Wandering the West
Baseball may not be the fastest-moving game out there, but it hardly seems like summer to me without a few lazy afternoons or evenings at the ball park, watching players pursue hits, runs, catches and dreams. And when you know the game really know the game nothing beats it as a contest of strategy, finesse and strength.
Years ago, new major-league ballparks began going back to the game’s storied past to build new parks based on old designs with the grandstands pulled in close to the action. Camden Yards in Baltimore was the first and it got lots of attention and praise. I was lucky enough to have the family there years back and we caught a game and had some of former first baseman Boog Powell’s barbecue for good measure.
When Salt Lake needed a new minor-league ballpark, designers adopted the elements that made these retro-parks so popular. Sitting in the first-base grandstand, you can hear clearly every strike called by the ump and he can hear you back when you give him a hard time about the call. No one sits far from the action here. Franklin Covey Field is home to the Triple A Salt Lake Bees the farm team of the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim," as they like to be called now.
This has to be about the most scenic ballpark, major league or minor league, in the country. From our first base grandstand seats recently for a 7 p.m. game, we had the panorama of the Wasatch mountain range rising above the perfectly kept field with brilliant green grass and red dirt infield and warning track. From Mount Aire rising above the University of Utah, to Mount Olympus over center field, to Lone Peak rising over right, it is a stunning backdrop. Lone Peak is a federal wilderness. Name another ballpark that has a federal wilderness area within view.
As the sun lowered, the mountains took on the pink alpenglow and the lights of Salt Lake began to twinkle. An egg-shaped moon came out as the lights came on and the sky darkened. A light cool breeze came up, a game was in progress just below us, and all was right with the world, except for the upside-down score against the Sacramento River Cats.
Part of watching baseball is eating and this ballpark has some really good options, plus frequent beer stands with local micro-brews. There are no vendors out in the stands yelling "hot dogs" and "cold beer here." I miss that. It’s part of the sound of the game as much as singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the seventh inning stretch.
The quality of baseball is good too. These players are nearly at the major-league level, just itching to be called up to the big show the second a major leaguer gets injured or refuses to sign a contract. Quite often they are major leaguers sent down to work out of a slump or rehabilitate an injury. When the Minnesota Twins, which used to be the Salt Lake affiliate, played the Angels in the 2002 American League Championship Series, more than 30 players on both teams had come up to the majors through Salt Lake. This is good baseball here.
Ogden has another great venue for watching minor-league baseball. The Ogden Raptors are the rookie Pioneer League affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ogden’s Lindquist Field is another new retro ballpark, located right downtown within walking distance of restaurants. And with the northern Wasatch Mountains looming over Ogden’s outfield, Lindquist has been voted as "the best view in all of baseball."
Also, remember this is minor-league ball. Tickets don’t have to subsidize multi-million-dollar salaries. In Salt Lake you can get in for as little as $6.50 if you want to spread out a blanket on the grass berm just past the outfield fence. The most expensive ticket goes for $21.50. night’s end you’ll have spent lots more on food and beverage! Raptors tickets are even less.
This is a great experience for the family that won’t cost an arm and a leg, and the kids will have a great time even if they don’t pay any attention to the game itself. The Raptors and Bees each have 21 home games left this season. Take yourself out to the ballgame.
Free-lance writer Larry Warren has been wandering the West covering news stories for television and magazines since he landed in Utah in the mid-1970s. In this column he writes about the favorite places he goes back to when he can.
Bees Ballpark: 77 W. 1300 South, Salt Lake City
Raptors Ballpark: 2330 Lincoln Ave., Ogden
Insider tip: Games don’t sell out. You can buy tickets at the window before any game.
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