Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives


At the Ballpark – Charles Watson Stadium/Vrooman Field, Conway, SC
February 24, 2011, 2:05 am
Filed under: 2011, Reviews

 

Charles Watson Stadium/Vrooman Field - Click photo for more photos from this visit

If you live anywhere outside of South Carolina, chances are you are familiar with a lot of South Carolina’s biggest cities. Charleston, Columbia and Greenville all have large populations with considerable baseball histories. What of Conway, South Carolina, however?

Conway is a tiny town near Myrtle Beach, and it once housed the South Atlantic League affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Myrtle Beach Blue Jays (later Hurricanes) called Conway home from 1987 to 1992. Though another stadium was built in downtown Myrtle Beach to serve the professional affiliate, a baseball tradition has been formed on the same ground at Coastal Carolina University. The school with the funny nickname (Chanticleers) is now a nationally-ranked college baseball program, but does the stadium live up to the same ranking? Let’s find out.

Concessions: B

This is a college park, and as such, there are not a lot of choices in terms of concessions. They did have a grill available outside of the concession stand, which is a nice plus. Hamburgers and hot dogs are available from said grill (for $4 and $3, respectively), and are a decent bargain. Drinks are also available, though the selection is poor. The price is reasonable, however, and this helps.

Popcorn is also available, but is served in a drink cup and appears to be of the microwave variety. There are also nachos, which seemed to be a favorite of many of the fans. The prices aren’t bad, but the selection is a bit on the light side.

Atmosphere: B

Coastal has renovated their stadium to improve the experience for the players, adding a clubhouse and several other niceties to draw in recruits. In the process of those improvements, however, they have taken away a lot of the seating (more on this in the Overall Grade section). This hurt the atmosphere within the park.

A lot of the students that go to games end up in a standing room area behind the right field fence called the Rooster’s Nest. A lot of the noise from that section seemed to be profanities directed at the various opposing outfielders, which could have just as easily been done without. Good-natured heckling is fine, supporting your team is fine, but some of what was said was unfortunate.

Sight lines: B-

When standing room is available at the fences, this grade goes up a bit. There is not a lot of netting to obstruct vision in most of the ballpark.

As the park gets more full, however, more and more people crowd into the standing room areas (of which there are many in this park – again, more later on this), and sight lines begin to fairly dramatically suffer. My best recommendation if you cannot get a fixed seat in this park is to get there as early as possible and claim a spot on the fence. It’s your only real hope.

Parking: B

The grade for parking doesn’t suffer because of lack of parking, because there seems to be a decent amount of parking on the Coastal Carolina campus. Be careful, however, that you don’t follow the signs, if there are any to be seen. On the weekend I attended, there were signs leading fans to park along the street just behind the stadium (Chanticleer Drive West). Most of the parking was taken up, as there were baseball and softball tournaments going on just steps from each other.

Do yourself a favor and continue along the main road. There is a good amount of parking near the park and Brooks Stadium (the football stadium). If you find yourself on Chanticleer Drive West, as I did, there is a lot of free parking across the road from the track. Be aware if you choose that option (or any other on campus) that there is a several-minute walk to the stadium, and some campus parking may be restricted. Pardon the pun, but be sure to do your homework before parking your car.

Quality of baseball: A

College baseball has changed their bats for the 2011 season, making them safer and less reactive. The effects of the bat changes were at least partly on display during my time at the park, as Coastal lost to Indiana 2-1 in an outstanding 16-inning game in the first game of a doubleheader. They then beat Virginia Tech 6-5 on a walkoff two-run homer in the nightcap. Of the four games Coastal played on their opening weekend, three of them came down to the final pitch (they beat Boston College 9-6 on a walkoff homer in their first game of the season).

There were a few errors from each team, both of omission and commission, but one has to keep in mind that this was the first weekend for everyone involved. The fundamental issues that were lacking, primarily in bunting, should correct themselves over the course of the year, but it was obvious on the whole that these were top-flight teams.

Overall grade: B-

I first attended this park in 1987, and it was considerably different when I first attended. I had to put the vision of the “old” park out of my mind when seeing how it now looks. It’s not as I remember it, but it’s still a pretty darn nice place.

The one real complaint I had was the seating situation. The ticketing “office” told me that only standing room was available – which I appreciated – but that is where the confusion began. The security guard told me that I could stand anywhere inside the chains, so I went to an area beside the third base dugout – inside chains, mind you – that looked like a patio-type area. I was then quickly shooed away from this area, and told to stand inside another chained-off area, which was further down the third base line. I don’t object to standing, but there were two problems with this. First, there were numerous open seats behind the plate for the entirety of both games, and fans were not allowed to venture into those seats without being a season ticket holder. I have ripped ballparks in the past for doing this, and I will rip this one. When there are very few seats available (I would guess 500 or so total “fixed” seats in the park) and no temporary seating, there is no excuse for leaving seats unused.

I also tried to investigate the seating situation and buy tickets online before going to the park, but the online ticketing option on the Coastal sports site returned a “coming soon” message. This is unacceptable for a top-notch baseball school. It appeared – at least from my one visit – that CCU is concerned about two things, recruits and season ticket holders. Standard visiting fans are treated like cattle. I would suggest to CCU that if they plan to host any further tournaments, they should investigate getting some temporary seating.

How to get there:

Take US Highway 501 to Conway, SC. Follow the signs to Coastal Carolina University (turn right if taking 501 South toward Myrtle Beach, and turn left if on 501 North outbound from Myrtle Beach). Continue through the traffic circle and past the first stoplight, and the stadium complex will be on the right.

 



2011 is here, and welcome new readers!
February 21, 2011, 11:32 pm
Filed under: 2011

Welcome back, everyone, for a new year of At the Ballpark!

I’ve been doing this since 2004, and the goal of what you see is to present the experience from the fan’s eyes.  I don’t get any kind of money for doing this, and I don’t get any special perks.  Therefore, you are left with an honest account of what happened on the night I visited the park.  I won’t give everyone an A+ on every visit, nor should I.  I may have caught the ballpark on a bad night, because ballparks — like people — do have them.  There’s nothing personal, and no conflicts of interest.

I hope you enjoy going on another year of virtual rides with me, and welcome you to the greatest season of all…baseball season.