Saturday, June 30, 2012

VA Memorial Stadium, Chillicothe OH

Basic Information
Team: Chillicothe Paints (Prospect League)
Game: Paints vs Lorain County Ironmen-6/16/2012
Team Website: www.chillicothepaints.com
Ticket Information: (740) 773-TEAM or www.chillicothepaints.com
Tourism Information: (800) 413-4118 or www.visitchillicotheohio.com
Online Broadcasts: www.chillicothepaints.com
Local Newspaper: Chillicothe Gazette www.chillicothegazette.com


Team Information: One of the charter franchises in the Frontier League, the Chillicothe Paints are in their twentieth season of play. Starting in 1993, the Paints were one of the cornerstone franchises of the league, and when they moved to the college wood bat Prospect League, they were the last of the Frontier League's charter franchise in their original city. The Paints made the FL playoffs on six occasions, and kept up that level of excellence in the Prospect League, winning the league's title in 2010.

Seating Capacity: VA Memorial Stadium has a capacity of approximately 3000.

How About That Name (And Some History): Located on the grounds of the Veterans Administration Hospital, VA Memorial Stadium is located three miles north of downtown Chillicothe. Having been built with funding from the Blue Star Mothers of America, the stadium was originally used for softball games between patients at the hospital. In 1993, in time for the inaugural season of the Paints, the stadium was completely renovated. In 2006, the park underwent additional renovations, which included a new Field Turf playing surface.

Other Tenants: VA Memorial Stadium hosts a myriad of other local events, including high school baseball, softball, soccer, and football. From 2008 until last year, the park was the home of the Mid American Conference's baseball tournament.

Getting There: From Columbus, take US-23 south for 23 miles, exiting onto Ohio Rt 207. Take Rt 207 for approximately three miles, then turn right into the VA Hospital complex. Go for approximately a half mile and the ballpark and parking will be on your left.

On The Town: Located in the lush green farmlands of south central Ohio, Chillicothe is a town with a population of 22,000 as of the most recent census.

Chillicothe does not have direct service from any major interstate highways, but it is within an hour's drive from I-71 and I-75.



What is now known as the town of Chillicothe was inhabited two thousand years ago by early Native American tribes. These groups built settlements and burial mounds throughout the Ohio and Scioto river valleys. These tribes, which included the Shawnees had the area unto themselves until after the Revolutionary War, when Europeans started moving from the Atlantic coast in search of good farming land.

Chillicothe was the state capital of Ohio from the granting of statehood in 1803 until 1810, when it was moved to Zanesville. In 1812, the capital moved back to Chillicothe, where it stood until 1816 when it was moved to the more centrally located Columbus.

Three Ohio governors (Edward Tiffin, Thomas Worthington, and Duncan McArthur) were born in Chillicothe, as well as noted jazz singer Nancy Wilson.

Nearby Airport: The closest major airport to Chillicothe is Port Columbus International Airport, which is approximately 50 miles northeast of Chillicothe.

What To Do: Although I didn't get the chance to actually attend this, it sounded interesting to me, being a history buff.

Chillicothe is the home of an outdoor historical drama "Tecumseh", which is based upon the life of the legendary Shawnee chief. According to the informational brochure, the drama, which has been done for the past forty years, features horses, cannon fire, stunts, and "dazzling battle scenes". For more information, call (866) 775-0700 or visit www.tecumsehdrama.com.

Where To Eat: Food wise, there was nothing in the immediate area of the ballpark. I would suggest checking with the local convention and visitors bureau or hotel if you're staying locally for more information.

Where To Stay: On this trip I stayed in Columbus (which turned out to be not such a good idea). However, the Paints do have a preferred hotel in town, which is the Comfort Inn in Chillicothe. The hotel provides a complimentary breakfast, an outdoor swimming pool, and an on-site bar and restaurant. For more information, call (800) 542-7919.

Ticket Prices: Paints tickets are priced as follows: $6.00 (general admission), $5.00 (senior citizens and chidren 4-12).

Parking: There is a fairly good sized lot right next to the stadium. Parking in this lot is free.

Getting In: The main entrance to the park is located on the third base side of the grandstand. The box office is also located at this entrance.

The Good Seats: The main grandstand of VA Memorial Stadium runs from first base to third base and has fourteen rows. The front seven rows consists of bleachers with backs, and the rear seven rows are bleachers without backs. The entire main grandstand is under cover. There is also a small bleacher section down the right field line, and a small bleacher section and a large picnic/party area down the left field line.

Stadium Food: VA Memorial Stadium has two major points of sale for their food concessions. The first is right behind home plate under the main grandstand and sells the ballpark basics. While the selection probably won't exactly knock your socks off, the price will definitely make you smile. For my meal, I had two hot dogs, a bag of Herr's potato chips, and a bottle of Pepsi, which cost a very pleasant $7.00. The meal also included a free pickle spear. The quality was pretty good, the hot dogs were made fresh, served fairly warm, and were relatively tasty.

Next to this concession stand, there is a small cart which sells funnel cakes and other sweets.

There is another concession stand next to the picnic area which has a large grill for fresh made hot dogs and hamburgers.

Here is a sample of the pricing for the food at the home of the Paints:

Hot Dog: $2.00 Cheeseburger: $3.50 Nachos: $3.75 Pizza Slice: $2.00 Bottled Soda: $2.00 Draft Beer: $3.00 French Fries: $2.50

Soft Drinks: Pepsi-Cola products are served at VA Memorial Stadium.

Souvenirs: The "General Store" souvenir stand is located under the grandstand across from the concession stand. The small booth sells a better than average line of merchandise.

ATM: A "no-brand" ATM is located in the left field picnic area.

Rest Rooms: There are mens' and womens' restrooms located under the main grandstand. While they are probably "original equipment" they are in good working order.

Mascot: "Chief Krazy Horse" circulates througout the park during the entire game.

Dance Team: None

Program: The Paints sell a scorecard at the main entrance for $1.00. In addition the team also distributes the "Stable Report", a free tabloid sized newspaper which gives in depth information on the players and the Prospect League.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Located in left center field, VA Memorial Stadium has a rather unique scoreboard set up. The ballpark has a manually operated scoreboard which features the line score of the game, and right next to the linescore, a modern electronic board which shows the remainder of the pertinent game data. The ballpark has a good sound system and PA announcer. The team has a very good selection of music, which leans toward modern country music, as opposed to the standard stadium selection.

Stadium Staff: This is one of the areas where some work is needed. Other than one on two college interns and some other volunteers, there wasn't much of a staff presence at the park. However, the people there were friendly, except for the one guy who worked at the beer trailer who told some kids (rather nastily, if you ask me), to "get away from the fence".

Atmosphere: One of the nice things about coming to a game in a small town like Chillicothe is that it is very community friendly. The team is locally owned, the majority of sponsors are local or regional, and the fans are very involved with the team. The majority of Paints fans are families, which makes for a pleasant and lively atmosphere.

Overall Rating: While the physical plant had some renovations and updates over the past few years, VA Memorial Stadium retains that "old-time" ballpark atmosphere. While the park could use some sprucing up here and there, it's still a comfortable place to watch a ballgame in the rolling farmlands of south central Ohio.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Silver Cross Field, Joliet IL

Basic Information
Team: Joliet Slammers (Frontier League)
Game: Slammers vs Evansville Otters-5/27/2012
Team Website: www.jolietslammers.com
Ticket Information: (815) 722-2287 or www.jolietslammers.com
Tourism Information: (877) 4-JOLIET or www.visitjoliet.org
Online Broadcasts: WJOL-AM 1340 www.wjol.com
Local Newspaper: The Herald-News www.heraldnews.suntimes.com

Team Information: Much like their counterparts in Schaumburg, the Joliet Slammers were born out of the ashes of a past franchise. The Slammers replaced the Joliet Jackhammers, after the franchise rights were sold to new ownership in December 2010. The Jackhammers played in the Northern League from 2002-2010 at Silver Cross Field, making the  playoffs twice, in 2002 and 2010. However, attendance and financial issues caused the team to be put up for sale, and on December 9, 2010, the team was purchased by new owners, and would be moving to the Frontier League. The Slammers inaugural season was a major success, as the team took home the Frontier League title after defeating the River City Rascals in four games.

Seating Capacity: Silver Cross Field has a total seating capacity of 6229.
How About That Name (And Some History): Silver Cross Field was opened on June 6, 2002 after fourteen months of construction. Located near downtown Joliet, the stadium cost $27 million to build. The naming rights are held by Silver Cross Hospital, a hospital which since 1895 has been serving the Joliet area.

Other Tenants: Silver Cross Field is also the home of the St. Francis University baseball team.

Getting There: From I-80 east or west, exit at Chicago St (Exit 132B). Go north on Chicago St to Washington Ave. Make a right on Washington and follow to ballpark.

On The Town: With a population of almost 152,000, Joliet is the fourth largest city on Illinois. Located approximately forty miles southwest of downtown Chicago, Joliet is the county seat of Will County.
Two major interstate highways service Joliet, Interstate 80, which runs east and west virtually from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and I-55, which runs south through St. Louis and terminating in Memphis.

The first recorded exploration of what is now Joliet came in 1673, when a French Canadian explorer named Louis Jolliet, accompanied by a  Father Jacques Marquette paddled up what is now known as the Des Plaines River, making camp on a large clay hill just south of what is modern day Joliet. The two named the mound Mount Jolliet. In 1834, as the area was being settled, James Campbell laid out a village on that site, which he called "Juliet", which was most probably a corruption of the name of Jolliet, which the first settlers had been using for some time. In 1852, the town was incorporated under the correct name of Joliet.

The first Dairy Queen ice cream parlor was opened in 1940 in a two-story commercial building at 501 North Chicago Ave in downtown Joliet.
Joliet might be known best for the Joliet State Prison, which served as a correctional facility from 1858 through 2002. The imposing facility was seen briefly in the beginning of the classic movie "The Blues Brothers" when John Belushi's Jake Blues was paroled after a stretch in Joliet. The prison is now a public park, featuring several markers telling the history of the facility and those who served time there.

Nearby Airport: O'Hare International Airport is approximately 45 miles north of Silver Cross Field.

What To Do: This was another "in and outer" for me, so other than a short stop at the Joliet Prison Park, I didn't get much of a chance for sightseeing.

Where To Eat: Again, I headed right to the ballpark from my lodgings, so I didn't get a chance to sample any of the local cuisine. I would check with the visitors bureau for a list of recommended eats.
Where To Stay: On this trip, I stayed in Naperville, which was halfway between the two parks I was visiting. In a previous trip to Joliet, I stayed at a Red Roof located just off I-80. There was a Bob Evans restaurant next door as well as several fast food places within a short walk or shorter drive.
Ticket Prices: Slammers tickets are priced as follows: $10.00 (reserved seating), $7.00 (general admission), and $5.00 (lawn seating).

Parking: There are several lots located near the park, which according to the Slammers website are all free on game days. I parked in a large fenced in lot on the right field side of Silver Cross Field, which was a three minute walk to the main entrance.

Getting In: The main entrance to Silver Cross Field is at the intersection of Jefferson and Mayor Art Schultz Dr. The main entrance hosts the entrance to the park as well as the ticket office and will call windows.

The Good Seats: Like many parks of a similar size, Silver Cross Field has a single decked grandstand which runs from first base to third base. The park also has grass berms along the first and third base lines for all of the sun worshippers. For this game, seats in the shade were the prime choice due to the heat!
Stadium Food: I hate to admit it, but eating at the park was not of a prime concern for me at this game due to the fact that it was about 95 degrees at game time. This made any thoughts of a ball park lunch a bit of a moot point, since oppresive heat and food don't really mix well for me. However, I did sample a slice of the ballpark pizza just so I can say that I didn't completely tank the food report! The pizza slice was fairly large and was served hot. It was substantially cheesy and was fairly tasty as well.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at Silver Cross Field:

Hot Dog: $4.00   Hamburger: $7.00   Nachos: $4.00   Draft Beer: $5.00   Pretzel: $2.75   French Fries: $3.50   Pizza Slice: $4.75

Soft Drinks: Pepsi-Cola products are served at Silver Cross Field.

ATM: A 1st Midwest Bank ATM is located on the main concourse near the information booth on the first base side.
Souvenirs: The Slammers have a fairly large souvenir store, cleverly called "the Clink", located on the first base side of the main concourse.

Restrooms: Silver Cross Field has an appropriate amount of restrooms, which are large, clean, and well stocked.
Mascots: The Slammers have two mascots, J.L. Bird and Spikes the Police Dog. J.L. is a large black bird wearing prison garb and Spikes can be seen wearing his trademark police hat. Both are involved in many promotions and spend time in the stands.

Dance Team: None

Program: "Gameday", the Slammers full-color program is a good buy at a dollar per copy.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: The home of the Slammers has a fairly standard sized scoreboard in left center field. The board has a decent sized video screen as well as a smaller space below for the standard game information. The PA announcer is good, and the music selection is better than the average arena/ballpark playlist.
Stadium Staff: Despite the ninety-plus degree temperatures, everyone I encountered was in a good mood and extremely helpful and pleasant to a first-timer. Special thanks to team president Bill Waliewski and media relations director Aaron Morse for their warm hospitality.

Atmosphere: Honestly, I thought that it seemed a little quiet, but again, if it's 95 degrees out, you really don't want to be expending anymore energy than is necessary. However, as the Slammers came up for the bottom of the ninth in a tight ballgame, the park came alive as both fans and Slammers staff started clapping along to the song "Uprising" by Muse in hopes of getting a rally started.

Overall Rating: Silver Cross Field is a terrific little ballpark. In my opinion, it has everything that a baseball fan could want for a pleasant, inexpensive day out. I hope to make a return trip in the furure!