121 Financial Ballpark
Number of states: still 42
States to go: 8
First game: July 1, 2023
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 8, Durham Bulls 7
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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
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.
#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.
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 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
There you go: it’s Aaron’s view of the food in Jacksonville.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo credits: All photos by Paul Hamann except:
Photos of scorecard, close-up of pitcher, and innertube race by Aaron Hamann.
Written July 2023.