Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives


At the Ballpark – Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, FL
April 23, 2007, 6:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

At The Ballpark: Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, FL

Lakeland, Florida is the home of the historic Tigertown spring training complex. The stadium was built in 1966 on the site of a World War II flying school, and underwent an extensive renovation earlier in this decade to try to make the ballpark among the nicest on the Florida spring training circuit. Was that goal accomplished? Let’s find out.

Concessions: A-
Everything available at Joker Marchant is basically standard ballpark fare (hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, etc.), but the portions are certainly ample and the prices are quite reasonable. Nachos and a souvenir soda were $7, and the nachos were both very good and very plentiful. There was a Little Caesars pizza booth (not surprising, considering the connection with Mike Ilitch), but it was not open, which was disappointing.

Between-innings entertainment: F

The baseball experience is kept mostly pristine in Lakeland, but the few attempts at entertainment were weak, at best. There were a few commercials on the video board, a musical chairs contest, a lipsynching contest between two women (what place does this have in a ballpark?) and some trivia questions with a team employee named Darla. The musical selection also left a lot to be desired. It is pretty obvious that Lakeland is more concerned about the product on the field than the between-innings festivities, but they should at least make a bit more of an effort.

Sight lines: B
Joker Marchant Stadium affords fans many beautiful views (including the “money shot” type view as the walk through the tunnel to the concourse opens up to an expansive look at the playing surface), but there was no way to get out onto the berm seating area, and the bleachers down the left field line were blocked off. There was also no way to get any further down the right field line than just beyond the first-base bag, as there is an office building towering over the right field corner. The seats that are available give you a good view of the action from any angle.

Promotions: NA

There were no promotions being conducted on this night. When looking at the schedule, there did not appear to be a large number of upcoming promotions. As stated earlier, Lakeland appears to like to keep the baseball experience as pristine as possible.

Parking: A

The parking situation in Lakeland is nearly ideal. There is a lane in the front of the stadium in which passengers can be dropped off or picked up, and there is ample parking mere steps from the entrance to the park. All of the parking at Joker Marchant Stadium is free, an added plus. Also, there are multiple points of egress from the park, making exiting the park after a game that much easier.

Quality of baseball: C
For a matchup of several top prospects, this was not the most well-played doubleheader I’ve seen. The first game featured lefty pitchers Ryan Mullins (Fort Myers and Vanderbilt University) and Andrew Miller (#6 overall draft pick from North Carolina in 2006 and Lakeland), and neither man figured in the decision. Lakeland lost both games, 5-4 and 6-4. Both teams swung at a number of bad pitches and made some fielding mistakes — including Lakeland catcher Dusty Ryan, who, despite multiple home runs, should never be allowed to don the catcher’s gear again. Lakeland manager Kevin Bradshaw had perhaps the biggest gaffe of all, however, as he took out pitcher Ricky Steik in game two while he was still throwing well to go to a lefty-lefty matchup. The lefthanded pitcher, Paul Hammond, promptly gave up the Lakeland lead and eventually lost the game. Single-A is not the level at which to utilize lefty-lefty matchups. Something else that does not go into this grade is that the individual running the scoreboard really needs some education on what is a hit and what is an error. A ball going through a man’s legs is not a hit. A play that could be made with a reasonable amount of effort is not a hit. While the players likely appreciated the padded stats, the lack of knowledge displayed in judging these balls as hits is embarrassing.

Overall grade: B-
While I am certainly a fan of “old school” baseball, the experience in Lakeland is not modern enough. The announced attendance on this night was 486, and it felt as though the crowd was even smaller. The stadium was completely silent on a number of occasions, and every bit of action that went on at field level was audible. The people at the ballpark were nice enough – including one usher who spoke with my father for multiple innings – but the lack of atmosphere was palpable. There was not even really anything to keep fans entertained between games, save for the requisite Carrie Underwood hit “Before He Cheats”, which has as much place in a ballpark as an orchestra chamber. There wasn’t anything really non-enjoyable about the park, save for the lack of atmosphere, but there wasn’t anything truly remarkable about it, either.

How to get there:

Joker Marchant Stadium is located in Lakeland, almost equidistant between Tampa and Orlando on Interstate 4. Take I-4 to exit 33 (Florida Highway 33) and follow the signs to Tigertown and Joker Marchant Stadium. Tigertown and Joker Marchant are easily located via a sign outside the facility, and are on the left as you enter Lakeland on FL 33 (via CR 582) from the interstate.

You may also want to see:

  • Cypress Gardens.
    Located near Winter Haven (just a 15-20 minute drive or so from Lakeland), Cypress Gardens is a combination nature park and assortment of rides. The park is populated with several roller coasters, rides and nature exhibits. The park opened in 1936 and is one of central Florida’s most popular attractions.

  • Dinosaur World.
    This park is located off Interstate 4 in Plant City, about 15 minutes away from Lakeland, and pretty much halfway between Lakeland and Tampa. If you are into all things prehistoric, this is your kind of place. This is a great location for kids, or for curious adults.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Did not like your comments, shame on you for naming people! Comments are OK but unless you are a SCOUT, which I don’t think you are, they are not necessary!! Just talk about the baseball operations, not the team!

Host Family for WM Whitecaps, & have our guys in the Lakeland system…

Comment by Sally Groters

Sally, I appreciate your concern.

I assure you that the only comments I make about players are based on what I see on the field. I don’t know these guys off the field, so I can’t make any judgments on them as people. The comments I make regarding players are part of my evaluation of the on-field product, and while not a scout, I feel qualified having played the game and coached the game to make observations about players.

I’m glad to hear from someone who has served as part of a host family. This is a facet of the minor leagues with which a lot of outside observers are not familiar — in fact, I didn’t even cover it in a piece I wrote on the minor leagues.

I thank you for your comments, and for your contributions to the lives of many of the players who have passed through your city. I’m glad to see you share my love of minor league baseball.

Comment by attheballpark




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