Daniel S. Frawley Stadium (or, more accurately, Judy Johnson Field at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium) is celebrating its 20th year of operation in 2013. Anchored in the revitalized post-industrial Riverfront district, the 6,500 seat park is home to the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Advanced A Carolina League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
As with many teams in the low minors, the clientele is mostly families looking for a cheap, local alternative to major-league ball, as well as a smattering of local boosters and baseball fanatics. Frawley Stadium knows its core audience and does all it can to cater to them, delivering everything a family going to a ballgame could want.
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Frawley Stadium has the baseball basics covered, with the expected fare (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken) located at regular intervals around the ballpark. The more recent ballpark standard of pizza is also represented by a large Grotto Pizza concession behind home plate.
But that's not all. Some specialty stops are well worth mentioning. The Blue Moose Grille out in right field lets you customize fresh-grilled hot dogs, veggie dogs, burgers, veggie burgers, or chicken sandwiches with your choice of one of five cheeses and two of eight toppings. Over by third base is the Grill Cart, featuring some Philly favorites: cheesesteaks, chicken cheesesteaks, meatball subs, and Italian sausage. And those of you from central PA will need no introduction to the scrapple sandwich. For those not in the know, the short version is that it is mostly pork and definitely not good for you, but far too tasty not to try at least once.
Your average suds are on the offering around the park, and craft beers are available just down from the Grill Cart by third, offering an extensive menu of local, regional, and national brews for a reasonable $7. And overall, food and drink prices for the most part keep it a respectable $8 and under, which is good news as outside food and drink aren't allowed.
Frawley Stadium is easily accessible by I-95, and in case you forget, you'll be looking out at it from left field to center field for the entire game. All the seats offer a good look at the field, but you'll find shade in short supply. If you want to stay out of the sun, your best bet is getting tickets up high by the luxury boxes (roughly sections E through J). Alternatively, you can get tickets in one of those suites and enjoy the game in comfort. Those looking for a less boisterous or more completely family-friendly experience can get seats in the alcohol-free section (K) on the third base line.
There are two entrances into the park, on the left and right of the ticket booth. The main, ramped entrance is to the right, and those not adverse to some stairs will likely get in a little quicker with the smaller entrance to the left. Both entrances lead to the main concourse at the top of seating bowl that extends from the Top of the Rocks Picnic Pavilion in left field all the way around to the Bullpen Picnic Pavilion in right field. Stairways lead down through the reserved seating level to another, smaller walkway around the park between the reserved seats and the more expensive box seats closer to the field. The cheapest seats are in the raised general admission bleachers in left. Two scoreboards in left and right fields (for game stats and videos, respectively) keep you apprised of the action.
Fans of the home team should look for seats behind the first base dugout. As a family-oriented enterprise, autograph-seeking is encouraged at all times except during the actual game, and Blue Rocks players have regular pre-game signings on the main concourse. Kid-friendly activities, such as pre-game catches in the outfield and post-game running of the bases are also part of the fun.
A superhero-costumed MC runs the festivities, along with fan-adored mascot Rocky Bluewinkle the moose. All the minor-league greatest hits of between-inning activities are here, with mascot races, games of skill, dance contests, and birthday sing-alongs. One unique event was an open-topped KIA driving around the edge of the infield as contestants tried to throw pre-purchased, numbered balls through the roof to win prizes.
Wilmington revamped its old industrial area into a more modern development, the Wilmington Riverfront, and Frawley Stadium sits at its heart. While it may not be Broadway, it offers a wealth of other activites for pre- or post-game activities. Within walking distance of the stadium are art museums, theater companies, an opera house, a children's museum, and even an iMax theater right across the way. Not to mention all the outlet shops that are around for the more shopping-focused.
There are over a dozen restaurants and food shops as well, including Molly's Ice Cream (for a post-game treat for the kids), Iron Hill Brewery (for a post-game treat for the adults), and a plethora of restaurants such as Timothy's, Delaware's Big Fish Grill (a local seafood favorite), and Joe's Crab Shack.
Those needing a place to say have several options with downtown hotels, all under a mile and a half from the stadium. The Doubletree by Hilton Downtown, Sheraton Suites Wilmington, and the Courtyard by Marriot Wilmington all offer chain accommodations for people looking for rewards club bonuses, while the independent Hotel DuPont offers historic flair for those seeking a more unique experience.
The low minors are usually a haven for families, and Frawley Stadium is no different. Kids are more than happy to cheer along with the mascot or at the direction of their parents, but it is fair to say that the Blue Rocks aren't attracting the most hardcore or knowledgeable baseball crowds. Which isn't to say that they aren't enthusiastic about the teams or don't make noise when appropriate. At the mid-Spring, Sunday game I attended, the crowd was about 3/4th filling the stadium.
One odd tradition worth mentioning is "Mr. Celery." This healthy mascot only makes appearances when the Blue Rocks score, and when they do, and he appears, the crowd goes absolutely crazy. Kids, adults, and otherwise lose their heads when he finally shows up, and I can't say that I begin to understand it.
By every possible criterion, Frawley Stadium delivers on accessibility. It is under a mile from downtown, making walking (especially along the scenic riverfront walkway) a possibility. For drivers, there is a multitude of free parking just in front or behind the stadium as part of the Riverfront complex. Local Wilmington DART buses also stop at the stadium. Those driving from further away (Wilmington is just a half-hour south of Philadelphia and its airports) will appreciate its location just off 95, with plenty of signage to get you where you're going. Those preferring mass transit can get to Wilmington from Philadelphia and even as far north as Trenton, NJ, on the SEPTA system (30th Street Philadelphia to Wilmington Station is ~45 minutes and $4.75), or AMTRAK if you're coming from further afield.
A wide main concourse extends from left to right field at the top of the seating bowl, while a smaller concourse splits the two seating sections below. All the concessions are located at the back of the concourse, allowing patrons to watch the game while waiting for their food. Handicap access is available through the main ramped entrance and an elevator is also used for the luxury suites. And there wasn't even a cumbersome security check to get into the game, at least the day I went. Just have your ticket scanned and go.
Ticket prices are as reasonable as you'd expect for minor league A ball. If you don't buy your tickets ahead of time, you'll have to pay $1 more at the stadium booth. The best seats in the house go for $10 in advance, while the cheapest (general admission bleachers in left) go for $6 for adults and $4 for kids. You aren't going to see major league caliber baseball, but you will have an affordable night of fun for the entire family.
You can save some money by buying a ticket plan for 6, 8, 10, 16, or 24 games, which will get you $10 seats for $7.
The program is a free handout when you enter the park, with articles on the team and upcoming opponents and a small scorecard in the centerfold for traditionalists. You can buy team merchandise in the Grotto team store behind home plate, smaller booths on the concourse, or from roving merchandise concessioners during the game (if you really can't be bothered to get up from your seat to get a Mr. Celery doll).
Judy Johnson Field at Frawley Stadium does not ignore its history. A statue of the Negro League great and Hall of Famer Johnson is in front of the stadium, along with smaller monuments to two other Delaware inductees to Cooperstown (umpire Bill McGowan and pitcher Vic Williams). Attached to the stadium is the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame (although there is a separate admission charge). Two retired numbers grace the wall out by the right field video board (#33 Mike Sweeney and #36 Robin Roberts), along with a memorial to the Blue Rocks' former longtime public address announcer John McAdams. An especially nice touch are banners on the infield concourse that list all of the Blue Rocks players by year who have made it to their ultimate goal of the major leagues.
There's a small kid's area in left field, but that's almost a given. Other booths on the concourse also cater to kids, including a clown making balloon animals. And kids and their parents can register for the on-field fun at the fan relations booth right by the entrances.
While it may not be the big leagues, Frawley Stadium knows it target and caters to them perfectly. It provides an affordable and fun afternoon or night out for the family, located in the middle of the Wilmington Waterfront that provides a bevy of options before or after the game.
Daniel S. Frawley Stadium is the current home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a Single A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Built in 1993, it originally opened as Legends Stadium but was soon renamed for the late mayor of Wilmington, Delaware. Located spitting distance from the Christina River in Wilmington, it is a big part of the area.
It certainly holds up its end.
I was first introduced to minor league baseball in 1994 with this Kansas City Royals high A club. The fans are passionate and proud of their Delaware team. Parking is FREE - or at least it was in 2008, the last time I went. Lots of places to eat and drink before and after games. The ballpark is easy to get around and the sight lines are good from most seats in the park. A very enjoyable gameday experience.
I have been to the stadium many times since '93.
Did I mention PARKING IS FREE.
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