"Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat."
The above excerpt from the poem "Casey At The Bat" by Ernest Thayer was published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888 under the pen name Phin, the same name Thayer used when writing for the Harvard Lampoon. The fictional team depicted in the poem was called the Mudville Nine and the people of Stockton believe this is a reference to the team that played on Banner Island, otherwise known as Mudville, during that time. Thayer too, supposedly covered the Stockton team in the late 1800s and due to the proximity to San Francisco the assumption that the "Mudville Nine" were based on his experience with the Stockton baseball team, has some bearing.
Controversy abounds about the real "Mudville" and other cities claim the "Nine" as their own. For what it's worth, Thayer himself said that the poem wasn't based on facts. This explanation doesn't alleviate the curiosity of many baseball fans, and perhaps that is for the best.
The Stockton Ballpark, affectionately referred to by locals as Banner Island Ballpark, sits on what no longer is an island in Stockton, CA. The inlets have mostly been filled in but the name lives on. As you can see, the name above the entrance says "Stockton Ballpark" even though "Banner Island Ballpark" is used by fans and the organization. This is because the city of Stockton owns the ballpark (and the adjacent Stockton Arena) and they presumably would like to sell the rights to the name at some point in the future.
The Ports moniker has been attached to the team for most of the last 80 years. The Stockton Flyers were charter members of the current California League in 1941 and changed their name to the Ports in 1946 to honor the city's presence as an inland port city. They were known by the Ports until 2000 when their longtime affiliation with the Millwaukee Brewers ended and they spent a few years as the real-life Mudville Nine. In 2005, the Ports, having changed their name back a few years prior, began their affiliation with the Oakland Athletics, donned a new color scheme, and moved into their new home at the Stockton Ballpark.
The ballpark was designed by HKS Architects and is beautiful. HKS has other behemoths of feathers in their cap with Lucas Oil Stadium, Cowboys Stadium, and Miller Park. The design lends itself to both intimacy and beauty. As you enter along the third base line you're immediately greeted by the field, my only experience of having my first vision upon entering be the green expanse.
Outside the park beyond the right field wall is a boardwalk that separates the stadium from an inlet of the San Joaquin Delta where optimistic fisherman test the waters with their casts. Because the ballpark is so close to the water it can get pretty cold at night, even during the summer months. I recommend bringing a sweater for the latter innings.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Banner Island Ballpark has one of the most impressive minor league food options. There are main concession stands that sell the typical hot dogs ($4), nachos ($6) and soft drinks ($4, $5, $6). However there are places to get more niche items like the Kinder's BBQ stand in left-centerfield, the Tecate Cantina serving margaritas, burritos and quesadillas, and carts offering asparagus, gelato, coffee and sausage. Stockton is known for being quite the asparagus hub as they have the Asparagus Festival every summer that attracts people from all over Northern California. If you're looking for something unique, I'd try the asparagus, deep-fried of course.
Beer options were $6 for domestics and $7 for imports. My one complaint is there weren't any good craft beer options, particularly for a craft beer dense region. The Ports do run a promotion called "beer batter". When the player from the opposing team that was chosen as the beer batter strikes out, Heineken pours are only $3 for ten minutes after the at-bat.
Lastly, the only forms of identification that Banner Island Ballpark accepts for the purchase of alcholic beverages are military ID or California ID. Out of state licenses and passports are not accepted.
The Stockton Ballpark is a wonderful place to kick back and take in some California League action. There really isn't a bad seat in the house and I know because I made my way around the entire facility and watched from every angle.
Unfortunately, the park was only about a third full for the game against the Visalia Rawhide. Granted it was a breezy, mid-week game, but it was still a bit underwhelming. The fans in attendance had additional stimulation with the bingo card handed out upon entry, each point was determined by the play on the field.
This gets an extra point since I can see sincere improvement in the neighborhood and because I'm confident that this will continue.
The downtown Stockton neighborhood is improving with growing attractions. This all coupled with the fact that it is still an area crippled by crime. The neighborhood can change drastically from block to block so do be aware of your surroundings.
There are well-maintained parks near the arena and along the San Joaquin Delta that make for pleasant strolls during the day. At night, the light shines off the water, reflecting beautifully and fits perfectly with the cool wind against your face.
I suggest getting to the park early if you're interested in seeing the neighborhood as late night hours are not the time to be exploring the neighborhood if you're unfamiliar.
Plenty of restaurants are within a short drive, including Stockton's only brewery, Valley Brewing Co. They have plenty of HD screens where you can catch a game as well as sports memorabilia from Northern California and beyond. Quick tip: $5 pitchers on Wednesday nights.
The Stockton Ports benefit from their affiliation with the nearby Oakland A's. Green and gold shirts are always scattered amongst the red, white and blue in the stands. They loved their hometown hero Dallas Braden even before he pitched a memorable perfect game in May of 2010. Now their love affair with him is stronger than ever with images of the day in Oakland scattered around the ballpark. This love goes both ways as Braden is a staunch supporter of his hometown team and the A's affiliate.
As a warm evening turned into a bitey, breezy night, the Ports faithful stuck around to the conclusion and were rewarded with a rout of the visiting Visalia team. They know their team and are lucky enough to follow them all the way to bigs (the A's triple-A team is in Sacramento, an hour north of Stockton).
The ballpark is conveniently located in downtown Stockton right off of highway 5, a two minute drive from the freeway exit. The only issue is that the parking lot really isn't big enough for a well-attended game. I'm not sure if the Ports and the Thunder, who play next door at the arena, ever play on the same night, but I can imagine it would create significant problems if they did. Street parking is available within a couple blocks, if you don't mind the walk.
Once inside, the open feel of the rotunda surrounding the seating area allows for plenty of room to get around. There is only one level of seats so that allows for a wider area for a walkway with no worries for stairs that need to go up, like at bigger ballparks. Since you enter at the same level as the walkway and all stairs go down, the diamond has a bit of a sunken feel, creating an intimate environment.
If you're going mid-week I'd recommend a Homerun Hill ticket for $7. It's a nice view if you don't mind sitting on the grassy area beyond the right field wall. Besides, the crowd is sparse and I never saw anyone check a single ticket. You should have some freedom to move around. If you'd prefer to have an assigned seat, field box seats start at $10.
With tickets cheap and parking only $5, it's a great deal to see a top-notch, beautiful new stadium that figured out a way to fit 5,000 seats in without losing the intimate feel that makes minor league baseball so great.
This is a pretty impressive place to watch a game. They have a way of keeping track of their former players by displaying images of their Stockton jerseys on the wall behind home plate after they make the show. Jerseys displayed include Trevor Cahill, Jemile Weeks, Andrew Bailey and Kurt Suzuki. In total there are about a dozen names and numbers up.
They have good places for groups as the Comcast Club is along the first baseline, equipped with a buffet line and a bartender. The Jackson Rancheria Back Porch in right field has reclining chairs facing the field as well as their own bar and concession area.
There are batting cages adjacent to the Comcast Club where kids can take their hacks alongside their favorite players.
Overall, it's a great experience on Banner Island and worth a trip. The Stockton area is very lucky to have two very nice, new facilities next to each other to house the minor league franchises.
Banner Island Ballpark, the home of the Stockton Ports, is quite simply, one of the nicest minor league ballparks in the country - absolutely top-class from design to construction. The park opened in 2005 as part of a massive Downtown revitalization effort, and is buttressed by the main waterway into the region, the San Joaquin River. The name Banner Island is a bit of a misnomer as the physical site that the current park resides on was once in fact an island yet has since been attached to the "mainland" by infill. The name stuck.
To those unfamiliar with California's Central Valley, it would come as a surprise to know that the city of Stockton, located 85 miles inland from the Bay Area, is the state's 13th largest city. More surprising may be that Stockton is one of the Golden State's largest ports; a myriad of small rivers and waterways flow west from the Bay, allowing delta towns like Stockton to flourish.
I know what you're thinking right now. "Why the History-slash-Geography lesson, friend? I want a review of the Ballpark."
A completely fair and honest query, although I'm not sure I like your tone. The historical back story is key to understanding many of the aspects that make Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton such a must see for all stadium junkies and allow common questions to be answered .The most important of which being, "Why is the team that plays there called the Ports?" Now, you know.
Baseball in Stockton (and the California League in general) has a rich history. Locals maintain that this was the home of the Mudville Nine - the team that included the mythical Casey from "At Bat" fame. Although this can't be verified, the Ports organization has rightfully encouraged the claim. Throwback signage inside the ticket booth welcomes fans to Stockton, the Home of the Original Mudville Nine. The current team was even named the Mudville Nine for the 2000 and 2001 seasons before returning to the Ports moniker in '02.
The organization has been playing professional baseball here for nearly 150 years and won its first of 11 Cal League Pennants in 1888. The organization has been affiliated with multiple MLB teams throughout its history, notably the Orioles (1959-71), Brewers (1979-83, 1985-99) and, most recently, the Oakland Athletics (2005-present). The geographic proximity to the current parent club, coupled with the general gloriousness of the new ballpark, has sparked resurgence in attendance, as the Ports tend to pack the house most nights.
The coolest and initially most striking feature of the 5,000 seat, one level stadium is that, upon arrival through the front gates, ticket holders are immediately looking down towards the field, which is about 20 feet lower than ground level. Inside that 20 foot buffer are 5,000+ box seats which work their way from foul pole to foul pole, offering fans an intimate view of the action. The concourse works its way seamlessly around the entire field, allowing for one of the better strolls in minor league baseball. Peppered along this walkway are various eateries and vantage points that make sitting in your seat for the entire game downright foolish. Kids play catch and tag in the vast grassy hills behind centerfield, before moving on to take a turn in the batting cages, while mom and dad can sip high-end draughts from rocking chairs in right. The walkway heads towards leftfield and an intimate encounter with both bullpens, before working its way down the left-field line and back towards home. It is here that fans can enter the well-stocked team store or grab a delicious funnel cake to bring back to their seats.
Behind the home dugout lies the Comcast Club, as well as the four luxury suites. Inside the open air Comcast Club, fans can pay for the privilege of watching the game while enjoying spirits from the full-bar, as well as waitress service. Access to the Comcast Club is limited to fans 21 and over. Tickets for the club can be purchased at the main gate.
All in all, Banner Island Ballpark is everything that a fan could want from a minor league park. Unfortunately though, the surrounding areas leave a lot to be desired.
Hometown hero, former Stockton Port and current A's pitcher Dallas Braden (as well as Forbes magazine) will tell you that Stockton, Ca. is not the safest of places. The city consistently ranks as one of the nation's most dangerous cities. Don't be discouraged, the ballpark is quite safe. Police patrols and beefy security guards temper any attempts at in-park mischief. Quite honestly, "BIB" may be one of the safest places to visit if one finds himself in one of the most unsafe cities in the country.
The reason I mention this is that the one drawback of BIB may be the parking situation. As the field is surrounded by water on one side, and a residential neighborhood to the other, there is room for just one parking lot. The lot is small and fills up quickly and you don't want to be parking too far away from the stadium, unless perhaps you talked your good friend Chuck Norris into taking in a game with you.
It is recommended to get to the park early for a number of reasons: 1) you'll want to get into that lot, but you also want to get as far into it as possible. The lot is situated in prime foul-ball territory. Many a windshield and hood have been smashed or dented in the rows closest to the park. So many in fact that after foul balls leave the bat, the Ports P.A. Announcer accompanies them with a tongue in cheek announcement directing you to one of the team sponsors, an auto glass repair shop. 2) There is only one entrance to the park and the line can get real long, real quick, especially for Friday and Saturday games. The ticket crew is pretty solid but they can only work so fast.
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