Thursday, July 30, 2009

Charlotte Sports Park

Last night I attended a game between the Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Tampa Yankees in the beautiful Charlotte Sports Park near Port Charlotte. This newly renovated gem was a real pleasure to watch a game in. Although the total capacity of the park is about 6,100 people it feels much smaller than that. I was behind home plate about 7 rows back from the field. That was the first seat available anywhere in the three sections behind home plate - all the rest of the seats were taken by season ticket holders. What a concept!

I left Sarasota about 5:15 p.m. intending to arrive at the park about 6:00. When I left Sarasota there were just puffy cumulostratus clouds in the sky with just a hint of storm clouds to the south. Off to the west everything was clear. However when I arrived at exit 191 just 22 miles south all hell broke loose. Suddenly the sky blackened - and I mean suddenly. A couple miles further on the freeway and I drove into a rain storm that reminded me of driving in a tropical storm. I exited the freeway at mile 179 and took Toledo Blade Road south toward Port Charlotte. I later was told that this road is a favored hangout of the Charlotte County Sheriff's deputies armed with radar. So be aware.

I arrived at the park at 6:05 to a howling gale and horizontal rain. Some hapless guy was standing under a tent top collecting $3.00 to pay for parking. I parked my car and then sat in it for another 30 minutes waiting for an ark to float by me but eventually the deluge stopped and all of us in the parking lot emerged like an armada of soaked muskrats and walked to the stadium.

I purchased a ticket then grabbed a Charlotte Stone Crabs baseball cap to add to my growing collection.

Inside the park I found the seats to be spacious and quite comfortable - well as comfortable as hard plastic that just had 900 inches of rain fall on it can be. With my seat located I took off to explore and was able to circumnavigate the park along the "Baseball Boardwalk" that surrounds the outfield. This stadium, like the one in Clearwater, has a Tiki Bar in left center field. I now have two "most favorite" stadiums. However unlike Clearwater the tiki bar in Charlotte does not have Landshark Lager on tap. It has Red Stripe and Cerveza Presidente - two close seconds but there is no parrothead beer on tap.

Because of the rain delay, the 7:00 scheduled start didn't get started until 8:15 p.m. As the final score indicates, the Stone Crabs should have prayed for a postponement. The Tampa Yankees demolished them 7-0. It wasn't even a contest. Charlotte leads the southern division of the Florida State League and their loss to the northern division leaders from Tampa allowed the Sarasota Reds (who won - with me not in the stands) to move up to within 2 games of first place in their division.

All in all it was an enjoyable game in a beautiful ball park. Of the 7 I have been in I'm still leaning toward the Fort Myers stadium being the best one - but there are four more to visit on the east coast before I know for certain.

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