May 7 - At The Ballpark: Space Coast Stadium, Viera, FL
Anyone who has seen Florida State League baseball knows that the
quality of ballparks in that league is just a bit higher than most any other
A-ball league in the country. Major League spring training parks are
mostly used for regular season play in the FSL, and that makes every
road city a better trip. Does this facility originally built for the Florida
Marlins and now being used by the Washington Nationals during spring
and the Milwaukee Brewers’ A-ball affiliate during the season stack up to
other FSL parks like Clearwater? Let’s find out.
I must admit that I was very impressed with the moderately cheap prices I saw on the board ($2.50
funnel cakes, etc.), but there were a few cons with the available selections. I had a 1/3 lb.
cheeseburger (about the only thing somewhat pricy, at $5), and it was lukewarm and average. Also,
there were no nachos available at the ballpark -- what self-respecting ballpark, particularly a spring
training park, does not carry nachos? Choose carefully when picking your concessions.
Between-innings entertainment: B
Many of the minor-league standards (the dizzy bat race, etc.) were in play here, with slightly different
twists. The dizzy bat race, for instance, required combatants to spin around the bat, run down and pick
up a keg and push it back to the bats. A trivia contest, a rubber horse race (I really don’t remember
what those ball-like things that you sit on and bounce are called, but those) and kids getting to run
from the outfield to the stands were some of the other things featured. Also, the between-innings
musical selection was varied and decent, and much better than the stupid movie clips and sound
effects played after outs and foul balls.
Sight lines: A+
The “there is not a bad seat in the house” cliché is so overplayed, but it really is the truth at Space
Coast Stadium. Your $6 admission (with free parking, even, which makes it a doubly good value) lets
you sit anywhere in the park, and from the front row behind the plate to the top corner of the bleacher
seats, your view of the action on the field is a great one. There is a pavilion behind the left field wall as
there is in Clearwater, and there are tables out there so you can sit there and enjoy a meal or a
beverage. You will be hard-pressed to find a better view in a ballpark at this level.
If I saw correctly (I got to the ballpark after this had taken place), they gave out uncut baseball card
sheets as a promotional item, which is a pretty nice giveaway. One promotion that takes place at this
park (but not on this night) is that anyone who buys tickets to a fireworks game for $8 gets a free
game ticket for later use, so you get two game tickets for $8 versus the normal ticket for $6. Also, as
previously mentioned, you can sit anywhere you want in the park for just one low admission fee,
which makes this one of the best ongoing promotions anywhere in baseball.
The only thing that keeps the parking from being an A+ at Space Coast is the fact that the parking is in
the grass instead of on a paved lot.
Ingress and egress are amazingly easy, and there is a guide to help you into the parking area without
any pain or concern. The parking is close enough to the park to prevent a long walk, but far enough to
keep your car from being pelted with foul balls.
Player accessibility: C
Kids are allowed on the field between one of the innings, as I mentioned, but the section of seats next
to the dugouts is roped off, preventing easy access to the dugout area. I did not see players signing a
number of autographs, so I am unsure as to what kind of impedance this may be.
Quality of baseball: D
The first inning of this game showed some real promise, as Jupiter left
fielder Dante Brinkley homered in the top of the inning, and Brevard
County second baseman Hernan Iribarren countered with a homer in the
bottom half. The Manatees led 3-1 after an inning, and really did nothing
after that. They had only three base hits the remainder of the game, and
never really mounted another challenge. Three players on the Brevard
County team are on the Brewers' 40-man roster (Iribarren, reliever Mike
Jones and starter Manny Parra), and none of them really stood out.
Iribarren had the homer, but looked lost at times, including an easy throw he dropped at second on
an attempted steal. Parra and Jones did none better, as Parra gave up three earned runs and four
hits in 2 1/3 innings, while both walking and striking out four. Jones gave up five earned, three hits
and walked four (with one strikeout) in 1 2/3. The Jupiter club drew almost the same amount of walks
(10) as they had hits (11) in an 11-3 victory over homestanding Brevard County.
Finally, the Minor League Baseball umpires have not settled their strike, and the replacement
umpires were awful, completely missing several calls and featuring one of the more inconsistent
strike zones in recorded history. The home plate scab also ejected Jupiter's Brad McCann for arguing
a ball and strike call, and did a horrible job of explaining the situation to the Jupiter manager.
Overall grade: B+
I expected a pretty nice experience at this ballpark, and I was not let down. The seats are comfortable
and have lots of leg room, and everything aesthetic at the stadium combines with the great option to
choose your own seat to provide a pretty fun baseball evening. They just need more concession
choices and to stop serving lukewarm burgers, among other minor gripes as stated above.
How to get there:
The stadium is located on the east coast of Florida in Brevard County. Take Interstate 95 to exit 195
(Fiske Avenue). Take Fiske Avenue toward Viera (if you see a 7-11 and a Ruby Tuesday, you are
going the wrong way). The stadium is approximately three miles ahead on the right after leaving the
interstate. There are signs clearly marking the way to the stadium at the interstate exit. The physical
5800 Stadium Parkway
Viera, FL 32940
You may also want to see:
--Cocoa Beach: The home of Ron Jon Surf Shop is located about 15 minutes east on the shores of
the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is accessible via a number of roadways, most notably FL 528 and A1A.
--Kennedy Space Center: This attraction is also about 15 minutes from the ballpark, and can be
reached via I-95 and any combination of Florida state routes. Learn more about the space exploration
program and some of the great missions of NASA's past, and what can be expected in the future. A
Space Shuttle simulator is under construction and is expected to be completed in 2007. Get the
Maximum Access Pass -- it gives you access to all areas of the Space Center, plus IMAX films and
the Astronaut Hall of Fame.