Tulsa and Lehigh Valley
There’s really nothing to tie these two places together, other than that I was in both on this trip (and I didn’t get around to blogging from Tulsa on Friday). I guess you could say Lehigh Valley’s got a new ballpark and Tulsa really wants/needs one.
What the Tulsa Drillers
lack in amenities, they do make up for in talent. Keep an eye out for our video feature on their lineup, should be running around Wednesday or Thursday. They’ve got ridiculous speed with Corey Wimberly (already with 7 steals), Dexter Fowler, Eric Young Jr. and Chris Nelson all having the ability to create runs with their legs. All swiped more than 20 bags in 2007. Throw in Daniel Carte and Matt Miller and it’s a very interesting lineup. They’ve even got some intriguing pitchers, though I didn’t have the chance to do stuff with them. But Casey Weathers was the Rockies’ first-round pick last year and the reliever has yet to give up a run in four outings and Brandon Hynick was MiLB.com’s Class A Advanced Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2007.
We high-tailed it to Lehigh Valley in time for Saturday night’s game. We were on the tired side, but it was well worth it. Coca Cola Park is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful ballparks I’ve been to. It’s got that really nice red brick and green steel retro-feel. There isn’t a bad view in the house, with terrific porches and patios at all angles. But the piece de resistance is behind home plate. The IronPigs have something called dugout suites. The only time I’ve seen this before is in Mobile, Alabama, and with all due respect to the BayBears, that version was much smaller and less impressive. Basically, there are a few rows of seats right behind home plate (check out the seating chart here. Behind the seats are all the amenities of a suite, but the seats are closer than any I’ve seen and I don’t know you could find a better one in any park anywhere. I’ve never been a big fan of luxury suites — it’s always felt to me like you’re in your living room or very secluded, but with the seats right behind the plate like this, it’s like you’re at the game with all the bells and whistles of the suite right behind you.
There does seem to be one small negative to those seats, at least in the early going. Players were mildly complaining about it affecting their ability to see the ball. Once nightfall hits, it’s not a problem, but the lack of a wall behind the plate has made it tough in daylight for outfielders and infielders to pick the ball up when it’s put in play. Maybe it’s something players adjust to, but it’s worth keeping an eye on to see if it’s an on-going issue.