Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives


At The Ballpark – Capital City Stadium – Columbia, SC
July 12, 2010, 12:41 am
Filed under: 2010, Reviews

Capital City Stadium - click photo for more pictures of this visit

South Carolina’s capital city, Columbia, is rich in history. Almost half of the city’s 224-year history has seen some off-and-on level of baseball. The University of South Carolina has added the latest chapter to Columbia’s baseball story by winning the 2010 NCAA College World Series, the final such event to be held in Omaha’s historic Rosenblatt Stadium.

The college baseball season doesn’t end in Columbia with the final out of the Gamecocks’ season, however, as the Coastal Plain League takes up residence in Columbia each summer. This wood bat summer league features college players from around the Carolinas, Virginia and beyond. Some of the more impressive alumni of this fifteen-team league include Ryan Zimmerman, Kevin Youkilis and Justin Verlander. Affiliated baseball left Columbia five years ago to move to Greenville, SC, but is this an acceptable substitute? Let’s find out.

Concessions: B

Many people like the “ballpark staples” when eating at a game. Capital City Stadium is full of those staples. Popcorn, hot dogs and Pepsi products, among other normal ballpark items, are freely available and inexpensive. One other item that is available – and really must be tried at any ballpark in the south that has them – is the boiled peanuts. A reasonably-sized bag is just three dollars, and they provide the only real sense of location in the park.

That said, since the park is so close to Columbia’s rather eclectic downtown area, it may be a better idea to eat somewhere before venturing to the park. There are chain restaurants (Mellow Mushroom – well worth the visit!), Italian restaurants, Mexican eateries and so much more available within a short drive or walk of the park. It’s not as cheap or convenient as ballpark food, but with all the choices available, there’s something for everyone.

Atmosphere: C

I talk all the time about the focus being on baseball in parks, and it is rarely more on display than in Columbia. This ballpark could literally be dropped in the middle of any American city, and probably have the same feeling. The mascot is “Blowie”, a blowfish that makes several appearances throughout the game. He is joined by a jester mascot that advertises a local pizza place, a guy in a purple outfit that looks like a Nexium advertisement and several other odd characters throughout the game.

A lot of the between-innings entertainment that takes place is pretty standard, except for two notable differences. There is one half-inning break where a large group of kids gathers behind the third base bag and runs across the outfield to the other side of the field, led by the aforementioned gaggle of mascots. This was fairly entertaining to watch. The more entertaining “promotion”, however, happened later in the game. The song “Sandstorm” played, and the lights in the press box flashed on and off like at a rave while everyone in the press box danced along with the song. I actually laughed at this, and this was very well-done.

Sight lines: B

This park was (mostly) a breath of fresh air after the previous ballpark I visited. There is a chain link fence around the seating behind the plate, but no netting above the majority of the seating bowl. All of the action between the dugouts is clearly visible, and the sun is not a concern for evening games. The sun sets behind home plate in this park, and while it is warm, it will not set in your eyes.

The main drawback comes if you happen to be sitting on the third base side of the park. There are a couple of tents set up in a children’s play area past the third base bleachers, and these tents block the view of the action down the left field line. The visiting bullpen was not visible from my bleacher seats, and there were a couple of balls hit into the corner that were completely obscured. The tents are a fine idea, but if they could be moved out of the line of sight, it would be beneficial.

Parking: B

There is an extremely large parking lot behind the right field fence, and there appears to be plenty of room for even the most heavily-attended games at this park. There were, however, two minor annoyances.

There was a $3 parking charge in the sizeable lot, and there was not a tangible or visible place where that money was being returned into the park. The seats, signage and other portions of the park – while functional – had obviously not been upgraded in quite a while. The bleachers are quite painful to sit in after a few innings. There is even still a sign above the scoreboard that references the Capital City Bombers, a team that played its last game in 2004.

There is also only one obvious point of egress from the park, and getting back to any of the main highways around Columbia (US 21/US 76/US 176/I-126) requires a left turn out of the park across a busy street. There is no stop light leaving the park. Another thing that makes exiting the park more of a pain is that there are exit signs that lead to nowhere. I was confused – and I was not the only one – by these exit signs, and had to turn around to get out of the park. Any incorrect signage should be removed from the park.

Quality of baseball: B

I was unsure what to expect, considering these were college players using wood bats. Those concerns were unfounded, as the two teams combined for 16 runs and 22 hits in a 10-6 victory by the homestanding Blowfish over the Florence (SC) Red Wolves. The bats were lively on both sides, though the ball did not carry very well at all.

There were some control issues on both sides, though, as walks and hit batsmen caused issues at times throughout the game. Florence had three errors, but these were mostly “hustle” errors. Both teams made some outstanding defensive plays, and despite a lot of the players being from small schools, the effort was quite impressive.

Overall grade: B-

There were a lot of really “generic” aspects of this park, and I thought that might detract from the experience. My first Coastal Plain League game, however, was a fun one to watch. The stadium was comfortable, though the seating was uncomfortable. The stadium had character, despite it feeling as though it could be placed anywhere. I cannot recommend this league enough, though…and the park is worth a trip, too. If your travels lead you to the capital of the Palmetto State, stop on by.

How to get there:

The stadium is located at 301 S. Assembly Street in Columbia. It is just past downtown and the University of South Carolina campus. All of the major thoroughfares in Columbia are within a couple of miles of the park, though a GPS is recommended to find the ballpark, as well as some of the nearby restaurants and attractions.

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