On the Farm: 7 Minor League Ballparks to See Before You Die
Drive 50 miles in any direction this summer and you’ll likely be steps away from a minor league ballpark. You won’t see Pujols or A-Rod there, unless they’re rehabbing a high ankle sprain or the like, but you also won’t see a concession stand selling shrimp tempura rolls and $25 Budweisers. As James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, “Baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”
Save for Fenway, Wrigley and perhaps Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, nowhere is that nostalgic itch scratched more satisfyingly than under a century-old grandstand at a minor league park, cold beer and hot dog in hand, watching a couple dozen young ballplayers chase a dream shared by just about every American boy who ever lived.
And there are seven ballparks in particular you won’t want to miss…
Bosse Field—Evansville, IN
First game: June 17, 1915
Team: Evansville Otters
Why it’s special: Oldest professional ballpark in America, after Fenway and Wrigley; grandstand is comprised of individual fold-down wooden chairs; A League of Their Own was filmed here.
Centennial Field—Burlington, VT
First game: April 17, 1906
Team: Vermont Lake Monsters and University of Vermont Catamounts
Affiliate: Oakland A’s (A)
Why it’s special: As old-school as it gets: restrooms weren’t added until 1995, and Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen is buried in left field.
Cheney Stadium—Tacoma, WA
First game: April 16, 1960
Team: Tacoma Rainiers
Affiliate: Seattle Mariners (AAA)
Why it’s special: Original grandstand seats from Seals Stadium in San Francisco; old-timey light stanchions; Washington summer nights.
Richmond County Bank Ballpark—Staten Island, NY
First game: June 24, 2001
Team: Staten Island Yankees
Affiliate: New York Yankees (Low A)
Why it’s special: A 30-minute (free) boat ride with views of the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan; outfield overlooks the harbor and NYC skyline in the distance.
Riverwalk Stadium—Montgomery, AL
First game: April 16, 2004
Team: Montgomery Biscuits
Affiliate: Tampa Bay Rays (AA)
Why it’s special: Built into the facade of a decommissioned train station; the right-field fence curves to accommodate the original flagpole.
Grayson Stadium—Savannah, GA
First game: June 6, 1926
Team: Savannah Sand Gnats
Affiliate: New York Mets (A)
Why it’s special: Set just outside Savannah’s historic district; brick facade and large weeping trees make it the most picturesque exterior in baseball.
McCormick Field—Asheville, NC
First game: April 3, 1924
Team: Asheville Tourists
Affiliate: Colorado Rockies (A)
Why it’s special: Carved into the side of a hill, surrounded by trees on the south side of downtown Asheville.
Meet you under the grandstand, gentlemen…
- — C. Brian Smith