It’s summer, so the slower pace of life leads itself to slower entertainment as the heat of the day ebbs out. This summer, that has meant for me a little regional ballpark tour and review. A quiet day at a baseball park can be both relaxing and exhilarating. There are some excellent sites that compare baseball parks across the nation, like Ballpark Digest or Clem’s Baseball. Great sites, and if you have a spare Saturday afternoon, you could lose it just reviewing the information there. I cannot begin to offer the sort of information they have, but here is just a taste with a little on-line tour of four parks in South Carolina and Georgia.

1. First stop on the tour is Clemson’University’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium.


I last visited here for game two of the NCAA Super Regional match-up between Clemson and Oral Roberts U. in early June. The Tigers came from behind to beat the Eagles 6-5 and earn a trip to the College World Series.

The Tigers set records in attendance this season, with over 4,500 a game and its easy to see why. The team was one of the best in school history, and in recent years the university community has embraced the game with deep sort of enthusiasm matched on campus by only the football program that plays across a few streets and a parking lot. The one concession stand is good and parking is not an issue. While different professional stadiums are under pressure to sell the experience of the ballpark, you see less of that in Clemson, even though the stadium was renovated extensively in the past few years with a larger concourse, brick-work around the structure and better seating. In all likely hood, this park will continue to draw larger crowds and will probably be expanded again in coming years. In the meantime, its one of the best places to enjoy some of the best college ball in the nation.

2. Next stop, Greenville, SC’s new West End Field, home of the Greenville Drive

I have been to West End Field three times, in the 5,700 seat facility’s inaugural season. The park hosts the single A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. In contrast to Clemson, the experience of this park is as much as the draw as the game itself, since the comings and goings of minor league athletes can be difficult to build a fan base on.

Greenville has hosted a minor league team for 70 of the last 80 years, but this new facility has freshened up the game for the community because it is located in a revitalized portion of downtown that the city is rediscovering after a few decades of neglect. The privately funded park has many of the same features as the parent club’s Fenway Park, including a “Green Monster” in the short left field, a hand operated scoreboard is built into the left wall and an even shorter right field foul pole, with a similar lengthy center field. An office complex and condominium development are arising beyond left as well. The park is not off away from pedestrian friendly activities either. Restaurants and parks abound and the home of local baseball great, Shoeless Joe Jackson has been moved to just outside the right field gate.

The facility has so far offered the best customer experience I have had at a sporting event. The staff are friendly and helpful, concessions are inexpensive for ballparks, parking is either free or nominal fees are charged at nearby lots and the facility is technologically up to date with tickets and debit transactions. If there ever was a minor league model of what city’s like Cleveland or Baltimore experienced with their “throw back” ballparks, then this is it. So far the team is on track to shatter the minor league attendance record for the city. And yeah, the team is decent in its league so far, with a summer full of hosting Savannah Sand Gnats, Asheville Tourists and Hickory Crawdads opponents.

3. Next, Atlanta’s Turner Field, home of the Braves

Exactly ten years ago today Turner Field was hosting track and field events in its former configuration as Centennial Olympic Stadium. On Father’s Day weekend Saturday, I visited the 48,000 seat “Ted” to see the Braves take on the AL Boston Red Sox in a sold out park. I found it to still be a comfortable facility, with the latest of modern amenities, with good concession stands. Even though this year’s Braves team has struggled at times, you can still be sure that you will witness a game with a competitive home side. The worst part about the stadium is that in order to get to it, you still have to deal with Atlanta traffic. The Braves have received some criticism for having middle of the league attendance, but anyone who regularly deals with the test of local traffic to get there, should receive their own gold medal. Ten years later, it is still one of the best and most up to date facilities in baseball.

4. Finally, Knights Stadium, home of the AAA Charlotte Knights

Charlotte, North Carolina’s Knight’s Stadium is actually in Fort Mill, SC. The 10,000 seat facility is just off I-77 and not really close to anything, which is a bit odd for a facility to host a present baseball club that is so good, it could be competitive with the bottom half of the Major Leagues. You can tell that the facility was built before the mid-90’s to present craze to cover everything with brick. It is a good facility with every real amenity you could want, yet the remoteness of the park from uptown Charlotte has hindered attendance the last few seasons, so the management is attempting to structure a land deal to build a new park in center city with a privately funded new park.

But that aside, it is a fine place to watch a baseball game. It has none of the atmosphere of an urban park, which is fine, it can be more relaxing that way, as I prefer the slower paced lifestyle. The AAA Knights, top farm club of the Chicago White Sox, are having an excellent season, but lost the evening I saw them play the Columbus Clippers (NY Yankees). Homer, the dragon mascot, is one of the best costumed characters I have seen. The concession are plentiful and serve the usual ballpark fare, and there is a full-service restaurant on the upper deck. The staff were going out of their way to ensure a great evening for the spectators. But you can tell that the life is slowly ebbing out of the place, even though attendance is up this season, which is a shame for a perfectly sound 16 year old facility. But still, its baseball, it’s summer, the action was good and you still cannot go wrong with a Knights game in Fort Mill, SC.

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