The ballpark at Johnson City with the green mountain in the background.
This article is an entry in a week-long series StLSportsPage.com is doing on a road trip to two minor league and two rookie league teams affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. To find out the route click here.
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Our next stop on the "All-Star Minor League Road Trip" is Johnson City, Tennessee. The Johnson City Cardinals play at Howard Johnson Field in the Appalachian League. Johnson City, Tenn. has played host to minor league baseball since 1937, with various teams coming in, but the Cardinals have been affiliated with the city since 1975.
There are four players on the Johnson City team who are from St. Louis, and if you counted one from Indiana who played college ball at Jefferson College in the St. Louis area it brings it to five. Rob Rains will have a feature on them on this site soon, so be looking for it.
The trip out to Johnson City is worth the drive for the scenery. The ball field is just to the west of te Blue Ridge Mountains with other mountain ranges including Roan Mountain in view. The Nolichucky River is nearby and offers white water rafting.
Howard Johnson Field must be a real shock for some of the players who have played at big high schools or like two on the team played at universities like Notre Dame or Stanford because the park is so small. You won't find a video board or a lot of hoopla, there is just the scoreboard with the score and the inning by inning runs scored.
Visitors from St. Louis who are used to Busch Stadium and stadiums for the nearby Frontier League teams River City Rascals or Gateway Grizzlies will be surprised to see there is no "ticket office" or "will call"-- the tickets are purchased from a guy sitting behind a table, and the pass list is there also.
It is a quaint ballpark, an old fashioned atmosphere, but the fans were vocal and enthusiastic. They all seemed to know the players and the home plate umpire and called them by name. The Johnson City Cardinals wear the birds on the bat logo and they have the number six Stan Musial patch on their sleeves that the parent club wears. Since our last visit a while back they have added a large green outfield wall, to replace the hedge that served as an outfield wall. There are signs up indicating that there will be some remodeling and a new front gate is coming to the ballpark in the not to distant future.
Johnson City has really grown as a city since we were last here and they have all the chain restaurants and East Tennessee State University is there with many exciting looking buildings.
We stayed at the Carnegie Hotel. We found it to be unique and brimming with character, It was built in the 1890's and was a hotel destination for the wealthy;one of the grand old hotels. There is a grand piano in the lobby, ad lots of ornate carvings and dark wood with gold accents..
The hotel boasts of many suites. We stayed in a suite which had a table for four, large desk, living room with couch and chair, and separate bedroom. The bathroom was huge and had a tub, a separate shower, and the toilet had it's own private door. And did we mention the white robes in the closet. Any hotel that furnishes white robes goes up a notch in our book.
There is a nice swimming pool and a restaurant is attached. This hotel was everything we hoped it would be and more. There was more than enough room for three people who were working on their computers: two on the round table, on on the desk.
According to the East Tennessee State University's website: " The July 8, 1891, edition of the Johnson City Comet reported that this 'great palatial hotel has no equal in East Tennessee and for convenience has no superior in the South. The best of material was used throughout the structure…. There is not to be found a single accommodation known to hotels with which the magnificent structure is not provided…. Its dining rooms are large and finely finished. Its parlors and reception rooms are peerless in the finish and furnishings. Its library, bath and other rooms have the polish of perfection. The building has been laid throughout with very fine carpet, every room has been elegantly furnished and there is not a feature that is lacking in completeness' (July 8, 1891)".
Besides just the lodging, the Carnegie Hotel offers a full-service spa, work-out room, a pool, and scenic views-- maybe just what you need in a get-away-- even if you don't go to the baseball games..
Next Stop on the Road Trip: Memphis, Tennessee to see the Memphis Redbirds, the Triple A Affilliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
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