Sunday, April 30, 2017

Round Rock Express 1 at Memphis Redbirds 3 (5, PCL) - April 29, 2017

Memphis is more or less midway between Jackson and St. Louis, and was a perfect stopping point on the drive back. Even better, the Memphis Redbirds, the Cardinals AAA affiliate, was home with an evening game. They play out of AutoZone Park, which I had visited in 2001, just a year after it opened. It won Minor League Park of the Year in 2009 and is widely considered one of the best stadiums in all of baseball.

The location is unbeatable, right at the corner of Union Avenue and B.B. King Boulevard in downtown Memphis. Dozens of bars and restaurants are a short walk away (I watched the Senators miraculous comeback at Huey's) and music fans should visit Sun Studio, where Elvis Presley and many other stars first recorded.

Inside the main gate, which is open even before the gates to the ballpark are, there is a plaza with an art piece featuring a pitcher and catcher.

This plaza is where fans congregate before the ballpark opens. Entering here will leave you just behind home plate.

Capacity here is exactly 10,000 and this game was sold out. Fortunately, they sell standing room tickets and I picked one of those up for $9. Attendance was 10,090, so I assume they sold 90 standing room tickets. Still, with rain in the forecast, the stadium was perhaps only 2/3 full.

AutoZone Park was built to major-league standards, though without the outfield seats. It recently underwent a renovation in which capacity was reduced by 4,384, which makes it a bit more cozier.

There are views of downtown from all around the concourse, which is open to the field.

The overhang from the upper level provides shade, but also blocks part of the massive scoreboard, which sits above right field.

I was working this game, so did not have time to tour or take more pictures. With new AAA parks in Charlotte, Nashville, and El Paso among other locales, AutoZone Park seems a bit dated when compared to its newer counterparts. Still, with such a perfect location, any summer visit to Memphis would not be complete without a stop here.

The Game

Round Rock (affiliate of the Texas Rangers) were visiting with Clayton Blackburn (16th round in 2011 by San Francisco) taking the hill against Arturo Reyes (40th, 2013). Josh Wilson, who last appeared in the majors in 2015, opened the scoring for Round Rock with a long homer in the third. In the bottom half, Blackburn injured himself facing Breyvic Valera and was removed with the count 3-1. Brady Dragmire (17th, 2011, by Toronto) came in and walked Valera. Tommy Pham followed and hit a grounder to Ronald Guzman (Rangers #4 prospect) at first. Guzman threw wildly to second, and centerfielder Jared Hoying (10th, 2010) threw wild trying to nab Valera at third, allowing him to score and Pham to move to third. After another walk, Dragmire balked home Pham to give Memphis the lead. Patrick Wisdom (52nd overall pick in 2012) then got the Redbirds first hit, singling home the third unearned run of the inning.

That was also the final hit of the game as a thunderstorm arrived in the middle of the 5th. After a one-hour delay, it was announced that the game was completed. Reyes struck out 7 to earn his 3rd win of the season, while Dragmire was the hard-luck loser, giving up 2 unearned runs while yielding just one hit.


It was 90's night and Mr. Belding from "Saved by the Bell" was the promotional guest. Actor Dennis Haskins, a Tennessee native, is certainly milking all he can out of this role; that's him below throwing out the first pitch.

Next Up

Rain washed out the college game I had hoped to see at Southeast Missouri State on the final day of the trip. The game was actually played on Saturday, so there wasn't any reason to even go to the ballpark. After a couple of weeks in NYC, I'm heading back on the road to see the Jays in Atlanta and Milwaukee and to add a few more minor league parks to my total. As always, check back for recaps.



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