Excellent Adventure Day # 66
No Coloring Outside the Lines
Met Park, short for Metropolitan Park, was the home of the Tidewater Tides for 22 years after opening its gates in 1970. The park’s name was doubly appropriate, since the team had been the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets for much of that parent club’s history.
As I think back on it, I believe that imagining the goings on in Tidewater was one of the early sources of inspiration for the Excellent Adventure of 1991. When I was growing up in Central New Jersey, ESPN had not come along yet and liberated me from watching local market teams. The Mets and Yankees and the Phillies on a fuzzy UHF channel, were aside from the national game of the week, the only way to watch baseball. Since my dad was a Mets fan, we often had WOR-Channel 9 and the voice of Ralph Kiner on in the background.
During those broadcasts there were occasional references to Tidewater, which didn’t sound like any of the other major league cities that got mentioned. I had mostly heard of the others as actual places independent of baseball but Tidewater sounded a little mythical, possibly made up, and I’d often wonder where it was and what it was like there.
The reality of Met Park in Norfolk, Virginia was that it was an interesting stadium with planes flying over head all the time, much like the other Mets park in Queens. It fell somewhere in a middle tier of the Triple-A fields we saw in 1991. It was neither as new and fancy as some nor as old and quaint as others but it had a unique look to it and a nice view of the action from most anywhere in the yard.
But as fortune would have it, most of my memories of this park don’t have much to do with baseball. As you will see in the video, the team’s staff at the time had a dubious view of anyone coloring outside the lines and having just come from Richmond, where the team had practically given us the keys to the park and told us to lockup when we were finished, we found this a little off-putting.
The Tides had a good night on the field that night pounding out 11 hits and nine runs in a 9-3 win over the Toledo Mud Hens. A young catcher named Todd Hundley had three of those hits and blasted the home run that features prominently in the video.
Had we been allowed to roam the stands as we did almost everywhere else, including Major League parks, we would probably have video of more things but the “race” at the end of this video remains one of my favorite bits of footage because, while we were rank amateur videographers, I think it captures the absurdity of the moment pretty well.
The Tidewater Tides moved out of Met Park just one more season after we saw it and the stadium was torn down the following year. An office park sits on the site today.
The newly renamed Norfolk Tides, meanwhile began to play in 1993 at Harbor Park in downtown Norfolk. When I saw it on my 2003 journey I thought the new park was a huge upgrade in almost every respect as it sits in a nice riverfront neighborhood with nice views of the river that give a good sense of Norfolk’s nautical history. The Norfolk Tides are now affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.
Tomorrow on the Low Mileage Tour it’s back to the Blue Ridge Mountains but farther south this time to the lovely city of Asheville, North Carolina – the longtime home of the Asheville Tourists.