Adventures in Low-Level Boredom: A Frawley Stadium, Home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Review

This picture was taken during a rain delay.

So what happens when an obscure blogger devoted to a fourth-place team spends a Saturday trying to watch a single-A baseball game? Less than you might think.

So here's the short version: my wife and I drove to Wilmington on Saturday to watch the Blue Rocks, only the game (actually a doubleheader) was postponed due to rain, so we turned around and drove home. It's a well-worn story. The problem in this particular case is that as soon as they called the game, it stopped raining. For good. This is where the longer version of the story kicks in.

 

Even though I didn't get to see the Blue Rocks play, because most Royals fans don't live anywhere near Wilmington, Delaware, I feel like it's something of my bloggerly duty to report back about the Blue Rocks' stadium & gameday experience. Although I was very excited to embarrass myself with a post full of terrible scouting observations, I obviously never got that chance. Still, I have tickets for later this summer, so at some point all of you will get your chance to copy & paste whatever stupid things I say, doubtlessly saving them for a later date.

But alas, let's talk about Frawley Stadium. After the jump you'll also find a number of photographs, including the Blue Rocks' touching tribute to Mike Sweeney.

 

  • It may sound like I'm complaining, but consider this advice should you find yourself somewhere on the east coast and desiring to drive to Wilmington yourself. Wilmington is 110 miles from where I live, in Washington. As I'm beginning to find out, east coast mileage should not be taken to equal mileages in the midwest. I'd say you should use a factor of at least 2.5 or 3. The population density causes non-stop traffic, which coupled with the frequent tolls-related shutdowns, makes it really hard to make good time anywhere. Weekends and holidays, i.e., the times you will be on the road, are especially bad. I wanted to kill myself on Thanksgiving Sunday when the final 80 miles took something like four hours to complete. Thanks to some especially bad route decisions, including an idiotic decision to take a semi-scenic route involving the Bay Bridge in Annapolis, my drive to Wilmington took a solid 3+ hours, and this was with no stops and with me speeding excessively through eastern Maryland and rural Delaware. It didn't matter.
  • Frawley Stadium is located in the Riverfront District of Wilmington. It's a somewhat interesting though unsurprising area, and is your standard "revitalized downtown/warehouse district" area just south of the center of Wilmington. There's a upscale market/mall, a handful of nice restaurants ($25 dollars a plate range) along with new urban-living style condos. It looked and felt something like a strange upscale college campus of sorts, and we needed to take a windy road, following many signs to the stadium, much like you might wind your way around campus on Orientation Weekend with your parents, looking for your dorm. As you can see in the picture below, when we arrived, shortly before the scheduled first pitch, it was still raining.

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  • That blue fence you see is the outfield wall, with one of the parking lots running right up to it. Despite the rain, I decided to park a little farther back than completely necessary, to lessen the chance of losing a window to a Moustakas home run.
  • The parking was 100% free, which deserves its own bullet-point.
  • As suggested by the picture above, there is no outside seating at Frawley Stadium, just a single level of seats backing the infield, tapering off dramatically down the lines. Frawley Stadium was built in 1993 (more stadium thoughts and better pictures than mine here) and it really displays a particular moment in early 1990s stadium thinking. It's a Comiskey Park II/US Cellular era park, which means its got a wide concourse, ample parking, nice bathrooms, nice food options, and nice seats. At the same time, it lacks the cultivated irrationality and random diversions that has come to dominate ballpark design. If it had been planned and built five, or even three years later, I'm sure there'd be an outfield party/kids zone, a Ferris wheel somewhere, a pointlessly funky outfield wall, two decks of luxury boxes and sixteen more gradations of seating options. There's none of that, which I greatly appreciated. In fact, though it is actually a new park in a completely new part of town, Frawley felt as old-school as Ebbets Field. 
  • Some group was running a table that featured a spinwheel. You pay a couple dollars and have a chance to win Blue Rocks memorabilia and autographs. There was also a clown making balloon animals.
  • Just about every weekend game at Frawley has some kind of pop culture theme. This one was Star Wars Night. A few dudes in costumes walked around, and they played a barely discernable video of one of the movies on the big screen.
  • When did the naming multiple parts of a stadium/field start? Did KU start this trend? Anyway, Frawley Stadium is also Judy Johnson Field. Johnson is a member of the Hall of Fame, and a rather hideous statue of him is outside the stadium.

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The man walked on water.

  • The outside of Frawley Stadium looks like a suburban fabric store, which I kinda like.
  • Blue Rocks tickets are cheap. Mary and I opted for the most expensive option, and paid $10 dollars a ticket.

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  • Possibly for some of the reasons mentioned above, the crowd was modest and refreshingly low-energy. (Although it was also a game likely to be rained out.) There were quite a lot of families with very young children. There were not many teenagers or young couples on dates, a welcome change of pace from my recent experiences at both Major & Minor League ballparks. During the first rain delay/pre-game, a group of outstanding students from local schools were honored on the field.  

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  • I wonder if anyone from Wilmington has ever become a Royals fan? We took these pictures during the rain delay, which as you can see, wasn't very rainy. There was only one large Royals sign, seen above, though there was a smattering of other Royals references, as well as some Royals gear, in the team gift shop. Aside from a few touches seen below however, it was simply all about the Blue Rocks. I spotted a small number of people in Royals clothing, though some looked like possible employees. There was quite a lot of love for the Phillies, probably more than for the Royals.
  • The Blue Rocks have many many mascots. There's Rocky Bluewinkle (seen above) the team's nonsensical moose mascot. There's also some kind of Rock thing. And most famously, Mr. Celery. No one quite knows why or how Mr. Celery became involved, but he's become a big part of the Frawley Stadium atmosphere. He comes out and dances when the Blue Rocks score, and the team gift shop offers various Mr. Celery items, including celery head gear, "Got Celery?" shirts and Mr. Celery jerseys, pennants and pins. (Click here to see a smug-looking SOB holding some of this merchandise.) Because of Mr. Celery the stadium also sells celery sticks & peanut butter.
  • The food options at Frawley were straightforward: a basic concession stands on each side of the stadium, a pizza place, a dippin' dots, a thing that had pretzels and churros. Down the first base line there was also a kind of bar, that also had outdoor tables and seating. The most noteworthy food item was a buffalo chicken sandwich. Some local group was also selling what looked like homemade cupcakes. Though being from DC, I assume my wife had no interest because she didn't have to hideously overpay for them after waiting in line for at least an hour. That's how women here roll.

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The starting lineups for a game that never happened.

  • The concourse also featured year by year listings of Blue Rocks who reached the Majors. Our Royals had some impressive years, at least in terms of sheer numbers of "home-grown" players, especially in the late 1990s-early 2000s. After 2003, the Greinke & DDJ year, however the boards start to get pathetic.

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This is what happens when your player development system completely implodes.

  • Behind home plate there's one of those pictures-plastered-to-the-wall things, featuring Beltran as a Blue Rock scoring a run. In dead CF, there's another tribute to a former Blue Rock:

Sweeney_medium

Well, this has somehow turned out to be a frighteningly long post, and I'm a little bit horrified with how poor a job I've done in writing about my day at Frawley Stadium. After the nearly two-hour rain-delay, most of which was dry, they rolled the tarp back on, did the ceremonial first pitch for some reason, then announced another delay. Then it rained hard for thirty minutes and they called the game. Then it stopped raining, for good. I understand there was still water everywhere, and the ground may have been saturated. Moreover, they couldn't have known that it wouldn't rain again. This was at the tail end of a month-long stretch where there was a reported 50% chance of rain every single day.

The field as we left:

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