On the Road: Kicking Things Off in Greeneville

To see all my posts from my June 25 visit to the Greeneville Astros, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Okay. Here we go. Over the last two months I visited the entirety of the Appy League as well as 10 teams throughout California, Nevada, Idaho and Washington. I’ve written features and short blog posts from (nearly) all of these locations, with still more to come. On a personal level, I moved to a new apartment here in NYC and, one month later, have still not finished unpacking. Oh, and the Ben’s Biz T-shirt is now available! The cumulative effect of the above endeavors leads me to my favorite activity of all: excuse making! I just haven’t had the time (some might say the wherewithal) to return to the blog to write the in-depth ballpark recaps you have come to know and, surely, love.

But you know what? Now I’ve got the time. I’ve got it in spades. Today I’ll begin blogging about Appy clubs and their diamonds, with all the heart I muster. So let’s get to it, lest it get to us.

***

I flew into the city of Asheville, North Carolina, on the morning of June 25. I had no time to be a tourist, however, as I needed to get to neighboring Tennessee as soon as possible. So I hopped into a rental car, cranked up Complete Road Music Volume 1, shed a tear to some Red Sovine and hit the open road.

After checking into a hotel in Johnson City — my home base for the next five nights — I headed to Greeneville to see the Astros. I never quite made it to Greeneville, however, as the Astros actually operate in neighboring Tusculum. Their home of Pioneer Park, built in 2004 and funded via a sizable donation from local businessman/philanthropist Scott Niswonger, is located on the campus of Tusculum College. The Astros run the park between June 1 and September 15; otherwise it is under the control of the college.

IMG_0002Pioneer Park is the newest park in the Appy League. It has 2,500 seats, but can accommodate as many as 3,800 via berm seating. The Astros led the league in attendance from 2004-2014, but last year were dethroned by the Pulaski Yankees and their renovated Calfee Park. They are currently in fourth place in the 2016 attendance rankings, having been passed by the Burlington Royals and Johnson City Cardinals (two teams that have also made improvements to their facilities recently).

One of the first things I saw upon entering the ballpark was pitchers Diogenes Almengo and Patrick Sandoval signing pregame autographs.

IMG_0004Longtime season-ticket holders Bill and Don were not signing autographs, though they probably would if you asked nicely.

IMG_0005I spent an hour or so before the game with Astros general manager David Lane, who, when I arrived at the ballpark, was manning a ticket booth. (Such is life in the Appy League.) Among other locations, we stopped in one of Pioneer Park’s four suites.

IMG_0007This “Wheel of Fun” was donated by the parent Houston Astros. The primo prize, in my opinion, is “game-used item.”

IMG_0009 This Tusculum College athletic field is adjacent to the ballpark.

IMG_0011The clubhouses are located down the right-field line. In the below photo, I like to imagine that the player with the bat is actually carrying a bindle stick and that he has just decided to run away from home. His friend is bidding him goodbye and good luck.

IMG_0013The clubhouses are shared with the Tusculum baseball team, who once boasted a standout player by the name of Boo Morrow.

IMG_0016

And wouldn’t you know it? Today (August 30), is Boo Morrow’s birthday.

Capture

If you think this closet looks cluttered now, just think about what it looks like after the season ends. Then, the Astros have to stuff it with just about everything they own since they do not have access to the rest of the facility.

IMG_0017Longtime readers of this blog, of which there are several, know that I never pass up the opportunity to take a picture of a trainer’s table.

IMG_0018Clustered in the corner of a hallway were the remnants of the previous night’s fireworks show. MAXX CALIBER! (Lane also spotted four broken bats in the general vicinity, and grabbed them so they could be used as Wheel of Fun “game-used items.”)

IMG_0022The Pioneer Park grounds crew works year-round, on behalf of both the college and the Astros. Their storage space is ample.

IMG_0023Our visit to the dugout was brief, as a game was about to break out.

IMG_0019But before a game begins, patriotic protocols must be followed.

IMG_0025I watched the National Anthem while standing behind these two longtime fans. We’ll meet them in the next post.

IMG_0026

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: