Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At the Ballpark – American Legion Stadium, Florence, SC
August 6, 2011, 6:33 pm
Filed under: 2011, Reviews

American Legion Stadium, Florence, SC - click photo for more pictures of this visit

If you’ve ever visited Myrtle Beach or gone south on I-95, the chances are pretty decent that you’ve passed through Florence, SC at some point. This burg of slightly less than 40,000 residents is served by two major interstates, and is just miles away from Darlington, famous for both NASCAR racing and being the home of MLB second baseman Orlando Hudson.

 Florence has made quite the name for itself, though, as many large businesses call it home. Florence also has quite the athletic history, with wrestling territories in the 1970s and 1980s finding the city to be a popular stop. Baseball also has deep roots in Florence, dating back to the 1920s. The city also served as a Blue Jays minor league affiliate from 1981-1986, hosting such future stars as Jimmy Key, Cecil Fielder and Fred McGriff. The Blue Jays’ reign in Florence ended after 1986 when they relocated 70 miles east to Myrtle Beach. Does the former Florence Blue Jays home still have its charm? Let’s find out.

Concessions: A+

This may be a smaller park, but you’ll never go hungry – or thirsty – here. I managed to catch a game where all beverages were $1, which helps. Even if you don’t go on a night with a beverage special, the sodas are only $2. There are tons of soda selections (see the pictures for this park), and a beer garden is just down the right field line, for those who wish to have a frosty one. The park also offers Powerade and water for hydration on the hot days in Florence, and they are quite common.

The food selection is also outstanding, as burgers with just about any topping known to man are available. There is also the $5 Wolfburger, which I did not try. If you are more into hot dogs or smoked sausages, no worries, as those are also served here. Corn dogs, brats, pizza, various snacks and candy round out the menu, and everything is reasonably priced. I have seen a number of affiliated parks that came nowhere close to the selection and prices here, and that certainly deserves note.

Atmosphere: A-

Considering this game was a 10pm (local) start and the ballpark in Florence is surrounded by virtually nothing, things were rather lively on the night I attended. There were a number of kids at the park for that late hour, and despite their ignoring the PA announcer stating that they had to be accompanied by an adult to go after foul balls, they were mostly well-behaved. The locals really love their hometown Redwolves, and that was made apparent on this night. A number of umpires were in the stands, if you catch my drift.

The team has a mascot named Homer, who is (appropriately) a red wolf. He was involved in a number of the between-innings promotions, including the dizzy bat race (which almost saw a collision between two dizzy kids) and two different occasions where free items were tossed to fans in the stands (t-shirts and water bottles). He was around enough to where the kids could see him and such, but not so much that he was annoying or intrusive. This park also features a good selection of music from nationally and locally-recognized artists, and I also got to see a fan shag dance to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” for the first – and probably last – time.

Sight lines: F

Unfortunately, there is not an unobstructed seat in the house at American Legion Stadium. Every seat is behind a fence, net, pole, support beam or some combination of such. When you combine this with the fact that the seating bowl is away from the field by a decent distance because of a sidewalk and another couple of rows of fixed seats, it really helps to kill the atmosphere that already seems to exist in the park. There is one section of seats in the general admission area that is inexplicably angled toward the first base bag, and if you are sitting in that area and trying to look straight ahead, you are blocked by a) a railing, b) a support beam and c) a net. If someone hits a ball down the left field line, you turn to track the ball and end up looking directly into yet another railing. I understand the need for safety and such, but if the team ever gets the budget to do so, it’s time to just scrap any seat that isn’t fixed and start over. When you can’t see either bullpen down the line and even the scoreboard is obscured by netting, that’s a problem.

Parking: B

Parking here is close to the park, which is great – except for the several cars that got hit by foul balls, despite all the overkill of netting and fencing. The parking is free, but is in a huge grass lot. This has to be nightmarish on days when the random pop-up storm heads through the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, but I was luckily not affected. Ingress and egress are relatively quick, as the park is quite close to US 52 (Irby Street) and US 76 (Palmetto Street). My recommendation is to bring some rain boots just in case, and to park as far away as you realistically can.

Quality of baseball: A

Edenton came into this game with the longest active win streak in summer collegiate baseball, but Florence, who did not even make the playoffs in the Coastal Plain League, was up to the task. The homestanding Red Wolves defeated the visiting Steamers 5-3, despite Edenton collecting 11 hits on the evening. Red Wolves starter Hunter Adkins (Middle Tennessee) started a bit shaky, but managed to settle down and keep Edenton mostly at bay. Edenton third baseman Vinnie Mejia (UT-Pan American) hit a monster home run into the trees in left-center. Both teams played solid defense (despite four total errors) and made some outstanding plays to keep the game as close as the final indicates.

Overall grade: A

This visit was totally unplanned, but I am truly glad I made it. I had a wonderful time, even with not being able to see things at times. The concessions are cheap, the staff is super-friendly (I can’t emphasize this enough – great job, everyone), and if you make the trip, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve had a great experience every time at Coastal Plain League facilities, and this one continues the streak.

How to get there:

As mentioned earlier in the piece, Florence is located just off interstates 95 and 20 in eastern South Carolina. The park is just outside of downtown Florence, and is virtually next to the Florence Regional Airport. Continue through downtown Florence on either US 52 or 76 to Darlington Street, then to Oakland Avenue. The park is ahead on the right. It may be helpful to use Google Maps for directions.


1 Comment so far
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Another outstanding review to add to the list of your prior masterpieces.I got the distinct impression that had the sight lines been good,this would have been a slam dunk.One wonders if people think that fans are not interested in the activities of tracking the ball and seeing pitchers warm up.If someone was thinking about the makeup of a cozy ballpark before building it,your reviews would be good source of information.

Comment by jerry wilmer

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