Chronological Tour: Stop 322

The Canary Is Alive

Exterior of Rent One Park, Aug-2007.

The seating bowl, from the concourse beyond the right-field foul pole.

The entire field is artificial turf. Way off in the distance, beyond right field, is Interstate 57.

Quick Facts: Rating: 2 baseballs
Around 2004, local businessmen in the Marion area had the idea to acquire a Midwest League team and relocate it to Marion, to bring baseball back to southern Illinois for the first time in nearly sixty years. That effort was thwarted, but they were successful in securing a franchise in the independent Frontier League for 2007.

The ballpark, north of the main drag in Marion and west of Interstate 57, was designed well, with a stack of luxury boxes down the third-base line blocking the setting sun and providing plenty of shade. The central seating sections have padded seats worth the extra two bucks. While the concourse does not wrap around, there are seating berms and picnic areas in the outfield, along with the obligatory kids' play areas. The Miners, named for the area’s mining heritage, have four mascots that pay homage to the tradition: Big John, a miner; Lucky, the canary in the coal mine; Grounder the mole; and TNT, a stick of dynamite.

So why couldn’t I give this park more than two baseballs? Well, while they’ve catered to the casual fan, they’ve not paid much attention to the baseball nut (which I am). There is no scoreboard always dedicated to the score, count, and outs; the one board that generally displays these data often shows graphics like “MAKE SOME NOISE!” There is no white board for the starting lineups. There is a large open gap between the home-plate seating and the home-plate concessions and restrooms, so if you show up and it starts raining, you go there at your own risk.

Finally, the park is the first one I’ve seen for pro baseball that is completely artificial turf, including the pitcher’s mound. I’m a fan of grass to begin with; while FieldTurf is tolerable, I expect to see some dirt on even an artificial-turf field.

I do give the Miners credit, though: They have marketed the team very well, and they are on pace to break the Frontier League attendance record previously held by the Gateway Grizzlies. Even Miss Williamson County Fair (right) shows up for the game the night she is crowned.

Game # Date League Level Result
878 Tue 7-Aug-2007 Frontier Ind. Gateway 1, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 0
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