Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At the Ballpark – Ernie Shore Field, Winston-Salem, NC
July 23, 2008, 6:50 am
Filed under: 2008, Reviews, Uncategorized

Ernie Shore Field, Winston-Salem, NC 

Ernie Shore Field has brought fifty years of professional baseball to the North Carolina piedmont. The 50th year will be its last, however, as the club is moving to a new facility in downtown Winston-Salem. The Carolina League, in which Winston-Salem plays, is a mixture of old and new facilities, with Ernie Shore joining Grainger Stadium in Kinston and City Stadium in Lynchburg as some of the grand older parks in the circuit. The park will be sold to Wake Forest University upon the Warthogs’ depature after this season.

Winston-Salem is a market with far more than just baseball, though, as it is the cradle of some of America’s most popular businesses (R.J. Reynolds, Krispy Kreme, Texas Pete, Wachovia, etc.), the home of a fine private university and the centerpiece of a large three-city area known as the Triad. Should Ernie Shore Field receive a grand sendoff, or just fade into the sunset? Let’s find out.

Concessions: C

This grade is a bit generous. I had what was easily the worst funnel cake in recorded history on this night. The funnel cake itself was cold, chewy and stale. Food with no taste and a $5 price point is not the way to start my night.

There are some pretty decent offerings (TCBY frozen yogurt among them), and an okay variety, but the prices hurt in some instances. Souvenir sodas are $4 and come with a block of ice large enough to be used as a weapon. Beer (if you drink – I don’t) will run you at least $6.50, and as with any park in North Carolina, you can only buy one per trip. There is a beer garden on the third base concourse, should that be your thing.

Most snacks will run at least $3 (pizza is $3.50 a slice, and is from Pizza Hut), with other larger items costing a bit more. The quality is unremarkable, as are the prices, though the different offerings somewhat make up for it.

Atmosphere: F

The previous park I reviewed (Myrtle Beach, SC) had less fans than did Winston-Salem on the night I attended, but the atmosphere was atrocious. There was a Christian music concert after the game, and most of the fans seemed to be more interested in that than the game. Combine that with the fact that the homestanding Warthogs lost 8-3, and the crowd was dead. The few fans that were emotive whatsoever were busy beating each other with those abominable thunderstick things, and not really paying attention to the game.

The Warthogs tried, with promotions such as the adult tricycle race, the dizzy bat race and the mascot race, but there wasn’t a lot of ground broken in terms of between-innings entertainment. They had one of the single worst promotions in all of the minors, the Pizza Hut Pizza Scream. This is basically an excuse for kids to scream their lungs out – and deafen everyone else in the process – for some lukewarm pizza. This promotion was about the only real life anyone showed all night, and the sooner they can that promotion, the better. The dead crowd, the “been there, done that” promotions and the canned soundtrack from the playbook of minor league sound clips (including the same ones almost ten times, in some cases) made this ballpark a complete failure in terms of atmosphere. Here’s to hoping the new ballpark inspires some creativity and fan interest.

Sight lines: B-

There are a lot of good seats at Ernie Shore, and you can even sit at field level for general admission prices, assuming you want to venture down the line a bit. There are some tall tables on the concourses above the seating bowls that would be perfect if there were some stools with them. If you are down the lines, chances are you will have a good seat.

The concourses, however, are very narrow, and they do not allow you to see the game in some places, due to the press boxes and other impedances. Also, if you have the seats directly behind either dugout, be sure to be tall or bring some phone books, as the dugouts may block your view due to their height.

Parking: B

There is parking available on the premises at Ernie Shore Field, but the availability is highly limited. To that end, there is parking available at the coliseum annex parking lot across Deacon Boulevard from the park. Parking is $2, which is annoying, but there is certainly more than enough parking in the annex lot than would ever be required for a Warthogs game. Be careful crossing Deacon Boulevard to get to the park, as there are no crosswalks.

Quality of baseball: C

This game was seemingly interminable, as it clocked in just under three hours, despite feeling like three days. Myrtle Beach was up 7-3 after the third inning, and somewhat put it on cruise control, adding just one tack-on run in the ninth. There was some great defensive play in the game, and a lot of the Braves’ power prospects (Tyler Flowers, Ernesto Mejia, Eric Campbell, etc.) were on display in this one. Mejia hit a towering blast that cleared the thicket of trees behind the left field wall. The only Pelicans players not to join the hit parade were catcher Phillip Britton and shortstop Robert Marcial. Both teams banged out nine hits.

Overall grade: C-

Growing up around Carolina League baseball and the impending closure of this stadium put it at the top of my “must-see” list for 2008, but I was disappointed after the trip. The experience was very underwhelming, especially when compared to other parks even in the same league. Downtown parks are very hit-and-miss with fans, with no real in-between, and it remains to be seen how much of an improvement the downtown yard in Winston-Salem will provide. Another potential hindrance is the downtown park in Greensboro, less than a half-hour away. It would not take much to be an improvement on this experience, however.

How to get there:

There are a number of ways to get to the park, most of which take you through less than desirable areas of Winston-Salem. The best suggestion is to take the team’s suggestion of the Business 40 interstate loop to the Cherry Street exit, and to proceed north through downtown to Deacon Boulevard. The street address of the park is 401 Deacon Boulevard.

How I got there:

Total trip time (one-way):  96 miles (1 hour, 40 minutes).

You may also want to see:

  • Wake Forest University. One of America’s finest institutions of higher learning is in Winston-Salem, and the historic campus combines academic and athletic prowess in a beautiful setting. There are a number of beautiful buildings on the campus, and BB&T Field (Wake’s football facility) is right next door to Ernie Shore Field.

For pictures of this ballpark, visit this site.  For pictures of 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.


At the Ballpark – BB&T Coastal Field, Myrtle Beach, SC
July 9, 2008, 7:44 am
Filed under: 2008, Reviews, Uncategorized

  BB&T Coastal Field

BB&T Coastal Field, Myrtle Beach, SC

Concessions: B+

Concessions are relatively varied at BB&T Coastal, and despite some fairly high prices for advanced A -ball, they are of pretty good quality. The pizza is quite good – despite mine being dropped on the floor and replaced – and the ice cream is also rather tasty. A word of caution – the ice cream is a bit more frozen than most soft serve, but with a game-time temperature of 86 and a lot of humidity in the air, you won’t mind.

The cheeseburgers are also rather large, and as ballpark cheeseburgers go, more than passable. There is a grill on the third base side where the burgers are available, and it is one of the more popular features of the park.

Atmosphere: A

A lot of the between-innings entertainment was, at the least, inventive. There were the requisite things seen at the park, such as trivia contests and the like, but there was also a Hooters “frozen t-shirt” contest (which was rather funny to watch, honestly), two guys in sumo outfits squaring off against each other, and a contest where a child got to roll a beach ball around and collect money. I liked the touch that I saw in the park of “manipulating” contests so that kids won. Speaking of kids, one of the attractions that caters to kids is Dinger the Diamond Dog, a retriever that comes out between innings and puts on a show for the crowd, as well as taking water to the umpires. I really thought this was a neat touch, and it’s not a promotion that costs a team a ton of money to put together.

The real plus in terms of atmosphere here is the crowd. Whether it was the tourists in town for vacation or the locals coming out, the crowd was very vocal and into the action the entire time. There was a nice selection of music between innings (when a promotion was not taking place), and the place was quite lively. There were 3707 fans in attendance, and I have seen crowds five and ten times that size that were not as vibrant.

Sight lines: B-

The good thing about Myrtle Beach is that there is no general admission. There are several seating levels, including two seating decks between the baselines. Seats are relatively inexpensive, and there is a seating area behind the left field fence, as well. The concourse does not wrap completely around the field, but there are plenty of places to mill around.

Unfortunately, with the two decks and extra room, there are also support beams for the covered grandstand, and these beams can get in the way if you are sitting in the upper section. I started out behind one of the beams, and I could not see the scoreboard or some of the action in the center of the field before moving to a different seat. Be particularly careful when selecting a seat at BB&T Coastal, as the lesser price may come with an unwanted view of steel. That aside, the view of the field is great from most areas in the seating bowls, and there are television monitors all over the park should you need to get concessions – or even if you need to go to the bathroom.

Parking: A

I made a promise, and I shall keep said promise. I mentioned that the first park I reviewed in the Carolinas that offered free parking would get an A, and Myrtle Beach earns that A. There is a lot off Grissom Parkway that is behind the right field wall and offers more parking than would ever be humanly necessary at this park. Ingress and egress is not really a large concern at this park, as there are multiple streets that can get you back to the “main drags” (US 17, US 501 and Ocean Blvd.) in minutes.

The only real recommendation is that the plentiful group of volunteers that monitor the parking lot should allow drivers to choose the spaces in which they park, instead of trying to guide people into parking spaces. There are plenty of spaces to be had, and parking will not be an issue. There is no need to try to force people into cramped spaces behind and beside large trucks and SUVs. Let people pull through if there are spaces available to do so. I had to turn my car three times to get into the awkward spot the volunteer demanded I use, and this backed up the lot a bit.

Quality of baseball: B

I grew up watching Carolina League baseball, and have grown accustomed to a certain level of play from this advanced-A circuit. I was not entirely disappointed on this evening, as the teams combined for 10 runs on 18 hits. Myrtle Beach starter Ryne Reynoso gave up four runs in the 2nd inning, but settled down afterwards. Potomac defeated the homestanding Pelicans 6-4, though the Pelicans caused a large stir through the crowd with a 9th inning comeback, ending with an Eric Campbell strikeout with the bases loaded.

The one major problem with the game was base umpire Matt Arcovio, who blatantly blew two calls on the basepaths and was out of position for a large portion of the night. I have mentioned umpires in several previous reviews, but when a base coach immediately snaps after a call is made and the manager has to argue multiple calls, you are not correctly doing your job. It is shoddy work like this that makes people think so badly of umpires.

Overall grade: A

I have been trying to get to this park ever since it opened, and the build-up met the hype. The atmosphere is really cool (no other way to describe it, really), the video board is helpful, the seats are surprisingly comfortable for general admission, and the location really can’t be beat. The breeze from the ocean makes its way to the park, and there aren’t many better ways to spend a couple of hours outside. The classic song “Myrtle Beach Days” even plays as fans exit the ballpark, further lending to the experience.

The absolute best part of this park is the people that work there. Everyone was so unbelievably friendly, from the ticket booth to the concessions to the ushers. I have been in many southern ballparks that come nowhere close to meeting the fan experience in this park. There was even an usher that walked through the stands shaking hands with fans and talking to them, which makes a gigantic difference. That connection between team staff and fans sets BB&T Coastal Field apart from a number of other facilities I’ve visited, and it’s a difference I think you’ll notice as well, should your travels lead you to the Grand Strand.

How to get there:

Getting to BB&T Coastal Field is a breeze (pardon the pun). The park is located directly off 21st Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, between the Broadway at the Beach shopping complex and the coast. The stadium is located at 1251 21st Avenue North. If traveling from US 17, turn right at 21st Avenue North, and the park will be ahead on the right. If traveling from US 17 Business or oceanfront lodging, take 21st Avenue North away from the ocean, and the park will be on the left. Parking is located on Grissom Parkway, just beyond the outfield fence.

How I got there:

Total trip time (one-way):  3 hours, 41 minutes (167 miles).

You may also want to see:

  • Broadway at the Beach. This large shopping and entertainment complex within walking distance of the park contains a large number of both chain and local establishments, as well as a small waterway. There is also a section devoted to historic rides from the now-defunct Pavilion amusement park that was a long-time staple of Myrtle Beach. Whether you want to shop, dine or just walk, this is a great place to do so.

  • Charleston, SC. Just 90 miles to the south is a slice of American history in Charleston. There are a large number of historic homes, a beautiful coastline and the epitome of life in the old South. Charleston has lots to offer for the history buff, the weekend warrior and just those who love to witness a slice of Southern culture.

For pictures of this ballpark, visit this site.  For pictures of 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.