Tourists in Asheville

added 5/11/2005 by Darrell Pittman
View from Mt. Mitchell

Last week, Susan was on assignment to her firm's Charlotte, NC office. I joined her Thursday night. Friday morning, she risked her job by introducing me to the nice folks at her office, then we struck out in her rental car in the general direction of Asheville.

This was my first trip to western North Carolina. I was awed at the natural beauty of the region. The Smokie Mountains are beautiful by any standard, but being a life-long flatlander, it was especially impressive to me.

We purposely veered south as we wanted to catch the Blue Ridge Parkway for the drive into Asheville. On the way, we also stopped at the Cowpens Revolutionary War Battleground.
They don't call them the Smokies for nothing

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a roughly 400-mile highway built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s, and maintained by the National Parks Service. It stretches from the Tennessee-North Carolina border up into Virginia. Parks, scenic overlooks, hiking paths, numerous state parks and historic museums, and picnic and camping areas dot the way every few miles as it winds its way among the many peaks of the Blue Ridge.

We arrived in Asheville with just enough time to check into our hotel, unpack, and head to the ballpark, which was only about two miles away.

The Asheville Tourists are a member of the Class A South Atlantic League, and an afilliate of the Colorado Rockies organization. The Astros' own Lexington Legends belong to the same league, but a different division.
Entrance to McCormick Field

The Tourists call McCormick Field home. It's a nice little single-tier ballpark that seats about 4,000, carved into a hillside and nestled between a residential neighborhood and a small business district. Parking was free and easy to find at any nearby curbside. Box seat tickets were $9.00 apiece.

It's still cool in the evenings in the Smokies this time of year, yet just over 2,000 of the fans showed up to take in this ballgame. Susan and I were struck by how much more fun it was to be there than for a major league game. The between-innings activities involved fans brought out onto the field to take part in little contests. The one that sticks out in my mind was the frozen t-shirt contest: two fans are handed wadded-up t-shirts that are frozen solid. The winner is the one who manages to pry his t-shirt apart and don it first. Hilarious! Both participants take home cold, wet t-shirts.

Play Ball!

The Tourists' Friday night opponent was the Hagerstown (MD) Suns, an affiliate of the Devil Rays.

The hometown nine were behind 8-2 going into the bottom of the ninth, but they electrified the small remaining crowd when they rallied to tie the game, capped by a three-run homer by La Grange, Texas' own Matt Miller, then won the game in the tenth on a squeeze bunt.

Susan and I plan to see a lot more minor league games in the future.

Looks like they'll let just anyone in