Southern Ballparks Every Baseball Fan Must See
The Team: Memphis Redbirds (AAA), St. Louis Cardinals affiliate
The Park: Tucked into the heart of downtown Memphis (within walking distance of historic Beale Street), this state-of-the-art facility combines elements from big league parks while maintaining a small-town vibe. A major renovation two years ago added an LED scoreboard in left field and ribbon board signs along the sides. Fans can also enjoy the Boardwalk, a family-friendly area filled with games, and the Picnic Pavilion, where nearly 500 fans can snack in the open air.
Good Eats: This is barbecue-loving Memphis after all, so of course the park serves Barbecue Nachos—pulled pork or chicken over cheese-covered chips. But it’s also the new Memphis, so other concession offerings include vegetarian specialties.
Extra Inning: What’s in a name? Plenty, if a city has been hosting a baseball team since 1877, the year the Memphis Reds first took the field. Since then, Memphis has had teams with monikers such as the Grays, Eurekas, Chicks, and Fever Germs (that played for only one season in 1893). The Redbirds made their debut in 1998 when the St. Louis Cardinals brought the new team to town.
Blue Wahoos Stadium
The Team: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (AA), Cincinnati Reds affiliate
The Park: With the blue Gulf waters of Pensacola Bay glittering just beyond the outfield walls, Blue Wahoos Stadium is one of the most picturesque parks in the South. The 5,038-seat facility opened in 2012 as part of the Vince J. Whibbs, Sr., Community Maritime Park, which also includes an amphitheater and festival grounds that host concerts and other special events.
Good Eats: You can get the usual stadium fare such as burgers, dogs, or barbecue sandwiches throughout the park—but for a different baseball treat, try some Wahoos Sushi at Bubba’s Sand Trap. Located near the main entrance, the bar and restaurant is named for team co-owner, professional golfer, and Pensacola native Bubba Watson.
Extra Inning: The Blue Wahoos arrived in Pensacola five years ago when the Cincinnati Reds moved their AA affiliate team from North Carolina to Florida. The team’s mascot (named after a tropical game fish related to the tuna) was chosen through a name-the-team contest and beat out finalists such as the Aviators, Redbones, Salty Dogs, Loggerheads, and (luckily) the Mullets.
Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville
The Team: Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (AA), Miami Marlins affiliate
The Park: This 11,000- capacity ballpark combines old-fashioned touches, such as a brick facade and seating on grassy berms, with plenty of modern amenities. Home runs don’t come easy—it’s 420 feet from home plate to the center field fence, one of the longest distances in the minor leagues.
Good Eats: Have a real Jumbo Shrimp experience with a bowl of house-made jambalaya at the park’s Sundowner Lounge.
Extra Inning: A new chapter in Jacksonville baseball history began this year when the team became the Jumbo Shrimp, gaining a name and logo to suit the River City’s sprawling size and coastal location.
St. Louis, MO
The Team: St. Louis Cardinals (National League)
The Park: Since the Cardinals moved to downtown St. Louis in 1966, they’ve played in three different ballparks known as Busch Stadium. The latest incarnation of the birds’ nest opened in the spring of 2006. Through the arched main entrance of the 46,700-seat stadium, fans experience wide, open concourses offering sweeping views of downtown St. Louis and the famous Gateway Arch. Between innings, friends get together at the U.S. Cellular Family Pavilion to play games or enjoy a cool drink at the Coca-Cola Rooftop Deck or the Backstop Bar.
Good Eats: St. Louis has always been a meat- lover’s town, and the Centerfield Carvery, just behind Gate 2, aims to please the most serious of carnivores. Build your own sandwich from a selection of sliced turkey or ham on freshly baked bread from Fazio’s Bakery on The Hill. Or try the Carvery Plate, an assortment of house-prepared meats served with potato chips and coleslaw.
Extra Inning: Before or after the game, take a tour through the team’s past at the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum. Located next to the stadium in Ballpark Village, the museum’s seven galleries feature the world’s largest collection of Cardinals memorabilia (including the 1926 contract of National Baseball Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who was paid all of $30,000 that year). The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and through the 7th inning of night home games.
North Little Rock, AR
The Team: Arkansas Travelers (AA), Seattle Mariners affiliate
The Park: This 7,200- capacity park opened across the Arkansas River from downtown Little Rock in 2007. It’s named for two sets of Arkansas brothers—major league players Bill and George Dickey and local businessmen Jackson T. and W.R. Stephens.
Good Eats: Enjoy a hot dog and a cold drink on the grassy berm near center field.
Extra Inning: The “Travs” are one of the oldest minor league franchises in the U.S. Travelers teams have been hitting the field since 1901.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
The Team: Durham Bulls (AAA), Tampa Bay Rays affiliate
The Park: Made famous by the movie Bull Durham, this downtown park just a block from the city’s Performing Arts Center opened in 1995. Few batters can hit the ball hard enough to clear the 32-foot-high left field wall (dubbed the Blue Monster), especially because it’s topped by the scoreboard as well as a replica of the Snorting Bull billboard re-created from the film.
Good Eats: The park features Bright Leaf’s Original Red Classic, a popping fresh frank from Carolina Packers of Smithfield, North Carolina, available at concession stands.
Extra Inning: Many parks feature ladies’ night—but only the Durham team offers a special night for the city’s female teachers. Every Friday during the season, Quintiles (a local pharmaceutical-research company) honors eight women in science from area high schools. Nominated by their students, the winners are recognized on the field.
First Tennessee Park
The Team: Nashville Sounds (AAA), Oakland Athletics affiliate
The Park: This 10,000- capacity park is one of the most environmentally friendly sports venues in the South. Located near the Cumberland River, the facility features a wide concourse that offers views of the field and downtown Nashville. A greenway connects the park to two other natural areas—the Cumberland River Greenway and Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Eco-conscious touches earned the park a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Good Eats: Eat and play while watching the game at The Band Box in right field. The outdoor bar and restaurant offers table tennis, foosball, and corn hole.
Extra Inning: Junior Gilliam Way, the street where the park is located, honors one of the first African-Americans to coach in the majors. A Nashville native, James William “Junior” Gilliam played with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1953 to 1966. He scored more than 100 runs in each of his first four seasons. Upon retirement, he became a coach with the Dodgers.
The Team: Savannah Bananas (Coastal Plain League)
The Park: One of the South’s oldest and most scenic ballparks, the cozy, 4,000-capacity, 76-year-old Grayson Stadium has seen players such as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Mickey Mantle take the field. A tree-shaded facade and manually operated scoreboard in left center field make you feel like you’re watching a baseball game from the 1940s.
Good Eats: Yes, they have some bananas. You can get regular versions of the fruit (as well as frozen chocolate ones) at concession stands throughout the ballpark. The Slippery Banana, a drink made with banana liqueur, is available at the beer deck, while Marco’s Pizza offers a tasty pepperoni-and-banana pepper pizza.
Extra Inning: After the 2015 season, when the city’s Sand Gnats left town for Columbia, South Carolina, it looked like exciting action on the Grayson diamond might be over. But luckily, the Coastal Plain League (a collegiate baseball organization) soon announced another team was headed to the beloved stadium. And the new guys didn’t do too badly—last year’s Savannah Bananas were the Coastal Plain League champions.
The Team: Norfolk Tides (AAA), Baltimore Orioles affiliate
The Park: Located on the Elizabeth River, this over-12,000-seat park has won numerous awards; it’s a former Baseball America selection for finest minor league park in the country.
Good Eats: The field’s Hits at the Park restaurant offers a Salute to Pork Challenge—one hour to finish a platter piled high with piggy products. Winners get their meal for free, but most fans just share it with friends; the challenge can feed four or more with ease.
Extra Inning: Every time fans yell for “Rip Tide,” the team’s mascot, they’re probably cheering on Bill Caruso, who has worn the costume for half of the 23 years Rip Tide has represented the Norfolk team.
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park
The Team: Charleston RiverDogs (A), New York Yankees affiliate
The Park: This 6,000-seat park near the banks of the Ashley River is home field for two baseball teams: the RiverDogs and The Citadel Bulldogs. The stadium site once belonged to The Citadel, so in a town-and-gown agreement, the city owns the property but gives the college lifetime playing rights at the ballpark, and the school maintains its own clubhouse.
Good Eats: Only a food-crazy town like Charleston would offer the unique treats featured at the park’s RiverDogs State Fair concession. The popular snack spot offers such one- and-only RiverDog specialties as Deep Fried Cheesecake on a Stick (a slice of luscious cheesecake slathered in batter and deep- fried to golden brown perfection); Chocolate-Covered Pepper Bacon (thick-sliced pepper bacon dipped in milk chocolate); and Oreo Churros (lengthy fried pastries made out of Oreo cookie batter and dusted with powdered sugar).
Extra Inning: The park is named after a longtime former mayor of Charleston, Joseph P. Riley, Jr., who led the city for 40 years before stepping down in 2016. Mayor Riley is an avid baseball fan who still attends as many games as possible at the park, even though—despite his objections—the city council voted unanimously to name the facility in his honor.
Kansas City, MO
The Team: Kansas City Royals (American League)
The Park: One of the oldest parks in the major leagues, 44-year-old Kauffman Stadium looks and feels younger than many stadiums that are a lot newer. Kauffman pays homage to its hometown of Kansas City (also known as the City of Fountains) with a 10-foot-tall waterfall display cascading into the pools and fountains set beyond the center field fence. Spray from the falls cools fans during summer afternoon games.
Good Eats: Craft & Draft is more brewpub than ballpark concession. Located in Section 301 near the left field corner, Craft & Draft offers 75 craft beers, including a rotating selection of about two dozen on tap. The changing menu of excellent pub foods includes a Jamaican jerk sausage sandwich and a kale salad with strawberries and apples.
Extra Inning: The Royals may sport a kingly moniker, but the name actually has more to do with “moos” than monarchs. A year before the team came to Kansas City in 1969, the owners held a name-the-team contest. The winner based his name on the American Royal livestock show that was held every year in the city.
Louisville Slugger Field
The Team: Louisville Bats (AAA), Cincinnati Reds affiliate
The Park: One of the first new ballparks to be built in a downtown area, the over-13,000-seat Slugger Field opened on the banks of the Ohio River near Waterfront Park in the spring of 2000. A renovated train shed (formerly a warehouse) from the 1800s serves as the park’s main entrance and also houses several retail shops and restaurants. The field’s sight lines are great—you can watch the Bats run the bases while enjoying views of the river and downtown Louisville.
Good Eats: There’s a little something for everybody at Home Plate Snacks at Section 113 (right behind home plate). Old-school fans can enjoy an authentic Louisville Slugger Dog or caramel corn, while those with more modern tastes should try a chicken salad sandwich or a serving of hummus.
Extra Inning: After watching the players swing for the fences at Slugger Field, take a trip to the place where the tools of their trade are made. Located about a mile west of the ball field, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory features one of the country’s best sports museums and is the world’s biggest manufacturer of wooden baseball bats. Take a tour of the factory where personalized bats are made for major and minor league players, and then head to the gift shop to have your name engraved on the barrel of your own keepsake Slugger.
The Team: Miami Marlins (National League)
The Park: Even with more than 37,000 seats, the 5-year-old Marlins Park is one of the most intimate stadiums in professional baseball. It’s also one of the most futuristic. Instead of brick or concrete, the facade features bright stucco, sleek metal, and glass.
Good Eats: Cool off and fill up with some treats from Miami’s Little Havana. Try a cup of house-made Azucar ice cream or a Velvet Creme doughnut, both served just as they are on Calle Ocho, the lively street that runs through the heart of Miami’s Cuban neighborhood.
Extra Inning: The park features two 450-gallon saltwater aquariums behind home plate. Constructed of fiberglass and 2-inch-thick clear acrylic panels, the tanks (and exotic fish inside) are protected from wild pitches by panels made of Lexan, a material used to make bullet-resistant glass.
The Team: Asheville Tourists (A), Colorado Rockies affiliate
The Park: Built into a tree-covered hillside about a mile south of downtown Asheville, McCormick Field opened in 1924. The park features an old-fashioned brick facade and a large cantilevered roof that shades most of the seats.
Good Eats: Asheville is known for mountain views and hometown brews, and both are on display and on tap at McCormick Field. The weekly Thirsty Thursday promotion offers fans local beers such as the Highland Brewing Company’s Highland Gaelic Ale, which you can enjoy with a classic hot dog.
Extra Inning: The ballpark is named after Dr. Lewis McCormick, a local bacteriologist who started a “Swat That Fly” campaign in 1905 to reduce the area’s housefly problem. Although Dr. McCormick died before the field was completed, his name lives on in local baseball (and flyswatter) history.
The Team: Biloxi Shuckers (AA), Milwaukee Brewers affiliate
The Park: When the Biloxi Shuckers played their first game two years ago, they took the field at one of the most innovative minor league parks in the country. The 5,000-seat MGM Park sits in the shadow of Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and is a couple of blocks from the Gulf. Most seats face south, offering views of Gulf sunsets over the park’s outfield walls. Because the facility was built after Hurricane Katrina, which hit in 2005, the stadium’s bowl is elevated to avoid storm surges.
Good Eats: The Aw Shucks Gulf Grill near Section 1B pays homage to Biloxi’s culinary history with local specialties such as a big platter of Peel ’N Eat Shrimp.
Extra Inning: After the Shuckers’ first season, Baseball America named them its Minor League Team of the Year.
Minute Maid Park
The Team: Houston Astros (American League)
The Park: Sure, the Houston Astrodome was cool when it opened in 1965, but the straight-out-of-The Jetsons sports venue was showing its age by the year 2000. So the city’s major league team decided to move back outdoors and play on natural grass at its new home, Minute Maid Park. The nearly 41,000-seat stadium, with its classic architecture and retractable roof, has become a landmark of the Houston skyline. Last year, the park’s center field area underwent a major renovation. This season, it will see improved seating, new food and beverage concessions, as well as escalators to help fans reach their seats more easily.
Good Eats: Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, has created several memorable dishes for Minute Maid Park, including a tasty Korean fried pork belly sandwich. You can find Zimmern’s eats at the ballpark’s FiveSeven Grille and concessions in Sections 126 and 409.
Extra Inning: When the Astros moved from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park, they created a new tradition: the Minute Maid Park Train. A 56-foot-long, 48,000-pound replica of an 1860s locomotive and coal car, the train runs along an elevated track atop the left field wall. Programmed with 18 different sound sequences (including the music for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), the engine celebrates home runs and other big plays for the Astros. In place of coal, the attached car carries oranges, naturally.
The Team: Washington Nationals (National League)
The Park: Ever since this innovative park opened in 2008, fans have been treated to exciting baseball and panoramic views of the Nation’s Capital. The field is set 24 feet below street level, and as you walk the ramps that lead to various levels of the 41,546-seat ballpark, you encounter views of such landmarks as the Navy Yard, the U.S. Capitol, and the Washington Monument.
Good Eats: Since 1958, people have been lining up at Ben’s Chili Bowl on Washington’s U Street for the city’s best hot dogs and chili. Ben’s most famous offering has always been its Original Chili Half-Smoke, an iconic dog that also brings lines to Ben’s concessions at Sections 109, 140, and 317 of the ballpark.
Extra Inning: During the Presidents Race, held in the middle of the fourth inning at every home game, Nationals employees—each topped with a giant foam caricature head of a famous Prez—race from right field to home plate. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft give it their all.
Orioles Park at Camden Yards
The Team: Baltimore Orioles (American League)
The Park: This landmark park started a trend of retro-style, fan-friendly fields when it opened 25 years ago. Orioles owner Eli Jacobs wanted to name the field Oriole Park, while then-Maryland governor William Donald Schaefer favored Camden Yards. Eventually, a compromise was reached: They used both names.
Good Eats: Nothing says “Baltimore” like the crab mac-and-cheese hot dog served by Esskay Gourmet Hot Dogs near Gate H. Most hometown fans crave this oversize treat loaded with macaroni and cheese and fresh lump crab meat and seasoned with Old Bay.
Extra Inning: When a home run ball lands on nearby Eutaw Street, the Orioles organization places a small baseball-shaped plaque in the street. So far, 85 bronze markers dot Eutaw’s pavement.
Radiology Associates Field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark
Daytona Beach, FL
The Team: Daytona Tortugas (A), Chicago Cubs affiliate
The Park: You have to take a bridge across the Halifax River to get to this park on City Island. It’s worth the trip once you reach the small, scenic 4,200-seat stadium.
Good Eats: Pizzas, hot dogs, and other treats are offered by the concession stands lining the park’s Riverwalk.
Extra Inning: In 1946, Daytona Beach became the first Florida city to allow an integrated baseball game when Jackie Robinson took the field with the Montreal Royals. Today, a statue of the baseball great stands at his namesake park.
The Team: Birmingham Barons (AA), Chicago White Sox affiliate
The Park: Ever since the Barons moved to downtown Birmingham, folks have flocked to this gorgeous ballpark. Located next to Railroad Park, the field offers impressive views of the downtown skyline, as well as Birmingham landmarks such as Red Mountain and the iconic Vulcan statue. The facade, made of brick and steel, pays homage to the city’s hardworking past.
Good Eats: You can’t visit Birmingham without trying barbecue, so the Dreamland concession is a must for any meat eater. Pick up a pulled pork sandwich and a cold beverage, and then take a seat at the Parkside Picnic Area overlooking left field.
Extra Inning: Originally named the Coal Barons, the Birmingham team was formed in 1885 and moved to Rickwood Field, its first park, in 1910. Through the years, more than 100 future Baseball Hall of Famers—including Babe Ruth and Willie Mays—played at Rickwood, now the country’s oldest operating baseball park. The facility hosts the annual Rickwood Classic at its home 3 miles west of Regions Field.
The Team: Montgomery Biscuits (AA), Tampa Bay Rays affiliate
The Park: This 7,000- capacity ballpark reflects the city’s river-and-rail history. The exterior of the first base side contains part of a converted, century-old train shed, while some of the luxury suites occupy the original train terminal.
Good Eats: Biscuits—what else? Head to the Biscuits concession, which offers treats adorned with a variety of toppings. Tip: Try the strawberry shortcake version.
Extra Inning: When the Orlando Rays announced they’d be moving here in 2003, they held a name-the-team contest. After going through several hundred entries, they chose the tasty baked good as the winner.
The Team: Atlanta Braves (National League)
The Park: The country’s most technologically advanced baseball park opened this spring, when the first pitch was thrown at SunTrust Park, the new 41,500-seat home of the Atlanta Braves. Located just north of Atlanta, the state-of-the-art facility features a higher percentage of seats close to the playing field than any other park in the major leagues—and free high-speed Wi-Fi.
Good Eats: Head to the Xfinity Rooftop area above right field, where an Airstream trailer serves food truck- style burgers, barbecue, and other baseball staples. The Rooftop also features an indoor bar with table tennis and foosball games.
Extra Inning: SunTrust Park is within walking distance of The Battery Atlanta complex, a 1.5-million-square-foot, mixed-use development featuring shops, residences, boutiques, and a number of restaurants and brewpubs (such as Linton Hopkins’ Holeman and Finch and the Athens-based Terrapin Taproom).
Corpus Christi, TX
The Team: Corpus Christi Hooks (AA), Houston Astros affiliate
The Park: This 5,000-seat ballpark is set near the USS Lexington (a World War II aircraft carrier that now serves as a museum) and the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge. The field is located so close to the city’s port that during games, fans can hear oceangoing vessels as they head toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Good Eats: Of course a ballpark sponsored by a hamburger chain would need a superstar burger—and The Babe certainly meets those expectations. Its Cheddarwurst sausage is wrapped in layers of hamburger and bacon.
Extra Inning: A few months after it opened, Whataburger Field unveiled For the Love of the Game, a statue of a ballplayer waiting for his turn at the plate. It was designed and cast by Texas artist Seth Vandable.
New Orleans, LA
The Team: New Orleans Baby Cakes (AAA), Miami Marlins affiliate
The Park: Affectionately known as the “Shrine on Airline,” Zephyr Field celebrated its 20th birthday by renaming the home team the New Orleans Baby Cakes. Change is nothing new for the venerable 11,000-capacity park that has attracted millions of fans since it was built in 1997. After being severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it reopened less than a year later with new lights, seats, and sound systems.
Good Eats: While the concession stands offer ballpark staples such as hot dogs, corn dogs, and hamburgers, try a bowl of homemade gumbo or crawfish étouffée. After all, you’re in New Orleans.
Extra Inning: To celebrate the new name of Baby Cakes (based on the Mardi Gras tradition of hiding a small plastic baby doll inside a King cake) the team’s owners have pledged lifetime passes to games for each child born in Louisiana this year.