(AKA: Back to the Minors)
To my friends who know me, it’s no secret that I enjoy the occasional minor league game. Originally being from southern California, I would always take in a game for one of the many California League teams there are, the Quakes, the 66ers, the Storm, and even the Mavericks (one of my loyal readers and friends has announced for them this season). I’ve been to three alone this season, so what’s another game, right? As I was leaving Baltimore heading north on the I-95, I happened to see some lights in the distance. I peered towards the east right off the freeway, and saw that those lights belonged to a baseball stadium! After slowing down, I saw a game was in progress. After about a minute of debating, I decided to get off at the nearest off-ramp and make my way there to see what this place was all about.
The ballpark: Judy Johnson Field at Frawley Stadium, elevation is about 20 feet
The game: Frederick Keys (Orioles affiliate) @ Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals affiliate) on August 2, 2014
There I was entering Wilmington, Delaware as the day was drawing to a close. I figured I would get near the stadium and take a look around. Since the game had already started and was maybe an hour in, there were no parking attendants, so I didn’t have to pay for parking (although upon further review, they offer free parking there). I walked around the perimeter of the stadium and just enjoyed it. No score book, no plans, just baseball in its purest form. I took a few pictures of this ballpark entering the sunset, and even made my way around to where the Delaware sports Hall of Fame is. Unfortunately, it was closed, but I’m sure there are some great exhibits in there.
One of those exhibits features the man depicted in a statue outside of Frawley Stadium. That statue depicts William “Judy” Johnson, one of the greatest players of the Negro Leagues. To me, this was pretty cool since he’s one of the few black players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While he wasn’t a power hitter, he consistently batted over .300 spraying singles all over the outfield. He was also an exceptional fielder and on the plaque by his statue, it says Johnson was considered one of the greatest third basemen of the Negro Leagues. He grew up in Wilmington, and lived his life mostly in Delaware. As I was admiring the statue and reading the plaque, I noticed one of the Blue Rocks staff members and asked about the stadium and the team.
This gentleman’s name is Andrew Layman, who is the assistant general manager of the Blue Rocks, and he was very kind to me while I was there. What he told me was that this stadium is named Judy Johnson Field because of his importance to the community, and the game of baseball. He also told me that the Blue Rocks are a high-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and have been their affiliate since the early 1990s. After asking where I was from (because I guess it was that obvious that I was an “out-of-towner”), I told him that I was currently touring as many MLB stadiums as possible, and that seemed to spark an interest with him! After telling me more about the stadium and the team, he invited me to watch the last few innings of the game since it was so late and didn’t have to buy a ticket.
With its brick facade and old buildings across the street from the stadium, this place felt similar to Camden Yards. To me, that is a big plus. The stadium is built in the classic style that became popular in the 1990s, with plenty of space for parking all around. As I walked around the interior of the stadium, I took a gander at the concession prices, and boy were they awesome! Four and a half bucks for a jumbo hot dog is actually a pretty decent price. Most minor league parks charge anywhere from five to six bucks for a jumbo hot dog, so this was definitely on the lower end of prices. Maybe other minor league stadiums should take note!
After enjoying a couple hot dogs, I sat down and watched the home town Blue Rocks put up three runs in the seventh inning. Every time the Blue Rocks score, two things happen. First, a jet of water will spray upwards beyond the outfield wall, and it shoots out of what looks like a big Coke bottle in the outfield wall. Also, their secondary mascot, a stalk of celery, will come out and “CELE-brate” the run being scored. Ha! I love a good pun, and that one won me over.
The Blue Rocks went on to win, 6-0 in a quick game. While I usually get myself a hat from every major league stadium, that rule doesn’t apply for minor league parks. Thus, I didn’t buy anything from that park. However, the prices are great for memorabilia there. If I find my way back out there, I may pick up a hat if the park is still open during the winter.
Overall, a great place to watch some minor league ball, and a great staff all around. A huge thanks to the assistant GM, Andrew Layman, for showing me around the park and allowing me to watch a few innings. I extend my deepest thanks, and while it’s not knocking out another ballpark, this does add something to my list. I got to watch a baseball game in another new state, and I’m grateful for that. After saying goodbye to Delaware, I made my way back up the freeway and on to get some rest. I would need the rest for I would be heading to New York City the very next day. Until then, thank you so much for reading! The next updates will be from my visit in the Big Apple. In real time, though, I am flying out tonight for two more stops… in Texas!