Chronological Tour: Stop 209

Cryin’ the Blues in Memphis

The main gate of AutoZone Park, Jul-2013.

From left field, the buildings of Main Street are visible beyond the ballpark.

The park was wedged into a downtown neighborhood.

Quick Facts: Rating: 4 baseballs
The Memphis Redbirds moved downtown, to this park two blocks from Beale, in 2000 after playing two seasons at McCarver Stadium, the now-demolished home of the Blues and Chicks. Everyone was raving about AutoZone Park when it opened, but I failed to be turned on by the place when I arrived in 2001.

Maybe it was the weather (hot and sticky). Or perhaps it was the ineptitude of the staff. I asked for an outfield seat and was sold a more expensive outer infield seat. I requested a correction, and when I started to explain the delay to the person behind me in line, the clerk snapped at me.

Then I got inside and discovered that they had no whiteboard for the lineups, that the lineups were displayed on the scoreboard but were tough to read, and, worst of all, that the scoreboards (there are two of them) don’t always display the score of the game you’re watching. They aren’t regular scoreboards, they’re matrix boards, and they put up promos and St. Louis Cardinals scores and everything else.

Fortunately, according to a fellow I met at the ballpark when I finally got back there in 2013 (after having been rained out of a return visit in 2008), the non-profit group that owns the club chose to enter into a contract for running the ballpark with Spectacor, the facility management division of the media giant Comcast. Many of the defects I noted in 2001 had been corrected, enough that I was able to upgrade the park from three baseballs to four on my 1-to-5 scale.

Getting to the Game

AutoZone Park is two blocks from the famous Beale Street strip, five blocks east of the Mississippi riverfront, and about seven blocks south of I-40, making it very convenient. While there are plenty of downtown parking lots, it is also possible to park several blocks away, especially to the north near the courthouse, and walk over. Meters in that area do not operate after 6 pm, so on-street parking is free for night games.

There is a streetcar line behind the left-field stands, although I did not investigate how often or how late the trains run.

Watching the Game

This is one of the larger parks in all of Minor League Baseball, with a double deck, although the second deck is a premium “club level”. But lower-deck seating extends all the way down both foul lines, and beyond the right-field foul pole into the outfield. There are also numerous picnic tables beyond the outfield, along with a sizable grass berm in left field for general admission ticket holders.

The surcharge for day-of-game sales here is a rather steep $3, making it much more expensive for spur-of-the-moment travelers who walk up to the ballpark on game day.

There is now a whiteboard for the day’s starting lineups on a wall behind the plate, near the entrance to the club level. The team also hands out a playbill-sized game-day program.

The main scoreboard, a monochrome matrix board in 2001, has been replaced by a video board, and yes, the score of the game is up there most of the time (and the ball-and-strike count is always displayed during an inning). In addition, the small matrix board in left center displays the runs, hits and errors throughout the game, although it is not always in sync with the video board.

Enjoying the Game

The park has a walk-around concourse that takes the visitor around the perimeter of the field, in front of neighborhood buildings like the YMCA in left center and a row-housing development in right field. The batter’s eye is made up of carefully positioned evergreen trees, a nice touch that makes it possible to see through to the plate from dead center field without distracting the batter.

There is a kids’ play area beyond the third-base stands, out of the way (and pretty much out of view of the game, so if you bring the kids there and also want to see the game, you’re basically out of luck).

The Redbirds also dispense with most of the on-field gimmicks between innings, allowing the intense fan to concentrate on the game, although there are a select few on-field promotions.

Game # Date League Level Result
481 Fri 3-Aug-2001 Pacific Coast AAA MEMPHIS 4, Sacramento 3
1257 Mon 22-Jul-2013 Pacific Coast AAA Round Rock 9, MEMPHIS 0
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This page updated 1-Aug-2013