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The Old Parks

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 14, 2015

 

FirstEnergy Stadium Interior

Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium, built in 1950. What a beauty!

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Perhaps no other league in the U.S. personifies modern day sport more than minor-league baseball. In this day and age, fans want more out of the sporting experience and with it being hard to draw crowds for “lesser-known” players, the recent 30-year ballpark boom has focused on modern-day amenities and comfort. Yet, baseball has a good number of purists that simplify adore the sport for what it is and find nothing more relaxing than just sitting back and watching a ballgame in the fresh air under a grandstand. Thankfully, there are still a few ballparks left to take in this experience. Using the general human retirement age of 65, below are the senior citizen affiliated ballparks still in action, starting from Triple-A to Single-A. Worth mentioning for those still looking for baseball in a pure, historic setting, check out many of the Summer-Collegiate leagues (especially in the Northeast), where many of these parks survive by hosting baseball for a few months:

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1)  McCoy Stadium (1942)  –  Pawtucket Red Sox  –  (AAA) International League

The crushing news of the Boston Red Sox buying this AAA franchise means a likely end to beautiful McCoy Stadium. Given that the owners took care of Fenway, you would think they would have a desire to keep using McCoy. But no, of course in the end it is all about $. Thankfully, those in Rhode Island are putting up a fight for the amount of public cost that a new downtown Providence ballpark would be. The Red Sox are using the leverage that other New England cities would drool at this opportunity. Unfortunately and inevitably, they are probably right. Better get to Pawtucket sooner than later, for a wonderful old park that has an old-time atmosphere with limited distractions often seen at this level of baseball.

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2)  FirstEnergy Stadium (1950)  –  Reading Fightin Phils  –  (AA) Eastern League

Now this is a stadium sure to not go anywhere for a long time. Reading has done an amazing job keeping things modern, as FirstEnergy Stadium features numerous party decks and even a plaza that has a streetfest vibe to it with live music. Meanwhile, the grandstand remains and the colorful blue, yellow and red seats add to the festive vibe of attending a game here. If only they didn’t switch their name to the ridiculous Fightin Phils.

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3)  Jackie Robinson Ballpark (1914)  –  Daytona Tortugas  –  (A) Florida League

This a place that has surpassed its 100th birthday and though there have been multiple renovations (1962 is probably a more accurate birthdate), it still fits the bill as an older park. The honor to Jackie Robinson in the name comes from the city being the first to allow for an exhibition including Jackie.

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4)   McKechnie Field (1923)  –  Brandenton Marauders  –  (A) Florida League

Not only do the Pittsburgh Pirates call this home for Spring Training, but it also plays host to the hometown Bradenton Marauders each year. What a beauty this ballpark is and recent Fenway-style renovations and tweaks have made it all the better. Even more unique is that you won’t see much of the brick or large grandstand roof found in many of the older northeastern ballparks. Instead, this is a Floridian park with it’s own flair. An absolute must-visit.

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5)  Calvin Falwell Field (1940)  –  Lynchburg Hillcats  –  (A) Carolina League

Lynchburg is a charming Virginia town and I enjoyed my visit there last summer. The old City Stadium has been a part of the community for decades and though this park resembles a more recent minor-league stadium, the seating bowl and grandstand do bear a slight resemblance to a different era.

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6)  Sam Lynn Ballpark (1941)  –  Bakersfield Blaze  –  (A) California League

The California League leads the list with three ballparks built in the 1940s and while this wouldn’t normally fly in other parts of the country, the budgeting and debt in the Golden State mean that it will likely be a good amount of time until we see another one built. This ballpark in Bakersfield is infamously known for being pointed to the west, which means summer starts are at 7:45 PM local time, to avoid a sun delay.

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7)  Municipal Stadium (1942)  –  San Jose Giants  –  (A) California League

San Francisco has an ideal affiliate in San Jose as there are signs all over Municipal Stadium that point to the Giants success. Territorial rights are huge in MLB circles and San Fran has marked this territory over Oakland.

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8)  Recreation Park (1946)  –  Visalia Rawhide  –  (A) California League

This is the smallest ballpark by capacity in affiliated minor-league ball as the true seating capacity is less than 2,000. It is a very quirky ballpark that makes a visit worthwhile.

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9)  Modern Woodmen Park (1931)  –  Quad Cities River Bandits  –  (A) Midwest League

Don’t be fooled by the “Modern” (haha) name and the remade interior. This is indeed an old ballpark and they have something special along the banks of the Mississippi. The view of the Centennial Bridge is remarkable and though the river has infringed on the ballpark before, recent renovations have protected it from floods.

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10)  Ashford University Field (1937)  –  Clinton Lumberkings  –  (A) Midwest League

A slice of Americana in the heart of the Midwest. Clinton’s home is a classic step back into a different era and it almost makes you think of the Field of Dreams….maybe because that sits relatively close, a short drive away in Dyersville.

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11)  Community Field (1947)  –  Burlington Bees  –  (A) Midwest League

Baseball has been played at this site since 1947, but the grandstand dates back to 1973 and it is a remarkable story. Volunteers spent nearly two years rebuilding a grandstand destroyed by fire, thus making it a truly Community Field.

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12)  McCormick Field (1924)  –  Asheville Tourists  –  (A) South-Atlantic League

Located in a mountain setting within a terrific, vibrant city, McCormick Field is a destination ballpark. This is a special place and probably Top 3 if this list were to be ordered by favorites. Atmosphere, setting, design, location…it has it all.

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13)  Grayson Stadium (1926)  –  Savannah Sand Gnats  –  (A) South-Atlantic League

Shed a tear for Historic Grayson Stadium as we will lose this one at the end of the season. The Sand Gnats are moving to a new stadium in Columbia, a move that I loathe. Columbia already has the University, where the Gamecocks are quite popular. There aren’t any plans that I know of to destroy Grayson, but there are also no other plans right now for another team to move in. As if you need another reason to visit beautiful Savannah, here is another.

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14)  Municipal Stadium (1930)  –  Hagerstown Suns  –  (A) South-Atlantic League

I was here last week and was not all that enamored. The abundant use of metal and aluminum is a turn-off, while the few fans that show up make for a quiet place to visit. Rumors have been swirling for years and it is shocking that the Suns have not left yet. Kudos to Fredericksburg and Winchester for standing up and not getting drained for money as they refuse to have a giant public expense for a private owner. 

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Short-Season Leagues

15)  Centennial Field (1906)  –  Vermont Lake Monsters  –  (A) NY-Penn League
16)  Bowman Field (1926)  –  Williamsport CrossCutters  –  (A) NY-Penn League
17)  Nat Bailey Stadium (1950)  –  Vancouver Canadians  –  (A) Northwest League
18)  Calfee Park (1935)  –  Pulaski Yankees  –  (A) Appalachian League
19)  Bowen Field (1939)  –  Bluefield Blue Jays  –  (A) Appalachian League
20)  Sam Suplizio Field (1949)  –  Grand Junction Rockies  –  (A) Pioneer League
21)  Centene Stadium (1940)  –  Great Falls Voyagers  –  (A) Pioneer League
22)
 Kindrick Legion Field (1932)  –  Helena Brewers  –  (A) Pioneer League

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