baseball

Baseball Stadiums: First Tennessee Park

For the second year in a row I was in Nashville for a baseball game, but this season the Sounds were playing in a brand new ballpark instead of 36-year-old Herschel Greer Stadium (read about last season’s visit here).  Although I was visiting a brand new stadium in First Tennessee Park, my visit was quite different because I attended the game with my girlfriend and two of her friends.

Another wrinkle to my visit was that the previous day’s game had been suspended due to rain in the bottom of the first inning, so instead of a single game starting at 7 p.m. the Sounds hosted the completion of the previous day’s game before hosting a seven-inning game afterward.  So instead of arriving around 6 p.m. to secure my 1940s Nashville Vols bobblehead, we arrived around 5 p.m. to get our giveaway items and settle in for the resumption of Wednesday’s game at 6 p.m.

With it’s location just north of downtown, First Tennessee Park does not have a lot of designated parking.  However, there are multiple parking lots and street parking spots around the stadium.  So after parking in one of these lots, the first view of the ballpark was not the main entrance but instead I got to see…

My first view of First Tennessee Park, which was a view of the “big ass” guitar-shaped scoreboard.

The back of the guitar-shaped scoreboard may have been my first view of First Tennessee Park, but the main entrance looks like this…

Main entrance.

Moments after walking into the stadium at the Home Plate Entrance I got my Nashville Vols bobblehead and lucked out finding the Sounds’ new mascot Booster.  So I got my photo taken with him before the setting out to explore the ballpark.

Me with Booster in a throwback Nashville Vols jersey.

With my bobblehead in hand and a photo with the mascot done, our group went about exploring the stadium, which almost immediately led us to the souvenir shop.  With two people who had never visited Nashville in tow we stopped and explored the shop for quite a bit.  I bought a coloring puzzle for my friend’s 5-year-old son, but the most interesting scene in the souvenir shop was the display around the Nashville Vols items.

A sign above the t-shirts commemorates the history of baseball at the site.

As someone who appreciates history it was really cool to see the signage above the throwback t-shirts to help educate fans who might not know about the baseball teams in Nashville before the Sounds came into existence in 1978.

In addition to the signage in the souvenir shop fans who walk around the entire concourse will see something especially unique on the back of the batter’s eye.

Signage commemorating the history of baseball at the site that First Tennessee Park now occupies.

Immediately across from the batter’s eye and the historic signage there is a fence with netting featuring the First Tennessee Park logo, which creates a compelling juxtaposition between the past, present, and future as you can see the construction underway in the area immediately surrounding the ballpark.

A fence with the First Tennessee Park logo just behind the batter’s eye.

The most popular feature in the outfield is by far the concession stand and bar area known as The Band Box.  The concession stand features a farm-to-table approach to ballpark dining, which results in some unexpected ballpark food items like a quinoa chopped salad or a hot dog produced in town by Porter Road Butcher.

Additionally there is a picture perfect photo opportunity, so I took advantage and had one of our friends take a photo of me and my girlfriend.

Me and Katie at The Band Box.

Despite the great photo opp, people come to The Band Box for the bar and other entertainment like ping pong, cornhole, shuffleboard, and the foosball table.

A view of the bar before the game started.

Later in the game I wandered back to The Band Box, and it was jam packed with urban-dwelling millenials enjoying the craft beer selection.  On that note, The Band Box has a good beer selection with popular national brands, notable regional brands, and some awesome local beers from breweries like Black Abbey, Little Harpeth, and Turtle Anarchy.

The Band Box during the game.

After getting a drink at The Band Box we migrated to our seats on the third base line to watch the start of the previous day’s suspended game.  The August 5 game was suspended before the Sounds came to bat in the bottom of the first inning, so I opted not to get a photo of the first pitch because it wasn’t really the “first pitch.”

So from my view along the third base line I took some photos of the game action, but started with probably the most notable feature of First Tennessee Park … the guitar-shaped scoreboard.

The scoreboard with a throwback motif with the Sounds batting in the first inning.

I also took some photos of the game action.  Notably I took some pictures of former Major Leaguer Barry Zito toiling for the Sounds.

Nashville Sounds pitcher Barry Zito delivering a pitch to Memphis Redbirds second baseman Dean Anna.

I also captured Memphis Redbirds second baseman Dean Anna at the plate facing Zito.

Memphis Redbirds second baseman Dean Anna at the plate against Nashville Sounds pitcher Barry Zito.

One of the coolest things I saw on Throwback Thursday was the outfits worn by the on-field emcee and the accompanying spirit girls (or cheerleaders or whatever is the appropriate term).  The emcee wore a baseball uniform that mimicked an old New York Yankees uniform with the number “3” adorned on his chest while the spirit girls wore uniforms reminiscent of the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and immortalized in the 1992 film A League of Their Own.

A between-inning trivia contest during the first game.

One of the great improvements with the Sounds relocating from Greer Stadium to First Tennessee Park is the view.  Greer Stadium, which is still standing, is removed from downtown and does not provide fans with an aesthetically pleasing backdrop.  By comparison, First Tennessee Park is located just north of downtown facing south with great views of the downtown Nashville skyline.  So fans are easily able to get a picture of downtown like the one I took that night.

A view of the left field berm and a snippet of the downtown Nashville skyline.

When it comes to food, Nashville has cultivated its own tradition that has yet to be copied elsewhere in the country.  That unique dish is known as “hot chicken.”  The dish is what it sounds like, but you can read more here.  It is fried chicken that is spiced to make it extremely hot.  So when I sought out something unique to eat at the stadium it was a no-brainer to try some hot chicken, especially considering the team’s mascot Booster is a hot chicken.

A basket of hot chicken with waffle fries from the Hot or Not Chicken stand.

After finishing my hot chicken, which was tasty, but not nearly as spicy as I expected considering that two people in the group said it made their eyes water, I sat back to watch the Sounds complete their come-from-behind victory over the Redbirds.

In the suspended game from Aug. 5 that was completed on Aug. 6, the Sounds scored eight unanswered runs to win 8-3.

After the first game concluded the grounds crew took about 30 minutes to prepare the field for the second game, which I decided was the appropriate time to get my usual photograph of the first pitch of the ballgame.  Unfortunately first pitch wasn’t until almost 9:30 p.m., so my picture may not have turned out as good as usual.

Nashville Sounds starting pitcher Dan Otero delivering the first pitch to Memphis Redbirds left fielder Rafael Ortega.

After getting a photograph of the first pitch I walked around and to the first base line to get some photographs of the game action.

Memphis Redbirds center fielder Tommy Pham takes a lead off first base in the top of the first inning.
A closeup of Nashville pitcher Dan Otero on the mound.
A closeup of Memphis Redbirds starting pitcher Tyler Waldron on the mound.

After picking up another beer at The Band Box, I made sure to capture a view of the field from the outfield looking over the grandstand.

A view of the stadium from the outfield.

After scoring three runs in the first, the Sounds never looked back and coasted to an 8-0 win over the Redbirds.  The impromptu doubleheader ended around 11:30 p.m., so it was a much later night than expected, but I had a great time on my first visit to First Tennessee Park.

The architecture is unique.  The views are magnificent.  The food is delicious.  The beer selection is plentiful.  And all of that makes for an awesome experience at a ballpark.

Final Score: Memphis Redbirds 3, Nashville Sounds 8 – suspended game from 8/5
Box Score – suspended game
Memphis Redbirds 0, Nashville Sounds 8
Box Score

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