Friday, July 24, 2009

Salt Lake Bees 3, Fresno Grizzlies 5 – Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Due to zoning and land availability and prices, several stadiums are built near railroad tracks. Trains are clearly audible inside Safeco Field in Seattle and visible from Municipal Stadium in Binghamton, home to the Mets’ Double-A affiliate. At Midway Stadium, home of the independent St. Paul Saints, the announcer laconically reports the appearance of every train, some of which blow their horn in greeting, and you can buy a souvenir t-shirt that says, simply, “train.” The number 4 subway can be seen from Yankee Stadium (although more so at the old park) and the Red Line is visible from Wrigley Field. Minute Maid Park is built on the site of the Union Station railyards in Houston and, in tribute, an engine runs back and forth along the left-field wall when the home team hits a home run. Something similar exists at Spring Mobile Park in Salt Lake City. As an advertisement for the train tours it operates, the Heber Valley Railroad runs a small yellow train—really a small tractor dressed up as a locomotive and three or four cars—along a walkway that runs about 40 feet beyond the outfield fence. There was a waiting line.

It is fairly common for a concourse to go all the way around a major league stadium, except in the upper deck(s). It is less common at minor league parks. The only other stadiums Melvin and I can think of are the home fields of the Toledo Mud Hens and the Lakewood (NJ) Blue Claws. I wish more ballparks were built this way. At Salt Lake, fans can spread a blanket and watch the game from a grassy slope inside the walkway, and the area beyond it is set up for the most extensive group picnicking I have seen at any ballpark. I saw three guys in chef’s whites, all taking the food service very seriously. Speaking of which, my brisket sandwich was very tender, and it came with my choice of a green or a fruit salad. I choose the latter since I thought fruit would go better with my choice of the three hefeweizens. The draft beer selection is extensive at Spring Mobile Park.

Beyond the outfield concourse are additional food concessions and restrooms. Above the entrance to the women’s restroom is a sign indicating that is it 474 feet from home plate. That’s a home run! Beyond everything, well off in the distance, are the Wasatch Mountains. A beautiful setting for a beautiful ballpark.

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