After a couple more games in Kentucky, I was headed east again for the penultimate game of my first big road trip of 2013. This time, my stop was in Charleston, WV, to watch the South Atlantic League’s West Virginia Power host the Greensboro Grasshoppers. I saw Greensboro on the road against the Delmarva Shorebirds way back in June of 2011, but I hadn’t previously seen West Virginia at all.
The drive from Lexington to Charleston took about three hours, so I got to my hotel in plenty of time before the evening’s game. I stayed at the Wingate by Wyndham Charleston, and there were plenty of good reasons to choose this hotel. First, it was extremely easy to reach, being just a minute or so off the highway. Second, it was less than 10 minutes from Appalachian Power Park, home of the Power, which made for a convenient drive before and after the game. Third, it ranks first among South Charleston hotels on TripAdvisor with overwhelmingly positive reviews. After reading up on the hotel online, I knew I wanted to stay there.
I’d soon experience the tidiness and spaciousness of the guest rooms, too. After checking in, I made it to my room which looked like this:
And here’s the view from the other side of the bed, looking toward the sitting area:
To the right of the above photo was a large desk, ultra-comfy desk chair, bar fridge and other amenities. And at the foot of the bed, there was a dresser and flat-screen TV, which meant I could do my usual routine of catching up on my blog and Twitter messages while watching ESPN.
The location of the hotel is perfect. Despite its close proximity to the highway, it’s very quiet and you’ve got gas stations and eateries within walking distance. After I’d checked in, I took a very short drive to a supermarket to load up on some snacks and then bought gas at a nearby gas station. On the way back to my room, I stopped and took this photo of the front of the hotel:
For some reason, the sun’s glare made my camera a little moody during this shot. It’s not a great shot, but you can still see how nice the hotel looks from the outside. Anyway, I relaxed for an hour or so and then making the quick drive to Appalachian Power Park.
I parked in the media lot and on my way to pick up my media pass, could see some action on the field through the fence:
It’s hard not to love this general design. Instead of blocking out the community, it’s cool that people can look through and watch the game. If someone really wants to see the game, he/she will likely buy a ticket, but for those who want to just catch an inning or are perhaps on a budget, I think this is a cool idea that more teams should consider.
Anyway, as I walked up the sidewalk outside the park, I also saw this:
Fortunately, I didn’t face any moral dilemma about taking or not taking it once I got inside. By then, it had been retrieved by an usher and tossed back onto the field.
More intrigue about the design of this ballpark: Don’t you think the warehouse look is a neat touch?
Now, I have no idea if the warehouse existed before the park or is just supposed to look old, but I love the concept. After taking the above photo, I began a long lap around the park, which included a trip down this deserted side street:
And a stop at this window where I could see a shopping cart full of baseballs sitting in the indoor batting cages. It’s far from the first time I’ve seen a shopping cart used to hold BP balls in the minor leagues. Off-hand, I remember seeing one when I visited PNC Field in 2011.
As you can see from this next shot of the gate, the area was still pretty quiet:
With the exception of staff members arriving and the odd commuter walking toward the nearby parking garage, there wasn’t any action at all. Action or no action, it was time to get inside! I grabbed my media pass that director of media relations and broadcaster Adam Marco left for me (thanks, Adam!) and walked right in. The thing thing that caught my eye was how cool the hilly backdrop behind the video board looked. I think you’ll agree when you see this photo:
To show the area even more, here it is in panorama format:
I took a walk along the upper deck’s walkway, finally ending up above the gate that I’d photographed earlier:
From there, it was back down to the concourse, where a PlayStation 3 console caught my eye:
It wasn’t the only gaming console in the vicinity, and I was impressed. I can’t immediately recall another Minor League Baseball park with gaming consoles. Despite being impressed by the ability to play video games while watching the game, I was confused by this next scene:
Any ideas? Well, it was the team’s Bark in the Park promotion and soon enough, there’d be a giant bowl of water for dogs to drink beneath this sign. I have to admit that for a moment, though, I was stumped.
As I walked down the third base line toward the outfield, I grabbed this shot of the video board:
It’s pretty standard as far as MiLB video boards go, but check out the yellow seats beneath the board. Appalachian Power Park’s concourse wraps all the way around the field, providing plenty of standing area, but I thought the seats would be an exclusive area to watch the game. And speaking of exclusive areas, the park has no shortage of picnic zones, including this one:
As I walked along the concourse behind the left field fence, I snapped this shot of my media pass …
… and decided that once the game began, I’d spend a few innings in this area in hopes of catching a home run ball.
Remember the yellow seats beneath the video board? I hope so, as you likely read about them less than a minute ago. Either way, here’s a closer view of them:
While I was in right-center, I did a double-take when I stopped to think about the park’s press box. In virtually all MiLB parks, the press box and suites are joined at the hip. Here, though, the press box stands on its own right behind home plate …
… whereas the suites are on the second level down the first base side:
The gates hadn’t opened just yet, but the Power staff were busy preparing for the deluge of dogs that would soon hit the park. And given how hot it was, I thought this cooling station was a great idea:
By the time the gates opened, I was down at field level on the first base side and the wife or girlfriend of Power outfielder Walker Gourley came to say hello with her dog in tow:
After I snapped the above photo, the dog took notice of me enough that this next photo turned out sort of funny:
But that dog was far from the only pooch in the park. There were scores of them and there may have been one or two million barks over the next few hours. Dodging the consistent packs of dogs, I next hit the right field corner to watch West Virginia starter Tyler Glasnow get his warm-up tosses in:
The lanky Glasnow (6’7″, 195 lbs.) has had a great year, but struggled during my visit. He went just 3.2 innings and while he allowed only two hits, he walked seven batters and gave up seven runs.
Just before the anthem, I made it out to the left field spot I’d spotted earlier and hung out with this view:
In the bottom of the second, with a runner on second, Greensboro catcher Tony Caldwell connected on a ball that sailed deep to left-center, I was close to the foul pole and although I turned and ran toward where I expected the ball to land, it skipped once off the concourse before I could reach it and bounced through this fence into the parking lot on the other side of the road:
I temporarily thought about making a run for it, but a pedestrian walking along the sidewalk quickly changed direction and started walking toward the ball. I watched as he bent to grab it, but was surprised when he waved the ball at me.
“Here,” he said, getting ready to toss the home run ball over the fence to me.
“That’s OK,” I said. “You got it, not me.”
He shook his head and flipped the ball to me, adding, “I figure you was standing there trying to get a home run.”
Well, I can’t complain about that good fortune! I quickly checked the stats to see if the home run ball was notable for Caldwell, but it wasn’t. It was only his fourth in three years, but wasn’t his first at this level. I happily photographed the ball:
And then went behind home plate to watch an inning with this view:
From here, I was able to get a good look at Caldwell, too:
Caldwell’s home run got the Grasshoppers on the board, but it was hardly the only offense the team mustered. It scored 12 runs on 10 hits to cruise to an easy 12-3 win.
I spent the game’s late innings sitting on the first base side where I had a great view of Power first baseman Stetson Allie. Earlier in this road trip, I’d marveled at the size of Frank Thomas while standing next to him, and while few humans can draw similar comparisons, Allie is a BIG boy at 6’2″ and (listed at) 238 lbs. — at just 22 years old:
One more game to go on this road trip, and I can promise you it’s a special one!
I watched a heck of a lot of MiLB games in person last summer, and saw hundreds of players. When MLB released its Top 100 Prospects list last week, I started scrolling through it and was amazed at how many of these guys I saw throughout my travels. I also got photos of a bunch of them. Here they are:
#2: Bryce Harper – Hagerstown Suns
Harper was hurt when I visited Hagerstown, but I saw him and tried my hardest to get his autograph. I blogged about that entire experience, so check it out if you haven’t already seen it.
#12: Jesus Montero – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
I saw Montero, who was recently traded to Seattle, on the first day of my second big road trip. He didn’t play this game, but amusingly spent several minutes before first pitch standing on the top dugout step and making hand signals with his girlfriend several rows up. (I wish I’d gotten a photo, but I was sitting so close that it would’ve been blatantly obvious.)
#15: Jacob Turner – Erie SeaWolves
I actually got to see Turner pitch when he was with Erie. I stood right behind him as he was warming up in the bullpen, which was an amazing experience. He didn’t get the win, but gave up three runs through seven innings with eight strikeouts.
#25: Travis D’Arnaud – New Hampshire Fisher Cats
I’m happy I got to witness one game out of D’Arnaud’s 2011 Eastern League MVP season. On the game on July 28, he had a hit and a stolen base.
Four guys in the top 25. Not bad, right?
#35: Christian Yelich – Greensboro Grasshoppers
Yelich and his teammates played the Delmarva Shorebirds when I was there on June 28. Yelich didn’t get a hit, although in reviewing the box score, I’m amused to see the ‘Birds had five of their starting nine named Michael … including 1-2 hitters Michael Mooney and Michael Rooney. Collectively, the five Michaels went 1-18 in the game. But I digress.
#38: Matt Harvey – Binghamton Mets
I watched the B-Mets twice this season and saw Harvey start the game in Bowie on June 26. He got roughed up, giving up nine hits and four earned runs in 4.2 innings.
#40: Starling Marte – Altoona Curve
#51: Nick Castellanos – West Michigan Whitecaps
I saw Castellanos go 1-for-4 with an RBI during my visit to Comstock Park, MI to watch the West Michigan Whitecaps in May.
#56: Will Middlebrooks – Portland Sea Dogs
I was lucky enough to see Middlebrooks’ team on two occasions, both at home and on the road. On July 4 in Binghamton, he went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, two walks and three runs scored. He didn’t play at home on July 31.
#57: Anthony Gose – New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Despite stealing 70 bases in ’11, Gose only managed to get picked off when I saw him in July. Before the game, I was able to get his autograph.
#60: Rymer Liriano – Fort Wayne TinCaps
My May visit to Fort Wayne was one of my summer highlights. Seeing Liriano was pretty cool, too. He walked twice, stole two bases and scored two runs.
#73: Mason Williams – Staten Island Yankees
As I enjoyed eating crab at Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium, I watched Williams hit a triple and drive in two runs.
#75: Brad Peacock – Harrisburg Senators
I got to see Peacock pitch when I visited Harrisburg. He pitched a gem, going 6.2 innings with five hits allowed and no runs with six strikeouts. He’s since been traded to the Oakland A’s organization.
#88: A.J. Cole – Hagerstown Suns
Cole got the win on June 27 against Lakewood, throwing five innings of two-hit ball after Chien-Ming Wang pitched the first three in a rehab start.
#90: Jeurys Familia – Binghamton Mets
Familia got the start during my July 4 visit to Binghamton, and picked up his first win in the Eastern League, pitching five shutout innings and striking out six.
Of note, there were six guys on this list who weren’t in the lineup when I saw their teams. As such, I’m not counting them. (I’m counting Harper because of my successful quest to get his autograph.) But still, 15 out of the top 100 (and 22 if you count the guys who weren’t playing) is great. I hope to see even more of these guys, including some of the new draftees, on my travels this summer.