Excellent Adventure Day # 65
A Big League Experience
If our stop a night earlier in Salem, VA showed us what Minor League Baseball had been, it only took us until the next night to be shown what Minor League Baseball would become.
Originally opened in 1984, the Diamond in Richmond was still in its heyday when Sue and I arrived for a Wednesday night game in 1991. The most obvious difference between it and most Minor League stadiums at the time was the sheer size of the place. It towers over the surrounding area and its steep upper deck makes it look much more like a football stadium than a baseball yard. It also had amenities that only a few minor league parks had at the time, multiple skyboxes, a nice air-conditioned restaurant at the club level even a parking garage under the stands.
But if none of that sounds all that impressive today it is because those amenities quickly became commodities…most class A parks have them today and by the time the Richmond Braves moved to the suburbs of Atlanta in 2008 the park had become sub-standard.
The Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels moved in for the 2009 season and the team and city have put significant money into renovations. But there is still talk of a new ballpark in Richmond and ironically it is because the Diamond is still unusual.
In 1991 it was unusual for minor league stadiums to look like the big multi-use facilities somewhere in the suburbs that were all the rage in the ballpark architecture of the 1960s and 70s but the Diamond fit the bill in many ways. But the year after our trip, Camden Yards in Baltimore offered a new blueprint that hearkened back to the classic fields of a few decades earlier…lower profiles..open concourses and downtown locations and most of the ballparks built over the last 20 years have successfully followed this formula.
The Richmond Braves were hosting the Columbus Clippers that night and proved good hosts, losing to the Yankees affiliate 13-6. Columbus went on to the International League championship that season and Bernie Williams was playing for the visitors that night. On the other bench Deion Sanders was spending the first half of that season with the Richmond Braves. He would soon go on to Atlanta where he’d play first for the Braves and then for the Falcons before that year was through.
That night in 1991 we had no idea that the Diamond would ever be considered anything less than a baseball shrine. We were very impressed with the restaurant, the team was really nice to us and gave us a guided tour of the whole place. We met Stan Hunter, as I recall the only clubhouse attendant (clubbie) we were introduced to on the trip and as it turned out, Stan did make it to the majors just a couple of years later.
The Richmond Flying Squirrels have built a comfortable nest at the Diamond. They play in the Double-A Eastern League and the park hosted the Double-A All Star game drawing over 9,500 fans, according to Wikipedia.
The Diamond has been renovated and most of the vast upper deck bleachers are apparently now covered for Squirrels games.
Since we’re making up yesterday’s stop this afternoon (the Internet was out yesterday at the Low Mileage Tour world headquarters,) we’ve got another stop coming up in our doubleheader later this afternoon…it’s on to Met Park in Norfolk, the 1991 home of the Tidewater Tides.