Bristol sits on the border between Tennessee and Virginia, and is known as the Birthplace of Country Music. Like many ballparks found in the Appalachian League, Boyce Cox Field (also known as DeVault Memorial Stadium) is devoid of any bells or whistles. Well, some fans may have bells. But the point is, this stadium is all about the baseball, so sit back and enjoy.
The team in Bristol has been affiliated with the Chicago White Sox since 1995. Prior to that time, the team was affiliated with the Detroit Tigers from 1969-1994. With that kind of history, you know there have been several superstars to come through Bristol on the way to the Majors. That list includes Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, and Lance Parrish from during the days with the Tigers. Current MLB players like Carlos Lee, Freddy Garcia, Gio Gonzalez, and Chris Young once put on the Bristol Sox uniforms.
The ballpark sits on the site of a former high school football stadium, which leaves behind some interesting concrete bleachers that are less than ideal for sitting through a game, but are certainly unique.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
It's a pretty basic menu, but nice to see that all proceeds go to Virginia High School athletics. The most expensive item on the menu is a Chick-fil-A sandwich ($3.50). You'll also find cheesesticks ($3), hot dogs ($2), and nachos ($2). Coffee, water, and small fountain drinks (Pepsi) go for $1. For a dollar more, you can get a large fountain drink or Gatorade. The proceeds may go to a good cause, but you are better off getting something to eat downtown.
Boyce Cox Field at DeVault Memorial Stadium is a very comfortable place to sit back and watch a game. Many fans brought lawn chairs and sat on a hill behind home plate on the third case side. There is ample shade, and it is almost like sitting in the upper deck of a larger ballpark with great views of the playing field.
There are four rows of stadium seats with above average legroom, but no cupholders. They stretch between the two dugouts and are a great place to sit if you want to be closer to the action. There are cement bleachers along the first base line and behind home plate. They aren't the most comfortable spot in the world, but they are roomy. Down the right field line you'll find metal bleachers with no back.
You'll hear music played in between innings and a couple of games during the contest, including prizes for having a number inside your program. After every strike out by the home team, you'll hear the tune "Another One Bites the Dust." It gets pretty old if the White Sox strike out a lot of opponents.
The scoreboard is very basic with just the basic line score displayed.
Cross the border from Virginia into Tennessee and you'll find a nice little downtown area. I stopped into 620 on State, which was a fantastic mix of contemporary Asian cuisine and southern comfort food. I tried the Tuna Tataki and also a bowl of shrimp and grits and was extremely happy with both. They also have 20 beers on tap, including some local selections. Sit at the bar and watch some sports in a fairly casual atmosphere, or sit at a table for a more formal dining experience. They also have outdoor seating. A great restaurant like this really can add to a night out to a ballgame.
Since you're in the birthplace of country music, you'll want to experience some live music as well. Try the Acoustic Ale House for local music and a wide selection of brews. The State Line Bar & Grill also has live music nightly. If you want to shoot some pool, then check out Borderline Billiards, although the sign of "no weapons allowed" made me a bit weary.
I love going to the ballpark and finding local fans that are both laid back, and passionate about their team. You know that many of the fans at Boyce Cox Field are there for the majority of the home games. You'll hear fans cheering on the players by their first names. Fans behind the screen will be keeping meticulous score and ringing their cow bells when things go well for the Sox. You can be sure to find friendly patrons, so don't be afraid to strike up a conversation about the team or the area.
Parking is free in a paved lot that is far enough away that you won't have to worry about a stray foul ball coming through the windshield. Look for signs for DeVault Memorial Stadium as much of the signage is marked in this way.
There are two restrooms for each gender at Boyce Cox Field. Choose the facilities down the first base side. The restroom down the third base side is small, hot, and was without soap during my particular visit. Let's hope this is an exception and not the rule. In any case, the restrooms on the first base side are bigger, cleaner, cooler, and even have soap.
Box seats are only $6, and worth the extra expense. General admission seats are only $4, with discounts for children to $3. My recommendation is to go for the box seats, or bring your own foldable chair and sit up on the hill. Free parking, cheap seats, and cheap eats make this a very affordable experience. There certainly isn't anything life changing here, but the price does match up with what is offered.
The Bristol White Sox are unique in that they are a non-profit organization and all of the staff are volunteers. This has been the case since they were founded in 1969. This allows the team to keep prices low and be an integral part of their community.
You'll find a chained off seat that is "reserved" in honor of fallen men and women of the armed services. It's a tribute to the American military that fits nicely in America's pastime.
Finally, an extra point for the staff at Boyce Cox Field. It amazes me how often the aspect of friendly customer service gets overlooked as I travel to different sports venues. The staff at the Bristol White Sox game help to provide the welcome that will make a big difference in your fan experience.
At first glance, there are plenty of things to criticize about Boyce Cox Field. The food is below average, there are cement bleachers, and the bathroom is less than ideal. However, the more time I spent at this ballpark, the more I grew to love the idiosyncrasies on offer. Enjoy the unique, no frills presentation, and enjoy a ball game with the Bristol White Sox.
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