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.


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