I attended my very first game at Toyota Field Tuesday night, the Trash Pandas’ home opener against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. I recently moved to Huntsville (although my wife’s family has been here for about 60 years) from Birmingham, where I was a Birmingham Barons season ticket holder, a youth baseball umpire for more than 30 years, and — to put it simply — a lover of the game of baseball.
I have been to 22 Major League Baseball parks in my lifetime, and at least 30 Minor League Baseball stadiums. Some of those stadiums no longer exist, actually. So I always enjoy going to a new park, and consider myself somewhat of a baseball park expert. Or, at the very least, someone who can speak intelligently about the virtues of various baseball venues.
And I will say this: Madison County has a gem in Toyota Field. Here are five observations from a new Huntsvillian and avid baseball fan attending his first Trash Pandas game.
1. The ballpark experience at Toyota Field is very kid-friendly
From the inflatable horse races between innings to the baseball-themed playground by the left field line, the fan experience at Toyota Field is very kid friendly.
I met a family from Harvest, Ala., who were attending their first Trash Pandas game as well. Four-year-old Sophia was vocal about her support of the team, yelling, “Go Trash Pandas!” at the top of her lungs before just about every at-bat. And that makes me smile. I always want kids to develop a love for baseball, and minor league baseball is a great way to introduce kids to the game.
There are plenty of treats for kids at the concession stands (more on concessions later) and for parents who have little kids, bathroom lines aren’t long. That’s huge.
2. Concession stand lines are really looooooooong
Just like any event with a ton of folks attending, there are going to be lines at Trash Pandas games. And no one likes standing in line. Concession stand lines at each spot were super long, but I will give credit to the staff at Toyota Field. The lines moved quickly, which is not always the case at crowded stadiums.
The food options are plentiful, and there are some new delicious menu items to choose from, as I covered in a previous post. I opted for the shortest line, which offered standard baseball park fare — hot dogs, burgers, fries, chicken fingers, popcorn, etc. And let’s face it, a hot dog and a beer at a ballgame is pretty close to heaven of earth for me.
Prices are what you would expect at a sporting event, and actually, compared to many minor league parks I have been to, they were pretty reasonable.
3. Parking is easy, thankfully
As I said earlier, I have been to a bunch of baseball parks. Some enormous, some so small you would think you were at a little league game. But all of them have to deal with parking issues.
Many of the minor league stadiums I have been to don’t have parking lots like Toyota Field. You end up having to park on the street and taking a long walk to the stadium, or you end up paying some dude $30 to park in his yard, and hope you don’t get blocked in. That’s not the case at Toyota Field.
There is ample parking in the lot and it only costs $10.
4. There’s not a bad seat in the house
I went to the game by myself, although either my older brother or my wife and kid usually join me. I got a seat along the third base line, and it was fantastic. I ventured around the stadium during the game to take a look around, and there really isn’t a bad seat in the whole park.
5. Torii Hunter, Jr. is the fan favorite, and rightly so
Every team has a fan favorite, and it was obvious in the pregame lineup announcements that Trash Pandas left fielder Torii Hunter, Jr. has assumed that role on this team.
Hunter, who played baseball and football in college at Notre Dame, is the son of former major league outfielder Torii Hunter, Sr., who played most of his 19 seasons in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins. The elder Hunter played in five All-Star games and won nine Gold Glove awards.
Hunter is an exciting player to watch, for sure. He’s fast, plays hard, runs out every hit and doesn’t mind getting some grass stains on his jersey going after fly balls in the outfield (he made an impressive dive Tuesday night in the third inning and came so close to making one of the finest catches I have ever seen).
Hunter stole a base and scored a run in last night’s game.
Bottom line: Catching a game at Toyota Field is highly recommended
I really enjoyed my night at Toyota Field. Although the Trash Pandas lost last night 4-3 on a 9th inning home run, that was their first loss of the season and they look like a darn good team.
And even if they weren’t, the fan experience at Toyota Field is one I want to experience again.
The Trash Pandas and Blue Wahoos continue their six-game series on Wednesday night. First pitch at Toyota Field is scheduled for 6:35PM. Get tickets here.