Wrapping up Virginia

We left last Saturday morning and I fully expected some sort of traffic, likely in Maryland. I got my hopes falsely up after getting thru that state, only to run into stop and go for about an hour in Virginia on I-95. Plus, rattling my nerves was the sight of a “Check Engine” light in our car and an occasional jerk when we accelerated. Luckily, this was the extent of the problem as the car ran fine the entire time. We strolled into Richmond around 2:30 and went directly to Marymont Park. We spent some time around the massive park which has a mansion, nature center, Japanese & Italian Gardens and plenty of spots to relax. Initially, we planned on eating in Carytown, but after driving by and seeing how crazy the streets were on Saturday, we passed. After a drive down Monument Ave, it was off to the Richmond Coliseum for an AIFA indoor football game featuring the Richmond Raiders and the undefeated Baltimore Mariners.

When I hear “Richmond Coliseum” my first thought is CAA Tournament. It has hosted the tournament for 20 years and fresh in my memory was the classic semifinal between VCU and Old Dominion this season.

Sidenote about the CAA for those college basketball fans. This is a conference that has lost its idenity as you have the teams that fit perfectly (VCU, Old Dominion, William & Mary,  George Mason, James Madison, UNC Wilmington) and those that don’t…mainly city schools that joined late and seem like just a rung down when it comes to caring about basketball (Georgia State, Towson, Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra and Northeastern).  My perfect world would have this league be an eight team conference with Richmond and VMI. But politics, money and the lure of big conferences, never would allow that.

The arena has hosted many different minor league teams in its near 40 years, but the only current tenant is the AIFA Raiders. The game wasn’t bad as Baltimore jumped out to an 18-0 lead and Richmond kept fighting back to get within a TD, but they could never get over the hump. The whole experience was odd…the game started 45 minutes late as Baltimore was stuck in the same I-95 traffic we were AND their bus broke down. Yet, we were only notified by one announcement and that said the game would start at 7:20 PM.  The pre-game featured Raiders players walking out hand-in-arm, the intro included a prayer and the song “Proud to be an American” before the anthem. There were more oddities as well (check the review on the right). Overall, the circular coliseum, though old and uninviting on the outside and concourse, had a great seating arrangement and to me, it’s always refreshing to see something different.

Sunday was a relaxing day as we stayed at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa in Williamsburg, VA (about an hour to the East of Richmond). We’re not really spa people and never have we stayed at a resort, but we decided to give this a shot and it was nice. An isolated thunderstorm in the late afternoon kind of ruined our lounging at the pool plans, so I called an audible. Instead of walking around Williamsburg in the 90 degree heat and then going to The Diamond in Richmond on Monday, we decided to try for the Sunday Night game. It ended up being a good call as we were dead by Monday evening AND that Monday game went 11 innings. The only catch was that I lost my $16 since I bought tickets online, knowing that it was fireworks night and all. I tried to score some free tickets Sunday Night, but to no avail.

The 55 minute drive back West to Richmond was smooth and it is a cinch getting to and parking at The Diamond. We saw the new Flying Squirrels, an Eastern League team and my first impressions are that it’s great to see Richmond have baseball again. These fans came out in droves and have all season as not having baseball for a year (after the Braves took their Triple A team down to Gwinnett in 2008, after 42 years in Richmond), really seemed to hurt the area. Not only was it packed, but the place was loud…probably one of the loudest minor-league baseball parks I’ve been to. The thing to keep in mind though is that The Diamond is a triple-A park in a triple-A sized city. Yes, Richmond could use a new ballpark as the stadium (only 25 years old) is unappealing with its concrete everywhere and uncomfortable with the mainly bleacher seats set way away from the field. But the team is locked in for a few years and right now is doing just fine. As for the game the Bowie Baysox won 6-2, after Richmond battled back to tie the game at 2 in the 7th. A full review of the experience is available on the right side.

On Monday, we spent the hot day in Colonial Williamsburg (which by the way is amazing how they create what seems like a whole town from the 1700s…and it is much more interesting when your 26 as opposed to 13). Just down the street from the whole Colonial thing is the College of William & Mary. Both their football stadium and basketball arena are big enough for The List, but I didn’t have time to see them. The Tribe had a good run this basketball season…almost making their first tournament.

After another morning and early afternoon in Williamsburg, we headed home, but not without a pit stop.  Bowie, MD is a town/city between Washington and Annapolis in Southern Maryland. The Eastern League Baysox have played there since 1993 (1994 was their first year in Prince George’s Stadium) and they have never won the league title. I found the ballpark in an odd spot, tucked away behind some suburban stores (Home Depot, BJ’s…etc) and in front of a large tree-lined park. That suburban set-up was kind of like Somerset, just without the park. The place was just very underwhelming to me. Maybe it was the embarassing lack of people. I applaud the designers for having the open concourse that far back in the early 90s, but the seats seem to extend backwards flatly instead of having some height to them, so you feel kind of far from the field. Plus a lot of seats are bleachers. It’s also easy to forget that its a 10,000 seat stadium. The only thing I really liked here was the food as they had a ton of different options ranging from chicken platters complete with coleslaw and beans, to onion blooms and cheese fries. Lots of different beers too. Luckily, I accounted for DC rush-hour traffic as we were delayed one hour, but still got there at 6:30 PM. DC traffic is brutal everyday. In the game, Bowie played Binghamton and the B-Mets were cruising with a 2-0 lead and no hits given up thru four. But then the Baysox found their stride and scored 7 unanswered to win 7-2 in front of about 500 fans (and probably 100 of them rooting for the Mets).

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