ballparks,  Florida

My night with the Tampa Yankees – April 11, 2014

After deciding to visit Clearwater and Bradenton for games while in Tampa for a conference, I opted to make the short trek from my downtown hotel to watch a Tampa Yankees game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.  I made the 15-minute drive from my hotel, and arrived armed with the code of “Peter O’Brien” to take advantage of the ticket deal on Bill Currie Ford Social Media Friday.

Before delving into details about the ballpark, fans should see the signage that greets visitors as they arrive at the stadium.

The signage for the Tampa Yankees’ home is easily visible off Dale Mabry Highway.

After taking advantage of the free parking (a rarity at Minor League games), I was quickly inundated with imagery related to the big league club that calls this facility home during Spring Training.  A life-size statue of former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, namesake of the stadium, greets fans as they walk up the stairs to the entrance.

A bronze, life-sized statue of George M. Steinbrenner was added outside the stadium in January 2011.

In addition to the Steinbrenner statue, there is a sculpture dedicated to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

“We Remember” is a memorial to the people who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Using the social media promotional code, I got my reserved seating ticket for $4 instead of the usual $6.  I could have gotten a general admission ticket for $2, but I preferred to have a reserved seat behind home plate.  Either way, it was a steal.  Ultimately, I got a refund after the ticket office staffer happened to print me a ticket for Sunday’s game, and I had to return to the box office and swap out my ticket.  He apologized and comped my ticket without me asking for any kind of compensation.

So with the proper ticket in hand, I headed back upstairs to enter the stadium.  Steinbrenner Field is unique for a Minor League ballpark because you walk up a large set of stairs before entering the stadium, which then requires you to descend many steps to reach your seats.

Main entrance to the ballpark.

Visible beyond the main gate is a merchandise stand that notably sells “New York Yankees” merchandise.  There is a larger souvenir stand downstairs, but like its smaller counterpart it was stocked primarily with items from the big league club and did not have a wide selection of Tampa Yankees paraphernalia.  Admittedly it was just a few weeks after Spring Training had concluded, and one staff member assured me they would be receiving more Tampa Yankees gear in the next few weeks.

My first impression of this being home of the New York Yankees did not change when I took a closeup view of the concession stands, which has the scalloped grandstand facade of the original Yankee Stadium.  While I am not a New York Yankees fan, I attended a game in “The House That Ruth Built” during its final season in 2008, and appreciate the Tampa ballpark’s homage to the Bronx.

Concession stands have the scalloped façade of old Yankee Stadium.

After looking over the pedestrian concession options, I decided to walk around the stadium and explore the landscape.  As I walked out to the seating bowl, I saw the night’s lineups.

The starting lineups for the Daytona Cubs and Tampa Yankees on April 11.

As I walked toward The Walgreens Deck in right field, I ran into the mascot: Blue.  Naturally, I had my picture taken with the alien from Pluto.

Me with Tampa Yankees mascot Blue.

I didn’t think to ask Blue what he thought of Pluto’s demotion from planet status, but he seemed focused on meeting and greeting people.

On my way back to my seat behind home plate, I stopped by the Yankees bullpen and got a picture of the night’s starting pitcher warming up.

Tampa Yankees starting pitcher Rafael De Paula warming up in the bullpen before the game.

Eventually I wandered back to my seat and relaxed while waiting for the first pitch.

Tampa Yankees right-handed pitcher Rafael De Paula delivers the first pitch of the game to Daytona Cubs second baseman Tim Saunders.

Speaking of seats, I found a pair of seats reserved for the 2014 Most Valuable Patrons.

Two specially reserved seats.

I’m not sure what makes Manuel and Jean Martino-Perez the “Most Valuable Patrons,” but I expect it relates to them being season ticket holders.  Regardless of the reasoning, it’s a cool designation.

Continuing the theme of seats, the seat at the end of each aisle had a New York Yankees logo on the side.

It is obvious the seats need a fresh coat of paint.

With a design that mimics old Yankee Stadium, George M. Steinbrenner has a scalloped overhang.  Unlike old Yankee Stadium, the ballpark in Tampa has sunscreens that spell out the team name.  These have become an iconic part of the facility, and are commonly featured in photos of the ballpark.

The iconic Yankees sunscreens along the third base line.

As I mentioned previously, the stadium lacked any signature food items.  Unless I wanted to have all-you-can-eat chicken wings on The Walgreens Deck, the concessions choices were hot dogs, burgers, or chicken tenders.  I ultimately decided upon a Chili Cheese Home Run Hot Dog.

Chili Cheese Home Run Dog, which is a foot-long hot dog topped with chili and nacho cheese.

The Chili Cheese Home Run Dog was OK, but the most distinctive part about the concession stand experience for me was the sticker shock about beer prices.  There were no craft beers or regional brews offered, instead all the options were macro-brewed choices like Bud Light Platinum or Miller Lite.  However, the prices for these 12-ounce beers was $7, which may not be shocking at a major league stadium, but is very steep for a Minor League ballpark.

Despite some of the things I disliked about the fan experience, the video board is definitely a plus.  It’s been in the background of some photos, but it merits its own photo and commentary.

Tampa Yankees first baseman Reymond Nunez’s info on the scoreboard in left field.

The videoboard’s columns evoke design elements of old Yankee Stadium, so it contributes further to the feeling of the stadium as the springtime home of the New York Yankees.  My camera struggles taking some nighttime photos, but the resolution on the video board is fantastic.  It’s impossible to miss any tidbit of the game because the videoboard has it all covered.

The other highlight is a more personal one, but something any fan can enjoy.  It’s not secret to those who know me that I love using social media, especially Twitter.  For the second year in a row, I won something at a Minor League game because of social media.  During the game, the Yankees had a giveaway during the game to a fan who tweeted their seat location.  I won 4 tickets to the next night’s game plus a serving of Mini Melts, which are similar to Dippin’ Dots.  I ended up giving away the tickets, but definitely enjoyed the winning experience.

Like most Minor League games, after the game the Yankees hosted a launch-a-ball contest.  Blue made his way down to the field during the contest to check for any winners who landed their ball in the bucket, but alas there were no winners.

Tampa Yankees mascot Blue and a staff member watching for potential winners during launch-a-ball.

Despite the pricey beers and lack of signature food items, the gameday experience at George M. Steinbrenner Field is enjoyable.  Ticket pricing certainly makes it an attractive option for families, whether they live in the area or are visiting an want to attend a game.  While I understand the appeal of making the stadium experience like a visit to mini Yankee Stadium, I hope the staff can incorporate some uniquely Tampa items into the food and souvenir selections.

Final: Daytona Cubs 1, Tampa Yankees 5
Box Score

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