Mike McCann / Minor Leagues
By Mike McCann
I was finally able to go on a little trip and see some new stadiums this year. I happened to be in Dallas in late May, so I decided to see some games in the general vicinity. I saw four new stadiums by seeing the Oklahoma RedHawks, Arkansas Travelers, Memphis Redbirds and Frisco RoughRiders. My favorite was Frisco because I think that they strayed away from the norm when designing the stadium. After seeing games in so many stadiums, I like to see things that set a stadium apart from the others.
Many of the new stadiums are designed in a similar fashion. Most try to have a pathway around the entire stadium and include some sort of picnic area and grass area for general admission. I definitely don't think that there is anything wrong with these designs. Most of the stadiums that follow this general pattern look really nice. The average fan isn't going to see a number of minor league baseball stadiums, so most teams are trying to get the fans to attend a game instead of some other form of entertainment.
The Shreveport Swamp Dragons were purchased last year and moved to Frisco, TX which is a suburb of Dallas. The Frisco RoughRiders are the AA affiliate of the Texas Rangers. They moved into Dr. Pepper / Seven-Up Ballpark for their inaugural 2003 season. The stadium is located just north of Dallas right off the Dallas Tollway, although they are still working on building the tollway that far north. I think this is a pretty convenient location because people have easy access to it from an expressway.
The ballpark itself is located right next to a mall. I didn't have any problems finding a parking spot in the designated ballpark parking at the mall even though it was a little bit of a walk, but really no further than many other places. I have heard some people complain about the fact that they have to park about a half mile away and take a shuttle bus to the game, but really I don't think it is too bad. I've spend well over an hour just trying to get out of a parking garage after a game, so I wouldn't complain about something like that.
I know that many people prefer stadiums in the downtown portions of cities, but I definitely prefer the more suburban location near an expressway. I'm not very interested in fighting traffic and finding a local parking garage to park in. I would much rather take an interstate to a given exit and then into a stadium parking lot about five minutes later (although if you get there close to the starting time, that five minutes can be much longer). People like making a trip to a baseball game into a bigger experience by getting dinner or going to a bar afterwards, but I'd much rather get some fast food on the way and be there when the gates open.
The most noticeable thing about the Frisco ballpark is the bullpens. The bullpens are located in the stands. I have a nice picture on my website if you'd like to see. Personally, I think this is a really nice idea. I spoke with Frisco pitcher Tom Graham and asked him about the bullpens. He told me that he thought they were great. They are less of a distraction for the pitchers warming up because fewer people are there staring at them. Many bullpens are located in the foul area on the field, right next to the first row of seats, where all the fans are staring down at the pitcher warming up. These are an enclosed area away from the field, but there are fans on all sides. I like to see some originality in the design of a stadium.
The stadium also has free standing buildings rather than a big concourse that is all connected. It looks nice to have all separate buildings for concessions, restrooms and the upper level luxury boxes. It is nice to have things a little more spread out.
I did notice a few things that I didn't like very much though. Most stadiums have a clock somewhere in the stadium, usually in the outfield at the scoreboard. I couldn't seem to find one there, but then again, sometimes I miss things. Another thing which I've noticed in many new stadiums is that they no longer post the starting lineups. When I ask where the starting lineups are posted, the staff usually tells me that the rosters are located in the program. Then when I explain how many places post the starting lineups for people who keep score, they look at me like they have no clue what I'm talking about. The starting lineups are still announced by the PA announcer, but I like to write them down before the game. It seems to me that keeping score at a baseball game is a lost art which is why most places give out free programs since many people have no interest in buying them.
I also got to see a pretty good baseball game as well. Frisco defeated Tulsa, 5-3. I was most looking forward to seeing Rangers prospect Laynce Nix play. He was the MVP of the Florida State League last year. Luckily for me, he didn't disappoint. He hit a three run home run in the first inning to give Frisco a lead that they would never give up. He also made an excellent catch in center field. I also saw Tulsa Manager Marv Foley and CF Cory Sullivan ejected in separate incidents for arguing balls and strikes. Tulsa Hitting Coach Theron Todd was almost ejected too, but I think the umpire spared him just so they had somebody to lead the team. When Sullivan was tossed, it forced Tulsa to switch a number of players around in the field. As seems to be more common than not in minor league games, they never announced the position changes after Sullivan left (possibly because they were like me trying to figure out what was going on). Since I'm keeping score, I wanted to know that LF Matt Holliday moved to CF, 1B Kevin Burford moved to LF and Tino Sanchez entered the game to play 1B.
Overall, I thought it was a really good experience. I definitely enjoyed
the game and the ballpark. But then again, I enjoy pretty much every
baseball game I attend.
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