Claude Walker | Bicentennial-By-Buttons

“Cool park, odd dimensions, engaging mascot, blah scoreboard”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 14, 2015

Lots of baseball history in Chattanooga, I recently learned, and this ballpark has had its share. I was eager to see the Tennessee Smokies (AA Club for my Cubbies) take on the Lookouts. Cub greats Kiki Cuyler & Fergie Jenkins played in Chattanooga, as did Harmon Killebrew. I wasn't disappointed.

A 10-minute walk from my hotel, the ballpark is perched on a hill (an escalator is available) framed by a big highway, the Tennessee River and hazy mountains (Lookout Mountain?)

The entrance isn't grand, but there was no waiting the day I was there. Cheap and great seats available on game day. 25 cent program books. Capacity is 6,300; it was half-full at the first pitch, mostly seniors & day camp kiddies in their color-coded t-shirts.

The yard has odd dimensions and the outfield fences are totally tattooed with ads, a tribute to a bygone era, I guess. The scoreboard was pretty blah; it was hard to see (day game), and never identified the player at-bat.

One charming feature: the day's line-up on dry erase boards as you enter. No waiting for food, beverages or johns. $6 Lagunitas at the Big River Beer Garden. As a Chicagoan, I'm an Italian sausage snob...these folks may know BBQ, but are way off on Italian sausage.

Fun atmosphere. Strangers interact, everyone is really close to the crack-of-the-bat and the between-inning games aren't too cheesy. I'm not a big fan of mascots, but "Louise" was pretty engaging, I must say. I keep score (old school, baby) and was asked to explain my system by a dad to his12-year old son. The usher in my section was a retired mail carrier who had some good stories about "vintage-style basbeball leagues". The stands are mostly aluminum, so it gets raucous, especially when the bored day camp kids started kicking in unison. You hear river boat horns & highway traffic throughout the game.

And what a great ballgame! I was able to see tomorrow's Cubbies today and even gave an "attaboy" to future Cub catcher Kyle Schwarber. One jolt was seeing the pitchers' "shot clock" for the first time. It did move the game along (2:31), but it still makes me uncomfortable.

Even if you're not a baseball fan, I recommend you have some fun at the old ballpark and see the Lookouts.

Visited June 2015

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