Review by Gary
Nestled behind the volunteer fire department and next to a cemetery sits a ball field where folks of all ages have been playing baseball since 1948, when Deltaville Ballpark was built. Today, the ballpark’s main occupants are the Deltaville Deltas, a semi-pro team of 18+ college players and adults trying to get one more game in before they have to hang up their cleats. On a cool Memorial Day weekend, we took in a game between the previous year’s champion Deltas and their longtime rivals, the Tappahannock Tides. These teams, along with 8 Richmond-based teams, play in the area’s National Adult Baseball League. All but one of these teams plays at a local high school field. The lone exception is the Deltas, who play at one of the few remaining wooden ballparks in the country.
Granted, Deltaville has gone through a few rebuilds since the World War II era, but in order to keep that vintage look, the contractors used custom-cut rough-sawn lumber to emulate the original wood beams, roof and grandstand. Instead of going with a less-expensive chain-link fence, volunteers and prison labor built the outfield wall using lumber and corrugated metal.
Every fan sits in wooden grandstands behind home plate and down each base line to the bag, protected from foul balls by a fence. Most similar ballparks use chicken wire, but at Deltaville they chose the same type of wire used to make crab pots, which is plentiful in a town that sits on the shores of the Rappahannock River. There is one small additional seating area with room for approximately 15-20 spectators at field level past the third base dugout. The players in and around the dugout at ground level can obstruct those views.
For the first time ever, I witnessed, with a big grin on my face, the national anthem being played on a euphonium by a talented musician. It was amazing. Later in the game, the fire department’s alarm went off, summoning the volunteer fire brigade, which Susan said harkened back to a time when the farmers and other local lads would respond in order to save someone’s barn or a treed cat.
Almost everything occurs within the walled confines of the ballpark. Pitchers warm up in fenced-in yards down each line. All on-field personnel change in their cars in the parking lot due the fact that there are no clubhouses at Deltaville. From the first pitch, Susan and I watched an osprey fly overhead with a freshly caught fish from the nearby Sturgeon Creek. The fowl seemed to orbit the infield looking for the opportune time to either return to its nest atop one of the light standards or accidentally drop its catch on an unsuspecting fielder below. This went on for about 3-4 innings while a total of 7 errors and numerous bases-on-balls were occurring on the diamond.
There is a single restroom each for men, ladies, ballplayers and umpires and a quaint family-run concession stand that serves pretty tasty hot dogs and lunch bags full of peanuts for a buck a piece. Don’t expect to buy any beer or use your credit card here. They’ll be happy to sell you nonalcoholic beverages and accept cash all night long. Tonight’s exhibition game seemed to take an unusually long time (3 hours) as the Deltas outlasted the Tides, 8-3. Tappahannock’s pitching left a bit to be desired as the home team mustered just 5 hits, but drew an inordinate amount of walks. However, none of the near capacity 250+ crowd seemed to mind at all.
Deltaville is a great place to sit under the roof in the wooden stands eating a dog and watching baseball on the eastern shore of Virginia. Regardless of who’s playing, catching a ballgame here is a must-see.