On the Road: Sounds Like a Good Time in Nashville
I visited Nashville’s Greer Stadium on Thursday, May 9th. The Sounds were expecting me:
Two days later I was asked by another writer, via Twitter, my thoughts on the ballpark and my 140-character summation was as follows:
“It’s a bit of a dump and inadequate for the needs of such a large market…BUT…it’s got a ramshackle charm that I really enjoy.”
I stand by that sentiment, which isn’t surprising since said sentiment is, as I type this in a Savannah hotel room, less than 24 hours old. Greer Stadium — 35 years old and showing its age — is no one’s idea of an ideal facility (especially in a major market that boasts the NFL, NHL and a plethora of top-flight cultural attractions). But until that far away and as of now theoretical day when a new downtown stadium gets built, this out of the way anomaly will have to do. And I, for one, think it does just fine. If you like ramshackle charm — yes, three paragraphs in and I’m already quoting myself — then I think you’ll like it too.
The area surrounding the stadium is rather hilly (Fort Negley, built by occupying Union forces during the Civil War, sits adjacent), and while walking in and around Greer one often has the feeling of not being totally on the level. Upon entering the stadium the concrete slopes downward quite sharply, which, on this particular occasion, led fans directly to a box of underwear.
The briefs were being given away by Gildan, a Triple-A baseball sponsor, who were asking fans to take Instagram pictures during the game tagged #gildanfavorites. What a life this gentleman in the middle of the picture has had — from serving in Korea and Vietnam to being given free underwear at a Minor League Baseball game as part of a social media initiative. I bet he was Instagramming all night long.
From the concourse to the press box, where I took the first of many photos that includes Greer’s iconic guitar scoreboard. No strings attached!
Per the team: The guitar-shaped scoreboard is a fan favorite for all who come to Greer Stadium. Its total width is nearly 116 feet — 60′ (guitar body), 36′ (scoreboard/neck), 19.6′ (turning key section). The height is 53′ and depth is 24″.
The vast expanse of seats, just waiting for the throngs of “Throwback Thursday” fans ($5 admission w/coupon and $2 beer, soda and concession items, all while the team wears its throwback blue jerseys).
Some of these seats are in better shape than others. These, down the third base line, are a tad sunbleached.
I briefly ascended to the top of the stadium to check out the view from Slugger’s (a bar and restaurant open to all fans).
These elevated meanderings were cut short however, as I had urgent business to attend to on the ground level. My media pass was contingent upon being a contestant in the nightly Tire Race.
As the game began, I, media relations director Alex Wassel, and my fellow tire race qualifiers were crouched in the aisle while waiting for our big racing moment. I took a few pictures from this vantage point.
The National Anthem, as sung by a burly trio known as The Kentucky Lineman (far left, their arms around one another).
With the game underway, it’s time to play a game within a game called “Can you name that Fresno Grizzlie head”? There are nine heads in this picture, please list who they belong to (left to right) and leave your answer in the comments section. There is no prize, and I don’t know the answer, but, please, just do it, just because.
Throwback Thursday, underway!
The fans, from the get-go, were rooting for Fresno to go down in de-feet.
With that burst of photographic artfulness out of the way, I handed my camera to Wassel so that he could document the tire race exploits.
What, me Ozzie?
How it went down:
Yes, that dude totally wiped out at second base and still won.
I checked my phone after the race and saw that I had an urgent text from one Heather Beshore: “I’m hungry!”
Heather was to be the evening’s designated eater, and if you’re new to the blog (the most underrated enterprise in all of sports media) then let me explain: I have recruited a “designated eater” at each ballpark that I visit, and this individual is tasked with eating the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet does not allow (I was diagnosed with celiac disease last season. Waaaah).
I was put in touch with Heather after recieving an email from her boyfriend, Chris, who is also eating gluten-free these days. She’s a Florida native who came to Nashville for grad school and then decided to stay, and her job currently has something to do with 401K plans (she didn’t provide many details, in favor of eating a hamburger).
“Chris is from Wisconsin and he loves the Brewers [the Sounds’ parent club], so when he comes here he’s really into the baseball,” said Heather. “Me, I just come for the food!”
True to form, then, Chris opted to stay downstairs and watch baseball while Heather and I went up to Slugger’s.
That’s Heather with an “Ozzie Burger” and a Blue Moon, which we had procured at the concourse-level Bullpen Burgers. (Her favorite Greer Stadium food option, The Dog Pound, was unfortunately closed for the evening).
So, yes, the burger it was. It was falling apart from the get-go.
As for the Ozzie Burger, Heather was non-plussed.
“I’d give it a 5 or a 6,” she said. “It’s juicy, and a little messy, but it lacks the spice and charm of a home-made burger. It’s a little too generic.”
She also helpfully explained that, even though the burger is named after Ozzie the mascot, “it does not taste like cat.”
BUT! She then raved about a prior experience with Slugger’s BBQ Pork Nachos, so I grabbed an order of those as well.
Heather, as you can see, was hesitant to be documented in mid-bite. That’s fine! This whole “designated eater” thing is an experiment, and for now I don’t really have any rules with it. I’m just glad people are willing to do it, and it’s been a fun way to meet a new person at every ballpark. Heather was relaxed and engaging and had a great sense of humor about the whole thing.
She also had a lot of nachos (okay, I may have had some as well, trying to avoid the gluten-ous processed cheese).
“I’m still very happy even though I’m full,” said Heather. “I’m happy I had food, and I’m happy I ate it.”
Okay, back to the game action.
The usual shenanigans:
Scooter vs. the Scoreboard (long-time readers and/or Appletonians might get that reference).
I may have totally misheard, but I’m pretty sure these bullpen denizens were debating the merits of various Norman Lear-produced sitcoms.
Following Ozzie’s pawprints, I took a walk through the concourse. Although I missed the chance to take a picture of them, I soon was greeted by two goofy white kids about 12 years of age.
“Hello, sir, I am Chief Keef,” said one.
“I am Waka Flaka,” said the other. “Please buy my album.”
But anyway. Pictures of the ramshackle charm in full effect.
Let it be known that, on this particular evening, the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Southern Division was as close as it could possibly be. Almost.
Those teams, like these people, are back-to-back-back-to-back.
My wanderings led me to the other side of the ballpark, shockingly enough, and, even more shockingly, a game was still going on.
The Greer Garden has seen better days, it appears.
Despite being a decent crowd overall, it was totally deserted in this beyond-the-outfield area. I made a Vine video expressing my profound feeling of isolation, and hope that you may devote six seconds to it. (Follow me on Twitter — @bensbiz — to see all Vine videos as soon as they are posted).
Back in civilization! I love the enthusiasm of these women, who were playing a “Choose the Box” game that netted Becky (in the Pirates jersey) Sounds tickets and a Burger King gift card. So much emotion!
(Later in the evening I saw a member of Rat Patrol in the restroom, so I lingered by the sink so that I could ask a few questions about the organization. But, of course, the dude opted not to wash his hands and, looking back, it was very naive of me to have assumed otherwise.)
On a similarly rock n roll note: the day before, Jack White had been in attendance along with employees of his Nashville-based Third Man record label. (Also, a record-pressing plant is located across the street from the stadium!) This picture later surfaced on Third Man’s Instagram page, although it was free from any underwear-related taggings:
I spent the last two innings with Adam Hayes, a video intern for the Milwaukee Brewers who, using a thing called technology, extensively documents every Sounds home game.
For more on Hayes and how he operates, read my MiLB.com story! That is not a request, but a demand.
The game concluded with an 11-7 Sounds victory, and as the stadium was emptying out I ran into Dave Clark and Doug Cornfield, from the Dave Clark Foundation. You may remember them from my Fort Myers visit from last season, and/or my story on the “Special Needs Baseball Camp” for disabled youth. They were in town to run a disability camp at Greer Stadium over the weekend –a worthwhile cause, and more will be held at Minor League parks throughout the season. Always worth supporting!
So, anyway, to sum it up: If ramshackle charm is your thing then get thee to Greer!