Baseball will never be East Tennessee’s pastime the way it is America’s, not as long as college football has something to say about it. But that doesn’t mean Tennesseans don’t enjoy the crack of a baseball bat, the thunk of a baseball striking catcher’s mitt or the roar of the crowd when a runner steals home off a wild pitch.
The East Tennessee region has its own baseball team in the Tennessee Smokies. The Smokies play in the 10-team Southern League and are a Double-A farm team of the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball franchise. Though the team has changed leagues and affiliations over the years, an organized baseball franchise has operated in the Knoxville area since the early 1900s.
Knoxville baseball teams played at Bill Meyer Stadium in East Knoxville until 1999. In 2000, the Smokies moved from Knoxville to nearby Kodak, Tennessee, which is located just east of Knoxville near Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The Smokies new home is the aptly named Smokies Park. It is located off Interstate 40 at exit 407.
Smokies Stadium is a grass field that features 6,000 fixed seats, with room for 2,000 more on the grass berm in the outfield. There are fully furnished, climate controlled luxury suites available, complete with hostess service and cable TV (in case you like watching football at a baseball game). Picnic decks accommodate up to 60 fans for an all-you-can-eat buffet while you watch the game. Of course, the regular seats aren’t bad either. Plan ahead when purchasing tickets, as some sections are alcohol free.
The Double Play Café is located behind third base and offers a buffet on game days. Plenty of concessions are also available, offering classic ballpark foods like peanuts, popcorn, pizza, funnel cakes and hot dogs.
The Smokies play all of their home games at Smokies Stadium. The regular season operates from April through September.
In December of 2008 Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, former Chicago Cubs All-Star second baseman, was named the manager for the Smokies 2009 season.
Smokies Stadium isn’t just about baseball. From time to time concerts and other events are held at the venue. Smokies Stadium hosted the “Down from the Mountain” concert tour, which featured live performances of music featured in the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” (including Alison Krauss and Union Station, Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs). The Charlie Daniels band has also peformed at Smokies Stadium. The venue has also hosted numerous car shows, fairs and other events.
For more information about scheduled events and purchasing tickets, visit www.smokiesbaseball.com or call 865-286-2300.
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