May 23 - At The Ballpark: Joe Davis Stadium, Huntsville, AL
Note from TheMirl.com: This is the newest installment of a semi-regular series by Brian Wilmer
reviewing ballparks from around the country.
It recently dawned on me that I have lived in central (okay, the people here call it “middle”) Tennessee for
10 years, and I have seen very few of the numerous minor league parks within driving distance. Being
100 miles from Huntsville and having a “spare” weekend on my hands, I headed to check out the AA
affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. The contest I saw featured the home-standing Stars playing the
Chattanooga Lookouts, the Reds' AA affiliate.
Joe Davis Stadium celebrates the 20th year of baseball in this multipurpose facility in 2005. The
ballpark is located on a frontage road just off US 231/431 in south Huntsville, and features a convenient
location to most of the Rocket City. What will all this mean for the ballpark? Let's find out.
I had my standard nachos and soda (in a souvenir cup – nice touch), and while the prices were decent,
and the nachos quite good, that was where the superlatives ended. I waited in line for 14 minutes, and
when I finally got to the front, they almost double-charged me for my soda. I got the soda back to my
seat, and upon taking a sip, realized it was completely flat. $3.50 for a flat soda is not so great. I also
took a brief look at the souvenir stand, and found it lacking. There were a few hat selections and some
other items, but not anywhere near what I have seen even in single-A parks.
Between-innings entertainment: B
As previously mentioned, the Stars are a Brewers affiliate, and Bernie Brewer
was on hand with the infamous Racing Sausages from Milwaukee. Bernie and
the sausages helped with the usual contests, including the Fly Ball Catch, the
mascot race, and the “Strike Three” contest, where a fan got three chances to
toss a baseball through a hole in a board for prizes. They also had the sausage
race, which was won by the hot dog. Conversely, they also played the Chicken
Dance song, which got about the only real rise out of the crowd on the night, and had the “Kiss Cam”
video feature on the video scoreboard, which served very little purpose other than to annoy several
Sight lines: B
After a 13 minute wait in line, I finally managed to get some decent seats on the
first base line. There are really no bad seats in the park, but the way everything
is angled makes some parts of the park hard to see from some seats (for
instance, if you are high up on the first base side, seeing the visitors' bullpen is
difficult, and the dugouts slightly obstruct the views of the seats directly behind
them). I walked all the way around the park and watched the game from nearly
every seating area, and was suitably pleased with almost all of what I saw.
The only promotion on the night was the aforementioned group of visitors from Milwaukee. Seeing them
was enough to earn a solid grade. The only other real promotion they had on the evening was the same
tennis ball throwing contest that was featured in Clearwater, only it involved throwing tennis balls into a
hula hoop instead of a tire, and the prize was a pass to the kids area behind the left field fence.
There are only two lanes into the park, which backs up the lines entering the lot at times. Once you
reach the front of the line, you are greeted with a rather high $4 charge to park your vehicle. With that
said, there are plenty of available spaces, and traffic control did a rather solid job in funneling the cars
out of the lot after the game, greatly minimizing the wait to leave the park.
Player accessibility: B
I saw some players signing after the game, and they seemed to be genuinely nice to autograph
seekers; however, the configuration of the dugouts makes it rather difficult to get autographs.
Quality of baseball: A
Chattanooga's Phil Dumatrait and Huntsville's Manny Parra locked up in an
impressive pitching duel, with Dumatrait getting the best of the Stars, 3-0. The
pitching and defense was incredible on both sides, with several double plays
and a group of pitchers (Dumatrait, David Shafer and former Braves farmhand
Bubba Nelson on the Chattanooga side, and Parra and Mitch Stetter on the
Huntsville side) all throwing consistently in the low-90s. I had never seen a
game at the double-A level, but was impressed with the effort on both sides, unlike Huntsville manager
Don Money, who blasted his team in the paper for their inability to hit in key situations.
Overall grade: C
I had an enjoyable enough time at “The Joe”, as it is called, but the ballpark felt much less like a minor
league park, and more like the multi-sport concrete bowl it is. There is a considerable amount of dead
grass on the field, and the discolored patches make the field look more like Chico's Bail Bonds is about
to take on Ricky's Quik Lube. The large foul territories take the fans away from the action more than in
most ballparks, and the fixed chairback seats are narrow. The park seats 10,200, and there was an
announced paid attendance of over 7,500. Despite this number, there was very little atmosphere in the
park, and the crowd seemed mostly apathetic through the game. I will likely attend another game or two
in Huntsville, but this city could truly benefit from a new facility.