Planning a week-long trip to minor league ballparks in the southeast United States during the first month of the season is a bit of a gamble given the penchant for April showers during that time of year in that area of the country. Still, one must play the hand dealt. With my youngest son’s high school spring break falling on the week of April 13th, the two of us gamefully set out on our long-planned, seven day tour of minor league ballparks in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, undaunted by bleak weather forecasts leading up to our departure date. During our stops in Kodak, Huntsville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Rome, Augusta, and Myrtle Beach, the rain mercifully held off at each locale, although the weather dipped into the 30’s and 40’s on a few nights.
A Lone Stadium Usher Tries In Vain To keep The Rain Away at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina
On the final full day of our trip, rain once again was in the forecast. Departing Myrtle Beach, we took a detour to Fort Mill, South Carolina, where the Charlotte’s Knights’ recently-abandoned ballpark stood in eerie silence, awaiting its fate as a future distribution center for Cato Corporation. “There’s some sad things known to man, but ain’t too much sadder than” an abandoned ballpark awaiting demolition (with apologies to Smokey Robinson). It was dreary, to say the least, not the type of uplifting visit one needed on a day filled with the imminent threat rain. But because I’ve seldom met a ballpark I didn’t want to photograph, we stopped long enough for me to capture some images for posterity.
The Now-Abandoned Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, South Carolina
Heading north on I-77 toward Charlotte, North Carolina, intermittent rain pelted the road and the dark skies suggested we might finally experience our first washout. We arrived long before the gates to BB&T Ballpark opened. My son and I walked around the outside of the city’s brand spanking new stadium, temporarily buoyed by the lack of rain and the tarpless infield. An hour later, as we waited for ushers to unlock the gates, we noticed stadium workers distributing and donning yellow rain ponchos. At exactly 5:30 pm, as the first few fans spun the turnstiles, the rain began and, after that, never really stopped.
Former Members of the Charlotte Orioles Tour the Charlotte Knight’s New Ballpark
The evening in Charlotte was to be extra special because the Knights had invited over 40 former members of the Charlotte Orioles to attend a pregame ceremony celebrating that team’s glory years and many championships. Long before the game officially was cancelled, however, my son and I departed Charlotte and, therefore, perhaps mercifully, were not in attendance when the Knights honored their former heroes during a soaked and rain shortened pregame “celebration.”
Former Charlotte Oriole and Baltimore Oriole Pitcher Sammy Stewart Graciously Stops To Sign Autographs In The Rain During Tour of Ballpark
When it comes to minor league baseball in April, one must be pragmatic. Knowing ahead of time that inclement weather put the Charlotte game in jeopardy, my son and I devised an alternative plan that could put us around game time in another ballpark just 25 miles the north of Charlotte. With the northwesterly moving storm apparently not yet reaching Kannapolis, we headed up I-85 to CMC NorthEast Stadium in hopes of seeing the Kannapolis Intimidators take on the West Virginia Power.
Marquee At CMC NorthEast Stadium, Home of the Kannapolis Intimidators
The rain followed us up the highway. Upon our arrival in Kannapolis, the stadium lights were dark, which is never a good sign when it comes night games that are supposed to be already underway. Although we were able to purchase tickets and walk around the wet concourse, we knew we were wasting our time if we were hoping to see an actual game that evening.
Tarp Covered Infield In Kannapolis, North Carolina
Through the miracle of the internet, my son determined there were two minor league games already in progress in two different cities approximately one hour north of Kannapolis – Winston-Salem to the west and Greensboro to the east. With Winston-Salem being a few miles closer, we rejoined I-85 on our way to yet another stadium named BB&T Ballpark in hopes of seeing the Winston-Salem Dash take on the Salem Red Sox.
Stadium Lights Illuminate BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
It was raining in Winston-Salem when we arrived, conjuring up notions of our setting our own personal minor league record – three rain outs in one day at three different ballparks.
Rain Doesn’t Stop the Winston-Salem Dash From Battling The Salem Red Sox At BB&T Ballpark
Alas, that record was to remain out of reach as it was already the bottom of the fourth inning when we arrived, meaning that game was about to become official. And it did.
The Red Sox Win
Although the rain never stopped and increased as the game progressed, a complete game was played. After nine innings the Salem Red Sox had defeated the Winston-Salem Dash by a score of 8-1.
Youngest Son Watches As Post Game Fireworks Fill The Rain Soaked Sky in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem wasn’t about to let a little rain nix their First Friday Night Fireworks of the Season (after all, the team’s mascot, named “Bolt,” has lightening bolts protruding from both ears). The couple hundred fans who remained thrilled to the sight of fireworks launched and quickly extinguished by the soaking rain. My son and I stayed to the bitter end as well, a seemingly fitting grand finale to our minor league baseball trip that took us to ten different ballparks in the span of one week . . . with only two rain outs.