Excellent Adventure Day # 56
A Capital Idea
Minor League Baseball has a long and storied history in the Carolinas. Both the Carolina League and the South Atlantic date back to the 1940s and each have included dozens of teams and towns in both North and South Carolina for decades. During the Excellent Adventure of 1991 there were 16 teams in the two states combined.
The only downside of this, though, was that the geographic proximity of a bunch of teams made them likely candidates for “double days” – the days in which we needed to see two parks in the same day. There were only 147 days between the Opening Day of the minor league season of 1991 and its final day. There were 152 minor league teams. In addition, a few times we went to see Major League teams during the Minor League season to avoid having to drive back to some far flung places in the already busy month of September. So we ended up double booked on 17 days and a few times, unfortunately, the games overlapped.
Columbia and Sumter was one such instance. As you will see on the map below, they aren’t too far apart (about 43 miles) but their games started at roughly the same time. Thus, we went to Columbia first, shot some of the park and said hi to the team staff, then headed over to Sumter for the start of its game then came back to Columbia for the end there.
Fortunately, we got to see three or four innings at lovely and historic old Riley Park before heading back and because the Columbia Mets were piling it on Gastonia that night 10-2, we saw at leas three more innings there.
These two parks were another study in contrast. Capital City Stadium had just been rebuilt on the site of the old stadium and the grandstand seats and metal bleachers gleamed in the afternoon sun as we shot there. Riley Park, on the other hand was, as Sue says in the video, one of the smaller parks in the league. But our seats. next to the home dugout, put us so close to the players we carried on conversations with them during pre-game warmups. It is hard not to feel nostalgic writing about this trip anyway, but watching this video makes me yearn for a world of minor league baseball that I fear no longer exists.
Capital City Stadium was due to be torn down this spring and a Closing Day ceremony had been scheduled to say goodbye to the park. The ceremony has been postponed, though, due to Covid-19. The South Atlantic League still plays baseball in Columbia, however. Under normal circumstances the Columbia Fireflies would be playing now at Segra Park, the team’s new home, which opened in 2016.
Riley Park in Sumter hasn’t hosted professional baseball since the Flyers left but according to Wikipedia two different college teams continue to use the field.
Tomorrow is the last stop in South Carolina as we head for the Grand Strand and the Myrtle Beach Hurricanes.