Tag Archives: Wrigley Field

First Tennessee Park Open to the Public Today

NSThis past weekend I had tickets to see the Colorado Rockies vs. San Francisco Giants in Denver. My youngest daughter lives there with her husband and son, and although it was raining we just knew the clouds would part and we’d be singing the National Anthem around 2 PM.

I’d never been to Coors Field; it has been on my ballpark bucket list for some time and I was anxious to see the park and watch the game. From the outside, it’s a beautiful facility.

Standing at the Will Call ticket window about two hours before the game I could tell there was plenty of bustle up and down the streets and sidewalks as fans began to gather in anticipation of the first pitch. As the nice lady behind the glass handed the ticket envelope to me, a man behind her said that the game had been called due to rain.

Bummer.

I have viewed games in many ballparks over the years including Sulphur Dell, Knoxville’s Bill Meyer Stadium, Memphis’ Blues/Tim McCarver Stadium, Birminhgam’s Hoover Stadium and Rickwood Field, Charleston’s Watt Powell Park, and Columbus Cooper Stadium. I have always been partial to minor league parks.  Not many old ones are still around.

Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium, Riverfront Stadium and Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Chicago’s Wrigley Field and U. S. Cellular Field, the Astrodome, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, St. Louis’ Sportsmans Park and old Busch Stadium, and Yankee Stadium come to mind as highlights of major league visits.

There are  dozens of others on my list when I consider spring training games and more minor league parks, especially the ones I have been able to view only from the sidewalk outside the stadium, usually peering through an opening in the fence. That’s something else I have been partial to: taking in the beauty, imagining the history, remembering a story or two about a player and team.

Peering through the fence is fine, but a unique opportunity is available to us today in Nashville. Between 1 – 4 PM, our new First Tennessee Park is open to the public. There will be tours of the entire facility, including the locker rooms and batting cages that one will probably never be able to see again.

Free food and games for the kids will help to make this an opportunity to remember. Fan or not, this is a chance to see what ballparks are all about.

And I can tell you from experience: it’s the finest minor league facility in the United States, hands down.

We can pretend to imagine what great history this ballpark will give us, what great players and teams will perform there. But we have an opportunity to view our new First Tennessee Park and take in the beauty today.

And you won’t have to peer through a fence.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Supplying Mr. Banks (with caps)

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to visit with “Mr. Cub”, Ernie Banks. Elected to Baseball’s legendary Hall of Fame in 1977 after 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Banks was the keynote speaker at Lipscomb University’s 6th Annual “Evening of Excellence”, a fund-raising event that highlights the brilliant career of storied basketball coach Don Meyer.

At the VIP gathering before the event, I arrived early and the line had already begun to form to greet the hospitable and energetic Banks. Encouraged to “not ask for an autograph”, others were already asking so I unpackaged the Major League baseball I had brought along and stuck it in my pocket.

When it was my turn to shake Ernie’s hand, I noticed the cap he was wearing (something with “Ernie” emblazoned on it), introduced myself and he greeted me with, “What do you do?”

Banks1Not wanting to fail in getting his autograph on the ball, I quickly asked if he would mind signing a ball for me. He quickly took my ball and pen and now the ball he signed sits proudly among my meager collection.

“I am a sales rep for New Era Cap Company. We make the caps for the pros”, I replied.

“Could you make me a couple of caps?” he asked.

“I actually brought caps for you; may I give them to you? They’re Cubs caps”, I told him.

“Well, where are they? Sure you can give them to me. Go get them.”

I always take caps along to occasions such as this even if I don’t get an item signed. It was not my intention to commercialize the opportunity, either, but I do it as a way of saying “thanks” and am happy to be able to do so. Once I gave a Minnesota Twins cap to Harmon Killebrew at an event in Birmingham at the Barons ballpark at Hoover. The next day he wore it throwing out the first pitch at the Rickwood Classic where he was the guest of honor at the annual game played at the historic park.

After thanking Ernie (now we are on a first-name basis), I retrieved the caps, walked back over to where he was sitting, and placed the four caps in front of him where he could see. He was pretty busy, as by now the line had become much longer. After greeting a few more fans, he reached over and took the caps and tried each one on.

Larry Schmittou and Farrell Owens with Ernie Banks

Larry Schmittou and Farrell Owens with Ernie Banks

This is the one he chose. He wore it during the remainder of the meet-and-greet, and an hour later he walked out on stage with it on, too.

If one gets the opportunity to see and hear him speak, I would encourage you to be there. Ernie Banks is approachable, engaging, and tells memorable stories. I have a wonderful memory of meeting and hearing him.

But that’s not the end of the cap story.

The next day the Chicago Cubs celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Wrigley Field, the storied venue of one of Baseball’s most storied teams. Of course, all the greats were there, including Ernie Banks, in another New Era cap I had given him the day before.

USASTSI Image

USASTSI Image

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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