4/1/2008 - The beginning of baseball season in asheville
ASHEVILLE There are several ways to tell when spring has arrived, but the one true test is the return of the Asheville Tourists baseball team to historic McCormick Field ballpark.
The team has started its 2008 season, and a lot of balls are likely to be knocked around the park before its all over on Labor Day.
Along the way, many a hot dog and cold beer will also be consumed.
The Tourists have made a few changes at the park this year. For example, concessions servers will wander throughout the park selling hot food and cold drink (but not beer).
That includes bleacher general admission seating. Brews will no longer be delivered to the reserved seats, but theres a beer express window for season-ticket holders.
Some new box seats have been added under the press box, and for the first time in recent memory, two Sunday night fireworks games will be played.
But mostly Tourists baseball is unchanged since the park opened back in 1924.
Here are five big reasons to hustle out to the park this season:
This is the honest-to-Babe Ruth version of the game (in fact, the Babe actually did play on this same field).
The young Tourists are the baseball stars of tomorrow, and the game is played close to the fans. The premium on-field seats almost put you in the game. But even a bleacher seat offers a great view.
At every Thursday night home game, domestic beers are $1 and draft microbrews are $2. The promotion always pulls a huge lively crowd. Bring your ID.
Another cup of Joe
Tourists manager Joe Mikulik, who is starting his ninth season leading the team, can get riled up when he thinks his boys arent getting a fair shake from umpires. Back in 2006, he erupted in an on-field tirade was so wild that it wound up on "The Tonight Show" and ESPN and can still be found on YouTube.
Beyond the on-field fireworks, the guy knows his baseball. And hes managed more Tourists games than anyone in history.
The Tourists will host four after-game fireworks shows this year on May 25 (for Memorial Day), July 4-5 (for Independence Day) and Aug. 31 (for Labor Day). The views are spectacular.
The return of Bobby Sax
The well-known street musician will be outside the ballpark just after home games, playing that saxophone.
Sax (real name Robert Hughes) is still trying to get resettled after losing his home and his instruments in a fire last winter. (The instruments have been replaced, thanks to fans.)