I was finally able to see another ballpark I hadn’t seen before, and for its first game as well. I attended the inaugural West Virginia Black Bears game at Monongalia County Ballpark on June 19, 2015 against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
The ballpark is shared with West Virginia University, but you need to drive through a shopping complex to get to it. I did like how they had free parking at the Walmart though. The stadium is fairly small as the official attendance was just over 3000. It’s always great to see a brand new stadium, but I didn’t come away as impressed as I thought.
Maybe it’s just me trying to hold onto old times and resisting the way of the future though. All of the seats are behind netting, which I don’t like. I know that it can be a safety issue, but I’d prefer to have a clear line of sight of the game. I also don’t consider the ballpark very fan friendly. I don’t know if it’s because it’s also for college games, but there is pretty much no access for the fans to stand next to the field unobstructed. This makes it very difficult for things like getting autographs or catching foul balls. There are grass berms on both the first and third base sides, where foul balls would just get stuck without kids to chase after them. The field is also turf instead of grass which caught a few of the players off guard because the earlier rain made it a little slick and they slid past the bases on a few occasions.
I did notice that the outfield wall configuration was somewhat interesting as left-center field has a big notch sticking up, as the ticket office is right behind the wall, turning some sure home runs into playable balls. It also slopes up in the left field corner where the concourse rises to the seats. I do think that they did a very good job with this ballpark opening and made it entertaining for everyone.
The game itself was entertaining also. Not even sure where to start with that one. Prior to the game, I noticed that the Black Bears Starting Pitcher would be the Pirates #1 prospect, Tyler Glasnow, who was recovering from an ankle injury. The Black Bears lineup also included Pirates 2015 first round pick (SS Kevin Newman, 19th overall) and 2015 second round pick (2B Kevin Kramer, 62nd overall). And yes, they did pick up on the fact that these guys have the last names of Seinfeld characters. It’s also pretty nice to see the first professional game for a number of the 2015 draft picks.
Usually when a team has the same number of hits and errors, you think that they wouldn’t have a chance of winning. But what if their run total was a greater number? And the number of runs was 7? Still didn’t matter as the Black Bears lost, 15-7.
That makes it sound like an offensive outburst, but that really wasn’t the case, although Mahoning Valley did hit back to back home runs in the 3rd inning. The two teams combined for 22 runs on 16 hits and 9 errors. There were also 19 strikeouts, 18 walks and 4 hit batters. Put it all together and you have a 4 hour game. The Scrappers were up 15-1 at the seventh inning stretch, at which point I heard a fan yell that the Black Bears need to put up at least 5 this inning. And sure enough, they scored 5.
So overall, it was a good trip. I was able to see stadium #118 and my 5th inaugural game. Hopefully, I can cross another team off my list before the end of the season.