Archive for March, 2019

Space Coast Stadium’s New Frontier

March 17th, 2019

Space Coast Stadium (now Space Coast Complex) is located at 5800 Stadium Parkway in Viera, Florida.

Space Coast Stadium Marque When the Washington Nationals Held Spring Training at the Facility

A former minor league ballpark and major league spring training facility, Space Coast Complex is now operated by the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA).

Space Coast Stadium Complex Marque For Current Tenant United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA)

Space Coast Stadium opened in March 1994 as the Spring Training Home of the Florida Marlins.

Space Coast Stadium, March 2005, Then Spring Training Home of the Washington Nationals

The Florida Marlins departed Space Coast Stadium after the 2002 Spring Training season.

Loading Dock Concession Stand, Space Coast Florida, Viera, Florida, March 2005

The Montreal Expos made Space Coast Stadium their Spring Training home in 2003.

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida, March 2005

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida, March 2015

Two years later the Nationals arrived at Space Coast Stadium, when the Expos franchise was relocated to Washington, D.C., in 2005 and changed to the Washington Nationals.

Washington Nationals Logo Banner, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida, March 2005

The Nationals held their Spring Training at Space Coast Stadium through the 2016 season.

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

During the Nationals 11 seasons at Space Coast Stadium, the franchise made numerous upgrades to the ballpark,including  repainting much of the structure Nationals red, white, and blue colors.

Exterior of Grandstand, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

Ticket Kiosk, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

The interior concourse was upgraded as well, although most of the 1990s stadium architecture remained unchanged.

Grand Slam Grill, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

The Space Coast Stadium grandstand had no cover and, as such, offered little reprieve from the Florida Sun during day games.

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

In addition to Spring Training, Space Coast Stadium was the home to the Florida State League Brevard County Manatees from 1994 through 2016.

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

It also hosted Gulf Coast League games for the GCL Nationals from 2005 through 2016.

Scoreboard, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

The light stanchions at Space Coast Stadium had additional seating for ospreys or owls on a first come, first served basis.

Light Stanchion and Bird Nest, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

The Nationals team store was markedly minor league when compared to Spring Training team stores as they appear today.

Team Store, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

The Nationals departed Space Coast Stadium for good after the 2016 season. Bryce Harper departed the Nationals for good after the 2018 season.

Former National Bryce Harper, Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

The good news for Space Coast Stadium is that it does not appear it will become a lost ballpark, unlike so many of the other former Grapefruit League MLB Spring Training homes.

Space Coast Stadium Complex, Current Tenant United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA)

Rechristened Space Coast Complex, the ballpark and surrounding practice fields appear much as they did when Major League Baseball reigned at the complex.

Space Coast Stadium Complex, Current Tenant United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA)

The practice fields surrounding the stadium remain, many converted for use as softball fields.

Practice Fields, Space Coast Stadium Complex, Viera, Florida

A map of the complex shows the location of the various practice fields.

Map of Space Coast Complex, Formerly Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Florida

A monument to the Space Shuttle remains at Space Coast Complex. The plaque states it is “Dedicated to America’s Pioneering Spirit in Space Exploration by the men and women of the John F. Kennedy Space Center.”

Space Shuttle Monument, Space Coast Complex, Viera, Florida

Another vestige of the site’s former use is a statute of a baseball player celebrating the early days of baseball.

Statute of Baseball Player, Space Coast Complex, Viera, Florida

The ballplayer faces towards Space Coast Stadium, as if waiting in vain for professional baseball players who never will return now that the Nationals hold their spring training 117 miles south down I-95 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, Florida (Photo Courtesy of Pete Kerzel)

The Nationals new spring home, known as FITTEAM Ballpark at the Palm Beaches, is a modern facility that, like its pretentious name, outshines and out-glosses the 1990s minor league charm of Space Coast Stadium. If you are traveling south down I-95 towards West Palm Beach for a Nationals Spring Training game, Space Coast Complex is just a few miles west and worth a stop, if you want to get a feel for a spring training baseball site built in 25 years ago. Thankfully, it does not appear that Space Coast Stadium is in any danger of becoming a lost ballpark any time soon.

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Hamtramck Stadium – Detroit’s Diamond in the Rough

March 16th, 2019

Hamtramck Stadium is located at 3201 Dan Street in Hamtramck, Michigan, one block east of  Joseph Campau Avenue.

Entrance, Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The ballpark was constructed by John Roseink in 1930 on land owned by the Detroit Lumber Company. Roesink was owner of the Detroit Stars, a member of the National Negro League.  Hamtramck Stadium also was known as Roesink Stadium.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Located in the Veterans Park, the city of Hamtramck, Michigan, took over ownership of the ballpark in the early 1940s.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The State of Michigan placed a historic marker near one entrance to Veterans Park, at the northeast corner of Joseph Campau Avenue and Berres Street.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Stadium is on the National Trust for Historic Places. If you approach the ballpark from Dan Street, the historic marker is located two blocks west on Joseph Campau Avenue.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

It is remarkable that Hamtramck Stadium still exists, given the fate of so many lost ballparks around the country. The distinctive grandstand of Hamtramck Stadium appears almost to hover over the playing field.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Stadium, at least the portion nearest the grandstand, has not been used for baseball since the 1990s. The grandstand currently is not open to the public.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The history of Hamtramck Stadium is rich and much of the factual history recounted here is from the websites Detroit: the History and Future of the Motor City and Hamtramck Stadium: Historic Negro League Ballpark

Back of Ticket Booth, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

When Hamtramck Stadium opened in 1930, it featured a 12-foot high outfield fence, box seating, and right field bleachers.

Steel Supports, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The grandstand that remains is constructed of steel beams and girders supporting a mostly wooden floor and ceiling structure.

Steel Supports, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The first game played was on May 10, 1930, when the Detroit Stars hosted the Cuban Stars. The Cuban Stars won that 13-inning contest 6-4.

Access Ramp to Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The ballpark’s grand opening was held a day later, on Sunday May 11, 1930, and the Detroit Stars defeated the Cuban Stars 7 to 4. Former Detroit Tiger Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch, with over 9,000 fans in attendance that day.

Grandstand Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The Detroit Stars played only two seasons at Hamtramck Stadium, as the team’s league, the Negro National League, folded half way through the 1931 season.

Ball field, as Seen From Center Grandtand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

However, those two years were remarkable. Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium has determined that 18 members of baseball’s Hall of Fame played at the ballpark.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

They include Negro League players Turkey Stearnes, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Willie Wells, and Mules Suttles.

Grandstand Railing, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Portions of the grandstand were renovated by the city in the 1950s and again in the 1970s.

Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

On June 28, 1930, the first night baseball game in the state of Michigan was played in Hamtramck Stadium using a portable lighting system. The Detroit Stars faced the Kansas City Monarchs with a crowd of over 10,000 people in attendance.

Baseball Field Light Stanchion, Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan – Editor Note: this is not a light stanchion from the first night game

Hamtramck Stadium is one of the last surviving Negro League baseball parks. Others include Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama and Hinchcliffe Stadium in Patterson, New Jersey.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

A third stadium, West Field in Munhall, Pennsylvania, recently was demolished in 2015, although the field remains and the site still hosts local and high school baseball and football.

Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Rickwood Field is still utilized as a baseball park by the city of Birmingham and hosts a minor league game once every year, known as the Rickwood Classic. Effort is underway to preserve and restore Hinchcliffe Stadium, which, like Hamtramck Stadium, is listed on the National Trust for Historic Places.

Grandstanp Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Concession stands and additional storage buildings located along the third base side of the stadium were constructed by the city of Hamtramck in the 1950s.

Mural, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Those buildings now include murals that help tell the story of the ballpark.

Mural, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Fun Fact: Right Field is located adjacent to the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Line. Those old enough to remember “We’re An American Band” will recognize the railroad from which the band Grand Funk Railroad got its name.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The following video of Hamtramck Stadium includes a walk through the grandstand and a drive around the stadium.

Hamtramck Stadium was home to the city’s 1959 Little League World Series champions, featuring local legend Art “Pinky” Deras, considered one of the greatest Little League World Series players.

Concession Stand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Three years ago, members of the former Navin Field Grounds Crew banded together to form the Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew. Their interest in the historic ballpark helped bring renewed attention to the history of Hamtramck Stadium, and helped begin the process of restoring this once-proud ballpark.

Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew Members Tom Derry and Elaine Rucinski, with Calvin Stinson at Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

In the northern-most point of Hamtramck Stadium’s center field is a second baseball diamond used and maintained by Hamtrack Public Schools.

Baseball Field Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Like Hamtramck stadium, this smaller ballpark has a certain old-school charm, with its tall, fenced backstop and rustic light stanchions.

Baseball Field Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Also worth visiting is Keyworth Stadium, located in the same complex, Veterans Park, just north of Hamtramck Stadium.

Exterior Wall, Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Public Schools owns Keyworth Stadium, and hosts athletic events such as local soccer and football, as well as other community events.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The stadium was constructed in 1936 as Michigan’s first Works Progress Administration project.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The first event held at the stadium was a rally featuring President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his second campaign for President in October 1936.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Keyworth Stadium’s grandstands are a bit rough around the edges, and certain sections are cordoned off by chain link fence. However, the fact that the stadium remains a living part of the city of Hamtramck is a testimony to city and its appreciation of such historic places.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

hamtramckstadium.org, with the help of assistance of the Piast Institute, Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, and Detroit’s own  Jack White, have launched campaign to help restore Hamtramck Stadium. The campaign began in early 2019 and has set a goal of raising $50,000. Anyone interested in contributing can contact patronicity.com for more information, and to make a donation. Opportunities such as this to help reclaim a historic, almost lost ballpark, are rare, and truly are worth the effort.

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Eagle Stadium Still Soaring In Ozark, Alabama

March 2nd, 2019

Eagle Stadium is located at 698 Martin Street in Ozark, Alabama.

Eagle Stadium in Ozark, Alabama

The concrete and steel grandstand was constructed in 1946 and remains to this day an excellent example of ballparks from the post World War II era.

Grandstand, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

The sign posted at the front of Eagle Stadium boasts the history of the ballpark. Much of the history set forth in this blog is a restatement of information on that sign.

Sign Telling History of Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

Prior to construction of Eagle Stadium, the ballpark site was known as Marley Field, which dates back to 1933.

Grandstand, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama, as Seen From Right Field

In 1989, the ball field at Eagle Stadium was named in honor of B.F. Buddy Williams, a member of the Ozark City Council and Chairman of the Dade Alabama County Commission.

Dedication Plaque, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

A plaque inside the stadium honoring Buddy Williams states: “In recognition of his interest and support of the youth and adults in the recreation and athletic programs of this city. He was instrumental in the building of Eagle Stadium and bringing organized baseball to Ozark in 1946.”

Field Dedication Plaque, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

The site first hosted professional baseball in 1935, when the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals played a game at Marley Field against the Dixie Amateur League All-Stars. Cardinal players who appeared that day include Dizzy Dean, Daffy Dean, Leo Durocher, Pepper Martin, Joe Medwick, and manager Franke Frish.

Entrance To Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

Although pets, profanity, slurs, and artificial noise makers are not allowed in Eagle Stadium, based upon the size of the sign, apparently it is coolers that present the greatest concern at the ballpark and are most certainly not allowed in the stadium.

Grandstand Entrance, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

From 1936 to 1937, the Ozark Cardinals played at Marley Field as a member of the Class D Alabama-Florida League.

The Ozark Eagles played at Eagle Stadium beginning in 1946. The Eagles were members of the Class D Alabama-Florida League from 1946 to 1950. Beginning in 1951, the league was renamed the Alabama League because, well, there were no Florida teams in the league that year.

Interior of Grandstand, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

The Ozark Eagles played at Eagle Stadium through the 1952 season.

First Base Side Grandstand, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

The City of Ozark does an excellent job maintaining this historic ballpark, so much so that walking into the seating bowl is like walking back in time.

Press Box, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

Eagle Stadium includes large, covered dugouts on either side of home plate.

Third Base Dugout, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

The water tower just beyond center field gives the ballpark a bit of a “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” vibe.

Outfield, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

The ballpark is surrounded by a concrete block wall, much of which appears to dates back to the building of Eagle Stadium.

Exterior of Outfield Wall, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

A well-kept, vintage electronic scoreboard sits just beyond left field

Scoreboard, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

A concession stand is located along the left field foul line.

Concession Stand, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

In 1962, one final professional ball club called Eagle Stadium home when the Panama City Flyers, a Dodgers affiliate and member of the Class D Alabama-Florida League, played their home games at Eagle Stadium during the second half of the season. The team was renamed the Ozark Dodgers during their brief stay at Eagle Stadium. The league folded at the end of the 1962 season.

Light Stanchion, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

Eagle Stadium is home to the Carroll High School Eagles baseball team and the Ozark Eagles, an Alabama Dixie Pre-Majors team. The ballpark also sometime hosts the Alabama Community College Conference State Baseball Tournament.

Ozark Eagles Team Photo, Eagle Stadium, Ozark, Alabama

Although a bit off the beaten base path, Eagle Stadium is only an hour and a half drive southeast of Montgomery, Alabama, off Route 231, and a two hour and 15 minute drive northwest of Tallahassee Florida off I-10 and Route 231. Many thanks to the Ozark, Alabama city employees who graciously showed me around the ballpark the day I made my trip there. Their kindness was much appreciated.

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