Buck Hardee Field
Review by Gary
Upon arriving at Legion Field in Wilmington, North Carolina, I found what appeared to be a darkened stadium. Just when I was thinking that either Google Maps or I had gone mad, I heard an exuberant hooting coming from about 150 yards to my left. Looking in that direction, I spotted light standards and small signs that directed me to Buck Hardee Field, one of many facilities in a huge sports complex that includes the 6,000 seat Legion Stadium (Football/Soccer), Legion Back Field (Practice), four lighted tennis courts, a pool, and the aforementioned Buck Hardee Field.
I bought my ticket and entered through the only gate, which was along the first base line. My general admission ticket took me to a steel grandstand just past the visitors’ dugout. I stayed in this section just long enough to take a few photos because the view looking toward home plate was right into the setting sun. Having received prior permission to roam at will from Allan, the team’s GM, I soon moved up to the raised metal grandstand behind the dish, where it was cooler and less retina-burning.
My eyesight having returned to normal, my attention turned to the Wilmington Sharks’ cheerleader, the same middle-aged fellow whom I had heard previously. He was wearing a kooky crab hat and entertained the fans as he pranced through the stands. He would wear different outlandish headgear for each half inning while regaling the fans with chapeau-related jokes and cheering on the home team. The highlight of his performance was actually coaching first base for an inning. That was a first for me and very enjoyable. He called each player “batter” or simply used their jersey number, not having learned the roster this early in the Coastal Plain League season.
Buck Hardee’s dimensions are 336 feet down the left field line, a short 366 feet to dead center and 339 feet down the right field line. Prior to the 2014 season, a brick backstop was added to shorten the distance from home plate to the backstop, and protective netting was erected to replace an old chain-link fence. A new scoreboard with a cool, lighted Shark logo was added in left center field at the same time.
Buck Hardee Field is lovingly known as the “Shark Tank”. For seating options, Wilmington’s fans can choose the raised grandstand of 1,200 seats, the sunny GA section, corporate suites along the first base line, Adirondack chairs or small bleachers just past the right field fence. The latter seats are very secluded, and away from the chattier sections around home plate, just right for quiet reflection, chit chat and a field-level view from 350 feet from home plate.
The Shark Tank ranks right up there with most of its CPL brethren, ballpark-wise, and the in-game experience is heightened further by the vibrant atmosphere. The location, ten miles from some of the best beaches on the east coast, is outstanding, allowing one to enjoy a relaxing day at the shore with a nightcap at the ballpark. The inevitable playing of “Baby Shark” could have cost Buck Hardee half a hot dog, but on this night my enthusiasm was not to be dampened. Thanks to Allan for allowing me to take in the ballpark.