Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives


At the Ballpark – Fluor Field at the West End, Greenville, SC
May 26, 2008, 6:22 am
Filed under: 2008, Reviews

Fluor Field

Fluor Field at the West End, Greenville, SC

Greenville, South Carolina is a market rich in baseball history. In fact, much of the foundation of the 1990s Atlanta Braves passed through Greenville, including Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Tom Glavine and more. This group brought several Southern League pennants to the city. The current baseball-playing inhabitants of the market, however, are not as entrenched in the area.

The Greenville Drive came to be in late 2005 after relocating from Columbia, South Carolina. The team in Columbia was named the Capital City Bombers. After departing the Palmetto State’s capital, the team played in Greenville Municipal Stadium, the former home of the Greenville Braves. The team changed its name to the Drive during the 2005 offseason, and the new team took over a new home in 2006, the then-West End Field. Despite some resistance from some of the residents of South Carolina’s Upstate region, the new ballpark, combined with a player development contract with the Boston Red Sox, helped to revitalize the downtown area of Greenville. Does this Fenway replica play like its big brother? Let’s find out.

Concessions: B-

There are a number of different concession options at the park. There is a presence from Chick-Fil-A and Salsarita’s on the concourse, as well as typical ballpark fare. Dunkin’ Donuts is also, not surprisingly, prominently featured throughout the park.

Among the standard ballpark eats is pizza by the slice ($2.50), which was reasonably good, but not outstanding. Stick with the bottled sodas ($2.50), as a souvenir cup is ridiculously priced at $5.00. I was pleased when I saw one of my ballpark preferences in the soft pretzel case, but was disappointed at how stale and bland they were.

The concessionaires are really nice, but the food is, on the whole, fairly average.

Atmosphere: D

The musical soundtrack was pretty decent in the park, but there are a number of negatives surrounding the experience. The between-innings entertainment included the already-done (the “build-a-burger” contest I had previously seen in Hickory), the eye-rolling (the Jam Cam, where fans were shown dancing to a song on the video board) and the moronic (fans attempting to guess what the last name would be if two famous people married). Dolly Parton marrying Salvador Dali would be Dolly Dali? Get it? Yeah, it was every bit as stupid as it sounds.

There is also an on-field DJ/emcee who is at best extraneous and at worst annoying, as he oversaw the Singing Bee contest (another embarrassingly bad “promotion”), sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, and led the crowd in “Sweet Caroline” (which, by the way, is horrendous – it’s bad enough at Fenway, but it’s worse when you try to blatantly copy what they do).

Finally, there is a guy dressed in a mixture of a baseball uniform and clown get-up, and I believe I heard that he goes by The Baseball Guy. He seemed like a nice guy and a big fan, but his act was highly corny and reeked of the 1980s. He wrote silly messages on a chalkboard, led the fans in chanting “foul ball” whenever a ball was fouled into the stands and participated in the t-shirt toss promotion. The intent was good, but the result was horrible. At least the mascot (Reedy, a frog) was mildly amusing during the limited exposure between it and the fans.

Just stick to playing music between innings, folks. That was the best thing you had to offer.

Sight lines: D

The stadium was full on the night I attended (or, at least it was announced as full – more on this in the overall comments), and more grass seating was sold than was available. This led to a lot of standing room only seats, and fans were lined up two and three deep at the top of the seating bowl in some areas. This, along with the beams behind the seating area, led to some obstructed views.

There are also a couple of structural problems in terms of seeing the action. First, the netting that normally shields the area behind the plate extends past the dugouts on either side. While this is a nice idea to protect the fans from stray foul balls (the seats do not extend further back than 13 rows in any area of the lower level), fans should be paying enough attention to not get hit with a foul ball in the stands. Also, the construction of the park prevents balls hit into the left field corner from being seen on the third-base side of the stands, which means well-hit balls down the line essentially disappear into the abyss until the relay throw emerges. There are video cameras all over the park for the Drive Vision program, and they could at least use these to help out the fans with the obstructed views.

Parking: F

Fluor Field is located in downtown Greenville, and in going to a game there, you need to hope for both a decent GPS and a really good sense of direction.  There are several signs on interstates 85 and 385 to lead you to the park, and a couple of signs provided by the City of Greenville, but the signs mysteriously disappear before you ever arrive at the ballpark. I ended up in a pretty questionable neighborhood that even confused my GPS before I finally turned around and found, then followed, the light stanchions.

Once I finally maneuvered my way into downtown Greenville, the parking situation was not much better. There are very limited amounts of parking spaces, as people are downtown doing other things, and those that are available are $5 spaces in various lots within walking distance of the park. There is a trolley which apparently goes to a free parking area, but this was so poorly-marketed that I had no idea where to go to get to the parking area or how to utilize the trolley. I was honestly so annoyed by the time I found a parking place that I was loathe to the idea of further exploration, just finally agreeing to suck up the charge and get out of the car. I know parking is limited in downtown areas, and I know that the limitations of the park size itself make it worse, but at least market your parking areas better.

Quality of baseball: F

Let me first say that I know host families read these reviews. I know of their love for the players they host, and I appreciate that connection. I am not saying anything negative of these players as people, just of the performance I saw.

That said, the quality of baseball was downright awful, even for low-A.  The visiting Savannah Sand Gnats (Mets low-A affiliate) defeated the homestanding Drive.  Three errors were credited between the two teams, but more than three actually occurred. For instance, one player was given a hit on a ball that was mishandled by the Drive’s third baseman. Another play featured four players circling around a fly ball in short left-center that was eventually dropped by the shortstop. The Greenville center fielder dropped a ball hit in his general vicinity that was about letter-high on his uniform. The Greenville first baseman dropped a ball. There was more than what I have described.

The pitching was average, the defense subpar and the hitting, for the most part, anemic. Greenville DH Jered Stanley looked decent at the plate – until you consider that he was recently demoted from AA Portland and is old for the league. The Drive’s first baseman, Mike Jones, looks somewhat solid at the plate, but lacks power. There was not a lot in terms of talent that looked to be immediately promoted, and the level of play did not even match a lot of the other South Atlantic League clubs I have already seen this year.

Overall grade: D

As I mentioned above, the announced attendance at this game was 6249. The ballpark seats 5700. There were several rows of open seats behind the plate and down the lines from where season ticket holders did not attend the game, but for those poor fans with only grass seats left to stand, the ushers at the top of each row prevented them from actually filling the seats. This has happened before at Louisville’s park, and it is inexcusable. I understand the desire to cater to season ticket holders and to maximize profits, but do not deny fans the ability to take empty seats after the second inning or so. I lucked out and was behind a man who allowed me to take his seat early on in the game, but not everyone was so fortunate.

The park is limited in terms of space for seating, but this could be remedied by adding seats in the second deck. I seriously doubt this club would have a problem selling the seats. This could help overcome the problems of the standing room and the extended netting.

A lot of my contemporaries (including those at Ballpark Digest and BallparkReviews.com) love this park, but for someone who loves the baseball experience with a lot of conveniences, there are much better parks in the Carolinas. The only word to describe the experience was disappointing, particularly after the drive I had to make to get there. I wish some of these things could be remedied by the time I get back, but I honestly do not know if they will – or can – be.

How to get there:

Your guess is as good as mine. The easiest way to describe to get there is to take Interstate 85 to Interstate 385 (exit 51) toward downtown Greenville, then follow the roadway until the freeway section ends. This will turn into Buncombe Street. Follow this road to either South Main Street or Academy Street, and turn left on either street. I ended up parking off Oneal Street, and if you take Buncombe to Academy, go left on Oneal, then look for the small parking lot ahead on the right. The street address of the park is 945 South Main Street, but I would suggest trying to find directions on the team’s website or call ahead, because the signage is terrible.

How I got there:

Greenville

Total trip time (one-way):  1 hour, 46 minutes (112 miles).

You may also want to see:

  • The Greenville Zoo. This attraction in Greenville’s Cleveland Park district features a number of animal exhibits for kids of all ages. The zoo is open 362 days a year and is reasonably priced. There are walking, biking and picnic areas and athletic play areas to go along with the animals.

  • Furman University. Furman is a small private school that is very academically prestigious and renowned. The Paladins’ athletic teams are also competitive in most major sports, and play in the nationally-recognized Southern Conference. Furman has won a football national championship in what is now the Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA), making the school as well-known on the athletic fields as it is in the classroom.

For pictures of this and other ballparks from this feature, visit the photo archives.

To email the author with comments or questions, please send correspondence to footballjones AT gmail DOT com.

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