Results tagged ‘ Regions Field ’

On the Road: Grinnin’ and Baronin’ It in Birmingham

Welcome back! When the previous post had concluded, a Southern League baseball game had just broken out at brand-new Regions Field in downtown Birmingham.

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With the game underway, it was time, of course, for a trip to the concession stand. You probably know the drill by now — my gluten-free diet prohibits me from enjoying most ballpark food items, so at each stadium I visit I recruit a “designated eater” who samples the cuisine instead. In Birmingham this individual was Abby Southerland, a University of Alabama graduate now in her second season as a media relations intern.

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Despite the fact that Abby was a team employee and I the world’s most talented, beloved and universally respected Minor League Baseball blogger, we were left to the wolves when it came to food procurement. The Barons hadn’t had much time to prepare after moving in to the new ballpark, and the lines at the concession stands were long and slow moving.

Like the Davies brothers waiting to use the treadmill, there were still some Kinks to work out.

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A new location of Alabama’s iconic Dreamland BBQ now exists in Regions Field’s outfield entertainment area, but it wasn’t yet open on the night I was in attendance. So Abby and I instead braved the line at Piper’s Pub and Grill, which, as a consolation prize, featured several items that incorporated Dreamland ingredients.

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We ended up with this array:

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Item Number One, on the far left, is the Magic City Dog (Magic City is Birmingham’s nickname, but you knew this). This item is comprised of a 1/4 pound smoked sausage, cole slaw, BBQ sauce, and spicy brown mustard.

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Abby gave it a go:

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Abby’s take: “The spiciness of the mustard gives it a kick, and the cole slaw gives it a real Southern feel. And then the sausage, that’s classic, so altogether this is a good ballpark food.”

Next up was the Dreamland BBQ Nachos:

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“You come to Birmingham, you want good Southern food, you go to Dreamland. That’s what people will tell you,” said Southerland, a Birmingham native. “This is a good finger food, one of those things you just have to try.”

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As for me? While people are often deeply sympathetic to my gluten-free circumstances, I’m always like ‘Nah, it ain’t that bad” and explain that there are always options. My attempt to consume a small orb of concourse luminescence turned out to unsuccessful…

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but I had no problem with this pickle. More teams should sell pickles!

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New online dating profile pic

It took a while for me to get the pickle out of my mouth, but once I did I looked up and realized that a dual no-hitter was going on.

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The first hit of the game occurred almost immediately after I took the picture. That’s how these things work.

But anyway, with the concessions portion of the evening out of the way — thanks, Abby! — I was pretty much left to my own devices. Just an ineffectual man wandering around with an ineffectual plan, of no concern to the stadium’s elite and hoi polloi alike.

I took pictures, I did.

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Like Dreamland BBQ, this “Power Force” batting cage wasn’t yet open on the night that I was in attendance. But it’s pretty unique in that it’s the batting cage the players will use, and fans can then take their hacks during the game.

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But who wants to be in a cage on such a beautiful night?

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This outfield play area, manned by a gameday employee (on the mound) is really cool.

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It was all very vague, but earlier in the evening I’d been told that I was to be a participant in some sort of between-inning tomfoolery. This allowed for a stop at my favorite area of any ballpark: the promo closet.

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Turns out that I was selected as a Chicken Dance participant. I mean, sure, whatever, dude’s got to make a living. I gave my camera to a promo intern to document my fowl maneuvers, and I guess she thought I wanted her to take a picture of me right there and then.

Oh, hello.

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She also took a picture of her and a friend, who now achieve internet immortality by appearing on this blog.

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I think this picture  sums up my enthusiasm for this particular iteration of the Chicken Dance.

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If you’re one of those people who is obsessive about team store ceiling height, then you’re going to want to contact the Barons for the specific dimensions of this imminently airy retail operation. It’s vertically proficient!

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Segues are for losers. Long streams of disconnected images, on the other hand? That’s where it’s at!

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Oh, hey, look, the Barons won! I had barely noticed.

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And when the Barons win, you win! And when something is free, you don’t have to purchase it! Who knew?

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The game may have ended, but this post (and, by extension, this seemingly never-ending stream of road trip coverage) is going to keep right on going. I spent that night in the Birmingham Sheraton, and, as you can see, I loved it there:

 

That morning was an 11 a.m. Education Day game or Kid’s Day game or Kidpacalypse or whatever you want to call it, so back in the rental car it was for one final stadium drive. I was a bit late in arriving, and the parking lot I had utilized the day before was full. I  then circled around construction sites and detour signs and dead ends until I began to feel like I was trapped in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

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So close, yet so far

I eventually found a spot about 11/32 of a mile from the ballpark, and upon entering the stadium found myself in the midst of madness. My take on Kid’s Day promos can be summed up thusly:

Kids were everywhere, most of them shrieking like insects out of Hades, but looking on the bright side it was a beautiful day. Here’s another barrage of photos for you, largely unencumbered by words.

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introspective mascot

introspective mascot alert

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Can’t get no relief

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A great way to spend three innings or so.

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This shot of the first base concourse  illustrates Regions Field’s impressive (and imposing) steel warehouse motif, as well as its altogether Brobdingnagian dimensions.

137 For one inning there toward the end, I actually sat down and watched the game like a normal person. It didn’t feel right.

139But you know what does feel right? Bringing this blog post to an end. Eight MiLB.com features, 10 blog posts, and two dozen Vines later, road trip number one of the 2013 season is now officially in the books.

Thank you for reading. Next time I file an “On the Road” dispatch, it will be from the great state of Wisconsin.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On the Road: From Very Old to Very New in Birmingham

My first road trip of the season ended in Birmingham, and it ended in Birmingham for a reason: the Barons’ Regions Field is one of two new Minor League Baseball stadiums to open in 2013 (the other is in Hillsboro, Oregon, home of the brand-new Hops. I’ll be visiting on August 10).

Driving into Birmingham, I had a stadium’s address entered into my trusty GPS — 1137 2nd Ave. W . But this address wasn’t the one belonging to Regions Field. It brought me here instead:

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Yes, 103-year-old Rickwood Field, home of the Barons from 1910-1986.

If you ever get the chance to visit Birmingham, then Rickwood is a must. It’s kept in great shape by the non-profit Friends of Rickwood organization, and is open to the public daily for self-guided tours. I visited in 2010 for the annual Rickwood Classic (in which the Barons return to their old home for a mid-week matinee), and coverage from that event can be read HERE and HERE.

But let’s move from the there and was to the here and now. As you may have noticed in this post’s second photo, there was a gathering of people on the field at the time I arrived. This wasn’t just any gathering of people — it was members of the 1964 Birmingham Barons, the first integrated sports team in the history of Alabama. They were in town for a reunion, which was inspired by the release of Larry Colton’s new book on the team: Southern League: A True Story of Baseball, Civil Rights, and the Deep South’s Most Compelling Pennant Race. 

As I arrived at Rickwood, the ’64 Barons were posing for pictures for a small assemblage of local media. Colton is third from the left (holding a copy of his book), while prominent alumnus Blue Moon Odom is fourth from the right.

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I made it there just in time, as mere seconds after this photo was taken these old teammates dispersed and left Rickwood in order to travel to Regions Field for the evening’s ballgame. I lingered around for another 10 minutes or so, taking pictures all the while.

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The locker rooms now serve as a makeshift museum and Friends of Rickwood office space.

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All things considered, the showers are in good shape.

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Even though I missed most of it I’d like to thank Friends of Rickwood member Joe DeLeonard for alerting me to the 1964 Barons Rickwood visit. At the very least, it gave me an excuse to visit this beautiful old ballpark.

This was my view from the Rickwood Field parking lot…

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and approximately 10 minutes and two-point-something miles later my view was this:

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 This is the parking lot, or at least one of them, for Regions Field. Its ramshackle nature is indicative of the area as a whole, which is the midst of being  — buzz word alert — revitalized! From this parking lot one can be driven to the stadium in style, but being a proud biped I chose to walk.

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 The short walk to the stadium exemplifies the current bedraggled state of the area surrounding Regions Field, as well as its promise. This is something that I wrote about more extensively in my MiLB.com piece on the stadium, which I hope you might take the time to check out.

Wide open spaces:

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A team bus cozies up to its improbable best friend abandoned building. (I’m in the midst of writing a pilot script for a proposed sitcom entitled “The Adventures of Team Bus and Abandoned Building.” Let me know if you want to contribute to the Kickstarter.)

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 Relics of an industrial past.

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 After walking underneath this bridge (as a freight train rumbled overhead), the scenery changed quite dramatically.

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 For there, on the left, is Railroad Park. This public space opened in 2010, and is the literal centerpiece of these downtown revitalization efforts.

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 I’m no cartographer, but I believe that Regions Field abuts the north side of Railroad Park. You can’t miss it.

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One thing I did miss, however, was a decent photo of the brick and steel facade that features “BIRMINGHAM” in huge letters. This aerial photo from the team’s website illustrates just what it is I’m talking about here.

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Birmingham, Birmingham, Sweetest city in Alabam

 First impressions:

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 A next level view:

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 I had proceeded to this elevated vantage point in order to see my old friends the 1964 Barons, who were conducting a pre-game press conference.

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 After a general Q and A session with local media, I had the chance to interview Colton and Odom about the groundbreaking ’64 campaign. You can read that  — please! — over on MiLB.com.

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Immediately after the interview concluded we descended to the level of Barons and Biscuits alike.

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 The 1964 Barons odyssey continued, as now they were gathering on the field for a ceremonial first pitch.

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 The purpose of this photo is two-fold — gaze upon Minor League Baseball’s newest videoboard whilst learning facts about Blue Moon.

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 Ceremonial first pitch chaos:

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 The Biscuit contingent had risen rapidly since the last time I had checked in on their visitor’s dugout environs.

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 So many ups and downs! For reasons I can’t quite recall, I was soon back up on the second floor. On the journey there I snapped this photo of the expansive bar and lounge area down below.

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 My destination was a bit more modest, however, as down this corridor lurked the press box.

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 Define “working”

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 It is from this location that I watched the game begin, with the Biscuits taking on the Barons in Minor League Baseball’s newest facility.

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I’ve got quite a bit more to report from Regions Field, so I think the best course of action would be to make this a two-part post.

But since I’m still a bit under my self-imposed 1000 word minimum, a limerick:

There once was a team called the Barons

On the side of caution, they weren’t erring

Displaying operational agility

They moved to a new facility

And well they seem to be faring

What? I’m still not at a thousand words? This is crazy. Here’s a haiku:

I’m wasting my time/obsessive and compulsive/For word counts, care not

I am STILL not at 1000 words, but at the end of this completely gratuitous sentence I will be. Or at least I thought I would be. I do my best.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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