Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At the Ballpark – Sims Legion Park – Gastonia, NC
July 24, 2010, 10:40 pm
Filed under: 2010, Reviews

Sims Legion Park - Gastonia, NC - click image for more photos of this visit

Gastonia, North Carolina is an easy area to miss. Nestled between Charlotte and the South Carolina state line, this suburb is home to a lot of commuters and those who prefer the small town lifestyle to that found just up the interstate. Gastonia has also been the home of baseball since 1950, seeing many affiliated and unaffiliated clubs march into both iterations of Sims Legion Park (the stadium opened in ’50 and was renovated and reopened in 1977).

There is another interesting bit of history in the background at Sims Legion Park. The stadium once hosted a professional softball team. The Carolina Diamonds of the Women’s Professional Fastpitch League spent two years in Gastonia, including a first-half season title and a championship appearance. The Diamonds were contracted by the league in 1999, ending their run in Sims Legion Park.

Is Sims Legion Park as easy to drive past as Gastonia can be for some? Let’s find out.

Concessions: B-

There is not a major league assortment of concessions in Gastonia, but what is there does the job. The ballpark “staples” are there, and the prices are good. I sampled a piece of Simonetti’s Pizza (this is a local pizza place, and I highly recommend it) and a Diet Coke for a very reasonable $5.50. The concession workers are very nice (as is most of the rest of the staff – more on this later), and lines move quickly.

There is another grouping of items that I did not have the guts to try, but if you are truly curious, go to the team’s website for photos. Gastonia offers a Krispy Kreme dog and burger. The burger and hot dog are “standard issue”, but a Krispy Kreme donut serves as the bun. With all of the whining about obese children and non-healthy foods these days, the donut-shrouded foods make for an interesting choice.

Atmosphere: D

There is very little atmosphere at Sims Legion Park. This is good, because the focus is mostly on baseball, but bad because there was very little that was memorable. The between-innings entertainment is generic (mascot race, etc.), except for a strange contest where two couples battle against each other, with the man putting on a wedding dress and catching a bouquet from the woman. I wasn’t quite sure how to react after seeing this, but it was at least different. There was also a dunk tank, in which fans tried to dunk the GM of the team. The GM engaged in some light trash talk with the fans trying to dunk him, but he seemed legitimately angry after being dunked several times. This was a great idea that seemed to go south after repeated trips into the tank.

There is an odd mascot named Chizzle, which is – I guess – a blinged-out grizzly bear with six-pack abs. He did exactly nothing, aside from (shockingly) losing in the mascot race and participating in a choreographed dance with some Grizzlies players. The PA announcer was among the only real noise heard in the park, as he produced his own sound effects on foul balls (I guess times are hard when you can’t get a $3 sound effects CD to play) and did some reads for local advertisers between innings. The worst part of the lack of atmosphere, though, was the totally disinterested fans. The Grizzlies were offering discounted beer in their beer garden, and that area was completely packed, with the stands virtually empty. The patrons seemed more interested in getting hammered at discount prices than in the baseball going on just feet from them, and that made for a pretty miserable experience.

Sight lines: A-

I have to say that this is a ballpark that caters well to the fan. The general admission seats are in the bleachers down either baseline, and you can see everything from any of those seats. There is a lot of foul territory at this park, so the seats feel somewhat far from the field, but don’t let that concern you. There is also quite a bit of room to stand down the baselines, if that is more preferable.

There are only a couple of problems with the sight lines in this park, and one is easily-avoided, while the other is not. If you choose to sit in the first couple of rows behind either dugout, your vision may be obstructed by the dugout structure itself. Keep this in mind when choosing seats. Also, due to the angle of the setting sun, the scoreboard can be invisible for multiple innings. The sun sets right into the scoreboard, which makes for a terrible glare. This can be avoided by looking at the field instead of the scoreboard, but just realize that you will likely have no idea of the score for about three or four innings. If the scoreboard on the hill in right field worked, this would be a nice “workaround” for the issue.

Parking: A

Sims Legion Park is a small stadium, and as such, there is very little parking. However, parking is free, and it is reasonably plentiful for all but the very busiest of nights. Be aware that some of the parking is in a gravel lot, and parking should never be attempted anywhere off of the premises. The local business and home owners in the area are not big fans of baseball traffic on their property.

Quality of baseball: B

(Editor’s note: I originally attended a game between the Grizzlies and Martinsville Mustangs. That game was rained out before it began, and though I got some pictures on that night, this is a review of the Gastonia-Thomasville contest.)

Taking into account that one side was a first-place team that tied its franchise record for victories on this night, and the other was…well, not, this was a reasonably watchable game. The homestanding Grizzlies defeated the visiting Thomasville Hi-Toms 6-3 in a game that featured quite a bit of offense and some outstanding defense. There were multiple diving stops, well-turned double plays and good throws to gun out attempted base stealers.

Gastonia first baseman David Chester, fresh from winning the Coastal Plain League home run derby earlier in the week, hit a three-run shot that helped propel the Grizzlies to the win, and closer Seth Grant reached double figures in saves, which is tough to do in a summer league.

Overall grade: C

The baseball was fun to watch here, and the employees (except for the slightly upset GM) were super nice. It was a “pure” baseball experience, and I am most definitely inclined to return. I was, however, quite disappointed in the fan base that showed up. The interest in drinking beer instead of watching baseball really sucked the life out of the place, and to call those in the stands apathetic would be putting it mildly. These guys are some of the best in the nation in the college ranks, and they deserve more support than they got.

How to get there:

Take Interstate 85 from Charlotte to US 321 (exit 17). Go right off the exit ramp, then take a nearly-immediate right onto Rankin Lake Road. At the end of the road, turn right onto Marietta Street. The ballpark will be on the right just after you cross the bridge over Interstate 85.


1 Comment so far
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Extremely good review.Very comprehensive,entertaining,and interesting.If I lived closer,this would make me want to go there,which is part of the intent.I enjoyed it very much.

Comment by jerry wilmer

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