Today we’ll take a virtual tour of Space Coast Stadium. The stadium was built in 1994 and served as the Florida Marlins Spring Training site through 2002. In 2003, the Marlins swapped Spring Training sites with the Montreal Expos who had been training in Jupiter, Florida. When the Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005, they continued to use Space Coast Stadium for Spring Training through 2016. The stadium also served as the home of the Brevard County Manatees from 1994 to 2016.
The Manatees moved to Kissimmee, Florida, in 2017 and are now known as the Florida Fire Frogs. They subsequently moved into their new home, CoolToday Park in North Port, Florida, in 2019. The Washington Nationals also abandoned Space Coast Stadium in 2017, moving to FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, which they share with the Houston Astros. Space Coast Stadium became home to the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) in 2017 and after more than $30 million in renovations, was renamed the USSSA Space Coast Complex.
I’ve been to Nats’ Spring Training at both Space Coast Stadium and the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, and I gotta say, Space Coast Stadium was way cooler. Below are pictures from one of my first visits to the stadium in 2011.
PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, opened in 2001. I caught a game there in 2010. Kicking myself for never having gone to see a game at Three Rivers Stadium, I made sure to see PNC Park the first opportunity I had. And I was not disappointed. The stadium has beautiful views of the Pittsburgh skyline and Roberto Clemente Bridge, which crosses the Alleghany River connecting one side of Pittsburgh to another. Enjoy your virtual tour of PNC Park!
I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of having to work from home – I believe in a strict separation of work and home, so this is beginning to stress me out. I had to check out a couple hours yesterday and do nothing. Please take care of yourself during this stressful time. If you’re at home feeling the same way I did yesterday, go outside (while remaining at a safe distance from others), get some fresh air, and take a few moments to relax or just do nothing. When you have some down time, do something you love. And what I love is baseball – so, in addition to trying to write about it every day, I enjoy sharing pictures of my baseball adventures.
Recently I stumbled upon a cool YouTube video that has pictures of the Camden Yards area of Baltimore before Oriole Park at Camden Yards was built. I figured I’d post it today since yesterday was supposed to be Opening Day.
Last year, MLB announced that in 2020 teams will be required to expand the protective netting that protects fans from foul balls and errant bats at their home ballparks. Several Spring Training stadiums also have expanded netting, including Ed Smith Stadium where the Baltimore Orioles play their Spring Training games.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get hit. Of the hundreds or thousands of baseball games I’ve been too, I’ve never come that close to getting hit by a foul ball. But as the saying goes, “never say never.”
This past Sunday, I had plans to attend the Orioles game at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. We decided to get there super early to enjoy the sunshine and watch batting practice. Our favorite seats are in section 101 – right next to the Orioles’ bullpen and right field. We noticed the expanded netting right away, remarking that it made it really hard to see the field and even harder to take pictures, as the camera had trouble focusing through the net. As a result, we stopped paying attention. We couldn’t really see who was taking batting practice – but it was probably Yankees’ minor leaguers that we wouldn’t be able to identify anyway.
Was one of these guys the culprit????
NEVER STOP PAYING ATTENTION!! In a moment’s time, I became one of those people I silently criticize at ballparks. I was looking down at my phone forming a Tweet about being at the stadium when all of a sudden my phone went flying out of my hand. At first, I was confused. How did that happen?, I wondered. Next, I felt a searing pan going through my hand. Then I saw a baseball bouncing away. Finally it dawned on me: I’d just been hit by a foul ball. Or, more accurately: The Yankees just hit me with a foul ball! (I always knew the Yankees were no good! They even hit Zack Britton in much the same way a couple days later.)
My immediate concern was grabbing the baseball that was now rolling around underneath the seats a few rows in front of me. If I was going to be in that much pain, I should at least get the baseball! An usher sauntered over and asked what was going on. I didn’t have time to respond – I had to get that ball. My husband explained I’d just gotten hit by a ball. The usher said I should get ice. I ignored him, my eyes trained on the ball that was now about 7 rows ahead of me. Finally, someone went over to pick it up. I stared at him, silently willing him to give it to me. He reached across the rows and handed it to me. I lamely said something like, “Thanks – I deserved that one.”
Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
My ball secured, I allowed myself to be taken to the first aid station. By then, my hand was hurting like it had never hurt before. The paramedic on duty looked at it and said it didn’t look too bad, but since I was crying and near-panicked at that point, he recommended I go to the hospital for x-rays. For a second, I wondered to myself if that could wait until after the game. But my hand hurt really, really bad, so I agreed to go then and there.
We spent the next few hours at the hospital, watching the game with Game Day on the MLB app on our phones. While there, I interacted with about four different nurses, one doctor, and the x-ray technician. They asked questions about how I’d gotten hit, including really dumb questions like, “were you playing or watching?” It was like they had absolutely no idea Major League Baseball Spring Training was happening just down the street! I found that very disturbing.
Fortunately, nothing was broken. The very tired-looking and over-worked-looking doctor called it a “contusion,” gave me a splint, and told me to be careful. Someone else joked that I should use a glove next time. I was just irritated I’d missed a perfectly good Spring Training game featuring one of my favorite Orioles’ minor leaguers, Yusniel Diaz.
At least I finally “caught” my first foul ball. So much for the net.
Thursday night will mark the end of an era: the Potomac Nationals (lovingly referred to as the P-Nats) will play their last game in Pfitzner Stadium. After 25 years, the team is moving from Woodbridge, VA, to a stadium far, far away (at least for me) in Fredericksburg, VA. Last Saturday, I saw what just might have been my last P-Nats game. It was an emotional night.
The Potomac Nationals entered this world as the Alexandria Dukes in 1978, an expansion team in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. That first season, they were a co-op team, meaning they weren’t affiliated with any one MLB team, but had players from more than one team. They were affiliated with the Seattle Mariners in 1979 (and known as the Alexandria Mariners), but were a co-op team again in 1980. From 1981 to 1983, they were affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I didn’t know the team then, but I wish I did. Alexandria Dukes players included Mickey Mantle, Jr.; Rick Renteria; Bobby Bonilla; Rafael Belliard; and Joe Orsulak (a future Oriole). They even won the Carolina League Championship in 1982.
The Dukes played in Municipal Stadium at Four Mile Run Park in Alexandria. According to Baseball Reference, “The ballpark was of high school caliber, with metal stands seating around 1,500 with a few metal folding chairs standing in for box seats, and almost no facilities or concessions (the team was prohibited from selling alcohol because the park was on land belonging to an elementary school).” Not surprisingly, then, the team announced it would be moving after the 1983 season.
The stadium formerly known as Davis Ford Park (named after the main road to the stadium) was built in 1984. It is located in Woodbridge, VA, adjacent to the McCoart Government Center. It was to this 6,000 seat stadium that the newly re-named Prince William Pirates made their home after moving from Alexandria for the 1984 season.
In 1987, the team changed Major League affiliations and became known as the Prince William Yankees. Prospects like Hensley Meulens, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Brad Ausmus, and Bernie Williams, played on the team. In 1989, the team changed its name to the Prince William Cannons, but maintained its affiliation with the Yankees until 1994 when it became the class-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The team changed affiliations again 1997 (St. Louis Cardinals) and 2003 (Cincinnati Reds). Thus, more future stars played for Prince William, including: Magglio Ordonez, Albert Puljos, Coco Crisp, and Joey Votto.
According to the team’s website, the team rebranded in 1999 as the Potomac Cannons, “to better represent their fan base, which covers much of the Northern Virginia region.” They became the Potomac Nationals in 2005, when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, DC, becoming the Washington Nationals and the Major League affiliate of the P-Nats.
Tomorrow, as the team celebrates its last night at the Pfitz, I’ll post a little more about the old stadium, the new stadium, and the end of an era.
The photo reminds us the links between the Houston Astros and the space program and how sport and community are closely intertwined. The Astros and their former stadium, the Astrodome, were named in honor of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, which had opened its doors in Houston in 1963 (it was renamed Johnson Space Center in 1973). At the Astrodome, Earthmen tended to the astroturf, Spacettes helped you find your seats, and the Astros played baseball.
In a great example of the intersection among baseball, pop culture, and American history, this summer baseball fans at 15 stadiums across the country will have the opportunity to see and interact with a replica of the spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong 50 years ago when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The replica suit was created from 3-D scans of the original spacesuit that was restored in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, which happened on July 20, 1969.
The thing that led me to become a baseball sociologist is the simple fact that each team and ballpark has their own distinct personality. Part of that is the traditions that occur at the park. At Nats Park, traditions include the President’s Race, a stupid cheer (“Nats, Nats, Nats, Woo!”), singing stupid songs at the 7th inning (like “Take on Me” by A-ha), showing up late, and roaming around the stadium not really paying attention to the game. I caught several of these on camera at the game I attended last week.
Saluting the military:
The presidents and the Presidents’ Race:
The bullpen cart that almost nobody rides in (but it still zooms around the park anyway):
Standing around chatting, not paying attention to the game, and blocking the view for those of us who actually want to watch the game:
Over the past several years, my annual Memorial Day post has sought to remind us that Memorial Day is a holiday to honor and remember those who died while serving in the Armed Forces. While baseball fans have the day off, players don special uniforms, MLB tries to sell us those special uniforms, and Justin Verlander continues to educate us about Memorial Day poppies, its also important to take time to think about what Memorial Day really means. Last year we honored Elmer Gedeon, baseball player and Army Captain, who died during World War II. This year, we remember Dell Chambers, who died while serving in Vietnam.
Udell Chambers was born on February 2, 1948, in Clayton, Missouri, and attended Kirkwood High School in nearby Kirkwood, MO. According to the website, Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice, developed by Gary Bedingfield, “Dell was perfectly suited as a shortstop or centerfielder, and he was the prototype leadoff hitter. He possessed such remarkable baseball talent during his prep years that he was recruited by the Atlanta Braves during his senior year in 1966. He reported to Sarasota (Florida) of the Gulf Coast League and was playing professional baseball just weeks after receiving his cap and gown.”
At the age of 18, Chambers signed with the Atlanta Braves and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Braves. The next season he was promoted to the Class A Lexington Braves of the Western Carolinas League. In 1967, he batted .325 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI. He received his draft notice in September 1967, just after the end of the season. He was assigned to the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division and did basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. His unit was sent to Vietnam in February 1968, two weeks after the beginning of the Tet Offensive. On the night of June 21, 1968, Chambers was stationed just outside the city of Da Nang in the Binh Duong Province when the North Vietnamese attacked. Chambers and two fellow soldiers from his unit, Sgt. William Law and PFC James Zyboyovski, died in the attack. Chambers was just 20 years old.
Chambers was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. As the Baseball Greatest Sacrifice website notes, “[Chambers] was very well liked by those who knew him; he had tremendous potential as a baseball athlete; and he served his country during a most unpopular war and paid for it with his life. We all owe him our indebted gratitude.” Thank you for your sacrifice, PFC Chambers.