Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nashville Sounds

The book that will chronicle the fantastical road trip that this blog covers is now 40% funded via Kickstarter cloud funding. You can be part of history and help bring "Gone to the Dogs" to print by visiting my kickstarter page. At least watch the video and see how handsome I am.

I made it, just in a nick of time. While I missed seeing a game in Historic Engel Stadium in Chattanooga by a few years, I was able to see a game in Greer Stadium in Nashville...20 games before it closes permanently. The Nashville Sounds will have new digs beginning in 2015. The new park is supposed to be the best in the minor leagues. If the computer animation I watched is even remotely accurate, it just may be. I know where I will be having a dog in 2015. Not to worry about the Sounds signature, and quirky, guitar-shaped scoreboard. The current one uses bulbs and and the smallish screen is monochrome. The replacement scoreboard in the new park will retain the same shape, but be a large, high definition LED version that will be bursting with color and replays. I can’t wait.

I doubt Nashville residents can wait either. Their current venue, Greer Stadium, is a weary soldier that has seen its share of games and needs to be put out to pasture. It is mostly a cement and block affair that has a section of bleachers that still has a wooden floor. The seats are faded, the outfield fence is plywood and the foul poles lean a bit. All of this built into a slight slope in the side of a hill in civil war park. Looking out over the field from the cheap seats, I didn’t know whether to be disgusted or amazed. The park is in definite need of replacement, but I have a soft spot for old and worn venues. Baseball at Greer Stadium is like a football game with Tim Tebow at QB. It gets it done, but it ain’t pretty. Oh, and Greer Stadium knows when its time to call it quits.

Dave Keitel
One event that the Sounds put on, the day before I arrived, was a uniquely special idea. People with peanut allergies (and there are more than you think) have a hard time attending baseball games. The peanut shells are everywhere, the peanut dust gets into the air and other peanut-related issues make it nearly impossible for someone with that allergy to enjoy a game. The Sounds power washed their ballpark, took ALL peanuts and peanut-related products completely out of the stadium (even Cracker Jacks) and had a peanut-free night at the ballpark. Brilliant...and very fan oriented.

I was also pleased to be able to speak with the Sounds Manager of Concessions Mr. Dave Keitel. Dave is the kind of guy you want running your eats at the ballpark. At 16 he answered an ad in the newspaper in Iowa and began his career by working in the concession stand at the University of Iowa games. After stints with the Grasshoppers and Red Hawks he is now the go to guy for all things food in the Sounds organization. And, he has one of the best ideas for dog variety is detailed in the Dog section.

Bun-fresh and soft.
Taste-Nashville is one of the few teams to use Sabretts, which is big in the North East, and quite tasty.
Toppings-the Sounds could stand some variety in the condiments department. Local health laws prohibit some items from being open for dishing out onto the dog. Personally, I don’t mind picking a fly or two out of my onions if I can have some.
Price-$3.50 is a decent price for a AAA venue.
Portability-Dave discussed the virtues of the paper boat, keeping from smashing the bun. He makes a valid point, but I am still a wrapper guy.
It Factor-at first glance there are only two choices: dog and meat and three. If you don’t know what a meat and three is you are missing out. Meat and three is a southern thing. If you live in the north, first of all, move. Once below the Mason-Dixon Line you can enjoy this regional dish where you pick one meat (beef, pork, chicken) and three sides (typically vegetable). Dave and the Sounds have transferred that concept to the hot dog where you can pick from a selection of franks and add three from a long list of toppings. You can design your own dog. With the available combos of the meat and three you have dozens of choices. And the If Factor loves choice. Top score.

Location-where downtown meets midtown.
Access-bus, walk, bike, drive.
GA Ticket Price-gee willikers…$11? For a bleacher seat in a ballpark that is well past its prime? The scoreboard isn’t THAT cool.
Cleanliness-with less than 20 games to go, I don’t blame the Sounds for not keeping the park pristine. And the money for the obvious deferred maintenance is best invested into the new facility.
Fans-decent crowd and they really enjoyed the game.
Ambiance-yes, Greer Stadium is a bit of a hole, but it really feels like an old park. I guess because it is an old park.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability3GA Ticket Price3
It Factor5Fans5

If you read this in time, head on down to Greer Stadium and catch a game before you miss out on being able to say you did so. If you can’t make it this year, the new ballpark in downtown Nashville that opens next year will be a must-see on any baseball fan’s list. Nashville is a vacation destination anyway, why not toss in a game or two while visiting the Music City? While there, enjoy some southern cuisine and entertainment while deciding what to put on your meat and three dog.

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