A summer dream

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 20, 2008

Looking for some quality summer baseball action close to home? The Coastal Plain League might be the remedy.

The original Coastal Plain League fielded Class D minor league teams from 1937-1941 and again from 1946-1952. The current CPL is a collegiate summer league where hitters use a wood bat in preparation for the professional leagues.

The league, now in its 12th year, has grown to include 14 teams in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Players come from college programs all over the country, and several CPL alums are now in the Major Leagues, including Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, Dallas McPherson of the Los Angeles Angels, Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals, and Ty Wiggington of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Unlike the minor leagues, the players do not get paid but rather stay for the summer with host families. The teams play a grueling 56-game schedule from the end of May through the beginning of August. The league has a postseason and a championship series called the Petitt Cup.

CPL players are typically accessible to the fans for autographs and general baseball talk. Who knows, you might get an autograph of a future major-leaguer.

The Northern Division of the Coastal Plain League consists of teams that are in easy reach of Western Tidewater, or in the case of the Outer Banks Daredevils, possibly at your vacation destination:

Petersburg Generals

The Generals, owned by the City of Petersburg, joined the league in 2000. They play at the Petersburg Sports Complex, which is not easy to find (go to http://generals.petersburgsports.com for directions) and about an hour from Franklin.

Although the team has suffered from low attendance over the years, the ballpark has added a midway with games for the kids. The ballpark has the most comfortable seating in the Northern Division with reserved chairs right behind home plate ($7). Other reserved seating is $6, and general admission seating is $5. Active military, police, fire, rescue and EMTs are admitted free.

The facility has a party deck down the left field line and abundant picnic seating. The ballpark is well landscaped and has a well-stocked souvenir stand.

For a Generals schedule go to http://generals.petersburgsports.com.

Peninsula Pilots

Many may remember when War Memorial Stadium in Hampton served as a minor league ballpark, from 1947 right up to 1992 for nine different major league clubs.

Today the Peninsula Pilots CPL team graces the diamond. Of the Northern Division clubs, The Pilots are the closest thing to a true minor league experience. The ballpark has gone through major renovations since the team moved in in 2000, including a party deck and tiki bar.

The newest addition is a $400,000 scoreboard, which includes an LED video panel and speed-of-pitch display.

The park is located off I-664 on West Pembroke Avenue and is about an hour from Franklin. Get there early if you are going to a game with a fireworks display.

Tickets are $5 for adult general admission and $3 for children under 12 and senior citizens. The Pilots also give military discounts and discounts for Northrup-Grumman shipyard employees. For a Pilots schedule, check out www.peninsulapilots.com.

Edenton Steamers

When the Edenton Steamers opened for operations in 1997, historic Hicks Field was in disrepair. The team, which is community-owned, made major renovations to the ballpark and it now seats 1,200.

The publication Baseball America named Hicks Field the second best collegiate summer venue in the nation in 2004. The park has a nostalgic feel to it, from the covered wooden grandstand to the non-digital scoreboard, which is operated by hand.

The team mascot is a clam and the ballclub sold steamed clams at its concession stand in its inaugural season of 1998. Today, the only shellfish in the park is the mascot “Sam the Grandslam Clam.”

Hicks Field is located next to John A. Holmes High School, and is about an hour from Franklin down

N.C. Route 32.

Ticket prices for the Steamers are $5 for adult general admission and $4 for children and senior citizens. Edenton’s schedule can be found at the Steamers Web site: www.edentonsteamers.com.

Outer Banks Daredevils

The Daredevils were an original CPL team, but folded after one season.

The team was revived and continued to play to small crowds in Manteo. In 2007, the team was sold to Suffolk native Marcus Felton and moved to the First Flight Athletic Complex in Kill Devil Hills. With some additional promotion, attendance practically doubled.

The field is

located off the U.S. 158 Bypass, turning at Colington Road and then left at Veteran’s Drive.

The First Flight baseball field is a pitcher’s ball park with the right and left field fences at 355 feet.

However, with the winds at the Outer Banks, you could see several balls fly out of the ballpark on any given day.

Daredevils tickets can be purchased in advance through the internet at $5 at www.obxdaredevils.com.

The Northern Division CPL teams are known for their promotions, including contests and trivia at the ballpark, and even fireworks displays.

All CPL games are broadcast on the Internet through the CPL WebPass. See the CPL Web site www.coastalplain.com for details.