What makes a good minor league stadium? Which stadiums are the ones that players like best, and what makes them special? I asked! Various River Cats answered.
First off, there were multiple players who, even though the question was specifically about road parks, couldn’t help but sing the praises of Sacramento. “I’m glad that we moved from Fresno to here,” Gregor Blanco told me, in one characteristic remark. “I think this is nice. Sacramento is a nice city, it’s close to the Bay, nice ballpark, the fans are coming.”
As much as you might think a stadium’s facilities are the most crucial thing for a player, a lot of times it’s the little things they appreciate. Take Tyler Rogers, and his experience in Round Rock, Texas: “Round Rock is probably my favorite park. They had George Strait or something coming in the weekend after we were there, so they were playing George Strait the whole time. It was great.”
Ray Black echoed the Round Rock love, partially because of that atmosphere, and partially because it’s just a different experience, which is a fun one to have. “I liked Round Rock a lot,” Black said. “Going to Texas, different music, great atmosphere down there. Beautiful stadium.”
Texas is apparently a good spot for AAA baseball. In addition to Round Rock, El Paso’s stadium got its share of raves too. Blanco singled it out for the unique atmosphere it has, being right on the border with Mexico. “I like that ballpark,” he said. “That’s a nice ballpark. The area, it’s interesting. That was my first time there. It’s kinda cool that you can see from a hill, from the ballpark, you can see Mexico. You can see just a line. Really poor, and now here it’s nice.”
Ryder Jones, meanwhile, was extremely impressed with every aspect of the Chihuahuas’ ( El Paso’s team is called the Chihuahuas. This is not even a top 100 most bizarre minor league team name) stadium, beyond the setting:
“It’s a brand new stadium, the locker room’s great, the clubbie does a good job, the food’s good, the field’s nice, the ball flies. Everything. They just did it right. The cages are huge. Everything’s accessible, functional.”
Jones also mentioned that, even though he hadn’t been there yet at the time, he had heard that Memphis was a really nice stadium. Trevor Brown, who had been there before, was a fan. “I remember I really liked Memphis,” Brown said. “I think it’s a cool feel to have the ballpark in the middle of downtown and having the buildings and stuff surrounding it. I like that feel.”
Brown also singled out one more, for the landscape it has in the background. “I really like Salt Lake as well. That’s a fun place to play. Especially early on in the year, like April, there’s some mountains in the background that usually all have snow on it. It’s just kind of a really cool, picturesque background. I think probably those two are my favorite.”
To sum up, from a player’s point of view, what makes a AAA stadium stand out? While new, state of the art facilities are great to have, the main thing is atmosphere. Whether the stadium is very Texas or just in the middle of downtown, looking out on another country or snow-capped mountains, what you remember is the feel of a park and town.
Round Rock and El Paso were first and fourth in the PCL, respectively, in per game attendance, so to some degree, fans were on the same page with the players here. There’s an extent to which fans and players want the same thing: a memorable time at a nice park. Players might need a little bit more in terms of facilities, but in the end, that really is what it comes down to.