Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At The Ballpark – American Legion Post 325 Field – Danville, VA
July 7, 2010, 3:33 am
Filed under: 2010, Reviews

American Legion Post 325 Field - Click photo for more pictures from this visit

Every star has to start somewhere. Whenever a Joey Votto, Andre Ethier or Jason Heyward comes to the plate, keep in mind that they all rode the bus in the minors for a time. One such place these stars – and many others – get their start is the rookie-level Appalachian League. The Appalachian League consists of teams from Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, and features players just out of high school or college.

One of the Appalachian League outposts can be found about six miles north of the North Carolina state line in Danville, Virginia. The home of the Danville Braves since 1993, American Legion Post 325 Field has seen such greats as Tommy Hanson, Jason Heyward and Yunel Escobar pass through its gates.

Concessions: B

Good and bad can be found in the concession offerings at American Legion Field. The prices are surprisingly good ($1.50 for a large order of french fries – they will even add cheese at no cost), and the portions are really good for the cost. There is even a taste of the unusual, including a “bologna burger”, which I did not have the guts to try. All of your favorites are here, so come hungry.

As good – and reasonably-priced – as the concessions are, I cannot recommend enough that any concessions purchases be made well before the game starts. The concession area is behind the plate and completely out of view of the action on the field. I also noticed long (and slow) lines at 6:20 before a 7:00 first pitch, and throughout the game. There was a near-sellout on the night, but even with those conditions, the sales could have been processed a bit faster. The only sales I saw in my area of the seating was a man walking around with a cooler full of drinks.

Atmosphere: C

There is a considerable focus – for the most part – on the baseball in Danville. There are a few between-innings contests, and most are of the usual variety (mascot race, dizzy bat race). There are very few corny sound effects, and most of the music between innings is quiet and non-obtrusive.

I was, however, disappointed at some of the “borrowed” between-innings items, such as the playing of the drastically overused “Sweet Caroline” (complete with the team employees trying to sing along on a malfunctioning microphone, cutting off ¾ of their singing), and the even more overplayed “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” (twice!). These things are popular (why, I have no idea) in a lot of major league stadiums, but it would be good to see Danville start some of their own traditions, instead of using those of Boston and of their parent club. The one tradition they absolutely need to keep in Danville is the team employees standing at the gates to thank patrons as they leave the park. I loved this in Dunedin, and even had a wonderful conversation with a really nice person in their front office about this very subject. This was a small touch that costs nothing for the team, and means so much to the fans. Please don’t ever stop doing this, Danville.

Sight lines: D

I often say of parks that there is virtually not a bad seat in the house. In American Legion Post 325 Field, there is virtually not a good seat in the house. The park seats 2588 patrons, and all of the seats behind the plate are reserved seating. I very rarely recommend the reserved seating, but this may be the best place to be in Danville. There are large fans on the roof of the reserved areas (perfect for the extremely hot and humid Danville summer nights), and as much as I hate the nets behind the plate, this is actually the best view.

There is a six foot chain link fence that spans the entirety of both base lines. This is apparently in place to protect the fans, but it ends up creating a terrible view for all but the top couple of rows of the general admission seats. It feels almost as though you are peeking through the fence from outside of the park to try to watch the game. The lower levels of the bleachers are a tough sell, both because people are walking back and forth to get concessions, and because the seats are particularly low to the ground. The front row of bleachers is no more than a couple of inches off the ground, and leaves tall patrons (such as your humble correspondent) quite uncomfortable.

I stood in an empty area down the third base line for most of the game, and there appeared to be room for another set of bleachers in that area. I enjoyed being able to stand, despite the fence blocking my view. A number of creative patrons moved some of the picnic tables, and that seemed to work well. Two words of advice – if you don’t smoke, steer clear of certain areas of the third base line. There is a designated smoking area behind the third base bleachers, and I saw a few fans smoking in those relocated picnic tables and near the bleachers. Also, try to avoid the general admission on the first base side for the majority of any game you may see in Danville. Your line of sight is not only blocked by the fence, but by a blinding sun for the majority of the contest.

Parking: A

American Legion Post 325 Field is located in the middle of Dan Daniel Park, which includes a number of community fields and a memorial to veterans. That said, there is plenty of parking within a short walk of the park, and – the best part – it’s all free. Even on nights when the ballpark is full, as on this night, finding a place to park your car is relatively easy.

Getting out of the park is a bit of a challenge, as there is only one way into and out of the park, and that road is on a hill. This gives you a bit of time to leisurely stroll to your car and prepare yourself for your drive home.

Quality of baseball: B

I am always hesitant to criticize rookie-level baseball, as a lot of the guys on the field are just out of high school or college and are new to wood bats. Two of the better teams in the bigs were represented on this night, as the homestanding Danville club (Braves) defeated visiting Princeton (Rays) 5-3. Princeton managed to score three runs on only four hits, while the D-Braves managed 11 hits. Princeton capitalized on three walks and two balks from Danville reliever Ronan Pacheco, who put together an odd line of a hit allowed, an unearned run, the aforementioned three walks and two balks and four strikeouts in two innings.

Several highly-regarded prospects were in play on both sides, including Princeton’s Todd Glaesmann, Scott Lawson and Jeff Malm, and Danville’s Joe Leonard, Joey Terdoslavich and starting pitcher Carlos Perez, who fanned eight Rays in seven solid innings of work. The usual (for this level) miscues happened at times, but the level of baseball was, at the least, watchable.

Overall grade: C

I know that team employees read these reviews, and one may easily come to the conclusion that I hated this park, which is simply not the case. There were a few bright spots in the park, and I did enjoy my visit. There are a lot of things on which to work, however, including the fence, the speed of the concession lines and the overall fan experience.

I would certainly return, should my travels lead me back to Danville. I should also mention that the July 4 fireworks spectacular (as it was billed) was very well-done, and was better than a lot of the shows I have seen at higher levels. This was a job well done by Danville, though there was little to no promotion of the show on the team’s website, that I saw.

How to get there:

As mentioned above, the field is located in the middle of Dan Daniel Park in Danville. The park is accessible via US 29 bypass. Take the River Park Drive exit (one exit south of US 58 on the US 29 bypass), and follow the signs to Dan Daniel Park. The field is on the right side of the entry road.


1 Comment so far
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As usual,your reviews give the reader the mental picture of being there.I enjoyed it very much.The mindset of guys who may end up making millions per year in the ‘bigs’,riding a bus to small and medium size markets is a look into the life of a minor leaguer that most don’t think about.Great mental picture of Americana as it applies to baseball.

Comment by jerry wilmer

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