August 28, 2007
Yesterday was the final home game of the season for the Lynchburg Hillcats *, and since their stadium is located just 15 or so miles south of Sweet Briar College, where I recently began teaching, I figured I might as well seize the opportunity to see a ball game there. It was a warm but pleasant evening, with a packed house, but the home team lost to the Wilmington Blue Rocks 6-3. (All the runs were scored in the first four innings, after which I had to leave.) The Hillcats are a Class A team affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and set a record for attendance this year, even though they are in last place in the Northern Division of the Carolina League.
I had driven past City Stadium (originally built in 1939) about ten years ago, when it was run down and worn out. In 2004 the stadium was thoroughly renovated, and it is now very impressive in outward appearance, featuring a fancy stone outer wall and all the modern amenities. Most of the grandstand is covered by a roof, and since 2004 there have been fancy skyboxes along the top, with an angled house-like roof. The dimensions are standard: 325 to both left and right field, and 390 to center field. The stadium sits on top of a hill, and parts of the Blue Ridge are visible beyond left field (northwest), but the view in the late afternoon is much better behind the grandstand toward the southeast, where Candler's Mountain is. The ballpark is now known as Calvin Falwell Field, named after the man who brought minor league baseball to Lynchburg in 1966, and who became known locally as "Mr. Baseball." (He was also the cousin of late televangelist Jerry Falwell, who founded Liberty University.) For more on this ballpark, see ballparkreviews.com, Paul's minor league parks, and Charlie O'Reilly, who happened to visit there just two days before I did! John Nagy wrote an essay on baseball in Lynchburg published by the University of Virginia History Department.
* Is a "hillcat" the same thing as a bobcat? And for that matter, what the heck is a "river dog"?
The last time I saw a minor league game was in 1999, when I saw the Richmond Braves play at The Diamond. That was another occasion that arose in connection with a teaching job (Virginia Commonwealth University), and in fact accepting that position forced me to cancel my plans to see a game in Tiger Stadium before it was closed for good. Such is life.
It's the first time that's happened since the end of June. The Nationals had a "rocky" time in Denver, getting swept. In the first of three games in Los Angeles last night, Mike Bacsik could not contain the Dodgers, who rallied in the sixth inning to take the lead and eventually win, 5-4. I suppose the Nationals' "no-name" pitching rotation has done as well as anyone could have expected this summer, but this is no time to start slipping.