It would make Memorial Stadium a destination place – a ball park that people would want to come to, just to come to the ball park. Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver used to be Memorial Stadium, a worn out yard that used to host AAA baseball, but relagated to short-season ball after the Athletics moved to Sacramento in 2001.
However, the new ownership group that took over the club in 2006 has decided that the largest city in Western Canada and the only Canadian team in all of minor league baseball, is going to thrive in a community that is fixated on hockey and curling.
Two years ago, the concourse at The Nat was completely gutted and remodeled – giving it a charm of going to a rustic ball park, with amendities that most parks don’t have (including a sushi bar). The playing surface was replaced. Seats were upgraded. An this year, the best videoboard in the entire minor leagues was installed.
The video board is unbelievable (look at the clarity on the first picture, then the clarity on it from the pressbox in the second pic) – like watching TV from 450 feet away and feeling like you are at home. It is 29 feet long by 19 feet high, yet the hi-definition quality is amazing – as Rob Fai, the C’s assistant GM and radio man said, it has the second-best quality picture in all of sports – behind that at Citi Field in New York.
An the C’s do it right. Lou Fillipano handles all of the video stuff, with the very photogenic Cindy Park handling all of the interviews on the field (as she told me tonight, she wants to work for NBC and become the next Connie Chung – and I think she can do it) – the staff works seemlessly, to bring high-quality action to the fans, with Vancouver boasting the second highest attended games in the league.
My hats off to them – it will make the next four days go by quick. But it makes me think, gee whiz, outside of the diamond club in Boise, a small clubhouse addition, and some paint and pictures, what have we done to Memorial Stadium not just in the last five years, but say the last 15 years? Nat Bailey is now a destination place – just as Avista Stadium is in Spokane.
GIMME SOME FOOD: The food options at Nat Bailey this year are bigger than ever – as the media has the option of having a burger, a regular hot dog, a footlong Nathan’s hot dog, some California rolls, or chicken strips and fries. The coffee is also very good (the only downfall is that the the C’s are the only team that does not provide a beer to the coaching staff after a game). But what set the food apart tonight (I went with the chicken strips) was the sweet chili dipping sauce that came with the meal – it was worth the price of admission just to have it.
A QUICK TRIP: Props go out to Hal our trusty bus driver from Interwest Transportation – who made an “all-timer” of a drive from the Treasure Valley to Canada – as we left Boise around 11:30 p.m. – made it just south of Mount Vernon, Wash., around 8 a.m., and to our hotel in Richmond, B.C., by 10:30 a.m. Kudos also to the RCMP, who allowed the Hawks to get through customs at the U.S.-Canadian Border very quickly.
THE BIGGEST BOMB: I was excited to see the Athletics first-round pick, Michael Choice, out of Texas-Arlington for the first time. After a 3-for-4, five RBI performance, I can see why he is now a millionaire. In the third inning, he hit a bomb off Dustin Fitzgerald – the biggest home run I have ever seeing at Nat Bailey, this one went over the manual scoreboard(pictured right) in deep-deep left center (it is 390 feet to the scoreboard, which is 24 feet tall) – probably an estimated 430-450 feet in distance.
ROTATION UPDATE: With Juan Serrano in Mesa for a start, the Hawks will break up the Cam Greathouse-Brett Ebinger piggy-back for a time through, as Greathouse gets the ball on Saturday and Ebinger on Sunday, while the Eduardo Figueroa/Matt Loosen tandem will work Monday and Austin Kirk on Tuesday. Serrano will next pitch for the Hawks on Thursday in Tri-City.