All About Baseball
On the Road: The Southern League, Part I
Heat, Hospitality, and Homers
There was a conversation in my house between my oldest son, wife, and I in the winter of 2019, talking about future plans. At that point I was in my senior year of college (as a 44-year old) just finishing up my Bachelors degree in history, working towards my life long dream of becoming a teacher. We talked about all the possibilities of landing spots for me once I completed school, and the excitement of starting a brand new career after spending 25 years in my current profession. Probably tired of hearing us talk about the same things over and over, my son chimed in and mentioned that he wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer. Me not fully knowing exactly what a job like that entails, heard the word “space” and immediately thought of “Space Camp.”
I recall watching something on the public access channel when I was a kid about this camp in Huntsville, Alabama, that was for youths that wanted to explore a career in everything space. I remember how cool it seemed and I knew I wanted to go. It never happened. However now I had the opportunity to live vicariously through my son, as we decided to sign him up to attend Space Camp in June 2020. I sold the idea to my wife that while he was at camp, I would spend my time driving around Alabama doing historical things that I could bring back to my classroom someday. It was a win-win. Then COVID.
As was the case for so many of us, COVID wiped out our plans, and this proposed trip of a lifetime for both my son and I was going to have to wait. Until this summer.
When we concluded the world was going to be “as safe as it was going to be,” this past March, we signed our son up once again for Space Camp and the trip was back on. Sometimes planning a trip to a place you’ve never been is just as exciting as going on the trip itself. I spent so much time researching all of the different historical locations in Alabama that I wanted to be sure not to miss, trying to include things that my son would be interested in before dropping him off for the week. There was just so many things I wanted to see and do. Since my brain was still in the world of academia, I completely forgot about the other love in my life. Baseball.
It occurred to me that there are a few teams relatively close to each other in Alabama in the Southern League. I thought it was going to be great if any or all of them had home games the week I was down there, but knowing my luck they’d all be on the road. I am not sure if something was being made up to me after the cancellation of the trip two years prior, but the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Montgomery Biscuits, and Birmingham Barons all had home series that week. I actually couldn’t believe it. This adds an entire other dimension to the trip but also complications trying to schedule everything I wanted to do for the five days or so that I was going to be there.
To make a short story long everything worked out including adding another city and team to the list. The Chattanooga Lookouts.
After touring Alabama for a few days with my son before dropping him off at Space Camp, I decided to drive the 90+ miles from Huntsville, Alabama to Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was a city that I had never been to so I was looking forward to exploring. As soon as I pulled into town, dodging some crazy rain, I saw AT&T Field from the road and couldn’t wait to go to the game.
Battling the heat I spent some time wandering around near Ross’s Landing, reading historical markers on the Trail of Tears and taking photos of The Passage (Water Steps). It was pretty heavy so going to a baseball game was definitely something I needed to do. So after driving around trying to find a place to park, I found myself back down by Ross’s Landing squeezing into a parking spot in the lot at the corner of Riverview Parkway and Power Alley. I made the short trek up the hill to the base of the stadium and hopped on the escalator to get to the box office.
One of the major takeaways from my time in the south was how friendly everyone was. You hear of this “Southern Hospitality,” but I experienced it and I really enjoyed it. The first usher welcomed me to the park and guided me to the ticket window where another gentleman greeted me with a smile ready to assist. Since I was by myself I decided to purchase a general admission ticket so I could wander around to see all the park has to offer.
Overall it had a nice feel to it and slightly reminded me of Mirabito Stadium, the home of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The crowd filed in nicely, despite the heat and the rain from earlier, and we were all treated to an action-packed game. I decided to park myself in the GA seats on the third base line so I wouldn’t face the sun that had beaten me down most of the day.
The Lookouts jumped out to an early lead over the visiting Birmingham Barons, but squandered it a few innings later. To the delight of all in attendance they were able to get the lead back for good and win the game. Not having any horses in this race the outcome was not much of a matter to me, but I am glad to see the fans leave happy after enjoying a nice night at the ball park.
I was very satisfied with my time at AT&T Field and I am happy I was able to squeeze it in and I recommend anyone to take in a game there if they are ever in the lovely city of Chattanooga.
The next installment of “On the Road” will be my visit to Montgomery, Alabama the Capital of Dreams and the beautiful Riverwalk Stadium.
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