McCormick Field

From BR Bullpen

  • Name: McCormick Field
  • GPS-able Address: 30 Buchanan Place, Asheville, NC 28801
  • Ballpark Owner: City of Asheville
  • Architects: Bowers, Ellis, and Watson
  • Groundbreaking: 9/12/1991
  • Minor League Baseball Teams: Asheville Tourists (A+) 2021-present; Asheville Tourists (A) 1992-2020
  • Class/League History: A+/South Atlantic League 2022-present; A+/High-A East 2021; A/South Atlantic League 1992-2020
  • First Professional Baseball Game: 4/17/1992; stadium debut of Class A Tourists
  • Others Playing or Operating Here: None
  • Previous Ballpark Names: None
  • LF: 326 CF: 373 RF: 297
  • Seats: 4,000
  • Stated Capacity: 4,000
  • House Baseball/Softball Record Attendance: 4,904, 7/3/2006

McCormick Field in Asheville, NC, is the home of the Asheville Tourists, the Houston Astros' High-A South Atlantic League farm team. A wooden ballpark that seated 3,500 people opened on the same site in 1924.

Rebuilt in concrete and brick in 1992, the new McCormick Field has a stated capacity of 4,000 and reported 4,116 for its first Tourists game. Its manual scoreboard - one of eight in the Professional Development League circuits - is likely the only place in the world where "Visitors" and "Tourists" are antonyms.

MLB's 2021 Minor League Reorganization greatly expanded existing standards for stadiums hosting affiliated teams, and Tourists owner Brian DeWine put together a $30 million plan that would both upgrade the park to those standards and modernize the 30-year-old playpen in other ways that have been discussed for years but always got prioritized behind other city needs. On March 14, 2023, Asheville City Council voted unanimously to fund the city's portion of the plan at a cost that could run close to $20 million over 20 years. Buncombe County followed suit on March 21st with a commitment for $5 million over 10 years. The MLB points-based requirements are phased in to the start of the 2025 season, but DeWine said his team had another deadline: MLB was requiring - by April 1, 2023 - a spending plan to meet the new specifications. Thus, if he could not provide that, 2023 would have been the last season.

Because the existing ballpark is penned into a small construction envelope at the foot of a small mountain, it has a remarkably small outfield: Straightaway center is about 30 feet short of most ballparks, and its right-field wall is less than 300 feet from home plate - necessitating a 36-foot-tall wall there.

The stadium's name honoree is fly-fighting Dr. Lewis McCormick, who was among the first scientists to grasp the health dangers posed by the common pest.

A larger creature of nature made news on June 8, 2022, when an adult black bear found its way into the ballpark and roamed around the field before leaving on its own through the visitors' dugout. The jaunt disrupted nothing but administrative work, coming in the afternoon on a day the Tourists were on the road. Tourists' mascots include brown bear Ted E. Tourist, who was not present at the time - prompting Assistant General Manager Hannah Martin to quip, "Unfortunately, Ted. E slept through his play date today."[1]

The venue is considered one of the baseball's most historic, although most of that history transpired in the original wooden structure.

The original McCormick hosted Negro Leagues baseball into the 1950s.

Babe Ruth helped make it famous by: praising its beauty at least twice (the quotes are: "prettiest ballpark in America" and "My, my, what a beautiful place to play. Delightful. Damned delightful place."), suffering the "bellyache heard 'round the world" on the way to it in 1925, and homering in the same exhibition game there as Lou Gehrig in 1931. The largest crowd in its wooden days was 7,583 on August 11, 1987, and its first crowd was 3,199 to see the Asheville Skycasters host the Detroit Tigers on April 3, 1924.

A 1931 fire destroyed its grandstand. Replacing it took nearly half the season but essentially restored the ballpark to its former state. It missed only 1932 and the World War II gap until losing its Class B Tri-State League club after the 1955 season. It hosted stock car racing from 1956 through 1958.

McCormick regained baseball in the form of a different South Atlantic League franchise in 1959.

The old McCormick made two other lasting contributions:

(1) Thirsty Thursday, created by General Manager Ron McKee in July 1983 and trademarked in 1995. Many ballparks have some kind of beverage-discounting promotion on Thursdays and many, despite the trademark, call them that - usually with the Tourists' permission.[2]

(2) The fictional Crash Davis was playing out of McCormick when he broke Minor League Baseball's career home-run record in the movie Bull Durham (1988). The script doesn't make clear whether that jack was at home or on the road.

External links[edit]

Current ballparks of the South Atlantic League
North Division South Division
Daniel S. Frawley Stadium | Dutchess Stadium | Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium
Maimonides Park | ShoreTown Ballpark
Bowling Green Ballpark | First National Bank Field | Fluor Field at the West End | L.P. Frans Stadium
McCormick Field | State Mutual Stadium | Truist Stadium