Tagged: Greenville Drive 2016

On the Road: Living the Sweet Life in Greenville

To see all my posts from my May 8 visit to the Greenville Drive, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of 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). 

This is Rich Wofford. On Sunday, May 8, Rich and his family attended a Greenville Drive game at Fluor Field so that he could serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.

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The above photo was taken outside of an empty Fluor Field suite, where myself, Rich, his family, luxury suites executive chef Rob Hansen and food and beverage manager Kyle May convened for a few innings of food-based reverie.

I’ve mentioned Rich’s family twice already, so I’ll briefly jump ahead in the narrative in order to show a picture of the Wofford clan on the cusp of dessert. From left to right, we have Colton (3), Charlotte (4), Rob, Calum (six months) and Dovie.

046The Woffords live in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Rob works as an accountant for a non-profit organization, while Dovie has a full-time job and then some in her role as stay-at-home mom. (She takes care of “the rats,” as Rob lovingly put it.) This all took place on Mother’s Day, so a happy belated Mother’s Day to Dovie.

Rich is originally from Greenville. He met Dovie while living in Arizona, and moved back to South Carolina three years ago. Despite growing up in Atlanta Braves country, Rich is first and foremost a Boston Red Sox fan. He said that the Sox were his father’s favorite team, and though it was never pushed upon him he nonetheless became a fan during a time in his youth when the Braves “were in a stretch of terrible years.” Rich is also a big fan of Cal Ripken, and said that “Calum” is as close as he could get to convincing Dovie to name one of their children “Calvin.”

The Drive are a Red Sox affiliate, so Rich is particularly enamored with his hometown Minor League team. He said that he and the family attend about seven games a year, watching approximately three innings “before we go to the playground.”

Today, the playground could wait. There was eating to do.

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The above spread was laid out for Rich by Drive food guys Hansen and May. We’ll cover each one individually, but we’ll begin with something not included in the above picture:  The Hot Tot.

CaptureMay explained that the Hot Tot consisted of “salsa, tater tot and shredded cheese on top of a hot dog.” The Hot Tot is among a rotating cast of specialty dogs that the Drive sell on the concourse.

Have at it, Rich.

“It’s a good ballpark hot dog,” said Rich. “There’s not a lot of hot in the tot, but the taters add a nice crunch on the top.”

Charlotte then took a bite.

“It’s good!” she said. “I kind of like the spice.”

I then took the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with Charlotte, a self-assured and witty four-year-old whom Rich has already indoctrinated into Red Sox fandom.
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Charlotte’s favorite color is pink and her favorite team is (surprise) the Red Sox. After answering these queries she momentarily got distracted by a talking dog video on the scoreboard, but quickly regrouped. The talking dog video had reminded her of her pets — Dribbles the hamster and Dudley the dog — though, unfortunately, “all of them died.” She then went on to tell me that her favorite player is Dustin Pedroia and that if she had all the money in the world she’d buy a Belle dress (Belle being a Disney princess character).

Our interview concluded with me asking Charlotte “What’s the funniest thing that ever happened in your life?” She had an answer at the ready:

“When Daddy said ‘Pull my finger!'”

Rich broke out into peals of embarrassed laughter and immediately asked that this remark be stricken from the record. However, being a brave and honest man, he later consented to have his daughter’s delighted account of his finger-pulling request documented within the public sphere.

Rich Wofford: Finger pullee, American hero

Rich Wofford: Finger pullee, American hero

Anyhow, we were talking about the Drive’s ballpark food options.

This “Triple Crown” slider platter — available in the 500 Club restaurant/bar/group area — was constructed with aplomb. From left to right we have (if my notes are correct) the “Chef”, the “Big Hurt” and the “Sultan of Swat.”

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The Chef, consisting of bacon, cheese and green peppers, was Rich’s favorite. He said that it was an “excellent burger” because the “meat was perfect” and overall it was an excellent combination of ingredients. The Big Hurt — topped with fried jalapenos — got lower marks because it was “spicy, very spicy, to the point where I don’t taste the burger.”

The Sultan of Swat, topped with fried green tomatoes, red onions and pimento cheese, was the most interesting looking of the bunch.

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Rich was underwhelmed, however.

“There was lots of onion taste, and that’s pretty much it on that one.”

Next, we classed up the joint by tasting the seared tuna (available at the suite level). The tuna, spiced up with a creole-style seasoning, was served atop a bed of greens and accompanied by a sesame ginger sauce and a jicama slaw.

037“If you’re not familiar with jicama, it’s a vegetable kind of like an unripe pear. Pretty mild as far as texture goes,” explained Hansen. “[The slaw] has yellow pepper, red pepper, fresh mint and strawberry.”

I probably ate more of the tuna than anybody. In my notes it says that there is a “Nice spice on the edges. The tuna is tender and the flavor radiates outward.”

Rich said that the tuna was “not what I’d expect to eat at a ballpark, but if I found it I’d eat it. The [sesame ginger] sauce has a nice heat that goes away quickly.”

From the perspective of the Wofford family, the best was most definitely saved for last: Xangos.

038Xangos is (are?) fried cheesecake. The Drive’s version, a “sweet” level specialty, is dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a chocolate dipping sauce. It got a 100% Wofford approval rating, summed up by Rich’s assessment that “I don’t know how to describe it other than ‘perfect.'” It even put a momentary stop to Calum’s crying, leading Rich to deem it a “baby husher.”

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Xangos: Wofford family tested, Wofford family approved

The dessert based reverie could only last so long, as Calum, though no longer crying, summarily threw up on Rich.. Assessing himself as his family prepared for departure, he noted “This would definitely be the ‘after’ picture. I’m covered in chocolate sauce and baby barf.”

The Wofford family then left the suite, moving on to their far more familiar playground environment. There, the kids would find swings to swing upon, slides to slide upon and, hopefully, fingers to pull upon.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Moms, Dogs and Scouts in Greenville

To see all my posts from my May 8 visit to the Greenville Drive, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of 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). 

The first game I saw on this road trip, in Greensboro, was actually a pair of games. After a rainout the night before, the Grasshoppers and visiting Columbia Fireflies played a pair of seven-inning doubleheaders. The second game I saw, in Durham, went 11 innings before the Bulls finally dispatched the visiting Norfolk Tides. The third game I saw, in Greenville, was yet again a deviation from the normal.

After a power outage the night before, the Greenville Drive and visiting Columbia Fireflies (yes, them again) had been forced to suspend the game in the fifth inning. Therefore, my Sunday afternoon at Greenville’s Fluor Field now consisted of the completion of that suspended game, at 2 p.m., followed by a seven-inning game at the regularly scheduled time of 4 p.m. You’ve gotta say this for Minor League Baseball: it always keeps you on your toes.

I arrived in Greenville’s West End neighborhood in the early afternoon, changed clothes in a parking garage (as I am wont to do), and then made my way to the ballpark. The short walk over began with an idyllic stroll along the Reedy River, within Falls Park.

002The walk wasn’t all idyllic, however. There’s a lot of development going on in this area as well.

003Another 10 minutes or so later, I obtained my first view of Fluor Field. I was on the wrong side of the tracks.

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Fluor Field is a largely brick edifice, as are the buildings that surround it. The architecture in this area is reminiscent of the textile mills that used to dominate the landscape.

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006I last visited Fluor Field in 2010, as the final stop on one of my very first road trips. A game wasn’t even taking place, but I stopped at the park and got a tour from then-general manager Mike deMaine. From an article on said tour:

Fluor Field, located in Greenville’s West End district, is a bona fide “mini-Fenway.” The facility, which opened in 2006, boasts its own “Green Monster” and “Pesky Pole.” The ballpark dimensions are exactly the same, and a manual scoreboard is located along the left-field wall. Fluor Field’s Fenway inspirations came about not just because of the parent club but also as a matter of practicality.

“The piece of land our owners had to work with is small as compared to other stadiums, so a key issue was to find unique ways to maximize our space,” said deMaine. “There’s no better example of a large stadium within a small footprint than Fenway, so with our affiliation changing [to Boston], it was an easy tie-in.”

I don’t have much more to add about the ballpark, or anything else, when it comes my most recent appearance at Fluor Field. The bulk of my afternoon was spent wandering alone on the concourse, looking (in vain) for something that might translate into a story. The Drive were a very different experience than the other six teams I visited on this trip, and from my recent (and not so-recent) ballpark visits in general. Very hands-off.

I entered Fluor Field just as the completion of the suspended game was underway. There was hardly anyone in the ballpark yet, given that it was two hours prior to the afternoon’s regularly-scheduled contest. It felt like a high school game.

This day-glo Columbia Firefly fan really stood out in the crowd. In this particular section, he was the crowd.

IMG_1198It was Mother’s Day, and the team had procured 1000 carnations to give out to women as they entered all the ballpark. (I assume that most of the women who got carnations were mothers, but it’s not like anyone was checking IDs.) The team’s original plan was to have the players give out the carnations, but the necessity of completing the suspended game made that an impossibility.

IMG_1199I entered the ballpark at the Main St. entrance, in the left field corner. In the above photo, fans were entering via the Field St. entrance down the first base line. This entrance is directly across from the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, which is located in a modest brick home where Shoeless Joe spent the last 11 years of his life. I visited the museum during my 2010 Greenville cameo, and you can read about that HERE.

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Photo from visitgreeneville.com

The museum wasn’t open on this Sunday afternoon; nor was this concourse Chick-fil-A. This is in accordance with company policy.

012Que’s BBQ and Carrera Cantina were open for business, however.

013It was a beautiful day for the completion of a suspended contest, here at this self-described “mini-Fenway.” (The Drive are the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.) The building beyond left field houses retail and office space on the left and residential units on the right.

014I think I took this scoreboard picture because “Basabe” shares more letters with “baseball” than any other player surname I can think of.

017It wasn’t just Mother’s Day; it was also “Bark in the Park.” Volunteers from the Greenville Humane Society were on hand with a small but adorable cadre of adoptable canines.

023Who wants a puppy? Who wants one?!

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His name is Chewy

As the dogs — and people — accumulated on the concourse, the Fireflies put the finishing touches on 13-3 victory. They score was only 5-2 when play resumed, but the Fireflies made up for the previous day’s power outage by scoring two runs in the sixth and then six more in the seventh.

As the players retreated to their respective dugouts for a between-game break, mascot Reedy Rip-It led a veritable army of local Girl Scout troops in a warning track parade.

029The parade route included a scenic stroll through a dusty outdoor storage area.

030When you’ve got a bunch of dogs in the ballpark and a bunch of Girl Scouts, then it’s a pretty likely scenario that you’re going to see Girl Scouts walking dogs. The sight of such a thing prompted distracted one Drive outfielder to the extent that he neglected a pregame handshake ritual.

031In short order, the afternoon’s regularly-scheduled ballgame began.

033It was 80 degrees and sunny, but that didn’t stop this intrepid team photographer from coming to the game in an all-black outfit topped off by a black knit cap.

034After spending several innings with my designated eater and his family — that will be chronicled in the following post — I returned to the concourse and came face-to-face with mascot Reedy Rip’It.

049After spending some time on the dugout…

051Reedy led the crowd in a rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”

Shortly thereafter, the Drive put the finishing touches on a 5-4 victory over Columbia. The seven-inning contest took two hours and 17 minutes to play. It then took what seemed like another two hours and 17 minutes for all the kids in attendance to run the bases.

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While the youth ran in circles, I took the time to write and disseminate yet another Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.

And that, my friends, was how I spent my afternoon at Fluor Field. I would have written more about Greenville, but I lacked the….initiative.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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About Yesterday Afternoon: Greenville Drive, May 8, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write an on-the-spot 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, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

May 8: Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive (Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)

Opponent: Columbia Fireflies, 2:00 completion of Saturday’s suspended game followed by seven-inning game at 4:40

Fluor Field, from the outside: (This building, part box office and team store, is located across from the stadium. Close enough)

006Fluor Field, from within: 

IMG_1204Culinary Creation: Fried cheesecake dusted with cinnamon sugar, with chocolate dipping sauce

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Ballpark character: Available for adoption

023At random: Carnations for moms on Mother’s Day

IMG_1199Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

May 9: Charleston RiverDogs

May 10: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

May 12: Columbia Fireflies

May 13: Carolina Mudcats

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz