The Charleston RiverDogs of the Single-A South Atlantic League have called Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Park home since 1997. The 6,000-seat stadium features a field that is among the best manicured in the minor leagues. The organization has also been noted for having some of the most unusual promotions in all of baseball making headlines across the country. The theme throughout the stadium is to have fun and that is easy in a place like Charleston. During my visit it was Splash Day, an event geared towards local campers.
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The food at "The Joe" has been regarded among the best and most creative in all of minor league baseball by various publications. Many of the creations are concocted by Food & Beverage Director John Schumacher. His mad genius has resulted in moonshine margaritas, peanut butter and jalapeno jelly burgers, pickle dog, the homewrecker and many more. Esquire magazine rated their menu as the best in baseball in 2013.
Unfortunately, many of these items were not available during my Splash Day visit, and both the Tiki Hut and the Palmetto Beer Garden were closed. The Wacko Taco concession booth was also closed and I wasn't even able to see anyone chow down on the kitchen sink nachos, the veggie taco or the Charlie Taco which is served in a crunchy and soft shell tortilla with BBQ sauce and coleslaw. It was a major disappointment for a foodie such as myself, as this was one of the areas that I was looking forward to.
Luckily there were hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, corn dogs, ice cream, Italian ice, and other goodies available for the kids and the adults. The fabled pig on a stick was on the menu. The foot long corn dog wrapped in bacon is downright delicious and so is the alligator sausage at the Sausage World. I just wished that every menu item was available for the game I attended. I may be selfish, since there is more than enough food to choose from. However, I dearly wanted a beer shake-which was recently voted by Venues Today magazine as the Best New Menu Item for 2013. I had to see how beer, ice cream and syrup tasted all mixed together. Hopefully you'll have better luck when you visit and all of the concessions will be open- a clear highlight of this ballpark.
It was the RiverDogs' annual Splash Day; Summer camps from around the Low country were in attendance armed with water guns and water balloons looking at drenching anyone who got in their way. This reporter was squirted at least three times with the last attempt thwarted by channeling my inner bully. These type of early afternoon weekday games are common around minor league ballparks throughout the summer and a great way to introduce young children to a particular facility. If you are looking for a more adult friendly atmosphere, perhaps check out an evening game.
The area in back of home plate drains from the nearby Ashley River, which also provides a cool breeze to patrons on the upper concourse. However, during low tide the area consists of plough mud which is sticky, thick and will sink anyone up to their ankles. For this reason, any foul ball hit to this area is as good as gone. Another fact, the ball field itself needs to be replaced every 6-7 years, since it sinks a few inches every year.
Charleston is regarded as one of the friendliest cities in the nation and among the top tourist destinations. It is a place you either yearn for, or yearn to return to. With that being said, it is definitely a very touristy town during the summer months and traffic can be truculent through the narrow and one way streets of downtown. I would suggest parking in a lot and using the city's free trolley service that has multiple lines and stops; it runs every 15 minutes and is great way to travel the city.
If you are a foodie, then this is your type of town as various award winning and local eateries are abundant and overwhelming. One must try Jestine's Kitchen (251 Meeting St) for affordable Gullah (Southern) cuisine and delicious desserts. FIG (232 Meeting St) is an upper scale establishment, and Queology (32 North Market St) smokes almost everything on their small menu from chicken wings, ribs, corn and beans. These are just a few places I enjoyed and there are a lot more fabulous restaurants to choose from.
Tourist attractions include Ft. Sumter National Monument, City Market, Aquarium, carriage rides or a simple walk throughout the streets that are lined with 18th century homes, cobblestone streets and palmetto trees. This is Charleston and there is more than enough to do when away from The Joe.
The organization has created a list of eight different groups that includes The Traveler, Super Fan, Socializer, and the Foodie. Kids ruled the ballpark on this afternoon, but they were enjoying themselves enough that they should be willing to return next year for the annual event.
The stadium can be accessed by taking I-26 East to Hwy.17 South. Turn right onto Lockwood Dr. and follow for 1/2 mile; the stadium will be on the left. The parking is free at the ballpark or on adjacent streets.
The price of tickets is stunningly high, ranging from $8 for general admission to $18 for box seats for Monday through Thursday games, tack on an extra dollar for weekend games. These prices are among the highest price points at any level of minor league baseball. The majority of the teams in the league are much lower in price.
The gift shop is a little small, but it features two baseball caps from the city's previous teams: Rainbows and Rebels. These two teams played their home games down the street at College Park, which has been stripped down to only a few rows of box seats and serves as a practice facility by the Citadel baseball team.
Charleston, South Carolina, is a city practically swimming in history. Between churches, military installations, architecture, television and film, and books, there is something for which this port city is known in virtually all walks of life. There has always been a sense of mystery, intrigue and “old South” around the Holy City.
Baseball also holds a place in the hearts and history of Charleston, as affiliated baseball has graced the confines for over 50 years, with baseball in the city dating all the way back to 1886. Future stars such as Kevin Seitzer, B.J. Upton, and Carl Crawford all called Charleston home on their way to the big leagues. Charleston's teams used to call College Park home (“Major League: Back to the Minors” was also partially filmed there) before moving to Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in 1997. Known to locals as “The Joe”, this stadium sits along the banks of the Ashley River, just down Rutledge Avenue from the old park.
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