After two days in Charleston (read about it here), Katie and I headed to our last stop on our tour of Minor League Baseball stadiums in South Carolina. Before making it to Columbia to watch the Fireflies, we explored Congaree National Park, which is the place that inspired the team’s name (read about it here).
Following parking in a field on the grounds of the former Bull Street Lunatic Asylum, we headed toward the newest Minor League Baseball stadium in the United States: Spirit Communications Park.
Although Katie and I made the 1/3-mile loop around the concourse and checked out the gift shop, we opted to wait on food and beverages to watch the beginning of the game.
|Columbia Fireflies starting pitcher Andrew Church delivering the first pitch to Augusta GreenJackets shortstop Lucius Fox.|
Somehow I never found a posted lineup for the game or the South Atlantic League standings posted at the stadium. However, due to an online box score I was able to see what San Francisco Giants prospects (see full list here) were playing for the visiting Augusta GreenJackets and what New York Mets (see full list here) prospects were on the field for the hometown Columbia Fireflies.
After watching a few innings of play, Katie and I made another trip around the concourse so I could take some photos. So first things we saw was the kids zone in left field.
|Inflatables in the kids zone.|
|Grandstand with suite boxes on the second level.|
Among the buildings in the outfield there are a number of displays detailing Columbia’s baseball history. One of the displays specifically discusses the first professional team in Columbia, which used a variety of names before settling on the Comers.
|One of two displays detailing the history of baseball in Columbia.|
|Display detailing the Columbia Commies, which played in the original South Atlantic League from 1903 to 1930.|
|Second set of display detailing Columbia’s baseball history, including the Columbia Reds and the Capital City Bombers, who were the last professional team in Columbia until the Fireflies moved to town before the 2016 season.|
|Display honoring Larry Doby, a native of nearby Camden, was the first African-American player in the American League
and second African-American to play in the Major Leagues after Jackie Robinson.
Beyond the current stadium wall is the South Carolina State Hospital, which was locally known as the Bull Street Lunatic Asylum. The stadium and other planned developments are being built on land that once belonged to the hospital, which the Babcock Building (read its entry on the National Register of Historic Places here) and other structures still stand (read about development plans here). The Babcock Building’s Italian Renaissance Revival architecture provides an aesthetically pleasing perch overlooking the ballpark.
|The Babcock Building just beyond the ballpark.|
After getting beers at the bar in right field, we fortunately ran into the Fireflies mascot Mason. So Katie and I waited for him and had our picture taken with him for the second time that day. We originally got a photo with Mason by the main entrance, but the staff member’s shadow was evident in the first photo.
|Katie and I with Mason.|
Following our trip around the concourse, I finally settled on my dinner choice. There is a portable concession stand near home plate that serves barbecue. South Carolina is noted for its unique take on barbecue, so I felt like having some was appropriate as we had not eaten any during the rest of our trip.
|Barbecue Sliders with three sauces: Carolina Gold, Sweet ‘n’ Spicy, and Pepper Vinegar.|
The shredded pork was excellent. It was moist yet not sopping wet. The sauces were a mixed bag, as could be expected. The Carolina Gold sauce was great. It is a mustard-based sauce, but it was sweet and tangy all at once. The Sweet ‘n’ Spicy was a tomato-based sauce that matched its name to a T. The Pepper Vinegar sauce was OK, but I have never been a fan of vinegar-based sauces.
Following my meal, I decided to take a few photos of two notable locations on the concourse that I had missed earlier. The first was the gift shop, which unto itself is not special, but I wanted to capture the iridescent glow on the marquee that is featured at other locations along the concourse.
|The gift store.|
The other location I wanted to feature was the SweetWater Brewing Company-branded bar behind home plate. SweetWater is an Atlanta-based regional craft brewery. So I was a little surprised to see their name splashed across the bar instead of seeing one of the local breweries featured. While beers from Columbia-based breweries are available at the stadium, I did not expect to see an Atlanta-based brewery to have naming rights at the ballpark.
|Home Plate Bar featuring the branding of Georgia-based SweetWater Brewing Company.|
In addition to capturing these two shots of the concourse, I realized that I did not have a photo of the videoboard or any good pictures of players in action.
|Videoboard in left field.|
|Augusta reliever Jake McCasland facing Columbia right fielder Kevin Kaczmarski.|
Unfortunately my camera does a mediocre job taking photos at night, but I felt like it was necessary to show off the Fireflies’ uniforms.
Perhaps one of the funnest things Katie and I got to do took place after the game when all fans were allowed to run the bases. Running the bases is a common event at many MiLB stadiums, but it’s usually reserved for kids and typically takes places only one day a week. However, the Fireflies let fans of all ages run the bases after all home games, so Katie and I took advantage and ran the bases after the final out.
Although the stadium opened on time for the season, the push to complete the stadium meant that the parking lot was not completed when we attended the game in mid-May. However, all the amenities at the stadium were completed. So I got to enjoy delicious barbecue and a good selection of craft beer.
While the barbecue was great, I was a bit disappointed to see that the team didn’t push the envelope by offering more unique food items. In their first season, the team may not have wanted to experiment too much with food choices. Regardless, the food available at the stadium was excellent, and the beer selection covered the bases with domestic macro brews, regional craft beers, and local craft beers. The stadium is beautiful and was completed on time, as promised. Hopefully fosters further development as Hardball Capital‘s stadium project in Fort Wayne did.
Final Score: Augusta 2, Columbia 14