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  • James Hilchen

McCormick Field – Asheville Tourists


Photos by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

McCormick Field 30 Buchanan Pl Asheville, NC 28801

Asheville Tourists website McCormick Field website

Year Opened: 1924 Capacity: 4,000

 

The Tourist Trap

Opened in 1924, McCormick Field is home to the Asheville Tourists, High-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. The ballpark is currently the third oldest minor league affiliated ballpark in use behind Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach, Florida and LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida.

Various iterations of the Tourists have served as the main tenants of the ballpark, but McCormick Field also played host to the Asheville Blues of the Southern Negro League in the 1940’s.

With the demise of the Tri-State League in the mid-1950’s, baseball took a sabbatical from McCormick Field. With no baseball, ownership added a ¼ mile dirt racetrack inside the ballpark and hosted racing, including a NASCAR Grand National race in 1958. With baseball due to return, the final races took place in 1959.

The stadium has undergone numerous renovations over the years, the biggest coming in 1991-1992 when the mostly wooden structure was replaced by concrete.

Many baseball greats once called this ballpark their home including Hall of Famers Willie Stargell, Eddie Murray, and Craig Biggio along with manager Sparky Anderson.

Food & Beverage 4

In a ballpark this old, it’s tough to fit in a large selection of food and drink options, but the Tourists have managed to do so.

The staples are all covered of course with your choice of various hot dogs from the basic dog to chili cheese and other choices. Burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken tenders, etc can all be had for anywhere from $5-$8 depending on your choice. If you haven’t been to the south before, try the Bojangles chicken sandwich ($5.75). Bojangles is a southern fried chicken chain and serves up some of the best chicken around. Another good offering is the “south of the Border” stand. Here you can get burritos, bowls, super nachos, or taco salads for $8.

For dessert, various forms of ice cream are available along with other choices including deep fried Moon Pies, or deep fried Oreos for $5.

Plenty of drink options are available with soda, Vitamin Water, Powerade, juice, coffee, hot chocolate, and cappuccino. For those new to the south, if soda is your thing, give the Cheerwine a try. I did, and I’m hooked.

Beer and alcohol stands are easy to find and there is no shortage of options. Craft beer will run you $8 ($7 for canned) while domestic is $6. You can also get wine or seltzer for $7. The Tourists now feature beer bats, which have caught on with many minor league teams this year. Beer bats are plastic bats you drink out of. They run $14. It’s a neat novelty to try once although with the big amount of space in the bat, it doesn’t stay cold for too long so drink quickly and take home a neat souvenir!

Atmosphere 4

McCormick Field doesn’t have every modern convenience known to sports fans, but this is a fun ballpark. The ballpark sits atop a hill with the lone entrance opening into a walkway to the left that takes you to concessions under the seating bowl. To the right is the team store, while access to the seats is straight ahead.

Seats surround the infield and go a bit past the dugouts on each side. On a typical night it shouldn’t be too hard to get a ticket in the shade as most of the seating is covered. The seats farther down each line are uncovered. Both the right and left field corners have party pavilions that groups can rent and enjoy a game.

The views at the ballpark are very scenic and definitely a perk of attending a game here. Behind the entire outfield wall is another hill and plenty of trees. Noticeable over the center field wall are some bleachers that are used at Memorial Stadium, which has hosted numerous football and soccer games in the past.

Old-time signage lines the walls of the outfield fence. The neatest feature of the ballpark is the right field wall. The right field foul pole sits a mere 297 feet from home plate. As such, the Tourists have their own version of the “Green Monster,” the famous left field wall at Fenway Park. The right field wall in Asheville stands 36 feet tall and holds the lone scoreboard used in the ballpark.

Neighborhood 4

The ballpark sits in an area that is surrounded mostly by residential areas, but a mile down Southside Avenue, you will find a litany of places to eat and drink. Among your many options are Mamacita’s Taqueria, Brasilia Churrasco Steakhouse, and Farm Burger Asheville, all good options, but whatever your choice of food is, you are sure to find it in this area.

Asheville is a popular tourist spot and that results in many lodging options. Staying downtown will cost a bit more but results in you being in the center of everything. A good option near downtown is Aloft Asheville. A bit farther out (about 10 minutes from the ballpark) is a Fairfield Inn that will cost about half as much but is very nice. Near the Fairfield, there are many other hotel chains represented as well.

There is a lot to do in Asheville outside of the ballpark. A neat feature for folks of a certain age is the Asheville Pinball Museum. If pinball was/is your game, this place is not to be missed. It has upwards of 75 different pinball and classic video games.

For history buffs, a trip the Ashville isn’t complete without a trip to Biltmore Estates. Once the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt, Biltmore House spans 175,000 square feet and includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The house was completed in 1895. Surrounding the home are some amazing gardens. Access to the grounds is a bit pricey (around $75), but an amazing experience.

Fans 4

Through 44 home dates in 2021, Asheville sits in the middle of home attendance in the High-A East averaging 2,242 fans per game.

The Tourists have been an institution in Asheville for a long time and you can certainly tell it. Fans appear to be much more interested in the games and less interested in the latest gadget on their cell phones than some other places. A group behind us was discussing the merits of a couple players new to the team and knew the history of the players well. Overall, the fans are into the game and a good chunk know the players and react in appropriate spots throughout the game.

Access 3

The stadium is located amongst a mix of residential, retail, and medical offices. Parking isn’t ideal as there simply isn’t a whole lot of room. On the good side, parking is free and with many businesses being closed at night, there is plenty of parking across Biltmore Avenue when the closer spots have filled up.

The sole entrance to the park is on the first base side at the top of a hill. If you are handicapped or are coming with someone handicapped, drive to the top of the hill to alleviate so much of a climb. The concessions and restrooms are under the seating bowl and can get a bit congested during peak times. There is one main walkway through the seating bowl. It can sometimes be a bit slow but isn’t too cumbersome.

Return on Investment 4

All things considered, a trip to McCormick Field is a good value. There are a few different seating options. The majority of the seating bowl is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors/military, and $9 for kids 12 and under. Children under 5 that do not need a seat, do not need a ticket. If you feel like upgrading your experience, the Bojangles Dugout Suites run $33/seat. These seats are as close as you can get to the field and come with many all-you-can-eat items.

Parking is free and combining that with reasonable ticket prices and about the normal cost for concessions, you are getting a good value for the price.

Extras 5

McCormick Field briefly appeared in the movie Bull Durham. After the Bulls released Crash Davis, he headed to the Tourists and broke the minor league home run record in the team’s home park.

Really love the play on words of the team store. The Tourists Trap is a great marketing idea.

There is a nice plaque dedicated to John Henry Moss, former president of a few different leagues the Tourists have played in.

An extra point goes to the short right field wall. It’s definitely unique.

Upon entering the ballpark, fans are handed a program for the game.

Final Thoughts

There is a certain charm that older ballparks tend to have. Asheville is no different. From the scenic beauty beyond the outfield fence to the uniqueness of the right field wall, there is a lot to like about attending a game at McCormick Field. I’ll certainly be back when I can.

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