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Sunday, April 3, 2016

43 Parks in a Year: The Appalachian League
The Two in the Middle of Nowhere

The last two Appalachian League teams I went to see were way out in the middle of nowhere near the Appalachian Mountains. The Danville (Virginia) Braves and the Burlington (North Carolina) Royals are close enough to each other, but they are both really too far east to be in the league. These teams need to move somewhere further west or the Appalachian League should put a couple more teams out there. They are far enough away that I only made one trip out that way in order to watch each team in its natural environment.

The weekend I was out that way was the last weekend of home games for each team and, at least in Danville, you could tell. The park felt like it was 75% shut down the entire night. You could barely get the girls in the concession stand to serve you - there were at least eight girls back there and they were serving people one at a time and they still couldn't get it right. The place felt like a ghost town and I've got to admit the two police officers who stood around at the back of the stadium looking like they were ready to go to war were a little unnerving. A lot of parks hire an officer or two and they usually show up wearing casual clothes or class-b uniforms, wander around, watch some of the game, and intervene if they have to. These two guys looked like they were armed for bear, and they were wearing bullet-resistant vests, and they stood out behind the stadium for the entire game. They looked like they were some sort of ready-reaction force. The park itself was decent enough and I have to believe it's better during most of the year. I guess I can forgive not being totally into it all at the end of the season. Of course, the souvenir stand did not sell pennants.

The next night I went to the Burlington Royals' game expecting much the same and I was very pleasantly surprised. People were crowding into the Burlington stadium from the moment the gates were opened. It was a live crowd which was happy to be there and there were lots and lots of kids running around having fun. There was a lot of fuss over the mascot and I must admit at first I did not get it. Bingo doesn't look like much, but whoever was in the costume did an amazing job running around playing with the kids and dancing between innings and everything. People were having a great time, the stadium was run well, and I would have sworn it was the first weekend of the season instead of the last. The only ding I have on the whole place is that the souvenir stand did not sell pennants.

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