Results tagged ‘ Bristol Pirates 2016 ’

On the Road: Simple, Cheap and Nostalgic in Bristol

To see all posts from my June 28 visit to the Bristol Pirates, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

As one would expect from a Rookie-level ballpark operated by volunteers, the concession stand offerings at Bristol’s Boyce Cox Field are fairly limited. The “Fred and Brenda Scott” concession stand is located below the press box, facing outwards toward the field, and staffed by members of community organizations who receive a portion of the evening’s proceeds.

img_0156The view from the concession stand is a good one.

img_0157On this evening my designated eater was a man by the name of Todd Hare. (“Just like a rabbit,” he said of his last name.) It would be his job to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.

img_0159

Todd, an Episcopalian priest and father of four, has been in the ministry for the past 21 years. For the past three years he has been based in Johnson City, working with the congregation of the Holy Trinity Church. This has been a homecoming of sorts for Todd, as he grew up in Bristol. And, growing up in Bristol, he was a regular attendee of ballgames at Boyce Cox Field.

“I would come to a lot of games as a kid, when they were [a Detroit Tigers affiliate],” said Todd. “I saw guys like Lance Parrish, Jim Leyland, Darryl Strawberry and Terry Pendleton. I grew up just beyond left field and used to sit behind the fence. These games are sentimental for me.”

Todd and I spent a whopping $6 at the concession stand, which netted us a Frito pie-like “Crow’s Nest” ($3), Chili Dog ($2) and a bottled water ($1). We then convened to the beer garden located down the third base line, a relatively new addition to Boyce Cox Field (which, like most Appy League ballparks, didn’t start selling beer until recently).

img_0160Todd began with the chili dog.

“The chili here comes from the meat market that’s been here since my childhood,” said Todd. “Malcolm’s Meat Market. I grew up knowing the family that owned it, played baseball with their kids in Little League.”

He continued, “It’s spicy, has a little heat but not overpowering. It’s very, very similar to the hot dogs served at the Little League right by the field here, and same as the [adjacent] stadium where I played high school football. It’s a very familiar hot dog.”

Todd finishes up his "very familiar" chili dog.

Todd finishes up his “very familiar” chili dog.

My attempts to find out why the “Crow’s Nest” was named as such were unsuccessful. But it’s a great $3 snack — Fritos topped with salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, chili and jalapenos.

img_0162“I haven’t had one here, but I’m a really big fan,” said Todd. “There’s just the right amount of cheese and chili.”

Of course, Todd’s brief culinary excursion was highlighted by being within one of his all-time favorite environments.

img_0164“I love the simplicity of a hot dog, mustard and relish, or a chili dog,” he said. “There’s something about hot dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jacks and cold beer or a Coca-Cola that takes me back to childhood and all the smells associated with growing up around this park. It’s real nostalgic.”

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Like the blog? Then wear the Ben’s Biz shirt

On the Road: Pirates in Bristol

To see all posts from my June 28 visit to the Bristol Pirates, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Continuing on with this Bristol Pirates narrative, it was now game time.

Boyce Cox Field is about as no-frills as Minor League stadiums get. Reserved seats are $8, while a bleacher ticket will run you $5. Many fans bring chairs and blankets and watch from the grassy hill behind home plate. It all has the feel of an amateur environment, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. Just that it’s so small and low-key.

Shortly after the game began, I ran into a real-life pirate.

img_1679This self-styled buccaneer is a man by the name of Dewayne Woods, who recently retired from the army. He said that he came to a few games last year and told himself, “Hey, I want to be a mascot.”

“I wanted to give back,” Dewayne told me. “I give out gold coins and candy from the concession stand.”

Dewayne has previous experience as a Civil War re-enactor, and parts of his pirate outfit were repurposed from his Civil War regalia. The gun, meanwhile, was obtained from a Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop at Disney World.

Later in the ballgame, after meeting with my designated eater, I “Mose”yed  on in to the press box.

img_0165I spent a couple of innings on the radio with Pirates broadcasters Dillon Hutton (left) and Rob Christian.

img_0166After that, I was back to my wandering ways.  img_0168

img_1688As the game wore on, the action on the field got more and more ridiculous. The visiting Greeneville Astros scored six runs over the first two innings, but Bristol tied the game with six of their own in the bottom of the seventh. These six runs scored via a bases-loaded walk, wild pitch, ground out, wild pitch, wild pitch and wild pitch.

This, right here, is Appalachian League Baseball at its finest.

capture

And it just got finer. Greeneville took the lead in the eighth after Spencer Johnson was hit by a pitch, advanced to third after a pair of wild pitches and scored on an error by the center fielder. Not to be outdone, the Pirates scored two in the bottom of the eighth, with both runs scoring on an error by the center fielder.

My notes also indicate that, in the top of the eighth, there was a delay due to a pitcher’s two-tone glove (allegedly) obscuring the ball.

Final score: Bristol 8, Greeneville 7. The Pirates won despite collecting just two RBIs on the evening, with the rest of the runs coming via errors and wild pitches.

So maybe the baseball wasn’t of the highest caliber, but it was a beautiful summer evening and the people were friendly and the ballpark was charming. I was totally smitten with the environment and would therefore recommend a trip to Boyce Cox Field should you be able to do so.

img_0178

As in Kingsport two days previously, I left the ballpark without having written and disseminated a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke. Back at the hotel that night, I did my best to rectify the situation.

Sometimes, I’m not sure if my best is good enough.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Baseball in its Purest Form in Bristol

To see all posts from my June 28 visit to the Bristol Pirates, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

Before visiting the Appy League, quite a few people got in touch with me via email and social media to extol the circuit’s rustic, old-fashioned, down-to-earth locales. “This is baseball how it used to be,” was a common refrain.

If “how it used to be” = “simplicity, access and intimacy” then the Bristol Pirates’ home of Boyce Cox Field is a prime example of such. The Pirates are run as a non-profit, and don’t have a single full-time employee. For nearly everyone involved with this franchise, working at the ballpark is a labor of love.

Boyce Cox Field is located in Virginia, although there is also a “sister city” of Bristol, Tennessee (the state line runs down the middle of downtown’s State Street).

img_0131The tree-lined pathway seen above sets the tone for the kind of environment that exists here. From the entrance to the sloping grass berm to the wood-paneled press box, Boyce Cox Field felt like less like a professional ballpark and more like a well-maintained summer camp athletics area. But this is nonetheless a professional environment. Boyce Cox Field has hosted Appalachian League baseball since 1969, and Minor League Baseball in the region dates back further than that.

This plaque, located beyond a rightward bend in the aforementioned pathway, commemorates what is certainly the most famous occurrence in Bristol’s Minor League Baseball history: Ron Necciai’s 27-strikeout nine-inning no-hitter.

img_0133

Necciai, who appeared at a Bristol game in 2012 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his accomplishment, made his Major League debut with Pittsburgh during the 1952 season but didn’t pitch in the bigs at any point thereafter.

Lucas Hobbs, a local lawyer who moonlights as Bristol’s VP of marketing, was my pregame tour guide. He noted that there is a typo in the plaque: Necciai struck out 27 Welch Miners. Not Welsh Miners. Though they may have been Welsh, for all I know.

Beyond the plaque is the press box.

img_0134

The press box is more than a press box, as it also comprises office and storage area. As I entered, the game-day staff were in preparation mode.

img_0138Meanwhile, to the left, stood the foreboding entrance to the GM’s office.

img_0137Behind the door was Mahlon Luttrell, who let me in even though I did not know the secret knock.

img_0139I spoke with Mahlon and Lucas for a good 20 minutes about the Pirates and how they operate, which formed the basis for this story. To learn more about Bristol Baseball, just ignore my shadow and check out this banner.

img_0149One important element of the Bristol experience that is not illuminated in the signage is this: Boyce Cox Field has urinal troughs! Urinal troughs are a dying breed, and I will document their existence whenever I am able to do so.

img_1667As scenic as the men’s rest room was, it was even more scenic on the field.

img_1669While on the field I snapped a pic of Lucas and his daughter, Savannah, who was serving as the Pirates’ bat girl on this beautiful Tuesday evening.

img_1670I also got the chance to witness Dingbat’s dance moves.

This season, Dingbat was joined by a new addition to the mascot line-up: Captain Buc.

img_1675As Dingbat looked on, I took the mound for a ceremonial first pitch and, of course, threw a perfect strike.

img_0151Afterwards, my perfect form was used a teaching moment for these impressionable Rookie-level players. “Do what Ben’s Biz does” was, I’m sure, the lesson being imparted here.

img_0152Prior to the National Anthem, a local chaplain led the fans and players in a brief prayer. I had not experienced this pregame element before.

img_0155Once the religious and patriotic rituals had concluded, there was nothing left to do but Play Ball.

There will, of course, be more where this came from. Stay tuned for additional dispatched from Bristol, Virginia.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Bristol Pirates, June 28th, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. Last night I visited Bristol, Virginia, the fourth stop on my 10-team Appy League road trip.

June 28: Boyce Cox Field, home of the Bristol Pirates (Rookie-level affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates)

Opponent: Greeneville Astros, 7:00 p.m. start time

Boyce Cox Field, from the outside: This is the entrance to the park; the field is down that pathway and to the right.

IMG_0131

Boyce Cox Field, from within: 

IMG_0157Culinary Creation: Bird’s Nest (the Pirates’ version of a Frito pie, $3) and a chili dog ($2)

IMG_0160Ballpark Character: Dewayne Woods, retired Army soldier turned volunteer ballpark pirate.

IMG_1679At Random: “One of baseball’s greatest individual accomplishments” took place in Bristol.

IMG_0133Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

6/29: Elizabethton Twins

6/30: Princeton Rays

7/1: Bluefield Blue Jays

7/2: Pulaski Yankees

7/3: Danville Braves

7/4: Burlington Royals

**

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz