Tag Archives: international league

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KENTUCKY

Number of states:  19
States to go:  31

Number of games:  2
First game:  July 30, 2006 (Toledo Mud Hens 6, Louisville Bats 1)
Most recent game:  June 11, 2013 (Louisville Bats 8, Durham Bulls 5)

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

First of all, check out that picture up there.  Seriously.  Do not Windex your screens.  Have you ever seen such a damn hot place?  The heat practically busts through your screen.  Temperatures for this

late-afternoon game–a 5PM start on a Sunday in July–were in triple-digits. Public service announcement: THE THIRD BASE SIDE IS THE SHADY SIDE. SIT THERE.  I was on the first base side, and therefore, my recollections of the place are going to be as hazy as that picture. Everything I remember will be, to say the least, impacted by my broiled brain.

That’s a bit of a shame, I think, because under other circumstances, I probably would have liked Louisville Slugger Field more than I did. The park has a lot going for it. First, and most notably is its location. It’s just off the river and a not too far from downtown, and both are visible from the seating area (although the Ohio is on the other side of a wide road–the bridges are more therefore more visible than the water). It’s a nice ballpark of the new generation, with all the positives (nice location, good amenities, ability to see the game while getting food or desperately-needed water) and negatives (a bit similar to others of its generation, a few too many sponsors and sponsorships, and a damn

carousel…no ballpark in the universe should be permitted to have one).

I give the team credit for a good name for its stadium and team. “Louisville Slugger Field” is a nice means of getting both sponsorship money, local color, and baseball history worked into one name, and “Bats” is a decent play off of that. I seem to recall the team was named “Redbirds” in my youth, but with the Cardinals long gone, it’s totally reasonable to junk that and to have a more locally-appropriate name.

Local color was noticeable throughout the ballpark as well. The “Kentucky Baseball Hall of Fame” is housed on the premises. There are Cooperstown-style plaques for particularly noteworthy Kentuckians (Pee Wee Reese, Rube Waddell, and Jim Bunning were three that stood out

to me). There’s also a lengthy bit of Louisville minor league history, focusing on decade-by-decade rundowns of local teams. I’m always glad to see who’s passed through a particular town on their way to stardom, and what teams happened to come together to see success along the way.  The Bats seem to get the appeal of that.

Louisville itself, which I had no impression of prior to my arrival, impressed me. I got into town at what I thought was three hours before game time to spend a little time at the Muhammad Ali Museum.  Immediately upon my arrival in Louisville from Nashville, I discovered that, even though I had driven more or less directly north, I had gone from Central to Eastern time.  So I didn’t have the time to enjoy the city that I would have liked, and that’s too bad. The Ali Museum looked lovely, but I only arrived about a half hour before closing.  Oh well–worth checking out the Louisville

Slugger factory/museum, right?  Closed for a private party. The main drag of what looked to be old downtown looked like a place to have a good time, but by the time I’d stepped into two closed or closing museums, I was too hot and annoyed to care. But I won’t hold a grudge; Louisville looked like a fine place to go.

Quick guess: who’s the subject of the sculpture outside of Louisville Slugger Field?  Sorry–wrong.  It’s Paul Hornung.  Yeah, I didn’t guess it either.  It was probably the only non-sequitur in a place that otherwise did a fine job of respecting baseball.

I encountered this funny situation in my pregame circumnavigation of the field.  I spotted two kids faced with this very intimidating sign at the bottom of the left-field berm (or, to put it another way, on the spectator side of the left-field wall):


This is, of course, quite a bummer for any kid who’s at the ballpark and wants to play catch. No throwing of any objects?  OK.  So I watched two kids roll a baseball along the cement path by the wall. On the third roll, the ball hit the crack in the cement and bounded upwards, over the fence, and onto the field of play, leaving two perturbed kids with very little idea what to do next.

The heat did not prevent the Bats from pulling out all stops to put on a decent show.  For starters, the Indianapolis Colts’ cheerleaders made the drive down I-65 to do some dancing for us all.  Under most circumstances, I would take a look at their skimpy uniforms and think “Gosh, how alluring and pleasant.”  On this occasion, however, I thought: “How practical.” I’d have dressed that way myself if I felt that I could pull it off.  I doubt it, though…I don’t have the chest for it.  Also, the Bats had a wacky pre-game deal where they would send a dog out onto the field with a bucket of baseballs for the umpires.  At first, I felt for the dog and was ready to call the ASPCA on the spot.  But then, later in the game, the dog provided the umpires with cold bottles of water.  That’s very, very kind of the Bats.  And of the dog.  Good dog!

I sat next to some very friendly (and very, very rural) folks for a few innings, and enjoyed talking to the guy.  He’s a Reds fan who takes his kids to one game a year. I just wish the kids had wanted to watch the game: after the hundredth time running in front of me and making me move my feet so he could run by, it got rather old.

So, even though the weather conspired against

me this time, as it would for subsequent games in Peoria and Pittsburgh, I can see through that and be complimentary towards Louisville Slugger Field.  The best part of the game, I will have to admit, was the part where I was ordering a Sprite and water (not mixed together) and peering at the game over my shoulder. But even beyond that, I was able to sense that this was a nice ballpark with fine fans and a decent atmosphere in a city with a good deal of character.  I’ll be back.  I hope it’s in April or May, when I can likely enjoy it more.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel: 8/10
Sure, the place is a cookie-cutter, but you can’t argue with that river or that downtown view.

Charm:  4/5
Not too bad here.

Spectacle:  4/5
Pretty good–not overbearing.

Team mascot/name:  4/5


Here’s Buddy Bat getting the snot beat out of him at a kid’s party.  I like both Buddy (maybe a tad commercial?) and the punny name Bats.

Aesthetics:  5/5
Gorgeous place with a nice view.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5

Scoreability:  4/5


From the Technologically Advanced Does Not Mean Better Department:  The Bats put the lineups on a readerboard in the concourse.  I thought it was a cool thing to do…until I realized there was no way I’d be able to write them all down (the screens weren’t on nearly long enough). This was countered by the nice, updated scoring and such they had on their scoreboard.

Fans:  5/5
The fact that people showed up at all on this miserably-hot day means they earn the maximum score.

Intangibles:  1/5
Sorry, Louisville fans, but the intangibles for me were that I felt like I’d been trapped in a closed tanning bed with hot jelly donut filling poured over my body–for nearly 3 hours.

TOTAL:  38.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Josh Phelps’ three-run homer in the ninth puts the game away for the Mud Hens.

Chad Durbin pitches eight innings of three-hit ball to pick up the win.

Chad Bentz (pictured) pitches an inning and a third for the Bats. I notice something about him from my angle…and realize that he does not have a right hand, and has a delivery which includes him slipping a glove onto his pitching hand, much like fellow one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott.  Unfortunately for Bentz, he’s the pitcher who gives up the home run to Phelps.

In 2013, Wil Myers hits a home run for Durham only a few days before he is called up (I assume for good) by Tampa Bay.  But he is overshadowed by the Bats’ Neftali Soto, whose 4th-inning grand slam puts Louisville ahead for good.

(Written December 2006.)

Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Cooper Stadium, Columbus, OHIO

Number of states:  17
States to go:  33

First and last game:  July 25, 2006 (Columbus Clippers 9, Durham Bulls 1)

(Cooper Stadium is no longer in use for baseball as of the 2009 season.)

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

To be sure, there were quite a number of issues with Cooper Stadium.  Its age shows, and not gracefully.  I dislike the ancient PA system, the charmless pavilion, and the less-than-understated Carmina Burana playing

as the team takes the field.  However, this July evening turned into a marvelously fun evening with loads of friends–an evening I was pleased to have.

Rob, Yolonda, Michelle and I made it to Cooper Stadium after a day at South Point, Ohio (near the tri-point of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia).  Buddies Joe and Alison gathered loads of friends and led us to the tenth row behind the third-base dugout.  As happens so many times when I get together with buddies for a ballgame, there were many bizarre and memorable events to pass along.

For starters, the whole bunch of us nearly died in the second inning.  The Clippers’ Jeff Karstens pitched to the Bulls’ Elijah Dukes.  He must have fooled him very badly on a pitch, because as Dukes missed for strike two, he released his bat and it went flying behind him.

And right towards us.

Right the hell towards us.

Even if I had wanted the bat and been foolish enough to reach up for the bat, it likely would have just hit my forearms.  So I joined all of my friends in ducking down very low.  I did not want to get hit by a flying bat. 

As buddy Joe (wearing the Orioles hat in the photo) put it, “I’d prefer to go the rest of my life without the little voice in my head saying ‘you’re not ducking deep enough’ ever again.”

As we dusted ourselves off and made sure all of our appendages remained, and as we confirmed that the people a couple of rows behind us were also unhurt, we missed Dukes grounding out to third.  We also missed Dukes being ejected by the home plate umpire.  This ejection led the Devil Rays to finally get so fed up with Dukes (in part because he had earlier said that “the major leaguers shower in Perrier while we get sewer water”) that they suspended him for the rest of the season.  I appreciate the D-Rays’ priorities.  Only AFTER he threw a bat at me did they toss him.  Indeed, perhaps

the D-Rays knew that I was a sports official–in the year when Delmon Young chucked a bat at the home plate umpire, I would merely be the latest official a Durham Bull threw a bat at in 2006.

When I wasn’t in danger of dying, there were a few things I liked about Cooper Stadium.  They did a fine job respecting the Clippers’ history, which, as of 2006, meant New York

Yankees’ history.  I love ballparks that have lineups from past years on display, and Cooper Stadium had artists’ renditions of lineups from every year from the Clippers’ history as a Yankees’ affiliate.  The mixture of all-time greats with who-the-heck-is-thats is one of my favorite parts of being at a ballpark, and Cooper Stadium does it well.  As of the end of the 2006 season, the Yankees ended their relationship with the Clippers.  I do hope that they keep the old Yankees’ pictures up; when I’m at a minor league ballpark, I want to see the local minor league team’s history, not the history of the major league team.  Wichita, Tulsa, and High Desert all celebrate past minor leaguers from who played at that park even after affiliate shifts.  We’ll see if the Clippers have that same sense of history, or if their new parent club orders the relics of recent Yankee history taken down.

No other aspects of the ballpark blew me away.  I was a little taken aback by the fact that a cemetery is visible beyond the outfield fence.  When my mind and eyes wander during a Clippers’ game, they wander to headstones. A particularly massive home run at Cooper Stadium would not impress the fans so much as remind them of their mortality.  The pavilion is typically dank and dull.  They try to make it up with a miniature golf course.  I’m not a big fan of such unnecessary distractions from the baseball–any fan who’d prefer golf to

baseball isn’t a fan at all–and on top of that, the mini-golf course is so poorly and hastily assembled that it’s actually worse than it could be.

This is also my second visit to a Yankees’ affiliate, and the second time that the team played “New York, New York” after a victory.  I hated that just as much here as I did in Battle Creek.  We’re not in New York, and these aren’t the Yankees.  Let’s keep that music special for Yankee Stadium.

Occasionally, it’s a close race to actually be a charming old ballpark–the old, covered seating with beams obstructing views is a blast from the past–but I’m afraid that there are just too many negatives.  Nevertheless, I’ll probably be back. With so many friends so close by, I’ll certainly be back to see if they do any upgrades–and if those upgrades will maintain the current sense of history.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7/10
The ballpark’s strong sense of Clippers’ history earns points here.

Charm:  2/5
Not much.  Old in and of itself does not mean charming, and Cooper Stadium demonstrates this.

Spectacle:  3.5/5
Not bad for the triple-A level, although the promotions they had were occasionally annoying.

Team mascot/name:  3/5

Joe, me, and Krash the First Mate.  Not pictured:  Lou Seal.  Nothing offensive or impressive about any mascot-related matters.

Aesthetics:  2.5/5
Sort of old and dusty–and the view is of a cemetery, which is creepy.

Pavilion area:  1.5/5

Scoreability:  3/5

Fans:  5/5
Great friends.  I look forward to going to the new place with them.

Intangibles:  2.5/5
I had a fun night, but in the end, this place didn’t leave me with a positive impression.

TOTAL:  29.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Clippers rough up the Bulls’ Doug Waechter for four first-inning runs.

Columbus’s nine runs include five unearned runs off of four Bull errors, including a pair by B.J. Upton.

B.J. Upton and Bronson Sardinha homer.

Jeff Karstens pitches 7 innings of 1-run ball.

(Written August 2006.)

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, SOUTH CAROLINA

Number of states:  14
States to go:  36

Number of games:  1
First game:  July 22, 2006 (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons 4, Charlotte Knights 3, 12 innings; game suspended at 3-3 after 10 innings and finished on July 23 without me)

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

After a day hiking to Ellicott Rock (the place where Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina meet), we got to Knights Stadium a little late…the gorgeous roads through

the western Carolinas take a little longer to drive across than we had anticipated.  This led to an unprecedented event in my ballpark history:  unexpected free parking.  We were in a long, long line to get into the parking lot, worrying about whether we’d make the first pitch.  We got out a wallet to pay for parking, but when we got to the edge of the parking lot, they simply waved us in.  They passed up on hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars to make sure that the lion’s share of the huge Fireworks Night crowd could get in on time.  I appreciate that.

We approached the stadium as they sang the National Anthem.  It was a hot night with a foreboding storm approaching.  Outside the ballpark–very active on this fireworks night–I encountered what had to be a lost, disoriented, and terribly hot Santa Claus.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wearing shorts before, with the possible exception of the claymation Santa reclining and relaxing in Peter Cottontail. Michelle and I made it to our seats just as the first batter, Michael Bourn, was retired.

I’m afraid the ballpark had very little special about it.  While I liked the grassy areas down the foul lines, on the whole, Charlotte felt too big to be charming,

but too small to be expansively impressive.  It was a bizarre tweener with an identity crisis.  Where many AAA ballparks try to be like small major-league ballparks–which is its own problem sometimes–Charlotte seemed to go a different direction and instead tried to be a large minor-league ballpark, at least physically.  The two decks looked like something I’d see at a small park, only bigger.  On the other hand, the ballpark took some of my least-favorite aspects of big-time parks and incorporated them.

Let me take one example of this and make it as clear as I possibly can, hoping that ballparks everywhere heed me:  There is absolutely no reason, ever, anywhere, for any ballpark to have a carousel.  I’m fine with kids running around and jumping, and I can even live with the climbing wall.  But a carousel?  Ridiculous.  The idea of taking kids to a ballgame is to get them to like baseball, not to avoid it.  From now on, if I see a carousel in a ballpark, the ballpark will be penalized.  Severely.

Scoring was difficult at Knights Stadium as well.  They couldn’t keep track of who was at bat very well, and were completely absent on a key wild pitch/passed ball decision.  I find that these are the toughest

plays to score from the stands, but the most frequently ignored by scoreboard people, which is too bad.  Beyond that, however, the Knights did a decent job putting on a show.  Nothing special–not old-school reserved, not new-school fun–just serviceable.

What I’ll remember most from this night is wondering if we’d get a game in on time.  A big storm was building up to our north and west, and we could see lightning off on the horizon past left field.  Was the storm passing us to the north, or was it eventually going to nail us?  The game chugged along, and in spite of the light show, it was rain free.  But when Charlotte tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, and extra innings became imminent, well, it became unlikely we’d get to see the game end.  The umpires held out through some impressive rain in the bottom of the 10th as the Knights got two on with one out…but a double-play ended the inning,

and the tarp came out immediately.  We didn’t kid ourselves by trying to wait…the big storm was going to end baseball that night.

Much to my surprise, the Knights went ahead and had the fireworks show anyway while everyone ran desperately through the downpour to their cars.  I wish I were a more talented photographer, because we were treated to a display of fireworks going off above lightning strikes…very impressive indeed.  Also impressive was how well my wife drove through the thunderstorm to the hotel.

The Knights are building a new downtown ballpark to replace Knights Stadium, and this is a case where one is warranted.  The location will be better, and the personality-free Knights Stadium will likely not be missed by any fans.  But I’m thankful I got there…it enabled me to cross South Carolina off my list with only a very short jaunt across the border.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  5/10
Were it not for the thunderstorm, this score would be even lower–but truthfully, there was no way of telling where we were.

Charm:  3/5
Not much, but not totally impaired here either.

Spectacle:  3/5
A fair number of promotions–perhaps too many for AAA.  But the fireworks in front of the lightning stay in my mind as a heck of a spectacle.

Team mascot/name:  2/5

Homer.  Dumb name.  And what’s up with a dragon representing the Knights?  Don’t knights slay dragons?

Aesthetics:  3.5/5
Some trees.  Again, the score is aided by the fireworks-with-lightning.

Pavilion area:  2/5
Nothing doing.  It’s mostly cement, and where it isn’t cement, they’ve put in a carousel.  Ick.

Scoreability:  2/5

Fans:  4/5
I liked the huge crowd, their enthusiasm, and the way they stuck around, even though many of them ran for cover at the first tiny sprinkle. Come on, Knights fans…in Seattle, we picnic in sprinkles.

Intangibles:  2/5
The ballpark, on the whole, did nothing for me.

TOTAL:  26.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre took a 3-0 lead on a Josh Kroeger triple, but could not hold onto the lead.  They win in the 12th on a Brennan King home run…but by then, I’m most of the way to Bristol.

Ruben Rivera homers for Charlotte.

(Written August 2006.)

Fifth Third Field, Toledo, Ohio

Fifth Third Field, Toledo, OHIO

Number of states:  still 5 (rainout)
States to go:  45
Number of games: 0 (rainout, July 16, 2004)

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

I led off my 2004 summer ELABST trip in Toledo, where college buddy Kristin lived.  Kristin expressed enthusiasm not only to host me and join me at Fifth Third Field, but to join me for the lion’s share of the tour.  We showed up at Fifth Third Field.  Alas, the game never began…the rain stopped a few times, just to tantalize us all,

and they even took off the tarp, announced lineups, and sang the anthem…but it was not meant to be.

Even though I spent three hours at the ballpark, I didn’t see a game here in Toledo, and I therefore cannot count Ohio in my state total, nor do I feel right giving the ballpark a score.  I’m certain it would be a very high score–the ballpark is beautiful, nicely integrated into the warehouses of the neighborhood (in the picture at left, the stadium is the shorter building on the left).  It also has local charm, including Toledo native Jamie Farr, wearing Corporal Klinger’s Mud Hens’ hat, making announcements on the scoreboard.

Question:  Are the Mud Hens the only men’s pro team with a female nickname?  They do have mascots of each gender…Muddy and–ready?–Muddonna.  I took the time to pose with Muddonna.  After all, I bought her namesake’s albums in junior high.  The “Lucky Star” video…critical to my development as a heterosexual.  You remember what those dancers on either side of her looked like?  Me either.  But I digress.  I

like the idea of two genders for the mascot.  It’s a bit of an affirmative action program for the furry.

In any event, in spite of the lack of score, I thought I’d throw in a few pictures to show what it’s like to be at a rainout at Fifth Third Field.  See the tarp come off…hopes were high!…then see the tarp go back on.  Oh well.

no images were found



(Written August 2004.)