The G-Braves, as they call themselves, take pride in the fact that they are the only AA baseball club "in the world" to draw more than 200,000 fans per year for 17 consecutive seasons. But the preceding statement can't be a testament to the quality of the home team's ballpark. No place I've been to in 2001 has had as many problems and annoyances as the one in Greenville.
As the AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves I am surprised the team has managed to stay here as long as they have. The lighting is the worst of any ballpark, little league included, that I've ever seen. Apparently it has been this way for a while - even the ushers describe the lights as "terrible."
Not that the PA system is any better. Instead of putting the loudspeakers atop the light towers, they are placed in the concourse aisles around the stadium. As a result, every announcement echoes, making it impossible to understand anything that is said. A radio personality that was a part of a pre-game ceremony even made a comment about how nobody could understand her because of the echoes.
The seats aren't that comfortable either, since the majority of them are of the bleacher, no seat back variety. And to top it off, parking is $4, the highest of any minor league park I've ever heard of.
My night at the ballpark was a sweltering Friday evening in August, a more humid night I can't recall. I was fortunate to offset the parking expense by receiving a free ticket from a fan in the parking lot. Once inside I cooled down with a $2.50 cup of Dippin Dots ice cream, a unique Greenville ballpark treat. I also have to give credit to one of the Braves' top prospects in their farm system, shortstop Wilson Betemit, who took his position in the top of the first while doing a series of backflips, a la Ozzie Smith.
Additionally, for the first time in my life I won a prize at the ballpark, as my game program contained an orange dot on the Applebee's add, signifying a $10 gift certificate to the restaurant chain. I never heard the announcement, either they didn't have one or the echo negated my comprehension of it, but I took the program to guest relations after the game and they told me of my good luck. One problem: in order to be "eatin' good in the neighborhood" I have to stay in the Upstate (that's what they call this part of South Carolina), and I don't think another game here is worth the free meal.
Essentially, the team is in dire need of a new stadium, or renovations to the current one, which was built in a span of only six months before the 1984 season, the Braves first in Greenville. Stadium workers told me that any action to make the Greenville experience more in tune with the times is 2-3 years away, although nobody seems to know for sure if anything will ever happen. If it doesn't, I wouldn't be surprised to see this team leave in the near future. If they leave at night, even with the lights on, I'm not sure if anybody could notice.