This morning we checked out of our motel in Kodak, Tennessee and headed south to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We’d drive through Gatlinburg and then head across the Smokies to reach our final destination of the day, Asheville, North Carolina.

As we left Kodak and approached Gatlinburg, we rolled through the town of Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is known as the home of Dollywood and an upside-down building named the Wonderworks. Gatlinburg is known as “The Gateway to the Smoky Mountains”. We didn’t stop in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. We wanted to drive through those famous tourist trap towns and get an eyeful of the commercial hillbilly culture there, but that was the extent of our interest. After we drove through Gatlinburg, we entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and drove 30 miles on U.S. 441 across the mountain range to Cherokee, North Carolina.

We drove through several more small towns, including Maggie Valley, North Carolina, before merging on to Interstate 40 about 18 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina. We arrived in the Asheville area at noon. That was perfect timing to grab lunch at Five Guys and check in at our motel before attending an afternoon ballgame.

At 2:05 PM we attended a South Atlantic League class A ballgame at McCormick Field in Asheville, North Carolina.

This ballgame in Asheville was game #3 of our vacation that will take us to 13 ballgames in 13 cities in 13 days. Our first 2 games were in Tennessee and today we moved on to North Carolina. Neither of us had ever been in North Carolina before today.

I’d read good things about McCormick Field, the home of the Asheville Tourists baseball team, and I was looking forward to taking in a game there. The ballpark and the experience exceeded all expectations. It was a great day in a jewel of an old ballpark. Class A baseball is meant to be played in ballparks like McCormick Field.

We arrived at the ballpark 25 minutes before game time. As I was buying 2 general admission adult tickets, I was informed that I’d been selected as the recipient of “the upgrade of the day”. The Asheville Tourists upgraded our tickets to clubhouse tickets, at no charge.

I quickly found the team store and bought a home team cap before heading to my seat, so I had a fresh Asheville Tourists lid on my head when I settled in to the clubhouse section. Our upgraded clubhouse tickets gave us access to all-you-can-eat catered food, beer, and soft drinks at no charge and we got to sit in the clubhouse seats. Those seats have tables, comfy chairs, protection from the sun, and ceiling fans to keep you cool. I would have been quite happy with no-frills general admission seats too, but this free upgrade to the clubhouse was fantastic. Thank you, Asheville Tourists!

The Asheville Tourists got off to a very slow start in today’s game vs. the Kannapolis Intimidators. Kannapolis held an 11-4 lead after 4.5 innings, but Asheville came roaring back and won the game 13-11. Box Score

The Asheville Tourists do a lot of little things right. They foster a fun and family atmosphere, but they do so without constantly bombarding your eyes and ears with loud music, abrasive marketing, and audience participation games. Sure, they play some music and hold some on-field audience participation contests between innings – but the music is not so loud that you can’t hear yourself think, and the contests with the fans do not occur during every half-inning. I wish more minor league teams would learn from this: Let us relax now and then between innings, without trying to sell us something and without making our ears bleed. The ballgame, not the music or the activities with fans, is the primary entertainment event of the day. Asheville gets it, but many minor league teams do not.

McCormick Field is an excellent place to see a ballgame. The ballpark is old and charming, and that’s a great combination.