Tag Archives: former arizona diamondbacks affiliates’ ballparks

Stanley Coveleski Stadium, South Bend, Indiana

Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium, South Bend, INDIANA

Number of states: 6
States to go:  44
Number of games: 1
First game: July 17, 2004 (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 4, South Bend Silver Hawks 2)

(The ballpark is now known as Four WInds Field at Stanley Coveleski Stadium.)
(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium (or, as the locals call it, “the Cove”) is in a decent location as far as the “is there any doubt where you are” test.  It’s hard up against a train station on one side–charming architecture that is visible above the right field stands.  On the other side, there is the spire of what I assume to be a Catholic church in view.  These two items in concert say South Bend to me, but on the inside, there’s little clue that I’m in Indiana.

College singing buddies Rob (of Three Rivers Stadium and Hooters fame), Kristin and I were fortunate to get seats in the front row behind the home dugout.  I looked forward to watching the game, but something transpired which had never

occurred to me…when one is in the front row behind the dugout, one’s view is often obstructed by dancing mascots.  Additionally, kids who wish to see the mascot frequently cascade down to the front row and make annoying child noises.  I wonder why this problem had never occurred to me?  Nevertheless, Swoop, the Silver Hawks’ mascot, is quite easily did the best job out of all mascots I have ever encountered.  He was energetic, wacky, and fun throughout.  For example, he and the alternate mascot (a child dressed in a giant mustachioed head) sat on the dugout and played spin the bottle with a couple of young women in the front row.  Hilarity ensued!  The mascot actually made me laugh a couple of times–a rarity.  Nice going, Swoop.  Now sit down and get out of my way.

Beyond the mascot, there were a whole lot of negatives about the Cove.  For starters, let’s talk about the mini-bat.  I buy a mini-bat at every minor league park I see a game at…they hang by a map of the US in my den.  The quality of mini-bats in South Bend were unacceptably inferior.  At first, I thought the bat was hollow, but I no longer think so–now, I believe it’s just made of a really chintzy light wood.  Oh well–so it’s light, whatever.  I set it on the ground and watched the game.  When I picked up the bat at the end of the game, the paint had worn off of every part of the bat that had made contact with the ground.  How bogus is this?  So I headed off to the souvenir shop to trade it in, and had the following conversation:

ME:  Can I trade this bat in for another?  The paint has worn off the side.
CONCESSION WOMAN:  Oh, they’re all like that.
ME:  I know.  Can I have another?
CW:  No.  You don’t understand.  They’re all like that.
ME:  I know…but this time I won’t do something awful with it like put it down.
CW:  (gives me a very annoyed, angry look, then trades in the bat)

Arrrggh!  I did wrap the bat carefully in a sweater, packed it up…and it’s made it back home without any damage.  The fact that this bat was sold to me for an above average cost (usually I pay $4 or $5 for a bat…this was $5.25) leads me to think that they were all about squeezing off profits.  This led me to realize that my hot dog was cold and my soda felt a bit watered-down…in combination, not a great feeling for the ballpark.

Worse, I didn’t have any idea what was happening due to an inferior program and unacceptably incomplete PA work.  It was exceedingly difficult to score a game at Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium.  Sure, the lineups were accessible in the pavilion, but what about during the game?  The PA announcer failed to announce three of the four relief pitchers that entered the game–he only announced the pitchers who entered mid-inning.  This means the guy either didn’t notice that the pitcher was new (in spite of the umpire’s clear “new pitcher” signal) or didn’t think that we cared.  We do care, PA guy.  This left me in the position of figuring out the pitchers’ names on my own from the players’ numbers and my program.  Or maybe not–much to my dismay, I found there was no opposing roster in the program, and I couldn’t seem to find a scorecard to buy.  So I had to get the names of two Wisconsin relievers on the Timber Rattlers’ website later that night.

Even worse was a failure to announce the South Bend reliever who entered to pitch the ninth inning.  After fruitlessly waiting for the PA guy to say his name, I figured I’d check to see who #33 was in the program.  Incredibly, the players were listed alphabetically and without numbers!  What was I supposed to do, guess at his height and weight?

This led to a wonderful moment–an explication of one of the reasons I like Rob so much.  He’s so terribly pleasant and friendly, yet sorta crazy.  As the pitcher is running off the field at the end of that inning, Rob shouts at the pitcher repeatedly:  “What’s your name?  Hey, 33, what’s your name?  What’s your name??”  #33 ignored the lunatic in the front row–I believe wisely.  But Rob wasn’t done.

The first base coach for the Silver Hawks, #17, was headed out for the bottom of the ninth.  Rob called out to him.  “COACH!  Hey, COACH!!!”  #17 turned around.  Rob said “Your pitcher.  #33.  What’s his name?”  The baffled coach asked Rob to repeat himself a couple of times, and Rob did. 

Then, the coach gave us the information we wanted, although it was hard to hear–but by cross-referencing our alphabetical program, we eventually were able to figure out what he was saying:  “Cremidan.  Alex Cremidan.”  Thus it came to be that Alex Cremidan  was given credit for his perfect ninth inning, including a strikeout.  Now, coaching a minor league team is likely a challenging job in and of itself, so to willingly add the PA announcers’ duties to your own is a very selfless action.  As a result, I’m very impressed with this coach, and would like to thank him by name in this public venue…but I can’t, because the Silver Hawks don’t have coaches listed on their website or by number in their program.  Oh well.  Thanks, #17.

One more complaint–the crowd, while mostly kind, did have one moment of ugliness.  After flying to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning, third baseman Augie Murillo (if memory serves, this was the guy) was nearly drilled by a tennis ball thrown from the crowd as he returned to the dugout.  They had sold tennis balls to be thrown into hula hoops on the field for prizes after the game, but someone decided to take a shot at a player instead.  I was watching Augie head back to the dugout when the ball zinged by.  He immediately looked up, and

with a few teammates, had ushers head towards the hooligan who threw it (although, given that Murillo’s head was down, I’m not sure how he could have known).  Much to my surprise, rather than a nearby drunken guy, ushers ejected a woman who was at least 25 yards away.  Quite an arm.  “Was that her?”  I asked Augie.  He nodded.  I love getting into conversations with these guys.

There’s a lot to like about this ballpark–its location, the cool multiple mascots, the grassy berm in the outfield spectators can suntan on, the dramatic Midwestern thunder cells in the distance reflecting a pink sunset.  But I got an overall negative vibe from the place because of poor service from top to bottom, from the people selling the mini-bats all the way to the guy in the PA booth.  When I add it all together, it’ll wind up near the bottom of the list, although with a new set of workers, I could see me returning someday and enjoying it far more.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel: 7 /10
Nice placement between a church and a railyard, but little inside the ballpark that says one is in Northern Indiana or Michiana (the horrible term locals use for the area).

Charm:  3.5/5
On and off.  Liked the cars for car night, liked the outfield berm.

Spectacle: 4.5/5
Plenty good for the low minors.

Team mascot/name:  4/5


Swoop and I are in the left picture here, with the mysterious mustachioed kid-mascot to the right.  Swoop is a fine name, and I like the multiple mascots, although Silver Hawks isn’t, to my knowledge anyway, local. (Update April 2008:  The Silver Hawks, two of their fans have informed me, are named after the Studebaker Silver Hawk that was once manufactured near the stadium.  Nice historical touch there.)

Aesthetics: 3.5 /5
Not too much in the way of beauty here, but a gorgeous thunderstorm in the distance helped.

Pavilion area: 3 /5
Just fine.  A little dark and dreary, but a nice set of plaques commemorating South Bend baseball history, including one to Mr. Coveleski himself and a couple commemorating the stars of South Bend’s AAGPBA entry, the Belles.

Scoreability: 0/5
Horrible.  Useless PA guy and useless program.

Fans:  2.5/5


While most were fine, I can’t overlook the violent lout who threw a ball at a player.

Intangibles:  0/5
On the whole, I just wasn’t impressed–I simply felt like profit was valued over service.  Worse yet, they misspelled “Wisconsin” on the standings board!  (They had an “o” where the second “i” is.)

TOTAL:  28/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Wisconsin pitcher Nibaldo Acosta was the star of the day, scattering 9 hits over 8 innings, giving up only 1 run.

Wladimir Balentien homered.

(Written August 2004.  Revised July 2009.)

Yakima County Stadium, Yakima, Washington

yakimaexterior

Yakima County Stadium, Yakima, WASHINGTON

Number of states:  still 5
States to go:  45
Number of games: 3
First game:  July 8, 2004 (Yakima Bears 7, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 4)
Most recent game:  July 3, 2009 (Yakima Bears 9, Spokane Indians 4)

(Yakima County Stadium is no longer used for affiliated baseball as of the 2013 season.)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

In the competition for “Longest drive made to meet Paul at a baseball game,” the nominees 

are:  3.  My dad, who took an airport shuttle two hours to get from Columbia, Missouri to a fine game at Busch Stadium.  2.  Rob, who drove about two and a half hours from State College, Pennsylvania to meet me at Three Rivers.  And the #1 longest drive to meet me at a ballpark:  Brian and his wife Annie, who drove two and a half hours from Seattle to meet me in Yakima.  They win the tiebreaker over Rob because–let’s face it–they drove to Yakima and did so for a short season single-A game.  It’s nice to have friends like these.  The Yakimas of the world are nicer when you can share them with friends.

Brian, a fellow teacher, a guy I call “my hero and mentor” (and he thinks it’s tongue-in-cheek), has a daughter who is working on her medical residency in Yakima.  I had forgotten this when I jokingly invited him to join me in Yakima for a ballgame.  I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed, saying he’s always looking for an excuse to visit his daughter Rachael.  Given that we’re both teachers (yay, summers off!),  he did, in fact, meet me in Yakima for Northwest league baseball.  His daughter joined us, and somehow, I wasn’t bothered when she studied during the game for tests she’d be taking shortly.  My answer to the questions about people with difficult medical

challenges was always the same:  “He should be seeing a doctor.”  Strangely, it was never the right answer.  The Yakima crowd made it easy for her study–there were few of them and they were quiet, even on Thunder Stick night.  (By the way, there is precedent in my life for studying at sports venues.  My brother claims he studied in college at the bowling alley…the general cacophony there was easier on him than the complete silence of the library.  Me?  The library all the way.  I had a carrel way down in the dusty bowels of the place.  Perfect.)

The Bears’ people did well to keep things active during the game.  They featured loads of promotions, and wacky ones, such as attempting to throw toilet plungers into a toilet, a cream pie eating contest, and an attempt to catch high-slung T-shirts with butterfly nets.  There were probably other promotions as well, but I couldn’t hear them–the PA system was awful.  On the whole, the atmosphere wasn’t exactly electric…a routine seating bowl which, as

I said, is mostly empty.

The ballpark itself  has some nice quirks.  It’s incredibly short–293 feet–down the lines, and Yakima’s dry, relatively high air must make those foul poles inviting targets.  However, the short porches at the poles become longer in a big hurry, as the outfield wall juts more or less straight out from there…the dimensions go from 293 to 340 in a big hurry.  The views of nearby mountains are charming, and if you’re heading to Yakima, you might note that the first-base side is home to the hot, sunny, uncomfortable seats.  The sun can be such a problem for spectators and fielders that they have put up a big screen past the third-base seats to block it.

On the whole, I’ll remember a fun night with my buddies in the middle of nowhere–one old friend with whom I can talk baseball and shoot the shit, his kind wife, and a woman who’s working on bringing health care

to the Yakima Valley.  What more can you ask than that?

July 2005–I returned to Yakima with my fiancĂ©e during the month of our wedding for that year’s July 4th Minor League Baseball trip.  And in the process, I managed to make my baby feel wonderful–nearly crying–and make a silly rookie mistake at the same time.  A local florist had a promotion called Sweetheart of the Game…basically an essay contest.  Write a few sentences about why your date should be the Sweetheart of the Game, and the winning essay’s sweetheart gets flowers delivered to her at her seat.  I wrote that Michelle and I were getting married on the 29th of that month, that we were on our third annual 4th of July Minor League Road Trip, that said road trip was originally Michelle’s idea (this is especially impressive to those who believe I’m dragging along an unwilling partner to all these ballparks), and that I loved her very much.  Well, they picked Michelle as Sweetheart of the Game (of course they did…I’m a poet, dammit), and Michelle was surprised and touched…she confessed later she nearly cried.  So what, you ask, was the rookie mistake?  This was…I wrote the wrong damn date for our wedding.  We were getting married on the 30th, not the 29th.  The 29th was the rehearsal dinner…where Michelle threw out the first pitch at an Everett AquaSox Game and where I sang the National Anthem.  We’d been spending the whole weekend talking baseball and playing catch, so the baseball on my brain led me to write the wrong date down…so Michelle corrected the announcer, saying “Actually, it’s the 30th.”  What a doofus move.  But she pointed out that this was short-season A ball, and so it was fine that I made a rookie mistake.  I’m thankful for that, because I want to spend my whole career in her organization.

yakimasweetheart

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  8.5/10
The view of nearby mountains is nice.  The museum area with the exhibit about Yakima-connected “Hub” Kittle is better.


Charm:  2/5
Reasonable here, in a county-fair sort of way (the stadium  is located on fairgrounds), but I can’t look past the foul-ball screen obscuring the view of literally every seat, the way-too-quiet PA (couldn’t hear him from my seat by third base!), and the horribly-maintained infield.

Spectacle: 5/5
Wacky low-minors stuff that never interferes with the game.

Team mascot/name:  2.5/5


Boomer Bear is about what you’d expect–a bit conventional and not locally appropriate.

Aesthetics:  3.5/5
The stands themselves are unattractive, but it’s quite a nice view.

Pavilion area:  4.5/5
Love the exhibit, though both it and the entire pavilion can be a bit larger for my tastes.

Scoreability:  2/5
I had to guess at some tough scoring decisions, and the lineups in the pavilion neglected to tell me first names and uniform numbers.  Plus, a scoreboard malfunction made one strike look like seven strikes.

Fans:  3/5
Gets a little better every time I go, although I’m still remembering how quiet the first game was.

Intangibles:  5/5
I wasn’t a fan after my first visit, but the last two have each brought tremendous memories…my baby crying at being named Sweetheart of the Game, just a few weeks before our wedding…and four years later, in 2009, both my wife and I tearing up as we watched our son totally transfixed over his first-ever fireworks.


TOTAL: 36/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Two homers for Chris Carter set the table for the Bears’ win in my inaugural visit.

As of July 2004, Chase Smith had two losses in professional baseball, and I’ve been there for both of them:  the first in Eugene a week earlier, than this one.  Chase–send me a few bucks and I’ll not show up anymore.

For July 4th weekend of 2005, Michelle and I saw Yakima’s Angel Rocha give one of the poorest pitching performances imaginable.  He made it two-thirds of an inning…faced ten batters.  Two outs, six walks, and two hits–all of them scored for 8 earned runs, or an ERA for the outing of 108.00.  It didn’t get much better for Yakima thereafter.

Incredibly, in a 17-run, 17-hit onslaught, John Mayberry Jr. managed to go 0-for-6 for Spokane.

In 2009, Yakima comes back with an 8-run 8th-inning–aided by a pair of bases-loaded walks–to defeat Spokane.

(Written July 2004.  Updated July 2009.)