Calvin Falwell Field
Team: Lynchburg Hillcats
Affiliate: Cleveland Indians (A Advanced)
Ballpark Basics: A team that has had as many affiliates as it has games in a season.
Ballpark Breakdown: Even though it’s a smaller, off the beaten path kind of town known for religion more than sports, Lynchburg and baseball have a long history. They started construction on the field that is today named for Calvin Falwell in 1939. Back then it was known as City Stadium, and like Calfee Park in Salem, VA was a part of FDR’s New Deal’s Work Progress Administration programs. The most notable game ever played here was also its first, a classic (exhibition) battle between the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers played April 11, 1940.
Since then, baseball has remained a consistent part of life in Lynchburg, although the affiliates have changed as the years passed. Originally affiliated with the Washington Senators, the Hillcats have also been part of the Cardinals, White Sox, Twins, Rangers, Mets, Red Sox, and Pirates organizations, and another change this past season (2010) made the Hillcats one of the Cincinnati Reds farm teams. The 2011 season will see yet another new affiliate in the Atlanta Braves (Baseball Nerd Fact: This is the only minor league affiliate for the Braves that is not owned by the parent club and that does not use the Braves moniker).
The majority of the park is general admission with only a few rows along the first and third baseline for reserved seating. There are picnic areas on both the right and left fields corners of the concourse. The Blue Ridge Mountains offer a great view behind the field and are best viewed along the first base side and from the suites.
The stadium went through a major renovation in 2002 with a complete overhaul of the concourse, and a brand new press box as well as the addition of seatbacks, new concession stands, luxury boxes, and a new scoreboard (You can see some of the major differences between the original stadium and the reno at ballparkreviews.com). With these renovations came a name change for the park from City Field to Calvin Falwell Field in honor of Calvin Falwell, the president of the Lynchburg Baseball Corporation and founder of Liberty University, also located in Lynchburg. The city has always supported in teams, in any incarnation – and this continues to be true. The year after the renovations took place, 148,000 fans took in a game at Falwell Field. Since then over 150,000 fans have shown up every year. Which brings up one more note: Since the majority of the seats are first come, first served, the fans show up early to get the best spots. So if you are picky about where you sit, it is best to budget a little more pregame time than usual. We discovered this accidentally ourselves, when we severely misjudged the drive for our game and got to the ballpark two hours before the first pitch only to discover there were already people milling around.
Today Lynchburg can claim the likes of Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, and Lenny Dystrka among their illustrious alumni, which helped make the 1980’s some of the most prosperous years for the team. There are still traces of their historical teams in the gift shop with figurines and even some game used jerseys (unfortunately none from Gooden, Strawberry, or Dykstra).
Brew Basics: A brewery/restaurant partnership, that is truthful and straight to the point when naming a beer.
Overall Rating: Double
If we were reviewing the restaurant, this one would probably be a triple, but the brewery, which is obviously our main focus, has some serious flaws. First of all, it’s not open, ever. If you ask for a tour, the bartenders will tell you a manager might be available to take you around if they’re not busy, but really it’s “not much to see”. There is no tasting room, no bottled beers. You’d have to buy a growler (3 types, ranging from 64 to 68oz in size and from $19.95 to 35.95 in price) if you want to take some home with you.
The restaurant itself is modern and cozy with low ceilings. exposed wood beams, ductwork and stone, and a woodfired oven that whips up some pretty delicious pizza. The manager was visible, friendly, and remembered Jim from an earlier visit weeks before. He (and to a lesser extent) the bartender happily engaged us in conversation, but didn’t monopolize our time, or visit so often that it was impossible to eat. They were very popular — we arrived around 11:30, and by the time we left, over an hour later, there was a wait. For lunch. On a Wednesday. The pizza we shared was delicious and not at all greasy, and all of the food we saw, from salads to entrees to desserts made us want to come back, especially for some tiramisu.
This is the most perfectly labeled brewery we’ve been to, each beer faithful to the standard definition of their various styles; the light tastes like a light, the amber tastes like an amber, the snozzberries taste like snozzberries. So there’s no surprises, no daring ingredients, no risk. If you’re looking for a solid craft brew that doesn’t deviate too much from the standard, this place is for you, but they’re going to have to be a bit more adventurous with their recipes before they become a hit with us.
We went with the five beer flight.
Light — An apt name. This one was light on malt, light on aroma, light in color and very light on the palate with a hint of hops but otherwise little distinct flavor. 3.7 ABV/9.2 IBUs
Orange Honey Wheat —this one was sweet, light and great for summer; but we visited just a few days for Christmas, so were disappointed to see this one on tap instead of their James River Red. However, it’s not a bad beer. Unflitered but lighter, and a bit more orange in color than a hefeweizen, but being a wheat beer had the same slightly pulpy mouth feel. Not at all bready, in fact the wheat aspect was muted by the sweet fruitness. 4.6 ABV/14.5 IBUs.
Amber — the most disappointing one of the bunch. Characterized by a color similar to apple juice, and head that leaves a long lasting lace pattern after dissipating. The amber was a flat beer with out any complexities, and actually with very little flavor, but with a slightly bitter aftertaste. 5.1 ABV/ 32.1 IBUs.
American Pale Ale — Gillian’s favorite, this was the exact same color as the amber, with a hint of sweetness that made this beer the only one with a bit an unexpected taste. The flavor doesn’t hit you upfront, but then there is the slight sting of hops and fermentation, followed by a slightly fruity clean finish. The hops were definitely the flavor that came through most prominently, which is anticipated with any pale ale, but they were not nearly as overwhelming or bitter as many we’ve tried. 5.28ABV/51.8 IBUs
Oatmeal Stout — Jim’s favorite. Their porter; with little head that dissolved quickly, and a strong coffee coloring and aroma that had a faint hint of smoke and was not terribly heavy. Not the best oatmeal stout out there, but certainly the strongest, and most flavorful of the offerings from Jefferson Street. 5.95 ABV/ 31.8 IBUs.
1309 Jefferson St
Lynchburg, VA 24504