|2016 Season||Edition No. 7||April 19, 2016|
WEEK 2 STANDINGS
WEEK 2 POINTS
TOP TEN HITTERS
TOP TEN PITCHERS
Last week was a busy travel week for me, as I traveled to and from Scottsbluff on Sunday and Monday, put out fires on the home front on Tuesday, then traveled to Birmingham on Wednesday, South Carolina on Thursday, North Carolina on Friday, and back home to Omaha on Saturday, just in time for the Husker Spring Game. But it wasn’t all work. I did manage to slip in visits to a couple of fantastic Minor League parks while I was down in the Deep South.
On Wednesday night, I visited a jewel of a new park in Birmingham by the name of Regions Field, home of the AA Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association. This breathtaking green cathedral was constructed four years ago as the centerpiece of the city’s impressive and ongoing downtown redevelopment. I can imagine how cool it would be to live in one of the new condos just beyond the outside fence, as depicted in the below photo.
The Birmingham Barons have been around since 1885, playing at Rickwood Field from 1910 to 1987. In a pretty cool tradition, the Barons continue to play one game per season at Rickwood Field, to maintain its stature as the oldest continuously active baseball venue in the country. This year’s big night at Rickwood is on June 1st.
The new ballpark has absolutely revitalized baseball as a spectator sport in Birmingham, as the Barons have drawn more fans to Regions Field the past two seasons than in any other season in their history, save one. You may already know the reason, but if not, take a look at this giant poster of a former Barons player who brought the masses to the ballpark in 1994 as never before or since:
According to inside sources, in 1994 the Barons drew 467,868 fans to Rickwood Field (the capacity of which is 10,800) as curious fans wanted to see if the greatest basketball player of all time could learn to hit the curve ball. As they learned that year, he couldn’t. After 127 games as a Birmingham Baron, MJ hung up the cleats and returned to his natural habitat, the hardcourt. Since his departure, the Barons’ attendance returned to its usual pre-Jordan numbers (about 275k to 325k fans per year) until the new ballpark opened up and led to the present baseball renaissance in the Magic City.
As for the game itself, the contest was won by the Tennessee Smokies by the score of 7-3 over the hometown Barons, and the Barons scored all 3 of their runs in the bottom of the 9th, so it was not a particularly competitive game. The winning pitcher for the Smokies was Paul Blackburn, while Barons pitcher Carson Fulmer—a 22-year-old former first round draft pick (8th overall) from Lakeland, Florida—took the loss. The game’s only home run was hit by Smokies slugger Bijan Rademacher (no clue as to his nationality or family heritage) in the top of the 4th, a 3-run jack.
2015 attendance: 444,639
2014 attendance: 437,612
1994 attendance: 467,868
On Friday night, after a long day of depositions in Anderson, South Carolina, I made the two-hour drive to Charlotte, NC, where my flight home to Omaha was scheduled for Saturday morning at 0-dark:30. As luck would have it—actually, there was no luck at all, just visionary planning—the AAA Charlotte Knights were home for the second tilt in their season-opening series against the visiting Durham Bulls. After parking my car in the Green Lot, I hopped (okay, lumbered) out of my rental vehicle with the anticipation of a child at Christmastime to see this new green cathedral which has been hailed by many as the top minor league ballpark in the country. As I sped (okay, hobble-trotted) my way from my parking spot to the ballpark, I came out from around a building and saw the shiny gem known as BB&T Ballpark in all of its splendor. As I made my way around the park and saw how it has been so ingeniously placed in the middle of some of the most beautiful and vibrant downtown skyscrapers and other architecturally-pleasing structures anywhere, I found myself practically talking and laughing to myself about this spectacular new venue, now in its third year.
I’ve always said that PNC Park has the best view of a downtown skyline of any Major League stadium, and while that is still true, I will now make the additional proclamation that BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte has the best view of a downtown skyline from any professional league ballpark in this country or anywhere else. It is something to see! Hopefully, the pictures that are included here will give you a good idea of the setting and feel of this ballpark and area, and will whet your appetite enough to go if you are ever in that vicinity. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t.
As for the game, the Knights took an early lead in the bottom of the 1st on the strength of a first inning home run by third baseman Matt Davidson, but the Bulls tied it up in the top of the 3rd and then went ahead in the top of the 5th and then added 2 more in the top of the 6th to make it 4-1. The hometown team plated 3 in the bottom of the 8th to tie it up, but the Bulls added 2 more in the top of the 9th and then held on for the 6-4 win. Austin Pruitt pitched 7 strong innings for the Durham Bulls, giving up 3 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 11 and walking 0 batters. Jhan Mariñez blew the save for Pruitt, but then picked up the win when the Bulls scored 2 in the 9th. For the Knights, reliever Phillippe Aumont took the loss.
The attendance for the game was reported at 10,221 people, a darned nice showing for a minor league team anywhere.
As I was watching the game in Charlotte on Friday night, it occurred to me that this was my 95th professional baseball stadium in which I have viewed a game (54 Major League ballparks, 41 Minor League fields), which matches up exactly with the number of jury trials I have had in my going-on 33-year law career, thus far. As Linda pointed out when I mentioned this to her, this proves without a doubt that my professional and personal lives are well-balanced.
Time to close up this issue and start packing my bags for my next road trip, this one to San Jose for a deposition of an ophthalmologist tomorrow afternoon, followed by a visit to John Thurman Field in Modesto, home of the Modesto Nuts.
Good luck to all in the third week of the HSL campaign. Well, except for you, Possum. You’ve had enough luck already for an entire season!