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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
As you might guess from its name, the town of Midland is in the middle of something, and you’d be right. It is the midway point between Fort Worth and El Paso, and the Texas and Pacific Railroad established Midland in 1881 for this reason. In terms of the minor leagues, it is not in the middle however, as Midland is home to the Double AA affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, whose Moneyball philosophies have led the team to the 2014 and 2015 Texas League championships.
The franchise has been in Midland since 1972 and has been affiliated with the Cubs and Angels in the past, but the team is currently known as the RockHounds, a nickname that has allowed them to establish a unique identity. The team plays out of Security Bank Ballpark, which opened in 2002 to replace Christensen Stadium, the long-time home of the team that still stands at the other end of town. Midland is one of the more remote minor league franchises, with the El Paso Chihuahuas the closest team at four hours away, so relatively few stadium travelers make their way here, but that shouldn’t stop you from paying a visit if you have the opportunity.
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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".
Fairly typical stadium fare is on offer at all the concession stands, at generally reasonable prices. Hot dogs are $3.75, with a chili dog costing an extra 50 cents; both varieties available in jumbo size for an extra dollar. There is a bacon wrapped hot dog at $4.50, and a peanut butter and jelly bacon hot dog, which is not as bad as it sounds and gets you all four food groups for only $5. The most expensive item is an individual Domino's pizza for $7.
Other items include nachos ($4.75), hamburgers ($4.75), and pretzels at $3. Chicken tenders with three for $5 are good value and rather tasty. Rocky's Roadhouse BBQ offers sandwiches for $5.50 and BBQ plates with potato salad, beans and bread for $8. The Triple Play Taqueria specializes in Mexican food, with burritos ($4.50) and a taco salad ($6.75) some of the more appealing options.
Those with a sweet tooth have their own stand known as the Sweet Spot with surprisingly good variety, including banana splits and pie a la mode (both $5.50), in additional to the usual helmet ice creams ($5), and sundaes ($5.50).
In terms of beverages, Coke products are served with three sizes of fountain drink (16, 24, 32 oz.) at $3.25, $3.75, and $5 for the souvenir cup. Bottled sodas and Powerade are $4, while water is $3.75. Beers are $6.50 for 16 ounces and $8 for 24 ounces, while bottles are $7. On Thursday, all beverages, including beer, are half price. The only exception is a stand called the Rocky Town Tavern that sells wine and wine coolers for $7.
The design of the stadium is quite representative of ballparks at this level. The main entrance is behind home plate, next to which is the team store and box office. Inside, a single concourse above the seating bowl stretches down each foul line, with suites above. The seats are all dark blue and come with cup holders. Protective netting extends to the far edge of the dugouts, sections 3 (along third base) and 19 are the ones to get if you want to completely avoid the screen. Although built in the Texas prairie, a few trees have been planted beyond center field to make a natural batters eye.
There is a small picnic area along the first base side and a larger one in the far left field corner, while berm seating is available in both corners and beyond the outfield fence. One interesting feature is that the bullpens are actually out on the field, making a homer to right relatively easy at 322 feet.
There is a small children's train that does a circuit every once in a while. It costs $2 per ride and you have to fill out a waiver, so take that into consideration before letting your kid ride. A very loud train horn sounds whenever the RockHounds score a run, which is startling at first but is actually a good way to honor the past.
The small roof generally doesn't do much good for those in the seating bowl during afternoon games, but shade canopies are available if you get too hot. Regardless, bring copious amounts of sunscreen to protect from the hot Texas sun.
There is a playground for the kids in right center field, next to the scoreboard that has a large video screen. MLB scores are shown on here, something few minor league parks do. There is also a splash pad water park feature, though it is not always operational.
Season ticket holders are listed on small banners behind the section in which they sit, a nice touch for those who make the investment in the team.
One of the unforeseen consequences of netting along the whole dugout is that mascots can now stand there without worrying about being hit by a foul ball. The mascots at Security Bank Ballpark, which include Rocky and Juice, do just that for much of the game, blocking the view of fans while they engage in their silly antics. As well, they toss Frisbees while the game is going on, so kids run back and forth without much regard to other fans. I realize that minor league ball is not just about the game, but the RockHounds should save the entertainment for inning breaks.
The ballpark is part of the Scharbauer Sports Complex in the southwest corner of the city, surrounded by a business park, many hotels, a high school football stadium, and some new residences, but almost nothing in the way of bars and restaurants.
The closest eateries are a branch of the Tilted Kilt chain and a Japanese steak house a few minutes walk away, with the Clear Springs Café a more family-oriented establishment slightly farther down Tradewinds Boulevard. If you are really desperate, some of the hotels have small bars at which you might find some fellow travelers with whom to share a beer or two.
Downtown Midland is about six miles away and boasts of the Wall Street Bar and Grill, while sports fans might enjoy The Bar on Missouri Avenue. The city of Odessa is about 15 miles west and has slightly more interesting possibilities than Midland.
Those that are at the ballpark don't seem to care much about the game, showing more interest in the mascots than the players, despite having one of the most talented minor league teams out there.
Getting to the ballpark is pretty easy as it is next to the 250 loop a few miles north of I-20. Parking is free in the large lot, just be sure to park far enough away to avoid foul balls. On a related note, if you are a collector, many balls end up in the lot and can be retrieved after the game if you follow them to their resting spot.
For evening games from Monday-Wednesday, gates open only 30 minutes before first pitch, which is very frustrating as most visitors need more time to complete their tour, get some food, and fill out a scorecard. I've never seen such a short interval between gates and first pitch; so if you need more time, check out a game later in the week, or during the afternoon when you will get the full hour.
Fans can move around the seating bowl without being bothered, something that may be appreciated when views are occasionally blocked by the mascots.
The concourse is more than enough for the small crowd, and there is a walkway that extends around the entire park, so you can make a complete circuit to get views or pictures from all angles.
Tickets range from $9 for reserved seats, which are the best bet as the park is quite small. As well, only the reserved seats have a clear view of the field. On Mondays, you can get a reserved ticket for $2 if you bring a 7/11 cup.
If you want to splurge, box seats behind the dugouts are $11, while club seats behind home plate are $16. Other ticket specials are available, just as 2-for-1 Tuesdays with a Baskin Robbins coupon, which means $4.50 for a reserved seat if you are traveling with someone, ridiculously cheap for this level of baseball. Check the RockHounds website for more deals.
With free parking, and relatively inexpensive food, a game at Security Bank Ballpark is a real bargain. There are several top prospects on every AA team and to see these players close up is always a treat and there are few places you can do it for less.
There are a number of features here that are worth a quick look. Out front is a statue of a catcher, with plaques behind him denoting the team's successes.
There have been several MLB all-stars who have plied their trade in Midland and they are honored with small banners along the concourse, or with photos on the team store door. I was glad to see the photo of Josh Donaldson already had his 2015 MVP Award listed. Past championship teams are also honored with pictures on one of the buildings down the first base line.
The grounds crew has a pet dog that follows them around before the game.
Inside the team office is a small display case that includes the championship trophies. The door was open when I visited and there didn't seem to be any problem walking in, though you might have to ask someone to let you in if the door is locked.
The quiet neighborhood, inattentive fans, and annoying mascots at Security Bank Ballpark should not dissuade you from making a visit, because the other aspects are actually quite good. Minor league baseball is still the best sports entertainment value out there, and although there are some franchises that are sacrificing fan friendliness in the name of the almighty dollar, the Midland RockHounds are one that is not. So next time you are in Texas in the summer, see if the RockHounds are home and get yourself to West Texas for a game.
Member Review by pderrick
In 1881 Midland was founded as the midway point between Fort Worth and El Paso by the Texas and Pacific Railroad. Today it is known as the home of the Oakland Athletics Double A franchise, the Midland RockHounds. The RockHounds have been previously known as both the Midland Cubs and the Midland Angels during their years in existence.
While Midland currently is the Double A affiliate of the Oakland A's, they were affiliated with the Chicago Cubs from 1972-1984, and then with the California Angels from 1985-1998. The RockHounds have been known for their great franchise and award winning staff for years and during my visit I found out why.
As of January 1, 2014 the ballpark has been renamed Security Bank Ballpark.
5707 Andrews Hwy
Midland, TX 79706
115 E Wall St
Midland, TX 79701
117 W Wall St
Midland, TX 79701