Walter Triebel spent 15 years as an adjunct faculty member at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has had an extensive career in business and as a textbook and reference book author. Triebel’s “Road-Tripping the South Atlantic League: A Guide to the Teams, Ballparks and Cities“ was published by McFarland in 2016. It’s available for purchase on their website as well as Amazon.
This is the second of a three-part article series for Marlins fans.
Greensboro, which is located in north-central North Carolina, has a long and dynamic history as the host city of professional baseball teams. Pro ball was first played in the city in 1902 and through today 127 years later it has been the home of nine different named teams that have played in nine different leagues. During the first half of the 20th century teams came, changed leagues, and/or left. But that changed during the second half of the century. During the modern South Atlantic League inaugural 1980 season, Greensboro hosted a team in the league and then fielded one during each of the thirty-nine baseball seasons that followed.
In 2003 the Florida Marlins (today the Miami Marlins) relocated their class A team in the Midwest League to the city as the Greensboro Bats. Then, in 2005 they moved into a new stadium that is today called First National Bank Field. In sync with that move, the team was given a new moniker—the Grasshoppers. Therefore, 2018 is the sixteenth consecutive season the Marlins have fielded their full-season A class team in Greensboro, NC and the fourteenth that it has been named the Grasshoppers.
As shown in Figure 1, First National Bank Field has an attractive brick exterior with three extra large archways that serve as the main entrances to the ballpark. Those arches are reminiscent of historic War Memorial Stadium—the home ball field of Greensboro’s based teams since the mid-1920s. In fact, War Memorial Stadium still stands and is in use today. Moreover, War Memorial Stadium had a cameo appearance in the legendary baseball movies Bull Durham. In the movie, the team bus carrying the Durham Bull’s players pulls into the parking lot at the front of the ballpark for an away game. War Memorial Stadium is listed at the end of this article as one of the attractions to see in Greensboro. Stop by and check it out. Then watch for it in the movie.
Upon passing through the arched entrance to First National Bank Field, you arrive on a wide, covered, elevated concourse in the area behind home plate. The concourse extends to the left field corner, but only goes part way down the right field line. The field side of the concourse is open to the field and allows one to view the action on the field from any vantage point. Figure 2 shows the infield diamond as seen from the seats or concourse along the third base line with a view of the downtown Greensboro skyline as a backdrop. Traditional baseball food concessions are located on the far side of the covered concourse, not hidden from the field.
A day at First National Bank Field is not just about the Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball game. The Grasshoppers provide an enjoyable ballpark atmosphere that is oriented toward the family experience. Maybe at the top of the list is the team’s mascot—Guilford. As shown in Figure 3, he is a furry, overstuffed grasshopper. You will find them on the field or dugout encouraging fans to root for his team; or participating in between inning activities and events. Also, keep an eye out for Miss Lou Lou Gehrig. She is a black Labrador that is a bat and ball dog at Greensboro games. Among her duties are retrieving bats left at home plate by batters and delivering a bucket with new balls to the home plate umpire. Finally, there is a children’s play area at the right field end of the concourse.
Miami Marlins MLB Top 30 Prospects playing for the 2018 Greensboro Grasshoppers
As mentioned in Part 1, a key goal of this Marlins Fans—Greensboro Grasshoppers MiLB Road Trip is to see some of the Miami Marlins top up and coming prospects tuning their fielding, batting and pitching skills on the field at First National Bank Field. During the Greensboro Bats and Greensboro Grasshoppers years, a number of future Major Leaguers played for those teams and advanced to become successful players in the majors. For example, in 2004 right hand pitcher Jason Vargas played for the Bats. He made his debut in the major for the Marlins in 2005. In 2018, Vargas is playing his 13th season at the Major League level as a member of the New York Mets pitching staff. Moreover, in 2008 pitcher Steve Cishek and outfielder Giancarlo Stanton were members of the Greensboro Grasshoppers roster. Both Cishek and Stanton made their Major League debut in the Marlins uniform in 2010 and are current playing their 9th season in the majors.
Also, a number of the regular player on the Miami Marlins current rosters made a stop in Greensboro to play full-season class A ball in the South Atlantic League on the road to the Show. Third baseman Brian Anderson, who is currently having a breakout year in the majors, played for the Grasshoppers during the 2014 season. At this point in the 2018 season, Anderson is the leader of the Marlins offense.
Also, Miami’s top catcher J.T Realmuto played the full 2011 season in Greensboro. He debuted with Miami in 2014 and has served as their starting catcher since 2015. Finally, Drew Steckenrider pitched for the Grasshoppers in 2013; made his debut with the Marlins in 2017; and is a regular out of their bullpen this season.
The table in Figure 4 lists the eight Miami Marlins 2018 MLB Preseason Top 30 Prospects that are members of the Greensboro Grasshoppers current roster. The table includes their MLB MIA prospect ranking, position, whether they throw right or left handed, bat from the right or left side of the plate, the team or teams for which they played during the 2017 season, and the class and league of that/those team(s). Note that starting pitcher Edward Cabrera (Miami Marlins #11 prospect), relief pitcher Colton Hock (#24 prospect), and center fielder Thomas Jones (#25) all played in 2017 with Miami’s short-season A class team in the New York-Penn League—the Batavia Muckdogs.
As the 2018 season unfolds, fans of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Miami Marlins, and those of the Marlins other Minor League affiliates have the opportunity to see those players continue to work on refining their game on the field at First National Bank Field with the goal of advancing up through Miami’s Minor League organization and eventually make their Major League debut.
Things to do in Greensboro, NC
In Part 1, I mentioned that each of the three cities of the Marlins Fans—Greensboro Grasshoppers MiLB Road Trip have historic attractive downtowns and a number of interesting tourist attractions. Elm Street, which is less than 1 miles from First National Bank Field, is a great destination for lunch or dinner in Greensboro. Also, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Hall of Champions, which is shown in Figure 5, could be of special interest to fans of the Marlins since both the Florida State University Seminoles and University of Miami Hurricanes baseball teams are members of that conference. The Hall of Champions is one of the destinations provided in the short list of attractions to see in the Greensboro along with a few interesting places to stop for lunch or dinner that follows.
Attractions In Greensboro
- World War Memorial Stadium, 510 Yanceyville St. Greensboro, NC 27405. (336) 256-0535.
- Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Hall of Champions, 1921 W. Gate City Blvd. Greensboro, NC 27403. (336) 315-8411.
- Greensboro Science Center: Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo, 4301 Lawndale Dr. Greensboro, NC 27455, (336) 288-3769.
- Bog Garden at Benjamin Park, 1101 Hobbs Rd. Greensboro, NC 27410. (336) 373-5888.
Dining In Greensboro
- Liberty Oak Restaurant and Bar, 100-D W. Washington St. Greensboro, NC 27401. (336) 273-7057.
- Natty Greene’s Pub; Brewing Company, 345 S. Elm St. Greensboro, NC 27401. (336) 274-1373.
- M’Coul’s Public House, 110 W. McGee St. Greensboro, NC 27401. (336) 378-0204.
- Mellow Mushroom, 609 S. Elm St. Greensboro, NC 27406. (336) 235- 2840.
- Cheesecakes By Alex, 315 S. Elm St. Greensboro, NC 27401. (336) 273-0970.
- Green Beans, 341 S Elm St. Greensboro, NC 27401. (336) 691-9990.
Next, in Part 3 of this post, I will take a brief look at the history of the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights, their ballparks, and some things to do in those interesting Minor League baseball destinations.