War Memorial Stadium
Review by Gary
Completed in 1948, War Memorial Stadium in Hampton, Virginia was first home to the Baby Dodgers, Brooklyn’s Class A farm team. Today, it is home to the Peninsula Pilots of the collegiate Coastal Plain League. The team takes its name from various Carolina League teams that played here on and off from 1971 to 1992. Major League stars like Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Ryan Zimmerman all called War Memorial home before making it to the “Bigs”.
In 2001, Henry Morgan, born and raised in Hampton, purchased the team and invested his own money into the park, along with other private funding. Some of the new features that he and his partners added include a video/scoreboard, field lighting system, patio-style corporate boxes, and a picnic area that features a full service Tiki Bar. Upgraded dugouts, sound system, party deck, renovated clubhouses and restroom facilities nicely compliment the spectacular wooden roof, grandstand benches and floorboards that have withstood the weather of this coastal Virginia town.
Lighting under the grandstand roof nicely illuminates the woodwork while providing lighting for the fans after sunset. Two concrete ticket kiosks at each entry behind home plate are no longer used, but offer a unique look at the way tickets were purchased years ago.
For the first time in my ballgame attending experience, I witnessed a “bat-tism”. This ceremony features a new parent bringing their baby onto to the field to be welcomed to its first ballgame. On this evening, the proud papa raised his kid up to the crowd like Simba in The Lion King. The child was then given to the mascot, a 6-foot seagull wearing a flight cap and jacket. It is unknown what permanent psychological damage was inflicted, but the crowd gave the kid a nice ovation.
While I liked the addition of the seats and tables lining the first level of seating, I didn’t care for the netting that protected every seat under the grandstand. The only places you could see the action without netting in front of you were down the lines, but those views were obstructed at points by the above-ground dugouts. On this Saturday night that threatened torrential rains, many of the 3,750 seats were filled to watch the Pilots battle the Wilson Tobs. Both teams sported unique and colorful uniforms that fans of the 1980’s Houston Astros or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat would appreciate.