Wooden's World of Baseball

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Road Trip #3 - Kinston and Myrtle Beach

This was the big one. I had planned it since last fall, when the PNats schedule came out and I saw that they were travelling to Kinston and Myrtle Beach in mid-May: late enough to be past the threat of April rain, early enough to be before the stifling heat.

On the rain, that proved to be a very close call but I made it, suffering only rain on the travel days of Friday and Sunday.

Originally, the plan was to visit Myrtle Beach on Sunday, Kinston on Monday so I could see Potomac in both places, but the reality of my wife having to take time off from work was a luxury we could not afford.

So I left the PNats game early on Thursday night and headed down I-95 to get ahead of the traffic on Friday morning. Luckily, there's a cluster of cheap motels about an hour south of Woodbridge, so the strategy paid off and I was able to coast through Richmond without any significant traffic or veering off on 295.

Because the point of the trip was to do some sightseeing along the way, I took a "detour" onto I-85, heading for Henderson, NC and what really struck me,was how there were rows and rows of wildflowers along the side of the road and in the medians. The effect, to me, is simply stunning.

In Henderson, I stopped at a southern chain for some authentic (Eastern) North Carolina-style BBQ. I'm not sure which I like more, so I'll have to keep trying both styles for quite some time to "decide."

Using RoadsideAmerica.com, I was able to plot some stops, mostly for the pictures:

Um, Wilbur, I think you misunderstood me when I said "lay of the land"...

Water Tower outside of the home of the Carolina Mudcats

As you can see from the opening picture, Grainger Stadium was the first stop. While not technically a WPA park, it's the same style and has my favorite feature: A roof.

It still amazes me that so many of the ballparks I've encountered here in the South don't have one. Last I checked, it does rain here from time to time, and more importantly, it's not a bad idea to have some shade when it gets up over 90!

The most amusing feature of Grainger, which you can see in the foreground, is that the box seats are actually stalls with a folding chairs. Somehow, I think I could get used to it, since I've always felt that the two things you're paying for when you buy a box seat in the minors are the proximity to the field and having a seat back.

Less amusing feature, the damn cartoon Indian. Maybe someday it'll go the way of blackface and minstrel shows, but I'm not holding my breath when the "stars and bars" are considered anything less than the American equivalent of a swastika.

Saturday was another, shorter travel day as I made my way out to the coastal town of New Bern, birthplace of Pepsi and then south towards Wilmington. Originally I thought I might be able to sneak out to the coast for a picture or two, but this being the first real warm weekend, the traffic was too heavy for me to risk falling behind schedule. A few highlights:

Downtown, New Bern, NC

Horrible Tourist Trap

Insert adolescent remark here

As you might expect in a touristy town, with a brand-new ballpark, the Pelicans' home was pristine, with all the amenities that come with new ballparks: luxury boxes, an air-conditioned team store, and terrific food.

I took a break from the BBQ and had what could best be described as the "fish dog" - a foot-long filet of whitefish that was particularly good because it was fried on the spot versus being plucked from under a heat lamp.

My one regret on this trip was not booking a room in Myrtle Beach itself because I wanted to get a head start on the drive home on Sunday, which was going to be all the way back (400+ miles) in one day. But that's a small quibble for what will hopefully become an annual tradition.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A new ballpark in Loudon County?

For the second time in the past few months, a story has popped up that a new "green" ballpark has been proposed for an area to be dubbed "Kincora," which will feature among the usual distractions when developers make their pitch, a $30M ballpark that will house an Atlantic League expansion team.

Sorry, I just don't see it happening.

And it's not necessarily because of the poor economy. Or because the Potomac Nationals haven't been able to get any traction for the past five-to-six years to replace its dump of a ballpark.

I just don't see it happening because I quite frankly don't believe it when the developers promise to build, at their expense, the roads to relieve the traffic congestion. Never mind that Loudoun County has a LONG history of NIMBYism. They refuse to build schools without a fight on the distorted notion that that will somehow stem the tide of "newcomers," which in rural Virginia parlance means non-native (I prefer "college-educated," but I digress).

It's a shame because on paper it looks like a good idea, and it would be nice to not have to go to Frederick or Waldorf to go see a game when the PNats aren't in town (and sadly, I don't see ol' Art using this as leverage against Prince William Count, who are just simply cheap, period).

# # #
This weekend marks the long-awaited Carolina Road Trip — Kinston, NC on Friday, Myrtle Beach, SC on Saturday, driving back the whole way on Sunday. Look for pictures next week!