Monday, July 7, 2014

Asheville Tourists

You probably have batted around the idea of visiting the Smoky Mountains sometime in your life. And if you haven’t made it there yet, you should. It is a stunningly beautiful place and Asheville is the centerpiece of all of that Smoky goodness. It’s a hip city nestled into the hills that also has...a baseball team. The Tourists are part of the single A South Atlantic League and play in a very unique ballpark. McCormick Field is tucked into a niche carved into the hillside. The fit is so snug that the forest butts directly up against the outfield wall. The constraints of placing a ballpark into such tight confines means the right field wall is much closer to home plate than most venues. The Tourists have remedied this by constructing the “big blue monster” (my words) by making the right field wall very tall. Sort of like the Boston Red Sox have done in left field.

Besides having a spiffy ballpark Asheville had some of the friendliest fans and staff I have run into. Being from Appalachia myself I wasn’t surprised, but it is always nice to meet nice folks. The hot dog selection was quite varied for a lower minor league level. And it was the first ballpark I have been to where I was offered coleslaw as a condiment. Previously it was only available on specialty dogs, and not many of those. In case you are a hot dog rube, coleslaw on a hot dog is an Appalachian/Carolina thing. Try it, it’s good.

Bun-nice and fresh.
Taste-the Patuxent Farms franks did a good job of pleasing my finicky taste buds.
Toppings-the regulars, but also the small tub of coleslaw given at the counter and the same treatment for the onions. It keeps waste of food to a minimum.
Price-$3.50 is near perfect for that size dog, but not quite.
Portability-the dreaded paper boat. Wrapper is the way to go. Those boats really serve no purpose except to frustrate eaters.
It Factor-I was impressed by the selection for such a small venue.

Location-not exactly downtown Asheville, but on the fringes of downtown.
Access-it could be walkable, definitely bikeable, parking is sparse but can be had for nothing on the street.
GA Ticket Price-it is such a small park all seats are really good. Therefore, even though $8 isn’t a fabulous deal, it gets a boost from the fact it buys a great seat.
Cleanliness-nice and clean.
Fans-I was dubious near game time, it was pretty thin. By the second inning there was a nice sized crowd that was interested in the outcome.
Ambiance-Truly a baseball lovers park. The quirkiness of the right field wall, the location, the nearness to the field, the fans, the covered all comes together for top score.

If you ever saw the movie “Bull Durham,” Asheville is the team Crash Davis joins at the end to hit his last home run. Unfortunately, they tore down that ballpark just after the movie was made, but Asheville still embraces its place in baseball movie lore. There is even a “Crash’s Kitchen” concession stand.
DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability3GA Ticket Price4
It Factor5Fans5
If you are planning a baseball road trip, the Carolinas is a great place to knock out a lot of games in a short period of time. And Asheville is not to be missed. While I am probably the worst at visiting the teams’ host cities, you have to make time to visit Asheville when taking in a Tourists game.

The Friendly Hot Dog Crew

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