Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At the Ballpark – Cleveland S. Harley Baseball Park, Spartanburg, SC
February 21, 2012, 2:05 am
Filed under: 2012, Reviews

Cleveland S. Harley Baseball Park, Spartanburg, SC - click photo for more photos of this visit

Very few people outside of the actual region are immediately familiar with the area we in South Carolina call the Upstate. This 10-county section of the Palmetto State is nestled (shockingly) in the northwest corner, and is a home for technology, commerce and education. It is this education sector that yields our first ballpark trip of 2012.

The University of South Carolina at Spartanburg first gained four-year status in 1975. Despite its relative infancy, the university has already received a number of honors from national publications and collected over 15,000 graduates. It has also seen a name change, as it became the University of South Carolina Upstate in 2004. Though most – including my father, when I mentioned the university to him – have no concept of the area and the reason for the name change, the time has arrived to familiarize yourself with this university. This recently-minted member of the Atlantic Sun Conference is starting to taste athletic success, but does their baseball facility match the attention the school is starting to receive? Let’s find out.

Concessions: B

Before visiting Harley Park, keep in mind that this is a college park. As such, there is not the most innovative selection of concessions here. The concession stand is in a corner of the press box area, and the space limitations are rather obvious.

That aside, the selection and prices are really not that bad. Most of the ballpark staples are available, as hot dogs, popcorn and the like were present. I saw someone eating a pretzel early on, but those were not available upon my trip. I went with the nachos, which offered a pretty solid price ($3) and portion. Bottled Coke products are also available for $2.

One other item of note was that I saw people with some drinks and food that had been brought in from outside the park. I didn’t immediately see that this was not allowed, so the assumption is that outside things can be brought in. I would still keep it somewhat on the down low if you choose this option, however.

Atmosphere: A

Don’t come to Harley Park expecting a bunch of goofy mascots, silly contests and loud music. The focus is really on the baseball here, and that’s just fine. There is a soundtrack of classic rock playing between innings and a PA announcer that sounds frighteningly like Peter’s neighbor in the movie Office Space, but not much else.

The one thing you’ll notice if you ever attend a game here is that the people are really nice. You feel as though you’re watching a game among friends, and things are so informal here that they don’t even offer paper tickets at the gate. You pay the admission, they stamp your hand and you can come and go as you please. This is a great thing, as it allows you to see a game (or two) and still walk around the athletic complex and the beautiful campus.

Sight lines: B

There are very few fixed seats (less than 500) in the ballpark, but every seat is behind a net. This is great for your protection, but bad for being able to see. The netting makes it tough to fully evaluate pitchers, if that’s your thing. The seating also has some odd angles in places.

There is also grass “seating” available at the top of the seating bowl and down the line, but both of these areas have their own sight concerns, as well. The dugout on the first base side can cause some sight concerns. Also, keep in mind that both bullpens are in foul territory and behind each respective dugout. This makes them virtually impossible to see from the seating bowl.

Parking: A+

There is a somewhat small parking lot within steps of the baseball field, but this parking is shared with the other facilities in the athletic complex. This can make for a bit of a problematic situation when the softball team or other teams are playing at home. This is easily solved, however, as there are lots on either side of the complex. Use extreme caution when parking in these other lots, particularly if you visit for a weekday game. The permit-only lots appear to be signed as such, so read carefully before parking your vehicle.

Quality of baseball: A

To be fair, this grade is mostly based on USC Upstate’s performance, but the Spartans were tremendously impressive on the day I visited. Upstate clubbed Ball State 10-1, limiting the Cardinals to three hits and a run driven in on a sacrifice fly by Wes Winkle. Cardinal starter Nestor Bautista got chased in the midst of a six-run Spartan second inning after giving up seven earned on six hits.

The Spartans banged out 12 hits on the day, including two from center fielder Gaither Bumgardner, who drove in four. Starter Scott DeCecco threw five solid innings in his first outing of the year, striking out five while allowing three hits. Relievers David Palladino, Chris Knauff and Chad Sobotka combined for four scoreless innings, striking out six. Two of those relievers (Palladino and Sobotka) are true freshmen.

Upstate has a solid fundamental club that plays smart baseball. They are looking to continue to build their program as they are still in relative D-1 infancy, and the pieces are certainly in place to do so.

Overall grade: A-

This is an enormous park (335 down the lines, 383 to the alleys and 402 to dead center), and the ball does not really carry well at all. Don’t let that keep you from coming to see a game at Harley Park, though, as it’s a great place to see a game. The people are great, the university and its players really get social media (a great way to connect with fans in building a program, by the way) and fans of fundamentals (bunting, hitting behind runners and the like) will be pleased.

Admission is $5, and if you add on nachos and a bottled soda, that puts you at $10. It doesn’t get much better than that for entertainment in 2012, and you’ll leave very happy with how you chose to spend three hours of your time.

How to get there:

USC Upstate is located reasonably close to Interstate 85 between Charlotte and Atlanta. Take exit 72 (US 176) off 85, then travel on 176 East toward Spartanburg. This is a left turn off the ramp if traveling from Charlotte. Continue to the Valley Falls Road exit (the first exit). Take this exit and turn left at the top of the ramp. Turn right at the second campus entrance (North Campus Boulevard). The park is ahead on the left, behind Cyrill Softball Stadium.

For more information:

Visit USC Upstate’s athletics page or follow @UpstateSpartans on Twitter.