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Official Review by David Berger, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Calfee Park is the ninth-oldest minor league park in the country and home to the Seattle Mariners' rookie-level Appalachian League team, the Pulaski Mariners. While it's had its share of renovations for today's world, its status as a rookie-league park in a very small town allows it to maintain a lot of its original charm.
The ballpark has a lot going for it, and has been one of my favorite parks I've visited in the last 10 years. Even though it may get marks down on the FANFARE scale for not being entirely updated, it is not to be missed.
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".
There are no great surprises in food and beverage, other than the extraordinarily low prices. It's very affordable and the burgers are cooked fresh to order. The Mariner Fries are unique in that they are a thick-cut chip that are great because they're served so fresh.
The one downside is the "grill" is not in view of the field and is separate from the basic stand. Certain typical food combinations, like a hot dog and fries, requires standing in 2 separate lines. At a bigger park it would be inexcusable, but the nature of this park and its size renders it only a small annoyance.
Calfee Park provides a quintessential small town pro ball feel. The parking is free and convenient. Once inside, the seating situation is also quite unique. There are only a few hundred typical plastic molded seats. The family section, down the left field line is an expanse of concrete steps, and fans set up their soccer bag chairs as they wish, anywhere down the line.
In the seats behind the plate, you're as close to the action as anywhere in the minors, as there is not a lot of foul ground between the catcher and the fans. With less than 10 rows of seats here, it's populated by a few die-hards keeping score, players charting pitchers, scouts, and the ballpark-travelling set. For the benefit of the die-hards, on a complicated play, the scorekeeper sticks his head out the window and explains his ruling to anyone who will listen.
Far and away, my favorite aspect of the park is the "luxury boxes". These are open air sections, maybe 12' x 12' with a picnic table and a few stadium seats. The companies who sponsor them get their name on the post. That's it.
This is where the park gets a few marks off, mainly since it's in the middle of nowhere. Downtown Pulaski is nothing to speak of. It's a quaint little mountain town, has the charm of some old time businesses and signage that make it feel like a step into the past, but the park is set apart from that to the south. Being in the mountains keeps it cool, but there's no energy or excitement around the stadium, just a few lots to park in, some houses, and trees.
Sitting with the die-hards, we met some great people in the stands. A young man sitting next to me kept score every game, and had a new seat partner almost every day. His family would take turns escorting him to games, and most of the time, they would sit in the cheaper bleacher seats, while he sat right behind the plate (his present for straight A's). The staff seemed to know him pretty well, and were always keeping an eye out for him. He showed me the perks he'd received for loyalty, including autographs in his score book, and an Astros-themed "challenge coin" he'd gotten when Ed Wade was in town.
Overall fans were knowledgeable, pleasant, and engaged in the game.
There's no difficulty in getting to Calfee Park. It's a short mountain drive from the highways to the south, and a few minutes from the town itself to the north. Parking was free and easily accessed and maneuvered.
Pulaski was one of the most enjoyable visits to a ballpark that I've experienced in the last 10 years. Considering its low actual costs to attend, it's a can't miss day at the ballgame.
The town of Pulaski is named after Count Casimir Pulaski, a Polish immigrant who is considered the father of the American Cavalry. There's a secondary admission gate in the leftfield corner that used to be the main entrance. The entrance resembles a castle wall, and has a stone dating it back to the 1930s, when the team was called the Pulaski Counts. Leftfield runs deep, but rightfield has a bit of a short porch, as the hillside prevents any further expansion in that direction.
Maybe I just caught it on a great night, or just in the right mood for this particular type of ballpark. Whatever the reason, amongst the 80 parks at which I have now seen a professional game, Calfee Park in Pulaski, Virgina, remains at the top of my ballpark experience list.
If you're making a central VA swing to see Salem or Bluefield, or even Princeton in West Virginia, be sure to make a stop here.
David Berger is curator of TicketToTheGame.com.
Member Review by FuriousShepherd on Jan 24, 2012
I believe that this part was build during the depression as a WPA project. It is a great place to watch a game. When I was there Calfee Park was home to the Rangers farm team. I remember that the food was good and the ticket and food prices couldn't be beat. The crowd was small but that is to be expected for an Apply League team in the middle of nowhere. I also remember that they player Homer Simpson quotes and sound effects almost non-stop. It was actually very funny and creative. I may never get back here but, if I do, I'll stop at Calfee for another game.
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