Category Archives: miami marlins affiliates’ ballparks

121 Financial Ballpark, Jacksonville, FLORIDA

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This page will only be here through 6/29, but I am saving these (and adding new parks as I see them) here, at paulsballparks.substack.com. See you on the other side!

 

jacksonvilleinprogress

121 Financial Ballpark
Jacksonville, Florida

Number of states: still 42
States to go: 8

First game: July 1, 2023
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 8, Durham Bulls 7

Click on any image to see a full-size version.


TO EVERYONE IN THE MID-ATLANTIC AND THE NORTHERN SOUTH: What exactly is the deal with I-95? For Aaron’s big 12-year-old trip, he declared that he wanted to go from DC to Miami in a week. No sweat. We arrived for a game at Camden

Yards. We farted around DC for a couple of days. We saw some shows. And then…

We had a big drive. Durham, NC to Jacksonville. And we needed to get there on time.

You see, this one was circled on the calendar. July 1. Hawaiian Shirt Night at the ballpark. We wanted those shirts. We needed those shirts.

So, after seeing Six in North Carolina (What a show! Y’all should see it!), we woke up super-early for a long drive to ensure we’d make it.

Two I-95 observations:

#1. I am accustomed to traffic. I am not accustomed to rural traffic. Even in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina, we were slowed and even sometimes stopped. I was blown away by how bad it all was.

#2. Um…what’s the deal with death-wish drivers? Especially in Florida (and especially in Miami, where we headed from here), there were people doing 95 or 100 while slipping between lanes and cars such that you couldn’t slip a slim paperback book between them and the car in front of or behind them. It was the worst driving experience I’ve ever had. Seriously, Florida Men and Florida Women…this isn’t a video game. Don’t be jerks. (Unless you were getting a Hawaiian shirt. That I understand the urgency of.)

Aaron was a delight, and we got to 121 Financial Ballpark (yuck–what a terrible name!) a few minutes before gates opened. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong. It turns out that much of Jacksonville wanted the same shirts we wanted, and there were only 2,000 to give away. We got in line and hoped for the best. As we waited, we saw a few people LEAVING the ballpark with their shirts. That’s right: they didn’t bother staying for the game. They just sat in 95-degree weather in line, grabbed their shirts, and left.

So…no shirts. If anybody has a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp Hawaiian shirt they are willing to sell me, let’s talk price.

The ballpark was bustling, and in fact was a little more crowded than I like my ballparks. Long lines and lots of jostling. But at the end of one of those lines was some delightful food.

Regular readers of paulsballparks.com (hi, Mom!) know that I don’t write about food here too much. My legendarily sensitive gut prevents me from being too adventurous gastronomically. I did write when Steven got that crazy churro dog in Arizona, but mostly I don’t write about food. But I had a 12-year-old with me, and he wants to talk about the food. So, for the first time ever, I welcome a guest writer to paulsballparks.com. The following is written by Aaron, my younger child, talking about the food in Jacksonville.

*

If you don’t want to hear me blabber about the food of 121 Financial Ballpark just hear this one thing: GET THE FISH AND CHIPS. If you don’t have any allergies go for it. That line is long for a reason.  They were crunchy yet soft, thick and filling but had one downside: the Achilles heel if you will…the fries sucked. I LOVE crunchy fries. These were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside but they tasted off. Next to the straight God of the fish, the chips would be just a normal guy.

My dad decided to get the nachos but that’s what will bring this park down. The nachos come in a plastic bag with a cup of

queso that they just expect you to put on which is just crazy. So if I were to rate this ballpark’s food on a scale from 1 to 10 I would rate it a 8/10 because the waits before the game and nachos bring it down.

*

There you go: it’s Aaron’s view of the food in Jacksonville.

Here’s what impressed me the most about Jacksonville’s ballpark. I arrived in a bad mood. It was hot, humid, crowded, I’d nearly been struck by about 58 GTA-playing drivers on I-95, and I didn’t even have a Hawaiian shirt to show for it. I was honestly not expecting to have a good time. But the Jumbo Shrimp won me over.

First, they saved me from a bizarre, unusual oversight. In our haste to get to the line, Aaron and I left our scorebooks in the car. I did not want to give up our spot in line and I did not want to walk back through the heat to get the scorebooks. I was worried that I would  have to watch the game without a scorebook in my lap. The horror! But our usher gave me perfect directions, sending me to Tommy at guest services to get a scoresheet with pre-printed lineups and stats for the players. Nice! He even gave me a golf pencil. Thanks, usher, and thanks, Tommy. I was able to score the game.

jacksonvillescorecard

Part of how they did this was the physical layout of the park. The pavilion was wonderful. We were able to circumnavigate the park, and in the process, we saw all sorts of different things, and yet we never had to leave visual contact with the game. Even in center field, where there was a kid play place, there was a gap in the tarp on the chain-link fence for parents to watch the game, as well as a few peepholes to look through in the spots where there was tarp. It was quite the adventure.

The team donned weirdly kitschy pink uniforms to honor Scampi, one of their mascots (what a great name!). It had a

SpongeBob vibe about it, and I would rather players–especially ones this close to the majors–not have such weird duds, but somehow, weirdly, it worked.

By the end of the night, when Aaron and I had seen an entertaining game with a player hitting three home runs, my mood had been transformed from cranky to baseball-happy. Not ever ballpark could have pulled that off. Jacksonville did.

It’s well worth the trip, but next time, I’ll not drive.

JACKSONVILLE:

Regional feel: 8/10. Can’t argue with palm trees. And while there are better views than of the Jaguars’ football stadium, it is local. I also liked the past players dotting the concourse.



Charm: 3.5/5. It was a little corporate and antiseptic physically, but the people were awesome.

Spectacle: 4.5/5. Lots of fun and activity that did not intrude on the baseball.

Team mascot/name: 4/5. Here’s a photo of Aaron with Scampi. Her counterpart, Southpaw, is an overdone name. The Jumbo Shrimp moniker, while a tad cutesy, is kinda cool for the area.
jacksonvillemascot


Aesthetics: 2/5. Not attractive from the outside, and I was drawn to seeing the equipment past the center field wall.

Pavilion area: 5/5. Can circumnavigate the park and see it from lots of different vantage points, never losing sight of the game. History is there, as is a killer-good fish and chips.

Scoreability: 3.5/5. Beyond the usual difficulty with wild pitch/passed ball information, they didn’t get a new pitcher’s name up for a batter or two.

Fans: 2.5/5. Good–but they stood in front of us waiting for the mascot.

Intangibles: 4/5. I actually expected this to be much lower because of the horrific traffic on I-95 earlier in the day and the tragedy of not getting our Hawaiian shirts as a result. But in the end, Austin Allen and his buddies made a great day for Aaron and me.

TOTAL: 37/50

BASEBALL STUFF I SAW HERE:

Austin Allen hits three home runs and has 7 of the Jumbo Shrimps’ (how does one grammatically pluralize this?) 8 RBI.

jacksonvilleallen

jacksonvillefromlf

jacksonvilleuniform

jacksonvillerace

Photo credits: All photos by Paul Hamann except:

Photos of scorecard, close-up of pitcher, and innertube race by Aaron Hamann.

Written July 2023.

Alliant Energy Field, Clinton, Iowa

WE’RE MOVING!

This page will only be here through 6/29, but I am saving these (and adding new parks as I see them) here, at paulsballparks.substack.com. See you on the other side!

 

Alliant Energy Field, Clinton, IOWA

Number of states: 22
States to go:  28

Number of games: 1
First game:  April 5, 2007 (Clinton LumberKings 8, Swing of the Quad Cities 4)

(The ballpark has been renamed NelsonCorp Field, perhaps after Springfield Bully Nelson Muntz.)
(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Michelle and I did a Midwest swing to start the 2007 season–the fourth year in a row I’d done some

Spring Break minor-league travel…and the first year that I’ve done said travel in northern, rather than Southern, climes.  Just my luck:  my year would coincide with a massive Arctic batch of air covering the entire Midwest.  It cancelled one game on the trip–the game in Appleton, Wisconsin.  But they got opening night in in Clinton, and my wife and I bundled up to see.

Were it not for minor league baseball, I would not have ever heard of

Clinton, a county-seat sized town on the Mississippi.  Alliant Energy Field does reasonably well in the is-there-any-question-where-you-are test, since it’s close enough to the river that I could see a steamboat past the outfield fence.  It also features a decent view of the county courthouse (which sits kitty-corner from the ballpark, across home plate) and some factory belching out a massive amount of smoke.

I want to cut the good people of Clinton a little bit of slack, since it was such a cold night.  But it was opening night, and I therefore was quite disappointed in the turnout…almost nobody made the trip out.  When one considers that the opposing team was the Swing of the Quad Cities, just about a half hour down the road, there should have been

considerably more people.

Of course, the folks at Alliant Energy Field weren’t doing too much to draw the people in.  Outside of the mascot, Louie the LumberKing running about, there was very little excitement in the ballpark–and on a night like this with baseball as poor as we were watching (nine errors…these were not only less-talented ballplayers, they were rusty less-talented ballplayers), a little something more to get us cooking would have been nice, even if it were merely some ushers talking to us a little bit.

Alliant Energy Field has an interesting history–it’s just that spectators have to look for it.  A plaque

informs us that the then-Riverview Stadium was opened in 1937 as a WPA project.  So why does it feel so antiseptic and charmless now?  Is it the bizarrely-scary note that Community Service Workers (are these charming volunteers or those serving work-release sentences) appear to check in at an office inside the ballpark?  (Do they sell concessions?)  Is it that I’m bothered that a ballpark originally constructed in part to give work to desperate Depression-era workers, is now being pimped out to a sponsor (it appears that metal “Alliant Energy Field” plates have been affixed over places where the old “Riverview Stadium” names had been etched in stone)?  Is it the antiseptic metal bleachers that have been added in the intervening years throughout the ballpark?  I don’t know, but I wasn’t thrilled with it.

The line of the night goes, as usual, to my wife.  She wasn’t a fan of Louie the Lumberking, Clinton’s mascot.  Instead of a Lumberjack, she felt Louie looked like “the Burger King king’s porn star brother.”  Good assessment?  I leave that up to the reader.


Looking back, this might be the second-coldest night on which I’ve ever seen a game. 

(I recall my game in Wichita being a lot worse.)  But my wife and I got through it all right, simply because we were prepared.  I might have been the only person in America who bought long underwear in preparation for my Spring Break.  The only problem I have with the cold night is how to score.  Michelle (who started her own scorebook on this trip…cool!) wore driving gloves.  I didn’t want to spend money on driving gloves…I wasn’t confident they’d keep me warm, and I was scared that my handwriting wouldn’t be up to snuff.  I brought ski gloves, and spent the game looking like a snow bunny version of one-gloved-wonder Michael Jackson.

So, on the whole, I can’t tell if it was actually the ballpark or a convergence of events that came together (subpar baseball on a really cold night), but I can’t say I was terribly impressed with Alliant Energy Field.  I do hope to head back to Iowa, however…as the Swing of the Quad Cities’ ballpark in Davenport looked absolutely gorgeous as we drove by.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7/10
Not bad here–hard by the river and within viewing distance of a local landmark.

Charm:  2.5/5
I bet an old ballpark like this could be presented better, but I got very little out of Alliant Energy Field in this department.

Spectacle:  3/5
At this low level of ball, they could have stepped it up just a touch.

Team mascot/name:  3/5


Louie and me.  In the picture, the photographer is shaking from the cold and I am in the process of telling Louie that we think he looks like a porn star.  Is there a huge Iowa lumber industry that I’m unaware of?  I’ll assume yes, and think that the name is good.  But Louie?  I’m unimpressed

Aesthetics:  3/5
Not too special, but I liked being able to see boats go by.

Pavilion area:  3/5
A bit of a nice area wrapped around the left-field foul pole, but otherwise, nothing special.

Scoreability:  3/5

Fans:  1/5
Yes, it was cold, but for opening night, this was simply a sad turnout–both small and surly.

Intangibles:  1/5
Not a banner night.  Just didn’t click with me.

TOTAL:  26.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Mauro Gomez’s first-inning three-run home run gives the LumberKings a lead they never give up.

Grant Gerrard gathers three hits.

John Whittleman walks four times…but I’ll always remember him for dropping a pop to third that–and I don’t say this lightly or often–I likely would have been able to catch.  (Of course, I never would have made the team, but that’s another issue.)  It’s one of two errors for Whittleman, four for Clinton, and nine…nine…in the game.

(Written April 2007.)