Whataballpark! Starring the Harbor Bridge and featuring a boatload of amenities, the waterside Corpus Christi ballpark named for Texas-based Whataburger has achieved a level of excellence the fast food chain never could.
Whataburger Field has been home to the Hooks since 2005, its site to many cotton warehouses before that and some of the rustic buildings were spared and incorporated splendidly into left field, where cotton presses flank the large main scoreboard. Cleverly, concessions are available beneath the scoreboard, which is 54' wide by 46' tall and inset with a 22' x 16' video screen.
The outfield has two berms, the one in right-center is a legitimate hill. The other, in left field, is more slightly sloped and large ships dock or pass through the channel directly behind it.
Both berms allow views of the downtown skyline and provide close by access to a plethora of activities geared towards kids. Amenities for the younger set include a full-sized basketball court and Little League field, plus a rock climbing wall and trampoline. All are in the vicinity of the Hooks' bullpen, which like the visitors' in right field is Safeco Field in style as only a black chain-link fence separates fans from pitchers warming up or waiting to. The concourse, which fully rings the playing field at varying elevations, is at field level behind the bullpens, just like in Seattle.
Another big league-like feature replicated in Whataburger Field is the CITGO sign, which stands in right-center field behind a swimming pool. It illuminates in the same hypnotic pattern as the neon sign it's patterned after in Boston, where it has been a behind the Green Monster staple since 1965. Corpus Christi's CITGO sign debuted in 2007 and is about a third the size of its famous Fenway Park backdrop cousin.
The Hooks' pool, by the way, ranges in depth from 3½ to 4 feet and is accompanied by a hot tub just like Chase Field, the first ballpark to have a pool area within its confines.
All modern ballparks have plenty of party and group areas and Whataburger Field has its fair share. Nineteen suites are found on the corrugated steel sided suite level, where a party deck overlooks the field from its even with the first base bag perch.
In right field, Kieschnick's Korner is an oversized pre-game picnic area that was built with wood which came from the old cotton warehouses that the ballpark replaced. Its namesake, Brooks Kieschnick, is a locally born and raised baseball legend who was the 10th overall pick in the 1993 draft. He spent parts of six seasons in the majors, both as a pitcher and position player, but never excelled beyond the amateur stage.
On the day that Whataburger Field opened, nationally-known Texas legend and Hooks principal owner Nolan Ryan said, "I think what sets this stadium apart from just about any other stadium is the view and location of it."
Views and location are indeed the hallmark of the Whataburger sponsored park as fans in the 5,000+ seat grandstand can gawk at the Harbor Bridge that spans the Port of Corpus Christi. The majestic in size half-century old bridge is one of the better backdrops in baseball.
Likewise, Whataburger Field is one of the better ballparks in baseball. Its location, design and etceteras are all top notch and, to me, Whataburger Field is the PNC Park of the minors.
That's lofty, but well deserved praise for the home of the Corpus Christi Hooks, where most fans benefit from yet another park perk, as the constant bay breeze mitigates the heat that envelops all ballparks in the region but is pleasantly a non-issue in Texas' largest coastal city.
What a ballpark, indeed.