This is the fourth post in my 2012 “Down on the Farm” series that chronicles visits to various minor league parks throughout America. (Prior articles, including the entire 2011 edition, can be accessed here.)
The Red River of the South flows for nearly 1,400 miles between the Texas Panhandle and the Mississippi River, but is best known for separating the states of Texas and Oklahoma.
Earlier this week, I reviewed Dr. Pepper Ballpark, home of the Frisco RoughRiders. Today, let’s discuss Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark where, after moving north across the river, I attended an Oklahoma City RedHawks tilt on the first day of June.
“Change” has recently been a common theme in OKC baseball, as the franchise that was Triple-A partner of the nearby Texas Rangers for nearly three decades is currently in its second year with the Houston Astros organization.
This was pretty much a swap with Nolan Ryan’s Round Rock Express after the 2010 season.
In addition, following 36 seasons as the 89ers — a perfect description considering Oklahoma City came about due to the 1889 “Sooner” Land Rush – the team was renamed the RedHawks in 1998.
And lastly, the ballpark, which opened the same year as the nickname change, and holds just over 13,000 spectators, has undergone numerous name changes during its 15 seasons, the most recent of which was adding “Chickasaw” to the familiar Bricktown Ballpark moniker.
Though the city skyline is behind the stadium, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark’s setting is excellent, with the stadium ensconced in the midst of “Bricktown,” the capital city’s entertainment district, not far from Chesapeake Arena, where the western conference champion Thunder play.
Patterned after my former hometown of Indianapolis, replete with a canal running through and around warehouses, shops and restaurants, the downtown area is splendid — and full of brick, which I adore on buildings, stadia, you name it.
Chickasaw is big ballpark, but despite the RedHawks perched atop their division, the team averages roughly 5,000 fans per contest — though higher on weekends such as the Friday night I attended — so the team blankets nearly 4,000 seats in the right-field upper deck with large tarps donning advertisements.
On an unseasonably cool early summer evening (close to 20 degrees below average with wind), I ambled around the entire facility at sunset. Nary a spot offered a poor sight line.
There is a large, modern, immaculate press box surrounded by luxury boxes on the third level; but again, views seemed good from any seat I tried. The outfield is framed by a fairly-new Hampton Inn, a matching parking structure, and an open view of the Interstate.
Left-field fans can enjoy bleacher seating adjacent to the vast berm, though otherwise, all seats have backs. The concourse goes around the whole field, much of which is covered, which is no doubt vital during hot July and August nights on the Southern Plains.
Lastly, I’d be remiss for not mentioning the strong Oklahoma baseball heritage visible outside the park. Statuary including the Sooner State’s very own Johnny Bench (Oklahoma City), Warren Spahn (Broken Arrow) and Mickey Mantle (Spavinaw), are all located right outside the entry gates.
The “great” Mike Hessman, however, does not have a statue — yet.