Review by Gary
Owned and operated by the City of Elizabethton in far northeastern Tennessee, the collegiate Appalachian League’s aptly named River Riders took up residence at NECCU Ballpark in 2021. The ballpark was erected in 1974 and was originally named Joe O'Brien Field. It had been home to the Elizabethton Twins from the time it opened until 2020. 2,000 souls can visit the ballpark either by land or by water as the Watauga River flows right past the stadium during its long journey to the Atlantic Ocean. A friendly city employee kindly gave me permission to make a quick visit.
The stadium doesn’t seem to have changed much since it was built. A nice new concrete promenade in the right field corner allows entry to a stadium looks like it was built with leftovers from various other ballparks. The area behind and around home is so irregular that wild pitches, passed balls and errant throws must rattle around like a vintage pachinko machine.
Two raised wooden press boxes flank a section of about one hundred 1970s era plastic box seats that comprise the reserved seating behind home plate. Metal bleacher seating runs up and behind the dugouts while two vast party pavilions can be found on the new concrete further down each baseline.
The short dimensions of 320 down the lines and just 339 to center must be inviting to power hitters both left and right. I liked that the current tenants of the ballpark chose to display the championship banners of the Elizabethton Twins on the high outfield wall above the current league standings. Both dugouts are made of cinder block and are at field level while both bullpens are sidled up against each other like an after thought in front of the right field wall.
The ballpark is probably a very charming place to catch a ball game for the people of Elizabethton, who probably appreciate the fact that there is still a team in their town. Just don’t forget to secure your vessel tightly to a tree if you travel to the game by raft.