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September 3 - At The Ballpark: Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee, FL

The Orlando market is one that has been without minor league baseball since 2004, and is the
largest major city in the state of Florida without a ballclub.  Their current object of attention is Jackson,
TN’s fledgling West Tenn Diamond Jaxx franchise, whose stadium I reviewed earlier in the year.  
Despite the fact that there are two fairly large facilities (this one and the Braves’ facility at Disney’s
Wide World of Sports) that go largely unused past the end of spring training, Orlando is attempting to
woo the Diamond Jaxx, and get a third ballpark to go with the franchise.  Would the Astros’ spring
training base suffice for a double-A club?  Let’s find out.

Concessions: F
The selection at Osceola County Stadium is uninspired and highly
expensive, as I paid $6 for a bucket of stale popcorn and a small bottle of
Powerade.  The only food choices in the ballpark are ballpark standards
like hot dogs, nachos and popcorn – there is nothing out of the ordinary
on which to dine.  I would strongly recommend eating something before
going to the park, and if you absolutely must eat something there, be
prepared to pay higher-than-standard ballpark prices.  

Between-innings entertainment: F
There was not really anything going on between innings at Osceola County Stadium, save for a few
PA announcements and a little bit of music between innings.  There were no promotions at all of
which to speak, which may have been related to the weather and may have been because this was
an “amateur” game.

Sight lines:  D
There aren’t really any bad seats in Osceola County Stadium, and the top few rows of seats on both
baselines are covered to protect spectators from sun, rain or whatever other weather phenomenon
may be going on in central Florida at the time.  While the sight lines are great, the lines give you big
views of nothing.  There is no advertising on the walls whatsoever, the scoreboard has no special
features at all, save for one line of text above the linescore and the only real view the fans get behind
the outfield fences is of a practice field behind the left field wall.  The seating bowls have no real
pizzazz or features about them, and as a result, the ballpark has a very bland look.

Promotions: N/A
See my above comments on between-innings entertainment.  There were no promotions being
offered on this evening.

Parking: C
Parking is free at Osceola County Stadium, and is on a paved lot – assuming you’re quick.  There is a
long lot a couple of rows deep of paved spots, and the overflow parking spills into the grass.  I have
never been a fan of grass parking, and any place that offers grass parking in Florida where rains are
heavy and unexpected needs to invest a few dollars in some blacktop.  That said, the walk to the park
is short, and – for the most part – keeps your car safe from having a baseball become a permanent
fixture.

Quality of baseball: A
The USA Olympic qualifying team played Puerto Rico on this night, and defeated them 16-5.  Both
clubs are comprised of minor league prospects and journeymen, along with a few amateurs, in
Puerto Rico’s case.  The defense on the USA side was impeccable, as each infielder (Bryan Lahair
(1B – Mariners), Bobby Hill (2B – Padres), Brandon Wood (SS – Angels) and Mike Kinkade (3B –
Marlins) made at least one spectacular play.  Puerto Rico lefthander Jose Santiago got shelled by the
big bats of the USA team, and received a warning after hitting three batters in the same inning, an
inning in which he gave up nine runs.  LaHair homered twice, joining Braves prospect Jarrod
Saltalamacchia, Royals prospect Billy Butler and others in pacing the USA offense.

Overall grade: D
Despite being in a beautiful part of Florida and the country, this is about
as bland a baseball experience as you would ever want to be a part of.  
The stadium is separated from the tourist areas of Orlando and
Kissimmee by a considerable distance, and the neighborhoods through
which you have to pass to get there are not the best.  Once you arrive at
the park, you’re greeted with an experience that has none of the trappings
of the other spring training parks in Florida, and offers very little in terms
of niceties to the fan.  Concessions are overpriced, tickets are expensive,
and the appearance of the park does not justify the cost to get in and enjoy it.   Many major league
clubs train in Florida, and a trip to any of those parks would be money better-spent than coming to
Osceola County Stadium.

How to get there:
The stadium is located off US 192 east of the Orlando/Kissimmee resort areas.  Take I-4 to exit 65
(the normal exit for 192 east is under construction) and follow the detour signs to 192 east, then stay
on 192 east for approximately 13-15 miles.  The stadium will be on the left.  The stadium is also
approachable via Florida’s Turnpike, Osceola Parkway, or any major thoroughfare that accesses US
192.

You may also want to see:
--Orlando.  The home of the Happiest Celebration on Earth is a short drive away from the ballpark,
and features Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Wide World of Sports, and many other theme and
water attractions.  Orlando is also home to the NBA’s Magic and Arena Football’s Predators.  Lodging
in Orlando is prevalent and able to fit any budget.
--Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral:  Just a short drive down FL 528 (Beachline Expressway) is the
Space Coast, which is home to the Brevard County Manatees (whose stadium I also reviewed earlier
this year), the Kennedy Space Center, and what is billed as Orlando’s closest beach.  The drive to
Cocoa is about 35 minutes, and there is much to see and do on Florida’s east coast.  Be advised,
however, that Beachline – along with many other roads in central Florida – is a toll road, and you
should arm yourself with plenty of dollars and quarters for the drive.
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