War Memorial Stadium

June 4, 2021
War Memorial Stadium (Capacity: 3,750)
Hampton, VA
Peninsula Pilots vs Wilson Tobs
Final Score: 7 – 4


Hampton, Virginia was the site of my happy return to the sports stadium after a long absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A thunderstorm threatened to disrupt proceedings, but thankfully they played the game. This city of 135,000 in the Southeast Virginia is part of the larger Hampton Roads metro region that includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Those two are located on the Southside, while Hampton and Newport News are across the water on the Peninsula. Hence the name of the team that I saw on this day. The Pilots portion of the team name comes from Hampton’s rich aviation history, which includes Langley Air Force Base and a NASA Research Center. Visitors can experience part of that history in the Virginia Air & Space Center. The Pilots have been members of the summer-collegiate Coastal Plain League since 2000 and they’ve won the league title twice (’13 and ’14). Their home, War Memorial Stadium, dates back to 1948 and before these Pilots, single-A baseball was played here with a lot of that time being in the Carolina League. This old wooden ballpark is a favorite within league circles, especially with some recent TLC and modern additions.
Prestige Ranking: 3 out of 5


The stadium is in the Wythe neighborhood, sitting between housing subdivisions and commercial enterprises on Pembroke Ave. Built in a different time and era, it’s not an ideal place for a sports facility in this day and age, so I spent some time downtown before the game, which is only five minutes away by car. While there for a few hours, I visited the History Museum and wondered along pedestrian-friendly Queens Way for dinner at one of the restaurants on the street Hampton does have a few other attractions worth seeing as well.
Location Ranking: 5.5 out of 10

Accessibility / Parking

When it comes to driving around the Tidewater, this may be one of the most underrated traffic hotspots in the country. Using the bridges/tunnels if arriving from Norfolk is no picnic and trying to get to the area from North Carolina is a chore as well due to a lack of interstate access. Arrival from DC and Richmond is easiest via a straight shot from I-64, but even that is trafficy. At least around the ballpark, there are no such issues in that department and it is very simple to get to as War Memorial Stadium is right near an exit from I-664. Two small paved lots flank the stadium. These are not enough to hold cars that would be needed for even a near-capacity crowd, but on this night, it was problem-free.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 6.5 out of 8


For the majority that enter from left field, the first introduction is a good-looking modern pavilion. This relatively new addition has a brick base and while it is open-air, it is completely covered by a roof consistent with the main seating section. The brick is very distinct and looks good, along with the iron fencing. Visiting players use the building for batting cages while fans get to enjoy music on the top of the open space. Even though it’s quite baren and the position to the field doesn’t elicit a great view to watch the game, it’s still a nice spot. The ticket entry is here too and straddled across the top of two circular ticket windows is a “War Memorial Stadium” sign. I love how they replicated the original prison cells (err, I mean ticket windows) that are located behind the home plate seating area. This traditional exterior of the ballpark butts up close to the nearby road and the stadium visual is a plethora of diagonal black beams and parallel black wood backings.
Exterior Ranking: 5.5 out of 10


A couple open-air picnic areas connect the pavilion and main grandstand. Behind the seating bowl is the older concourse, which is a hodgepodge of outer buildings, tents and handcarts. Walls are painted light blue and although it is half covered, protection from the elements isn’t necessary since the seating bowl has that. At the end, is a little playground and an artificial diamond for kids. It’s not in a great spot (and the playground still had puddles from the prior day), however these enhancements make the stadium a step above for the CPL.
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5


Traditional stadium food at the main stand combines with a separate table that serves legit smoked pork and a food truck by regionally-based Skrimp Shack. Alcohol is served in a variety of manners and local choices from Vanguard Brewery and Sly Clyde Ciderworks are the way to go.
Food Ranking: 4.5 out of 8


There aren’t many wooden grandstands left and this baseball stadium certainly has a unique appeal thanks to the historical seating still in use. The overhang that covers most of the seating was quite useful on this night as it protected everyone from the rain. The roof is held up by dark green support beams, which always gives me mixed emotions as the old charm is cancelled by obstructed views. A lot of wood is seen throughout the structure, including the underside of the roof and the seating. Of course, bench seating means a generally uncomfortable experience, but the leg room was sufficient. I noticed there were a lot of openings in between rows and behind the last row of seats. This allows the ballpark to breathe, but it gives it an unpolished look that is see-through from a distance. I also was nervous I would drop something under my seat and have it shatter below. The grandstand does not quite extend to each corner base and row height / distance from the field is average. Sitting on top of the roof is the press box and the team created a nice little box seat section right at ground-level in front of the walkway. This table seating includes waitress service. There also were a handful of blue individual chairs that were blocked off and subsequently out of place. About half of the outfield had trees for the backdrop and it wasn’t until later in the game that I noticed the outfield wall was just an open fence that really screwed up perspective (I can’t imagine what it was like for outfielders). Dugouts were strange too as they were too small for each team and in a separate building.
Interior Ranking: 6 out of 14


The black board in left-field is a good-looking display as it has one of those baseball clocks at the top that I love and a “War Memorial Stadium” sign underneath it. The line score stuff is readable, but awkward to view from the 3rd base stands. Centering the scoreboard is a small, rectangular screen only used for graphics and player pictures.
Scoreboard Ranking: 2.5 out of 4


The several signs and banners welcoming you to War Memorial Stadium are nice touches, however any displays of historical nature sorely lacked. Near one of the outer buildings is a plaque for Herbie Morewitz, which honored his many years of devotion to the ballpark.
Displays Ranking: 1 out of 6


Tickets are $8, which is a buck or two below the league average. I say the following even though I advocate buying a seat and supporting this great local team: there was literally nobody checking tickets at the entrance. Maybe they assumed that everyone bought it from the person at the window? (mine was from the internet and I just walked right in). Anyways, parking was free. Programs weren’t available and drinks were reasonable ($2 for water, $3 for soda, $4 – $6 for beer). Food was a little higher than expected with a Burger costing $6 and a Hot Dog $4. The food truck had the most value thanks to combos…too bad I have a shellfish allergy 😦
Cost Ranking: 7.5 out of 8

Fan Support and Atmosphere

The likelihood of storms probably kept the crowd size down as only about 500 showed up. However, I was very impressed with how many stayed through a two-hour delay. Even during the middle innings at 11:00 PM, there was still more than 50% from what was there at the start. They reacted well to the play on the field and I think the roof helps to reverberate those claps and cheers quite nicely. Typical game-day promotions and between-inning stuff was understandably tempered on this night. Pre-pandemic attendance values put the Pilots in the middle of the league as good nights seem to be ones that have over 1,000 fans. It’s tough to evaluate the support because on one hand, you have a large league market that is sectored off from a bigger metro area via waterways and bridge traffic. Yet, at the same time, they are 30-45 minutes from a AAA team. Recent playoff games show a loudly reactive crowd and a great atmosphere that shows these locals really love their summer squad.
Fan Support Ranking: 3.5 out of 8
Atmosphere Ranking: 8 out of 14

Other Stuff

An ill-timed thunderstorm just before this game meant a lengthy delay and then a long evaluation period of the field after the storm passed (well, much of that time was spent standing around and me agonizing). Thankfully, the relatively new drainage system proved sufficient for the inch of rain that fell and the teams decided to play. At 9:03 PM we had first pitch. Of course, the first couple innings took forever and the game did not finish until 12:18 AM……Kudos to the game crew who had every song imaginable involving “rain” or “sun” cued up on their playlist during the delay……The Pilots have been led by manager Hank Morgan since 2008, a rarity to see such longevity at this level……War Memorial Stadium was designed by Brooklyn Dodgers legend Branch Rickey for their minor league club…Peninsula’s shortstop was Zac Morris. Didn’t his parents watch Saved By The Bell? …..Typical for these games, little leaguers joined the big boys as they ran out on to the field ahead of the National Anthem. What I loved was that almost every Pilots player chatted for a while with their kid partner while they were out there. Good stuff!


Shoulda known things were going to get weird after the storm. The Tobs opened the game by scoring three, however Peninsula responded with five unanswered and they came via Wilson miscues: bobbles, bad throws, wild pitches and even an outfielder falling on his rear-end while fielding a pop-up. The scoreboard said four errors, but I counted six. To make things weirder, the Pilots had a run taken off the board because the Wilson manager went to the umpires to have a bat looked at. What??? This led to a 10-minute discussion between umpires, to determine if the batter is out (keep in mind it’s now 10:10 PM in the bottom of the 2nd!). We in the crowd have no idea what the deal is, so I found out the next day that Elijah Lambros was using an unsanctioned brand. Aye-aye-aye. Things settled down by the fifth inning as Carmine Poppiti retired 13 of the 14 batters he faced, helping to solidify a 7-4 win for the Pilots.

Stadium Experience Ranking: 56 out of 100

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