Friday, July 10, 2009

It's a Quaint Old Ballpark...

TigerBlog took in the local double-A minor league team this week at Waterfront Park along the banks of the Delaware River, from which you can see Pennsylvania from your seat. This TigerBlogger was also once in a situation in which he parked his car in one state and walked to a major league game in another. Bonus points if you can name which stadium that is.

Anyway, this particular TigerBlogger remembers seeing the California Angels during the time when they held their spring training in Palm Springs Stadium in the late '80s-early '90s before the Halos moved camp to Tempe, Ariz., to be closer to the Cactus League competition and play in a nicer facility. As you can see from the pictures of the two facilities, there's just no comparison.

It's an arms race that mirrors what is going on in college athletics, where it's harder to tell the difference between a professional park used from April through September and a college park used for a much shorter spring season. The last time Princeton baseball played in the NCAA tournament, it played at Arkansas' stadium, which, according to Arkansas' site, has 10,500 chair-back seats and 34 luxury boxes. For college baseball.

Even the College World Series is getting in on the act, opening a brand new stadium to be used mostly just for the annual two-week tournament in June while the Kansas City Royals triple-A team, which draws less than the CWS does, will be opening their own new park. Rosenblatt Stadium, which the two currently share, will no longer stand after the 2010 season, if everything goes according to plan.

Plenty of Princeton alums have played professional baseball, and three more just got drafted last month. To make some comparisons and see if this trend of minor league parks that look like major league parks is really everywhere, TigerBlog cut the list of Princeton's all-time professional players down to those who reached at least double-A and were drafted in the 1980s or 1990s, which isn't really that long ago.

Five Tigers fit into that category:

Steve Kordish, a 1983 draftee, reached double-A with the Texas Rangers' club in Tulsa, whose ballpark is still in use.

Mark Lockenmeyer, a 1981 draftee, reached that level with the New York Mets' AA club in Jackson, Miss. That one is no longer in use.

Dan Arendas, drafted in 1986, played double-A ball with the Yankees' club near Albany, N.Y., at a field that is now in ruins.

Matthew Golden, drafted in 1994, played in double-A in Little Rock, Ark., in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The Arkansas Travelers have also moved on to bigger and better park.

Bringing it back home, Tom Hage was drafted in 1996 and played his double-A ball in the Eastern League, both in the Baltimore Orioles' system in Bowie, Md., and at Waterfront Park in Trenton for the (then) Boston Red Sox AA team. Still plenty of EL baseball played at both parks.

So, in TB's little sample, that's three of the five parks no longer in use. Four bases and a mound weren't quite enough for the clubs that once played there.

The place where those five Tigers all got their collegiate baseball training is still very much in use. Clarke Field may not have luxury boxes or thousands of chairback seats (maybe hundreds instead), but it's suited the Tigers just fine since 1965.

Some may not agree (though admirers of Fenway and Wrigley might), but there's something to be said for just a nice place to see a ballgame.


Anonymous said...

Well, TB ... which stadium was it in which you parked in one state and walked to the game in another? St. Louis or Kansas City, perhaps? Unless you count parking in Virginia and taking the Metro into DC for a Nationals game or parking in New Jersey and taking the subway to a Yankees or Mets game.

You can't leave your loyal readers hanging in such a way...

Anonymous said...

Was the ballpark you could walk to from a different state in Cincinnati?

Princeton OAC said...

It was indeed Kentucky to the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. The key word in the question was "walking," as TB has also used the Metro to travel from Maryland to Nationals Park and the 7 train to get to the new Mets park.