Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day 24: Five Counties Stadium

All photos of Zebulon and Five Counties Stadium available on Flickr.

After spending the majority of first couple weeks of the trip visiting parks that we had already been to, yesterday brought us to rural North Carolina and Five Counties Stadium, home of the Double AA Carolina Mudcats. We left DC about 11 AM and enjoyed a leisurely drive through Virginia and North Carolina. We arrived in Zebulon, NC at 3:30 PM, almost 4 hours before first pitch. This left us plenty of time to explore the surrounding area. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to see or do in tiny Zebulon. So, we grabbed a sixer of Miller Lite from Eckard's Drugstore and, despite the large 'No Tailgaiting' sign in the Mudcats parking lot, we had a tailgate. My friends Lyndsay and Tim made the drive up from Southern Pines to catch another game with us and they arrived at 6 PM, just as we were setting up our fundraising booth. The skies were threatening as we began our efforts but the rain managed to hold off until the 6th inning. We started out very successfully - getting a donation from nearly everyone we asked. Then the parking attendants started directing cars to other parts of the parking lot and they were able to walk into the stadium without passing us. We only raised $9 for the Wake County Habitat affiliate.

We bought discounted general admission tickets and headed into the game. One unique aspect of the Mudcats' stadium is that everything is fishing related. Tickets are called fishing Licenses, the concession stands are called Bait Shops, and the team store is known as the Tackle Box. The field is also very different from other parks because it has pretty standard dimensions, but has a 25' high wall all the way around. Also, there are only three rows of seats on the main level. The majority of the seats are in a steeply pitched grandstand that wraps from first to third base. The are also several sections of seats down the foul lines.

The game was another minor league pitchers duel. The Mudcats got a run in the 1st and another on a bases loaded walk in the 4th. They could have put up a much larger number in the 4th, but with 1 out and men on first and second, the third base coach chose to hold the runners at second and third on a base hit to right field. It looked like a promising inning would fizzle when the next batter struck out but then came the walk saving the third base coach some embarasement. At the end of the 5th inning, Lyndsay and Tim were chosen to take part in the Sonic Build-A-Burger contest. It was a close race between them and another couple until the other girl fell down picking up the bacon and Lyndsay raced to the finish. The Biscuits rallied to take the lead in the 6th, just as the rain began to fall on a 3-run homer by 1B Gabby Martinez. The inning was kept alive by the female home plate umpire. Twice with two outs the Mudcats pitcher appeared to stikeout the Biscuits batter, but she called both pitches balls. When the Mudcats manager came out to change pitchers he got in her face and was tossed. The Biscuits put the game beyond doubt with 3 more runs in the 8th.

After the game, with rain falling heavily, we hit the road to spend the night at Lyndsay's and Tim's in Southern Pines.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 6 (pretty decent for minor leagues)
views from park - 2 (25' wall obstructs view)
view to field - 7 (close, but most are on 2nd deck)
surrounding area - 1
food variety - 5 (there seemed to be a decent mix, but we stuck with Dollar Dogs)
nachos - 8 (we did not get the nachos, but Lyndsay and Tim did and they looked delicious)
beer - 7 (bonus points for Icehouse on tap and souvenir beer cups)
vendor price - 9 (dollar dogs)
ticket price - 9
atmosphere - 3
walk to park - 2
parking price/proximity - 10
concourses - 6
team shop - 7

best food - all-beef Dollar Dogs
most unique stadium feature - Mudcats water tower
best jumbotron feature -
Pitch Speed board featuring Muddy Mudcat in a seductive pose
best between-inning feature - Build-a-Burger race

field dimensions - 335/400/335
starters - Wade Davis (MON) v. Chris Seddon (CAR)
opponent - Montgomery Biscuits
time of game - 2:40
attendance - 3980
score - 7-2 L
Brewers score that day - 3-2 W

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