, whose Canadians were members of the PCL back then. The schedule maker was kind, setting a Wednesday nooner that would allow me to see an evening Tennessee Smokies game in Kodak, about 200 miles away.



I drove down from Bowling Green, arriving in Nashville around 11 am. For evening games, there are many free parking lots in the area, but these are permit-only during weekday afternoons. Fortunately, there are spots on 5th and 6th Streets just north of Jefferson that are unmetered. From here it is a short walk to Junior Gilliam Way, named in honour of a Negro League great, which is closed to vehicular traffic before the game. The ballpark looks more like an office building as you approach along Gilliam Way (above); it is only when you look inside the main entrance (below) that you can see the gates and the field beyond. The neighbourhood is undergoing quite a bit of construction; when I stayed nearby in 2013 during my NFL trip it was not very pleasant, but there are already many new condominium developments and signs of gentrification are everywhere.



Tickets here are really expensive if you want them to be, for example, the couple in front of me spent $64 on a pair of club seats. When I looked inside, I saw that there was standing rails around the whole concourse, so I bought the cheapest option at $9 and stood there for much of the game before moving into the premium seats ($25) for the last couple of innings. One of the advantages of standing is that you are completely out of the sun, and I wish all ballparks had this option. You can see the standing rails in the picture below behind the seating bowl.



I took the obligatory lap around the park, impressed by its spacious concourse. Concessions were not overpriced, with an Italian sausage going for $5, typical for minor league baseball.



There are many features worth noting as you make your way around. First, small plaques honouring Nashville baseball legends are attached to the overhead directional signage.



Bullpens are located on the field, as you can see below.



In the left field corner, more history is on display, though this is of the ancient variety. An odd addition to the ballpark, but a good description of what happened here long, long ago.



The view from center field gives you the overall look of the ballpark.



The scoreboard is beyond right field and is shaped like a guitar, just like the one at Greer Stadium was. A great touch; even the tuning pegs are part of the scoreboard, while the neck of the guitar is the linescore.



Right next to the scoreboard is The Band Box, an area for fans to relax, with its own concession stand. Sofas and chairs abound, and this looks to be a fun spot for groups to socialize.



There is also a nine-hole mini golf course that costs $5 to play.



The designers really put a lot of thought into everything here, even the location of home plate, which faces downtown, with a bit of the skyline visible beyond the fences.



Overall, I was really impressed with First Tennessee Park. It has something for everybody and is a must-see for any ballpark aficionado. I hope to return once the surrounding area is more developed, and I think in a few years, a Nashville Sounds game will become a destination in itself for more than just sports travellers.



The Game

The Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle) were visiting Nashville (Oakland) in a battle of the top two clubs in the league. Minor league journeyman Jarrett Grube (drafted in 2004 with 0.2 IP in MLB) took the hill for Tacoma, while Dillon Overton (2nd round in 2013, Oakland's #15 prospect) was the Sounds starter. Ryan Strausborger homered for the visitors to lead off the 3rd, but Arismendy Alcantara did the same for Nashville in the bottom half. Strausborger singled to lead off the 5th (Tacoma's last hit as it turned out) and later scored on a groundout to give Tacoma another lead but Joey Wendle (6th, 2016, Athletics #28 prospect) mashed a 3-run shot in the 6th that saved Overton from the hard luck loss. In the 7th, Grube was replaced by switch pitcher Pat Venditte, who gave up 4 consecutive weak singles that led to Nashville's fifth and final run. The Sounds bullpen was nearly perfect in 3 innings, allowing just one baserunner on an error as the fans went home happy after a 5-2 Nashville win.

Facing a long drive to Kodak, I needed a quick game and that is what I got as it finished in 2:33, allowing me to make the evening affair in time, though I was helped a bit by Mother Nature. More on that in the next post.

Notes

The mascot race features three country music legends (Reba McEntire, George Jones, and Johnny Cash) and is run during the middle of the 5th inning (below). There is also a group of cheerleaders (Nashville Sound Waves) who perform before and during the game.



With this visit over, I only need Gwinnett to complete the AAA parks. Until, of course, another new ballpark opens.

Best,

Sean

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