Did you know? Each one of my road trip blog posts has an accompanying MiLB.com article. Click HERE to read my piece on Chattanooga’s Engel Stadium, containing information NOT included in this blog post.
My latest (and therefore greatest) Minor League ballpark road trip kicked off in Chattanooga, home of the Lookouts. I did not see a Lookouts game, however, as they played an 11:05 contest on the day that I arrived and I was unable to make it to the ballpark on time. (My fault, as I had not noticed that anomalous game time when I booked my flight.) However, all was not lost. Far from it.
For being in Chattanooga means being able to visit Engel Stadium, which served as the home of the Lookouts from 1930-98. In the decade following the team’s departure — they now play at AT&T Park in downtown Chattanooga — Engel Stadium fell into a state of extreme disrepair. In 2009 a concerned group of community activists formed the Engel Foundation, with the quixotically noble goal of restoring this classic facility to its former glory.
I first visited Engel Stadium in 2010, where I got to know Foundation president Janna Jahn and her ragtag group of supporters. I then wrote about Engel again in 2013, after the stadium stood in for Ebbets Field in the Jackie Robinson bio-pic 42. And now, here I am writing about Engel again.
I drove to the stadium immediately after arriving in Chattanooga, marking my first excursion in the black Volkswagen Beetle that was assigned to me by fine folks at Avis. Jahn was already at the stadium waiting for me, and for the next hour or so we ambled through this historic facility as I got up to speed on the latest news.
From the outside of Engel Stadium, it’s hard to get a sense of the beauty that lurks therein.
But once you step inside, it’s a different story.
My MiLB.com piece detailed the specifics of the recent improvements to Engel, but what it boils down to is this: much has been done, and there is so much more to be done. To name one of many examples: Engel Stadium once had what was billed as “the world’s largest scoreboard,” seen in the photo below, and Jahn said that, long term, the Foundation would love to install a replica.
But one thing at a time. A more pressing concern at the time that I visited was removing the dead bird from the netting behind home plate.
A closer view.
The grandstand looked immaculate, and the press box had recently been restored to its ’30s-era parameters and bestowed with a brand-new instrument.
The view from the press box.
This office area, located down the third base line, is now referred to as “The 42 Room.” Some of the film’s locker room scenes were shot here, and it is now filled with production photos and paraphernalia.
From there, we took a nice stroll across the outfield.
I took this photo using the MiLB Instagram account. It was the first Instagram photo I ever took, and also the first time I used a filter of any kind.
Engel Stadium received a laser-graded infield, courtesy of the 42 production team. The outfield remains the same as it ever was.
For the filming of 42, the dugouts were modified to resemble those of Ebbets Field. Then, after the filming, they were changed back to their original state (more or less).
If you’ve never spent time in the bowels of an 80-something-year-old facility…well, this is what it looks like:
There’s a poignant scene in 42 in which Jackie finally loses his cool, going on a bat-smashing rampage in the tunnel leading onto the field. That tunnel, now inaccessible, was here:
Which stadium has the worst bathroom facilities? Engel Stadium, or Burlington Athletic Park (home of the Appy League Royals) circa 2011?
Have you staked out your position in this great American debate, and able to articulate it? Great. Then let’s continue.
A day or two before I visited Engel, the stadium had been vandalized (chalk it up to a security system malfunction).
It’s hassles like these that really give me a lot of respect for the Engel Foundation volunteers. They have full-time jobs and busy lives but nonetheless must repeatedly drop what they are doing in order to deal with hassles such as the above. As Engels’s 21st-century prominence continues to grow, it is my hope (and, I’m sure, theirs) that sufficient funds will become available to pay for a full-time facilities manager.
The vandalism seemed to be limited to the above graffiti as well as a smattering of smashed fluorescent light bulbs. I found it interesting, that in the midst of the all this juvenilia, there was what seemed to be a heartfelt nod to Jackie Robinson. Even vandals have respect for one of the all-time greats!
The damage was cleaned up promptly, as one week after I visited Engel Stadium hosted the Southern League Home Run Derby. This picture is from the Lookouts Facebook photo album.
But as for me, it was time to depart. Until next time, Engel:
But usually it ain’t like that. One simply has to make do with what’s available, imbuing it with enough meaning to make it seem worthwhile.
So welcome to today’s blog post, a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of imminently worthwhile and meaningful material!
I’ll start with what you surely all came here for: video of anthropomorphic sushi engaged in a high-stakes battle royale amidst a sprawling winter wonderland.
Which of the Vancouver Canadians racing mascots will prevail? Only those who have watched this video know for sure!
But perhaps you prefer your Minor League mascots in cameo, as opposed to vegetable, rolls? If so, then watch on. You might be surprised at who turns up, as he’s a most elusive character. He’s also a vegetable.
And, of course, hardly a day goes by when there is not a new logo to share. I’m particularly pleased to share this, the official mark of Chattanooga’s Engel Foundation:
As you’ll no doubt recall, this is the group that is seeking to restore the iconic Southern Association facility (which played host to a veritable cavalcade of baseball greats). I wrote an article and blog about the efforts during my trip to Chattanooga last season; read all about it HERE and HERE.
Oh, so it’s more logos you want? Then more logos I have. The three images seen below were designed by the ubiquitous Plan B Branding, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Boise Hawks. Fans can vote for their favorites at the team’s web page, but as of now that image in the middle possesses a formidable lead.
For those who may not have seen it via Facebook, Twitter, or scrolling CNN news story, there is currently a piece on MiLB.com about Marty Dobrow’s book “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Check it out HERE, or just look at the cover here:
— Will you be there?
— Regardless, what sort of articles/blog posts would most interest you?
Feedback, please. I know you’re out there.
Surely you all remember Tuesday’s blog post, which detailed a day that included time spent at the Birmingham Barons’ old home of Rickwood Field as well as their current Regions Park digs.
I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu on Friday, as I experienced the same dynamic in Chattanooga. My day in this vibrant city began at the Lookouts’ previous home of Engel Stadium, and concluded with a rainout at AT&T Park (Mother Nature has a lot of nerve, tampering with my all-important road trip. Doesn’t she know I have a reputation I’m trying to establish?)
But let me tell you — visiting Engel Stadium was a real treat. This ballpark served as the Lookouts’ home from 1930-99, but has fallen into disrepair over the past decade. As I was researching potential article topics for this trip, I came across a story on a new group that is seeking to restore the facility to its former glory. I got in touch with Engel Foundation director Janna Jahn, who set up a visit to the stadium along with an interesting group of fellow stadium devotees:
Andy Broome: Senior Vintage Card Grader for Beckett Media, and lifelong Lookouts fan. Broome has written a novella on Jackie Mitchell, the 17-year-old girl who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at Engel in 1931. His website is well worth checking out, as it is a treasure trove of Engel ephemera.
Nancy Cogar: An employee of “Choose Chattanooga”, an organization that espouses the positive attributes of the Tennessee metropolis. Cogar wants to spearhead a storytelling project that collects the Engel Stadium memories of former Lookout players and fans.
Ray Deering: As a long-time Lookouts fan who has written columns on baseball history for the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, Deering is an endless fountain of Chattanooga baseball knowledge.
Brian Wright: A wise-beyond-his-years recent high school graduate, who fell in love with Engel after breaking into the place. Wright is a member of the Engel Foundation’s board, and equipped to be a leader in the restoration efforts for a long time to come.
I mention these individuals because I believe they show the kind of diversity and unique skill sets that can make an ambitious project such as stadium restoration succeed (and many more are getting involved in the effort). Here is what they have to restore — Engel Stadium! (read my article about it HERE).
An unassuming exterior:
Standing on the same mound where Jackie Mitchell once struck out Babe Ruth:
From the Roof:
The seats, they are old and wooden:
I am just now realizing how unwieldy this post would be if I tacked on pictures and anecdotes regarding my time at the Lookouts’ current home of AT&T Park. I am also just now realizing how soon the bars are going to close.
Therefore, I make a solemn promise to you, my readers, that a “part two” of this post will appear tomorrow morning. And then, I will drive to Gwinnett County, GA, in my rented Mercedes-Benz with Texas plates.