Everett Memorial Stadium: Where the Action Happens

EVERETT, Wash.- It could easily be said that no two professional baseball stadiums are alike. And why should they be? Baseball is about the only sport other than golf in which the actual field of play changes from venue-to-venue. The trend in recent years has been for clubs to set their home turf apart from the rest of the pack in any way possible.

There is perhaps no greater evidence of this than Seattle's own Safeco Field, the first of its kind to feature a retractable roof as well as a natural grass playing field.

In many cases, the architecture of a park can change the outcome of a game. How many times have we seen a would-be home run bounce of the Green Monster at Fenway? How many outfielders have been brave enough to charge head-first towards the solid brick barrier at Wrigley?

Despite all the glitz, glamour, and history of the big league sites, however, they sometimes fail to recognize the hometown flavor of the fans and communities that surround them. For the die-hard fans of pro baseball, the only remedy to this is a trip to the bleachers of their minor league affiliate. And for those of us in the Northwest, there's scarcely a better place than Everett Memorial Stadium.

Everett Memorial opened its doors for business in 1984, playing host to the then Everett Giants, a short-season Single A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. While it would take a few years for the fans to grow on the team, the stadium quickly gained a reputation for favoring hitters.

Cliff Fralick, a 14-year veteran of the AquaSox staff, recalls one of the biggest home runs he's ever been privy to from Everett Memorial's early years.

"Back when they were the Giants [eventual major league All-Star] Matt Williams hit one about one hop off of Broadway to the opposite field," he said.

Broadway, which runs parallel to the right field wall, sits about 100 feet behind the right field fence which, according to AquaSox broadcaster Pat Dillon, is a solid 400+ feet away.

Fralick also harps back to a more modern dinger from a Mariner prospect still in development, Jon Nelson.

"[Nelson] hit one down that almost hit the Eagles building down there," he said. "It cleared the screen out there in centerfield."

The screen in centerfield, incidentally, is a good 30 feet high with the Eagles Club building another solid 100 feet away.

A shorter, but infinitely more famous home run has been immortalized in bronze just outside the park, over the left field fence. The marker, set in the cement on the sidewalk next to Everett Memorial's north parking lot, commemorates Ken Griffey Jr.'s first ever home run in 1987 as a member of the now defunct Bellingham Mariners. It's one of the many quirks of the ballpark that fans can enjoy while before filing in to see perhaps the next famous Mariner hit one out.

In 1998, Everett Memorial underwent a remodel that was several years in the making. The project was largely a facelift to the park, which had grown old and fallen into semi-disrepair, but a seemingly minor structural addition was made as well that would ultimately prove to be one of the ballpark's greatest assets.

Seeking to increase the park's seating capacity, ownership opted to push back the right field fence and add in a home run porch directly behind it. The area would be a sizeable patch of grass on a hill that would be able to hold and unspecified number of people. Fralick says the addition of the home run porch has become one of the biggest draws for new fans.

"[The stadium] holds 3,850, I think, but we have over 4,000 a bunch of times because of the home run porch out there [in right field]," said Fralick. "That is a real asset because the families love to sit out there. The kids can run around and shag balls and everything else."

The design change yielded no change in the frequency of home runs, either, as Dillon notes that the park saw more home runs than ever just last year.

"The thing that I think hurts anyone who comes in here—and the AquaSox were hurt by it a lot last year—is the home run ball," Dillon says. "The AquaSox last year shattered the Northwest League record of home runs allowed in a season as a staff. They gave up 82 homeruns in 76 games…that was a lot."

The pitching struggles have continued, somewhat. Despite a sterling 2005 staff, the Sox aren't threatening a run at an ERA title anytime soon. They've also given up 31 home runs on the year as of Tuesday.

"There has not been an AquaSox team that has won an ERA title," Dillon notes. "But there have been some AquaSox teams who've had staff ERAs of less than four with a lot of strikeouts. If you've got talented pitchers, it doesn't matter what park you play in.

In any case, the Sox aren't the only team that's been plagued by the fences at Everett Memorial. Everett's offense has put the stadium to good use this season, going yard 40 times - only one less than the Spokane Indians.

Whatever the case, everyone seems to agree that the park is well worth the trip from Seattle up I-5. Fans have cast their vote, making it the second most attended ballpark in the Northwest League. And it's not hard to find a glowing endorsement for the 21-year-old structure amongst the AquaSox staff.

"If I had my choice of where I could broadcast half of the games, I could do a lot worse," Dillon says.

Fralick states, "This is one of the better parks in the Northwest League. Some of them are AAA parks—Vancouver and Spokane were originally AAA parks—and they seat more, but as far as convenience and so on, I think this one here will match up against any of them."

If this year's AquaSox team has its way, the ballpark will have one more distinct feature to brag about—an NWL Championship banner pasted to one of the outfield fences. The Sox are currently in pursuit of the Vancouver Canadians, looking to win the West division and bring Everett its first championship since the Giants won in 1985. It would be the first time an AquaSox team won a league title.

In the meantime, though, AquaSox fans seem content to enjoy the unique atmosphere that Everett Memorial brings and look to the skies for yet another dinger to sail over one of the outfield fences. The fans may not be there solely for the home runs, but as Fralick says, "they like action."

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