Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At the Ballpark – Jack D. Hughes Memorial Park, Pineville, NC
July 24, 2011, 3:25 am
Filed under: 2011, Reviews

Jack D. Hughes Memorial Park, Pineville, NC - click photo for more images of this visit

I never realized how much I had been missing living in an area without summer college wood bat baseball before moving to an area with these leagues. Wood bat baseball gives scouts and fans alike the opportunity to see tomorrow’s professionals in a challenging – yet fun – environment. Major programs send some of their players to these leagues to get work, and players from smaller programs go to test their skills against the players from the bigger schools.

A number of these leagues exist throughout the country, and there are two of particular note along the eastern seaboard. The Coastal Plain League contains 15 teams in Virginia and the Carolinas, and the Southern Collegiate Baseball League (SCBL) features eight clubs in North and South Carolina. The two-time champion of the circuit, the Tennessee Tornado, folded after last season, and a new team was created in Pineville, North Carolina. This first-year club performed well in their new home, but is their ballpark an up-and-comer or a flash in the pan? Let’s find out.

Concessions: C

I almost hesitate to give this grade, because it was not as though there was not any effort paid to the concessions or that they were unfairly priced. There is just not a lot from which to choose.

There were only four hot options available – hot dog ($1.50), nachos and cheese ($2.25), soft pretzels ($1.50) and popcorn ($1.50). Candy, peanuts and other assorted snack items were also available at reasonable prices. Three different types of ice cream were also served, which is helpful when cooling off after a long hot day in the Carolinas. Soda prices were about average, at $2 for a 20 ounce bottle of soda, Powerade or water. You certainly won’t go broke feeding your family here, but if you have a picky crew, it may be wise to pick something up before heading to the park.

Atmosphere: B

There were very few people in the park the night I attended. This was both good and bad – good, because the park might seat 500 people (not counting standing room), and bad because it limited the atmosphere. The fans in attendance were quite involved in the game, and a few visiting fans even made their way out to support their club. There was a decent selection of music between innings, though some of it was repeated, and there was very little to interrupt the flow of the game.

The one thing I will say about the atmosphere here is that it feels distinctly more college-y (I know, that word does not exist) than the parks in the Coastal Plain League. I have never been to an SCBL contest before this one, but there is next to no emphasis on the in-game presentation. This may be due to the non-profit status of the league, a desire to keep things more low-key, or both. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the feeling between leagues is definitely different.

Sight lines: D

Anyone who routinely reads these reviews knows of my hatred for netting. I realize its necessity, but parks tend to go way overboard with its installation. This park is no exception. There is a net that is every bit of 20 feet tall encircling the seating bowl. It makes a fan feel as though they are watching a game in jail.

There are also a few large support poles for the netting that create even more of an obstruction. If you sit in the front row of the seating bowl in just the right place, you have to battle not just the ridiculous netting, but the support poles for the netting and a railing that goes along the top of the brick wall behind the plate. All of the obstructions really take away from the enjoyment of the game.

If you go to the top of the seating bowl, there are a few places you can see without obstruction down either the right or left field line (respectively), which is all that saves this grade from being an F.

Parking: A+

All of the dream characteristics of parking are met here: a) free b) close and c) paved. The furthest spot from the door is still only a few seconds away, even though the lack of seating in the park does help with getting out the door and back to your car. There are two methods of entry and exit to and from the parking lot, so there is never a bottleneck when coming or going. Also, keep in mind that this field is located in a city park, so there is a little bit of a drive from the main road to get to the field and parking area.

Quality of baseball: B+

Both starting pitchers threw reasonably well in this contest, as they showed good command early. Liam O’Sullivan (Rhode Island) faced off against Clemson’s Clay Bates. Lake Norman (Copperheads) scored an early run against the homestanding Pineville (Pioneers) club, adding on three in the 4th and blowing the game wide open in the 9th with 4 more after Pineville had cut the lead to 4-1. Lake Norman compiled their 8 runs on just 6 hits, while Pineville strung together 9 hits and the single run.

The game got a bit sloppy toward the end, as both teams’ pitchers seemed to have some trouble with finding the strike zone. Lake Norman managed to mostly neutralize the Pineville attack, however, and came away with the victory.

Overall grade: B-

I really enjoyed the visit to the park, and this game was a nice introduction to the circuit. I wish more people would come out and give this league a look, as there is some really good baseball being played right under their collective noses. In this era of pinching every penny, the Pioneers and the SCBL provide an affordable evening at the park for even the largest family.

I was disappointed in a few things, and I have outlined those here, but I would certainly revisit the park without my arm feeling twisted. I am glad that the league chose this market for relocation, and hope the organization can continue to get a foothold in the community.

How to get there:

For the uninitiated, Pineville is a southern suburb of Charlotte, NC. The city park and stadium are tucked into a smaller neighborhood off NC Highway 51. Access from major roads is relatively simple. Take I-485 (Charlotte’s city loop) to exit 65. If coming from I-77, there will be a separate exit for Pineville; if coming from the other direction, follow the signs for Pineville at the top of the exit. Take South Blvd. (this turns into Polk Street) to NC Highway 51 (Main Street). Turn right onto Main Street, proceed through downtown and cross the railroad tracks. The park will be just ahead on your left.


1 Comment so far
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Enjoyed this review.I know it is tough to use the same criteria in judging a non-profit entity that is striving for a profit.To be honest,these wood bat league teams need more exposure than the franchise A or AA teams.To be sure,purist baseball fans would be getting more for their money by supporting these Various college players who aspire to be pros down the road.
Hopefully, people in the area will read your review and go see this for themselves.As baseball at the professional level is featuring the wood bat,this provides a portal for players to adjust to a different level of baseball than that provided by the current composite type bat they are now using.
One of the pluses for fans is being able to see some guys who have potential to be playing in the minor league system for some teams,as well as drawing a close connection to possibly your favorite college teams to watch next year.

Comment by jerry wilmer

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