On the Road: It’s Always a Tides Ballgame in Norfolk

To see all of posts from my June 27, 2015 visit to the Norfolk Tides (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

The drive from Richmond to Norfolk seemed like it would be simple enough — an approximately 90-mile excursion largely spent traveling eastbound on Route 64. I departed in the early afternoon, thinking I would have time to check into my hotel before heading out to the Norfolk Tides’ home of Harbor Park.

Instead the drive turned into a grim endurance test, due to the fact that access to Norfolk is gained after traveling through the Hampton Roads — Bridge Tunnel (HRBT). With just two lanes going in each direction, the HRBT,  built in the late ’50s, simply can’t accommodate the traffic it now receives. An estimated four o’clock arrival turned to 5 which turned to 6, at which point I skipped hotel check-in plans in favor of changing clothes in the stadium parking lot. (This is becoming routine. If you ever, for some reason, have the desire to see me shirtless then simply hang out in a media lot 60-90 minutes before game time.)

The photos I took outside of Harbor Park pain me to post, as they bring back memories regarding just how badly I had to pee upon arriving in Norfolk.

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It’s tough to see in the above photo, but “The Tide” light rail has a stop directly in front of the ballpark. This is a far more amenable transportation option than driving through the HRBT.

Harbor Park was built in 1993, and at that time it was considered one of the crown jewels of Minor League Baseball. It is certainly one of the larger ballparks that I’ve ever been to, reminding me of Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field on the outside and Syracuse’s NBT Bank Stadium within.

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From the team website:

Harbor Park features almost 9,000 lower deck seats, 2,800 upper deck seats, and 400 seats in 24 luxury skyboxes leased to area corporations. The park also features a 225-seat restaurant known as “Hits at the Park” which offers a full view of the playing field. Overlooking left field is a 300-person tiered picnic area. Total capacity for Harbor Park is 11,856. 

Shortly after arriving I rendezvoused with Tides director of media relations Ian Locke, who pointed me toward the nearest restroom. My night got so much better from there.

The gates had just opened, but fortunately Locke had just enough time to lead me on a brief tour around the stadium. For whatever reason, the first picture I took is of this “Boathouse BBQ” stand. You’d think a boathouse would serve seafood, but in this case you’d be wrong.

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Perhaps a better sense of the concourse can be obtained via this photo featuring the sovereign entity that is Hot Dog Nation. (Perhaps its capital city is Frankfurt.)

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Craft beer is blowing up across the country, figuratively in most cases. This trend has made its way into Harbor Park.

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There are 10 beers on tap here, and among the offerings here is a Harbor Park exclusive: Walkoff Kolsch, created by the local O’Connor Brewing Company.

The team store, meanwhile, must’ve been named by a coalition of Hallmark-figurine collecting grandmothers.

062Among the treasures that can be found therein are Star Wars-themed Tides merchandise.

006While the Tides currently do not offer any Fro-Yoda desserts, Flamingo Joe’s has you covered on the deep-fried front:

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A perhaps more nuanced dining experience can be found at “Hits at the Park,” a full-service restaurant open during every home game and year-round for events. The final post in this series will take place entirely within Hits at the Park, as two intrepid souls attempt the “Pork Challenge.”

008Back outside, in the right field corner, is the Shock Top Party Deck.

016From here, one has views of the field (I mean, of course).

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As well as the bullpens.

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The party deck also has views of the Elizabeth River, the proximity of which gives the stadium its “Harbor Park” name. The area beyond the ballpark has been designated an “environmentally protected wasteland,” which seems paradoxical to me. Perhaps my Dad the hydro-geologist can offer an explanation, in much the same way he once filled us in on karst topography in Bowling Green.

014Meanwhile, back behind home plate, a crowd had gathered. Team-logo flip-flops — perhaps not the best apparel for exploring environmentally protected wasteland — were being given away. I couldn’t decide if I wanted a pair or not, and kept going back and forth on the matter.

018Ian and I then headed upstairs to the second level, which provides a striking view of the Elizabeth River.

019Up here, as the press box gives way to suites, there is plenty of room in which to move. Once again, I had a flashback to being in the Buffalo Bisons’ home of Coca-Cola Field. 

024My wandering impulse, strong (and as obsessive-compulsive) as ever, then brought me down to left field. Life is but a picnic down there.

029I also happened upon a mascot doing karaoke on the field. One doesn’t see this every day.

One also doesn’t often see a concession stand named in honor of a long-time executive. .

033Rosie is 86-year-old Dave Rosenfield, who served as the Tides’ general manager from their 1963 inception through 2011. He still comes to the ballpark every day, in an “executive vice president role”, handling the team travel, calling three innings on the radio and, most impressively, devising the International League schedule by hand.

If you’re now thinking to yourself that Rosenfield sounds like a guy worth talking to, then you and I are on a similar wavelength. I went back upstairs and did just that.

039My interview with Rosenfield, which specifically dealt with how he creates the IL schedule each season, can be found here. It’s a really good read, if I do say so myself (and, of course, I just did).

“I’ve been in love with baseball since 1938,” Rosenfield told me during the end of our conversation. “That’s one helluva long time.”

The helluva long time in baseball has resulted in “One Helluva Life,” Rosenfield’s memoir about his time in the game. Among many career highlights, he got name-dropped in The Simpsons. 

Daverosenfield

I’d recommend reading Rosenfield’s memoir, and, less ambitiously, I’d also recommend reading Part Two of this Norfolk Tides blog series. It’ll appear shortly, and I hope you’ll reappear here to read it.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

1 Comment

Looks like a nice ballpark to see a game. I love ‘The Simpsons’ also, and that baseball has a special place on the show. Who doesn’t love the Springfield Isotopes?
-Mike

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