Chattanooga-(WDEF-TV) We still have over a month before baseball returns this year.
Of course the sport may never return to Chattanooga’s Engel Stadium.
The Lookouts left the historic venue in 1999, but Engel got a mini-lease on life in 2014 when it hosted the Southern League All-Star Home Run Derby, which was won by a now famous player.
For a sport that embraces history, why not give the Southern League’s showcase sluggers, an historic venue for their home run derby.
Said Lookouts general manager Rich Mozingo:”I’ve been to a bunch of All Star games in my minor league baseball career. It’s always kind of fizzled out. Four o’clock start. You’re playing a six o’clock game. No one is in the building. I thought if we could do it somewhere else, that would make all the sense in the world. I spent six years working at Engel Stadium. I love Engel Stadium, and I thought if we had the opportunity to go over there and do something like that, it might just be fun for everybody.”
Fun for everybody except maybe the Lookouts staff.
Engel wasn’t exactly derby ready.
Said Lookouts media relations director Dan Kopf:”We spent probably a week in advance cleaning it up. Picking up rocks off the infield and outfield to make sure no one tripped.”
Added Mozingo:”We sent our groundskeeper over there two or three days early to rebuild the mound completely. To rebuild the plate area completely.”
Said Kopf:”Even though it hadn’t been played in for 10, 15, or 20 years. It just had this historical, majestic feel.”
And did the players sense that majestic feel?
Said Kopf:”Yeah they sensed the history and also sensed that center field wall was really far away.”
Try 471 feet to center.
And left field was no cheap shot either.
Reporter:”Did you think those players were going to put it on Third Street?
Said Mozingo:”I did not. It’s a long way back there. You’ve got to remember the fence was about 20 yards in front of the big wall out there. And the fact is, not a lot of players hit home runs that day. Scott Schebler, who was our big home run threat that year, hit one that day, but Kris Bryant just put on a clinic.”
Reporter:”I heard one ball got to the gas station across the street.”
Said Mozingo:”Absolutely. I think it was more than one. You could watch over the fence, and you would see them hit. Then the ball would hit the ground, and you could see them bounce back up over the fence.”
Kris Bryant walked away with the derby crown, but the fans seemed to walk away with more Engel memories.
Said Mozingo:”To be able to go back and kind of relive some of that old, old magic of Engel Stadium and to have the event come off well. It was really a lot of fun.”