With all of the shiny new ballparks with corporate related names that I have been visiting lately, it was nice to hit an old historic diamond that has changed little over the years. And it was an extra treat to catch an 11:00 am start. Although it has received a few updates, Grainger Stadium remains relatively like it was when it opened in 1949. It has a covered grandstand that is protected by a large, overhanging roof and a few seats on the first base side along with a set of bleachers on the third base side. The best part about going old school? You don't have all of that fancy equipment to maintain and you can pass on the saving to fans. Parking was FREE and a bleacher seat set me back all of three bucks. I'll take that over a high definition scoreboard and fancy eats any day. One caveat: I will personally donate money to help fund a new sound system. You have to be first in something, and Kinston ranks first on the list of worst sound systems in baseball. Then there is their name: the Down East Wood Ducks. Huh?
They say timing is everything, and mine was really bad during my visit. I am very much married to team schedules and geography when planning my baseball road trips and this day at Grainger Stadium saw me catching a game on kids day. I have nothing against kids; until you pack busloads of them in a ballpark. After changing seats in search of kidless solitude, I finally left in the fifth inning. No ballgame, no matter how cheap, is worth that kind of torture.
As you might expect in an old school ballpark, the concessions are old school as well. There is a hot dog, chili dog and a red hot. I was told the red hot was spicy, so naturally I tempted fate and chose that dog. At $4.50 the price was ok but not a bargain. It was a good tasting dog, and probably the freshest bun I have had on this trip. However, the frank was far from spicy. Those dreaded packets of mustard and relish are all the acceptable condiments available, although the concessionaires will put onions on it if asked. All of the franks are made by Texas Chili.
Kinston is a super small town for a minor league venue. That makes it a unique experience. Throw in a historic ballpark and very affordable entry and you end up with a must stop on your baseball adventure. Although I do recommend checking the Wood Ducks schedule to ensure you skip kids day, and bring some ear plugs to mute out that horrid sound system.