Sun, Sand and …. Baseball

When I head to our annual vacation spot at Orange Beach I look forward to sun, sand and great food. Now, I have something else to look forward to — baseball.

On Sunday we made the short drive to Pensacola Beach to eat lunch at a restaurant my sister-in-law, Lisa suggested. As we entered the Pensacola city limits I noticed a large baseball stadium. Hundreds of cars were already parking along Main Street by the bay.

Pensacola Bay Front Stadium is a beautiful place to watch a baseball game.

Pensacola Bay Front Stadium is a beautiful place to watch a baseball game.

A quick Google search informed me the that Pensacola Bayfront Stadium is in its second season and is the home of the Class AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos, a Cincinatti Reds affiliate.

I also noticed the Blue Wahoos finished their home slate with a game on Monday and Tuesday. My wife, Sheena, and I decided to make the trip over Monday night and check out this jewel of a park.

We arrived a little late, but still found ample $3 parking in a grass lot across from the stadium. As we started to walk across the street the attendant flagged down the free shuttle to take us to the main gate. The driver was engaging and had us all chanting Wah-hoo (similar to the Hog Call).

We grabbed our tickets at will call and entered the gate and up the stairs to the main stadium level. The floor plan is open and airy, and the most notable site is the bay situated in the outfield. Two party areas in right field also stand out (we later took a closer look, and it seemed like a fun place to watch the game).

We settled into our seats just off of home plate, which gave us a great view of the hitter and the scenery beyond the outfield wall.

We enjoyed the two on-field emcees and some of the promotions (in minor league baseball it’s all about entertainment), and also the dolphin sound effect that plays when a foul ball is hit in the direction of the bay.

Another key ingredient in the ballpark experience is the food. I noticed some very tasty and reasonably priced food options. I also discovered that souvenir drinks and popcorn include refills for an additional fee.

Cheeseburger and shrimp po’boy baskets are $8, about what they cost in a local restaurant.

I nearly went straight to desert and ordered the mammoth whipped-cream topped brownie sundae in a helmet cup, but instead ordered the humongous Battle Ship sandwich.

If you can sink this ‘Battleship’ in 11:21 you can win a free T-shirt.

If you can sink this ‘Battleship’ in 11:21 you can win a free T-shirt.

This monstrosity would certainly test Man vs. Food host Adam Richman, who has seen his share of ridiculous dishes.

The stadium’s signature sandwich features jumbo fresh caught gulf shrimp, fried fresh oysters, two whole fried soft shell blue crabs and lightly fried potato salad “baseballs” with lettuce, sliced tomatoes and lemon tartar sauce all on a foot-long French bread roll garnished with a pair of grape tomato “pegs.”

If one can finish the entire mess in under 11:21 minutes they get their name and picture on the Blue Wahoos Battleship Wall of Fame and an “I sank the Battleship” t-shirt. If they can ‘Sink the Battleship’ in under nine minutes, they get the wall recognition, t-shirt and the sandwich is free. So far the fastest finisher did so in 11:21 minutes, thus setting the benchmark for recognition. The XXL creation is served on a Blue Wahoos flying disc.

Sheena and I handled the seafood, but didn’t eat much of the roll or the toppings of the $30 creation. The way to eat it is ask for a couple of extra plates and cut up the roll and seafood and make smaller sandwiches to split.

After nine innings, it was clear why the Wahoos earned MILB Organization of the Year and Stadium of the Year honors in 2012.

As I posted different parts of our adventure on social media, I heard from Arkansas friends that had either toured the park or drove by it. All of them are going to add a trip to a game to their “beach vacation” itineraries next year.

I know it will be on our schedule, too. Minor league baseball is a cheap, entertaining way to spend a night, as you who frequent Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock know.

Starting at $6 your family can enjoy some baseball in a shiny new park with great food. After all, you can only sit on the beach so long. A Blue Wahoos game is a perfect way to enjoy the Gulf and catch some baseball while you’re at it.