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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Recreation Park, Visalia, California

Recreation Park is the home of the Rawhide. They are the single A minor league team affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The team, under one name or another, has played here for 65 years.  Currently, they sit in the cellar of the northern division of the California League.  Players that have gone on to the majors from the team include Barry Zito, Juan Uribe, Nick Swisher, Evan Longoria, Randy Johnson, and Aubrey Huff. Former player Kirby Puckett is in the Hall of Fame.

Here are the stats…
Year opened: 1946
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: ? (2009 renovation: $11 million)
Capacity:  1,888 seated, 2, 468 including grassy areas
Field dimensions: Left field – 320 ft.; left center – 365 ft.; Center field – 410 ft.; right center – 365 ft.;  Right field – 320 ft.
Home teams: Visalia Cubs (1946-1952, 1954-1956), Visalia Stars 1953, Visalia Redlegs (1957-1959), Visalia Athletics (1960-1961), Visalia White Sox 1962, Visalia Mets (1968-1975), Visalia Oaks (1977-1992, 1995-2008), Central Valley Rockies (1993-1994), Visalia Rawhide (2009-present)
Events attended: one game

Recreation Park sits south of downtown Visalia. Free parking is available in the small lot behind home plate and the larger lot across the street. Handicapped parking is just 4 or 5 spots.

The grandstand behind home plate is the oldest part of the park, dating back to the 1960’s when dirt from nearby freeway construction was used to create the present berm and grandstand.  The newer looking building going down the first base side was constructed in 2009.
Calling ahead, we had no problem getting a wheelchair ticket and two companion seats. Will Call is not located near home plate like it is at most parks, you need to walk half a block down the right field line to find the ticket offices and Will Call.

There is wheelchair accessible seating in this new area (where our tickets were located – right at first base), also in the group areas along the third base line, and just a couple of locations behind home plate. The seats behind home plate are also behind an aisle so people will be walking in front of you the entire game, not a desirable location and the accessible tickets the team will sell last.

According to the team, the best wheelchair accessible seats were where we were, about 15 feet behind first base. It’s positively Rube Goldbergian in how this accessible area was designed.  To get to the level where the seats are, you need to take a lift…one of those really slow, metal, one person lifts that you see as an afterthought at many businesses.  Tim could barely fit in it with his chair and then it wouldn’t work.  Maintenance had to be called to repair it before we could go up.
Once at our seats, we noticed that there were no restrooms or snack bars on this level. You would need to go back down that balky lift, go inside the adjacent building to take another lift to the concession level where the accessible bathrooms are located.

We did notice a nice ramp going up into the older grandstand area and a level bridge across from there to our seats but access was blocked there by a snack bar set up with a permanent fence between our seats and the ramp.  Mind you, this was all built just two years ago…someone really needs to school that architect in Universal Design.
Ticket prices run from $7 to $30, about a buck more than average for single A but it works out cheaper when you consider the free parking. You can also get a range of discounts by buying your ticket at leat 20 days in advance. Food ranged from an inedible Italian sausage, to decent hot dogs, to incredibly delicious bratwursts cooked at that snack bar that blocked our way to the ramp.  Beer selection is good, with large local microbrews (22 oz.) going for $7. 
Once in our seats, the view was excellent. We could hear every word the first base coach said to his runners and the interplay between players, coaches, and umpires. The entire seating bowl is behind a screen, usually something you only see behind home plate.  This is due to the fact that the seats here are among the closest to the action in any professional ball park…you are right in the middle of the action here.

Other unique features here include a barn where one of the walls is incorporated into the outfield wall.  The side of the barn is a double, the roof a home run.  We didn’t see any players who could hit the broadside of the barn during our visit, however.
The mascot is a cow named Tipper (cow tipping, get it?). If you watch the video from our Tulare County report, you can see where a batter let go of his bat and it came within an inch or so of hitting Tipper’s head.

The team pennants are painted on the concrete on the right field side of the original grandstand and the Major League teams that the team has been affiliated with are on the left field side.
All in all, not a bad stadium but, while the access is there and easy to get, the design of it is terrible.
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013


  1. Good group of ball players schooled there.

  2. Yep...a long history. The park also made a cameo at the end of Moneyball. The Central Valley has long been home to minor league ball.