Alabama,  ballparks

My night with the Huntsville Stars – Aug. 2, 2014

When you used to work in sports, it’s not always easy to attend games because you’re usually working them.  That is the case with the Huntsville Stars for me.  I interned with the team during the summer of 2003.  I visited for a game that fall during the Southern League playoffs, but like many stadiums that was before I started blogging about my ballpark treks.

When the sale and move of the Stars was announced early this year, I decided that I must watch a home game before the team moved to Biloxi.  I wasn’t the only one thinking about returning to Huntsville, as a former coworker organized a reunion via Facebook.  So not only did I get to see a game, but I got to see a bunch of former coworkers who I haven’t seen in nearly 10 years.

The exterior of the stadium was just as I remembered it, but that didn’t stop me from taking pictures of the road leading to the ballpark named after former team owner, president, general manager, and Huntsville-native Don Mincher.

A road dedicated to former Stars owner Don Mincher with Joe W. Davis Stadium in the background.

The facade of the stadium looks just the same as it did when I last attended a game, except for one change. Until the team changed its logo a few years ago there had been a pair of logos bracketing the text that read “Joe W. Davis Municipal Stadium.”  The aluminum where the logos stood is considerably lighter in color than the rest of the facade.

Main entrance.

Once I picked up my ticket from will call, I walked around the stadium a bit.  The biggest change is that the gift shop is no longer a hole in the wall, but an actual shop with an entrance.  After loading up on gifts and some gear for myself, I documented some of the standard ballpark features like the night’s starting lineups.

The starting lineups for Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014.
View of gift shop with a sign thanking the fans. The team’s mascot can be seen in the store.

As I hadn’t found where my former coworkers were sitting, I ended up watching the national anthem from the third base line.  The team celebrated AUSA Military Appreciation Night and had an honor guard present the colors.

Players remain at attention as the honor guard leaves the field.

I could go into detail about the stadium’s history, but’s Ben Hill has a detailed rundown of the team and the ballpark included in his visit to Huntsville earlier this season (read about it here).

I did want to capture a picture of signage commemorating the Stars’ championship seasons.

The left field wall with stars to celebrate the team’s three Southern League championships: 1985, 1994, and 2001.

With the national anthem concluded, I headed towards home plate because I wanted to get a photo of the first pitch.  The view from home plate during the first pitch is an image I think conveys the essence of a ballpark.  For many fans, the backdrop is a crucial element to their enjoyment of the game and the view from the grandstand is regularly discussed in books reviewing baseball stadiums.

First pitch between the Huntsville Stars and Jacksonville Suns.

After capturing the first pitch, I checked out the concession stands to determine what I would eat for dinner.  While I hadn’t been to a Stars game in over 10 years, very little has changed about the food choices.  The standard ballpark fare is available at each stand (one open on the first and third base lines), so fans looking for a signature food item won’t find one in Huntsville.

Former concession stand with a nearby bar.
Concession stand on third base line.
Condiment stand and concourse along first base line.

I wasn’t surprised to see the basic food choices, so I opted for one of my favorite items from my internship days: a Philly cheesesteak.  It’s not a food item that is part of the Southern food palate, but I would regularly get them at Billy Ray’s Grill when I interned with the Stars in 2003.

After getting my cheesesteak and getting a beer, I eventually found my former coworkers who were sitting in a section along the first base line.

My Philly cheesesteak.

Along with the Philly cheesesteak, I got a Speckled Trout Wheat from Old Black Bear Brewing Company, which is a local craft brewery.  There were other beers on tap from OBB, but they were the only local or regional craft beers available.  Living and working in Alabama, I know the state has a growing craft beer industry, so I was disappointed that only one of the state’s craft beers was available.

While talking with my friends, I lucked out and got my photo with the team mascot taken.  With a team named Stars, people might expect an alien for a mascot, but that’s not the case in Huntsville.  The legend goes that a family of skunks ran across the outfield just before the team’s first game in 1985, which ultimately gave birth to Homer the Polecat.

Me with Homer the Polecat, who is sporting an old-style team jersey.

While talking with friends, I did watch some of the game.

Jacksonville starting pitcher Robert Morey.

I also got pictures of the stadium, which should help people unfamiliar with the dimensions of the ballpark understand why ownership in Huntsville sought a new stadium for many years.  The stadium reflects the era in which it was built: the 1980s.  It’s a concrete structure designed to host baseball and football.  It hosted high school area football until 2002, so there are extra seats down the third base line that are regularly unoccupied.

View of the grandstand with press box and sky boxes.

The stadium has sky boxes, but they are simply down the third base line and do not open to the elements. While I have never experienced a game from a sky box, I was in them often as an intern and the inability to open the windows leaves fans isolated from the rest of the crowd.

The scoreboard is another piece that reflects its age.  It was upgraded since I last attended a game in 2003, but the video system does not work and the main part of the scoreboard predates my time as an intern.

View of the scoreboard, and sign thanking the fans.

Despite the upkeep issues, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful.  The food was hot and fresh, in spite of the limited selection.  The beer was cold and refreshing, although I would’ve enjoyed a bigger variety.  Most importantly, it was great to attend Just One Game and see a bunch of former coworkers who I haven’t seen in many years.

Group picture of former Stars employees.

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