On the Road: Meeting the Mets in Kingsport
To see all posts from my June 26 visit to the Kingsport Mets, 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).
I began my Appalachian League road trip in Greeneville, Tennessee. The following day I had a new destination, and that destination was some 48 miles northeast of Greeneville: Hunter Wright Stadium, home of the Kingsport Mets. It was a Sunday afternoon, and my overriding memory was that it was hot. But it was also beautiful.
I was greeted outside of the stadium by Kingsport Mets general manager Brian Paupeck, who assumed that position prior to the 2013 season. He came to Kingsport after spending 10 seasons with the St. Lucie Mets, who are both operated by the parent New York Mets. While in St. Lucie, Paupeck apparently learned a thing or two about office decoration from St. Lucie general manager Traer Van Allen.
Here’s Van Allen’s bobblehead collection:
And here’s Paupeck’s, in Kingsport:
A rock quarry is located directly behind Hunter Wright Stadium, and Paupeck reported that controlled explosions at the quarry (which occur two-three times a week) cause the the bobbleheads in his office to start bobbling. It is my hope that one day Paupeck videos this phenomenon and then disseminates it via the internet.
Kingsport has been the Mets’ Rookie-level affiliate since 1980. A veritable who’s-who of future New York Metropolitans have started their careers there, including six who were on the 2015 pennant-winning squad. This season, Kingsport’s Opening Day roster included seven of the team’s top 10 prospects. Surely, the team’s Wall of Fame (or, more accurately, Chain Link Fence Hall of Fame) will continue to grow.
Slider had some measure of relief while standing in the so-called “Breezeway”, which leads to the seating bowl. Otherwise, this is a ballpark that provides very little relief from the heat (hence, the team plays the vast majority of its games at night).
Hunter Wright Stadium, owned by the city of Kingsport, opened in 1995. The city leases it to the Kingsport Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, who utilize it as a key piece in their tourism-promoting arsenal. A variety of high school and collegiate tournaments are held there annually, because baseball tournaments lead to greater hotel occupancy rates and greater hotel occupancy rates lead, in turn, to more hotel bed tax revenue.
The construction of Hunter Wright Stadium was more difficult than expected, due to the rocky terrain upon which it was built. A good portion of the budget went toward leveling the land, and the ballpark was built in sections. Therefore it has a bit of a Frankenstein’s Monster quality, with perhaps the most noticeable quirk being the placement of the press box.
The field was a nice place to be, outside of, you know, how hot it was. The players were mingling about, which is what players tend to do as game time becomes imminent. They are expert minglers.
The K-Mets, like many teams, have a Field of Dreams program in which local youth teams take the field along with the players. Or, in this case, a not-so-local youth team. The orange-shirted individuals in the below photo came from Cumberland, Kentucky, located approximately 60 miles away.
Pregame introductions gave way, as they often do, to the National Anthem. This particular iteration was a prerecorded organ version. Classic.
Once the anthem had concluded, a ballgame broke out. Sorry to be so predictable, but baseball is predictable. I do my best with the materials that I am given.
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