After two games in two nights on my way to Stillwater, Okla., I capped my road trip with a stop in Memphis, Tenn., to take in a game at AutoZone Park between the Tacoma Rainiers and Memphis Redbirds at the start of the 35th anniversary of Elvis Week. Beyond attending a game at a great ballpark and enjoying some delicious food, I went to the Friday night game because I wanted an Elvis bobblehead.
|The King is in the ballpark.|
There was a large crowd waiting outside the gates to claim their personal Elvis. I don’t understand the baseball player astride the entrance, but it is a great entrance to a fantastic ballpark.
The Redbirds run a block party on Friday nights, which featured a band performing covers of Elvis songs. With $2 Coors Light drafts and good music, it’s a fun way to start the weekend.
|Block party music at AutoZone Park.|
The block party also featured an Elvis impersonator who took photos in front of a Graceland backdrop, so naturally I had to get my picture with him.
|The King lives on!|
If Elvis wasn’t enough, the Budweiser Clydesdales greeted fans outside the stadium.
|Clydesdales along Third Street.|
Like many other ballparks constructed during the late 1990s to early 2000s, AutoZone Park opened in downtown in a previously rundown area. City and team officials hoped the ballpark would revitalize the surrounding area, which from what I can see had mixed results. The warehouses and other previously abandoned buildings provides a great backdrop for the ballpark, but it doesn’t appear that the immediate area has stimulated new construction. Regardless, fans get a great view from behind home plate.
It was extremely difficult deciding upon food at the ballpark. I had read Benjamin Hill’s entry about his dining experience at AutoZone Park, and he definitely found some good choices. I had to decide between BBQ nachos (which I’ve now learned is way more common at minor league stadiums than I expected), the BBQ bacon hot dog, the Big Dog, and chicken on a stick. Many people around the stadium suggest the BBQ nachos, but I declined because I had some within the past few weeks (Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.).
After much debate and introspection, I opted for the Big Dog. The Big Dog is a foot-long hot dog covered in chili, shredded cheddar cheese, topped with three large onion rings, and served very appropriately with a fork and knife.
|The very appropriately named Big Dog.|
Upon further review, this camera angle may not give the Big Dog its due respects. I debated upon getting a dessert item afterward, but I was too full from the Big Dog.
Although I struck out the night before in Mississippi getting know photo with the M-Braves mascot, I had quick success getting a shot with Memphis’s Rockey the Rockin’ Redbird. Immediately after first pitch I found him on the concourse, and got my picture.
|You may not see his T-shirt clearly, but Rockey Redbird is an Elvis fan.|
The Redbirds did a great job with in-game presentation, as Memphis players had their headshots converted into Elvis-style headshots for the game.
|Jose Garcia in his Elvis-style headshot for the scoreboard. Viva Las Memphis!|
I respect that many people could care less about Elvis Presley, and they were not impressed with my Elvis bobblehead trophy. However, the Redbirds put on a first-class game. From beginning to end I enjoyed my experience at AutoZone Park. The block party is a great way to start off Friday night, especially because I was just passing through and didn’t have to wake up early the next morning. The music was great and the drink specials were worthwhile, so much so that I didn’t buy another beer at the ballpark.
The food was delicious, and amazingly tempting. I wanted to sample the BBQ bacon dog, but I was too full from the Big Dog to even consider it. I really love bacon, so it will be the next cased meat of choice when I visit AutoZone Park in the future. I know I missed something special the following night when the Redbirds honored the Negro Leagues, but I was thrilled with my Elvis bobblehead and the entire evening. Kudos to the Redbird staff!