Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Day 1-Stopping by the Appy League
Honestly,the trip did not start intending to see the parks that were not hosting games.
It turned out that way via the Domino theory though.
I was just paying for gas in Pulaski,Virginia and asked how far Calfee Field was and the answer was three miles.
Long time readers may recall a rant on the Toronto Blue Jays for their callous treatment of the citizens of Pulaski by not only abandoning them,but doing so at the last minute and therefore killing any hope of a replacement team for the 2007 season.
This decision not only hurt Pulaski,it hurt every other team in the Appalachian League.
With just 9 teams without a Pulaski squad,every team will have down time during the course of the season.
After a few shots from the right field side of the stadium from outside the ballpark,we moved to the left field side to shoot a painted building with the Pulaski Blue Jays logo,where we discovered the gates wide open.
I instructed Ryan to follow me as I walked around and keep shooting in case we were asked to leave.
I asked one of the two workers there,if anyone was around to talk to or get old souvenirs etc.
He said the man to talk to was Dave Hart and he had just pulled up.
We were shocked when Mr.Hart not only allowed us to take pictures,but offered us a complete tour of the facility and allowed us to actually access the field!
After quite a few pictures and a lot of general goofing around,Mr.Hart took us into the clubhouse,managers office,trainers room etc.
It was a very nice experience and a new one for myself,Ryan and Battlin Bob.
After a chat with Mr.Hart about the rumor of the Washington Nationals being interested in Pulaski in which we offered our knowledge of the situation,we were told that there was 2 other teams showing interest,but Mr.Hart did not tell us what teams.
We found out shortly though,as the leader of Pulaski Baseball Inc. called and asked us some questions and the two names did come out.
Suffice it to say that Ryan would be very pleased if one of those 2 teams actually landed in Pulaski!
After some more info on the Blue Jays fiasco,we had to move on,but this was easily the highlight of day 1 and maybe the entire trip (although you may disagree as this series goes on).
Thanks again to Dave Hart and all the friendly citizens of Pulaski,if they get their team back,we will certainly attend a game there at Calfee Field in 2008!
What a beautiful field and setting for baseball!
Further down the road,we decided after having such a blast at Pulaski to stop by Bristol Tennessee,home of the Bristol White Sox.
After a rough terrain walk produced a picture down the right field line,a walk in the opposite direction eventually led us to a Bristol city worker,who allowed us to look around and the meeting of another collector.
This gentleman was dubbed "Crazy Mel" and since I never got his actual name,I suppose Crazy
Mel will have to do!
Meanwhile a trip around Devault Memorial Stadium was interesting,mainly because the seating is elevated around the field.
An odd look and feel for such a small ballpark.
After an attempt to purchase an 07 Bristol team set went awry (they were not available),our new friend Crazy Mel offered to let us follow him to Elizabethton Tennessee,home of the Appy League's Twins.
After a harrowing 20 mile drive (Crazy Mel's driving gave him the name),and passing by the famous Bristol Motor Speedway,we arrived at the city offices as CM bought some 07 Twins sets.
As we have no need for Twins sets since their teams are not in the league with Frederick or Hagerstown,we settled for the 07 Appalachian League Top Prospect set.
That set usually is limited in number and more expensive than others on on-line for that reason.
At the teams offices,which were basically a two room office,we met a gentleman that was quickly named "Jim Cornette" after the legendary fast-talking wrestling manager.
I have not heard a human talk that fast since I actually heard Cornette talk in Knoxville in 1994.
But after 4 mins of directions,which were done in 60 seconds,we decided to try to find nearby Johnson City,Tennessee after a stop at Joe O'Brien Field,which we passed on the way.
If I tried to talk that fast-I would be stuttering for a week.
Even Battlin Bob was stunned at this guy!
Joe O'brien field was a solid,unspectacular little field that had similar seating to Bristol.
Again like Bristol,the seating was somewhat elevated,making you look down into the field of play and like Bristol much of the field even down the lines were protected by netting.
Great for safety,but poor for foul balls,if you are watching a game.
The feature that I liked the best was on the outfield fence-They keep the league standings there.
Back when I did my Suns GM feature,I suggested the Suns make the league standings more visible somewhere,but I did not think about the outfield wall.
Good idea by the Twins!
We left Crazy Mel behind in Elizabethton,as he waited for Loek Van Mil to get out of a car with a young lady (I cannot describe this,nor do I care to! LOL) and sped for a quick trip to Johnson City,Tennessee and Howard Johnson Field.
This was a quick stop and go,as we still had to get to Asheville for that night's game.
We arrived and actually watched a bit of batting practice by the Johnson City Cardinals.
HJF is almost completely engulfed in fencing and spells difficulty for any autograph collector,but its most unique feature was a HUGE hill in right field.
This made the Hagerstown incline look puny in comparison.
I would not want to be the right fielder that had to play that everyday!
But as a fan,despite the mesh,you are right on top of the field and looks like a great place to see a game.
After a stop for a drink and gas where Ryan got his first taste of the local icon Cheerwine and I began my days long love affair with diet
Sun Drop,we were on our way over the Smoky Mountains to Asheville for game number 1.
The Applalachian teams were kind,helpful and all around terrific to deal with.
Suffice it to say,we were all impressed and the Appy League will certainly be a part of next years trip for sure!
Until tomorrow with game 1-Lake County Captains at Asheville Tourists
Battlin Bob McKain