Alabama,  ballparks

My night with the Birmingham Barons – July 21, 2012

For the first time in 19 years I went to a minor league baseball game in Hoover, Ala., and saw the Birmingham Barons host the Montgomery Biscuits.  My first visit to the stadium now known as Regions Park came in August 1993 with my dad, and sadly I don’t recall many details from that visit to the park.  Except for some souvenirs I have little recollection about the game.  However, I made sure to document my most recent visit to the stadium previously known as Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

I got great seats on the day of the game right behind home plate an hour before first pitch.  I don’t know if sales are slow because it is the last season the Barons will play at Regions Park or a reflection about the team’s overall attendance trend.  Regardless, I had great seats on a humid night.

Main entrance to Regions Park (formerly Hoover Metropolitan Stadium).

The stadium opened in 1987, which is obvious from the massive concrete grandstand, and lack of charm despite attempts to renovate the entrance.  The flags were at half mast because of the shooting in Aurora, Colo., the previous day.  Whether at half mast or not, the flag poles disrupt a fan’s ability to read the name of the park at its main entrance.

The souvenir shop is just feet past the gate, but is very small and has just the minimal amount of novelties for sale.  I purchased a Babe Ruff doll for my friend’s two-year-old son, which I know he’ll enjoy.  However, I was disappointed that the store did not have the replica wooden bat I wanted.  I hoped to find a natural-colored mini bat for my collection, but the store only had red and black varieties.  The team did the best with a not-so-great situation, but it certainly lacked the appeal of other souvenir stores.

After finding our seats, my friend Wally and I settled in for the start of the game as I wanted to be sure to capture the first pitch.

Birmingham Barons left-handed pitcher Spencer Arroyo delivers the first pitch to Montgomery Biscuits shortstop Hak-Ju Lee.

Grubs and suds

I had mixed results with the food and drink selection.  Three concession stands had the same items, except for the Stadium Pub & Grill.  The decor was the same as the other stands, but it featured Dreamland BBQ nachos.  The nacho chips were covered in melted cheese, pulled pork, bbq sauce, sour cream, onions, diced tomatoes, and jalapenos.  I’ve seen BBQ nachos at other ballparks (notably at Dickey-Stephens in North Little Rock and Pringles Park in Jackson, Tenn.), but these were something to brag about.  I complemented the nachos with a 16-oz. Shock Top, and felt full but not stuffed.

Dreamland BBQ Nachos, which are nachos topped with pulled pork, Dreamland BBQ sauce, queso, pickled jalapeños, salsa fresco, and diced onions.

There were a few specialty stands like Mojitos Mexican Grill and Barber’s (an ice cream stand), but the thing that stood out the most was the premium beer stand along the first base line.  It has a variety of local microbrews, but the most shocking thing was the inclusion of Rolling Rock as a premium beer.  I’ve had Rolling Rock on many occasions, but I’d never classify it as a premium beer!  At least the Back Forty Truck Stop Honey  I drank hit the taste buds just right.

Ballpark atmosphere

As I watched the game, I made sure to capture a few photos of the seating bowl.  The stadium has undergone numerous renovations because it regularly hosts the Southeastern Conference’s annual baseball tournament.  However, the ballpark clearly lacks the amenities of newer parks.

The in-game entertainment was nothing special, but the postgame fireworks show compensated for any shortcomings.  The entertainment was not bad, but nothing stood out about the between-inning contests.  It was also difficult to hear the public address announcer.  The mascot names were cute, but Babe Ruff and Lillie Mays could have contributed more to the entertainment experience.

The fireworks were a great finish to the game.

Fireworks finale on a summer night.

Granted it is difficult to leave a ballpark unhappy after watching a fireworks display.

Final: Montgomery 5, Birmingham 1
Box Score