Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives


At the Ballpark – Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, Charleston, SC
May 28, 2009, 3:05 am
Filed under: 2009, Reviews

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Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park - click photo for more photos of this visit

Charleston, South Carolina is a port city known for its churches and its military presence. The history in Charleston runs deep, from architecture to methods of speech. There have also been a number of television shows, films and books set in the lowcountry, giving this area a worldwide sense of appeal and intrigue.

This same sense of history extends to the baseball diamond, as baseball first made its appearance in the Holy City in 1886. Affiliated baseball came to Charleston 50 years ago, featuring such future big-leaguers as Danny Jackson, Kevin Seitzer, B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, among others; however, the 50 years in Charleston has not produced a championship or playoff victory.

Does the lack of postseason success mar the experience at the park? Let’s find out.

Concessions: C

In looking at the concession offerings on the team’s website before my visit, I was hopeful about the number of offerings at the park. The food selection is fairly varied, and there are a few things one would not expect to see at a ballpark, including a number of hot dog “creations”.

Upon arriving, however, the concessions disappointed. A large majority of the concession areas are crammed into the third base side of the park, and as convenient as this may seem considering the main entrance on this side, there are a couple of problems in implementation. The abundance of stands (including the team store) on this side of the concourse creates a huge problem with crowding before the game starts. I also immediately gravitated toward the Mellow Mushroom pizza stand, but my slice of pizza was overpriced ($4 for a slice) and undercooked. It also did not taste like any Mellow Mushroom pizza I had previously eaten.

I would recommend bringing a picnic lunch or getting something from one of the fast food establishments in the area and eating in Brittlebank Park before the game (see the Parking section of this review) instead of getting concessions.

Atmosphere: B

Charleston has a very comfortable ballpark. The pre-game music soundtrack was enjoyable and the video scoreboard was not overused.

The PA announcer uses a wireless microphone and walks around the park to do various things at times. He alternated between amusing and annoying, with the annoying “high point” being when he copied the “auto-tune” fad going around the web now to announce the Lexington lineup using a synthesizer during a couple of innings. He did conduct an interview with the player of the game on the video board after the game had ended, which was a nice touch.

They also had the ZOOperstars in town during this visit, which was mildly funny, despite the act being the same as it is in every town. The between-innings contests were very common to most parks (save for the hot dog toss), but were unobtrusive.

Sight lines: A

This park is very well-designed for the paying customer. I have seen some reviews (including one from the great Brian Merzbach at Ballpark Reviews) indicating that the water was not visible; however, my seats on the third base side afforded me decent views of the Ashley River beyond the outfield fence. The only problem as far as sight lines has to do with the left field corner, which inexplicably features a foul pole with the left field fence several feet behind the pole, causing a “blind spot” in the corner for any balls hit in that direction.

I strongly recommend the general admission seating on the third base side, as it is a great value for the money ($5 per ticket, not counting any convenience fees), though a bit far from the action. These seats also allow you the aforementioned good views of the water.

Parking: B

This can be an interesting situation, as there are two distinct parking possibilities at Riley Park. The stadium is set directly next to Brittlebank Park, which faces the water. Part of the parking is available at Brittlebank Park, with the rest being in lots on the side street that travels near the park. Parking is $5 at either location, which is a ripoff.

That said, choose the Brittlebank location. No matter where you park in Charleston, you will have a considerable walk to the stadium. If you choose to park at Brittlebank, you can have a nice meal overlooking the water, then walk along palm-lined sidewalks to the stadium. Despite the excessive charge for the privilege, this is truly the way to go.

Quality of baseball: B

This game resulted in a 4-3 victory for the homestanding Riverdogs (Yankees A, South Atlantic League) over the Lexington Legends (Astros A), but the game itself did not match the score. The teams combined for 18 hits and 13 men left on base, and the teams started a bit choppy. An error from Charleston left fielder Dan Brewer on a reasonably easy grounder that got under his glove and rolled to the wall led to Lexington’s first run.

The game did seem to settle down quite a bit as it advanced, though, as the two teams combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief to go along with some solid defensive play. Ambidextrous Charleston closer Pat Venditte recorded the save (his 12th on the season to that point), and it was definitely a memorable experience to watch him pitch, despite the annoying “slide to the left!” “slide to the right!” crowd actions (led by the PA announcer) whenever Venditte switched hands to face a batter.

Overall grade: B

This was my first visit to Charleston, and I love the city – and like the ballpark. There is great potential at Riley Park, including the possible relocation of some of the concessions, eliminating the “test of strength” carnival-type attraction behind the general admission seating and some other minor improvements that could really make this a jewel among South Atlantic League parks. As it was, I still had a very comfortable and enjoyable experience, and the considerably toned-down atmosphere versus what I had experienced in Greensboro was a wonderful touch.

How to get there:

Take US 17 (just past the I-26 intersection) in Charleston to Lockwood Drive. The stadium is on the left, just past Brittlebank Park and the Marriott. Lockwood is the last major intersection before the bridge crossing the Ashley River. There are also directions from any area of Charleston available on the Riverdogs’ website.

You may also want to see:

  • Charleston beaches. Folly Beach, Kiawah Island and Isle of Palms (among others) are a short drive from Charleston and feature lots of sun, sand and water-based activities. The humidity in Charleston can be a real problem in the summer, but with all these beaches nearby, you won’t mind it as much.

  • Historic Charleston. There are numerous historic buildings and sites in Charleston, and you can see them all from your feet, a carriage or your vehicle. You can see mansions, churches and eclectic homes, which makes for a fun day of being a tourist.

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