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Biscuits rise, and when they rise, they rise to the Rays. That’s the situation in Montgomery, Ala., home of a baked-good baseball team that serves as Tampa Bay’s Double-A affiliate. The Biscuits and their home of Riverwalk Stadium were both established in 2004. The river that puts the river in Riverwalk is the Alabama, whose Gun Island Chute tributary is located just to the west.
Riverwalk Stadium boasts one of the most unusual architectural layouts in all of Minor League Baseball, as it was built on the site of a former train shed. In lieu of being demolished, the train shed was incorporated into the ballpark’s first-base side exterior.
Approaching Riverwalk Stadium, one is greeted by the surreal sight of a pair of anthropomorphic biscuits flanking ornate and well-preserved Western Railway of Alabama signage. A plaque stands in front of the ballpark, noting that “near this site…a Confederate military prison held, under destitute conditions, 700 Union soldiers, most captured at Shiloh.”
It's a lot to take in, and what I’ve written doesn’t even scratch the surface of the history lurking within -- and emanating from -- downtown Montgomery. This was the second time I’ve visited, and I’ve yet to explore the city in the way I should and want to. Maybe next time. There’s always next time.
To get to their seats, fans pass through the train shed and then onto the concourse.
To get to the front office, meanwhile, Biscuits staffers ascend Minor League Baseball’s most opulent staircase.
Within that front office, there are further reminders of the building’s pre-baseball existence.
Trains play a role in the Biscuits’ present-day reality as well, as there are tracks just beyond the outfield and CSX freight trains run by regularly. There’s also a train on the concourse. This locomotive, explained to me as “basically a Cub Cadet lawnmower with a shell over it,” takes (mostly) young riders on laps of the perimeter.
I was in town to see the Biscuits on June 15, for what turned out to be a doubleheader against the Biloxi Shuckers (making up for a rainout earlier in the week). When the first game began at 4:35, two hours before the originally scheduled game time, it was a very tranquil scene.
Even when the stadium is largely empty due to anomalous gametime circumstances, you can bet that Richard Chamberlain will be there. Chamberlain, sitting in a second-row seat located at the far end of the Biscuits first-base dugout, has attended every Biscuits game since the franchise debuted in 2004 (save for two games he missed due to a health issue). I interviewed Richard as he intently watched the game, keeping score with his right hand while methodically slipping his left hand into and out of a well-worn baseball glove resting on his knee.
Between games of the doubleheader, I spoke with Chris Adams-Wall. Chris, voice of the Biscuits since 2015, was wrapping up his final homestand in Montgomery before moving on to the next chapter of his career. He is now a member of the Rays broadcast team, hosting the pre- and postgame radio show.
READ ABOUT ADAMS-WALL’S BROADCASTING CAREER AND RECENT CALLUP HERE
Shortly after game two began, I met with my Designated Eater Corey Goodrich. Corey works as the taproom manager for Common Bond Brewers, which collaborated with the Biscuits on their Crafty Lefty beer. Corey, out of professional obligation if nothing else, was drinking a can of this “summer shandy ale that combines a wheat beer with a hefty dose of fresh lemons.”
Crafty Lefty is one of many beers that can be obtained at the Club Car Bar, located on the first-base side of Riverwalk Stadium.
Corey enjoyed his array of Biscuit concessions from more elevated environs, on the second level behind home plate.
From left to right, that would be Philly Cheesesteak Nachos, a Frito Pie Dog and -- because when you’re attending a Biscuits game you have to get at least one biscuit-based item -- a Nashville Hot Chicken Biscuit.
After “taking a bite out of this messy bad boy,” Corey said that the “chicken’s tender, got a good breading on it, the sauce is very nice, it’s not too hot, but it’s got a nice spicy flavor to it. Very nice. Very moist.”
“Moist” could have described the conditions on the field as the second game progressed, as increasingly heavy rains resulted in the game being called after four and a half innings of play (just enough to make it official, with the Biscuits winning 7-0).
I had to get a move on the following day, but not before stopping for an early lunch at Dreamland BBQ.
Two other places I wish I’d had time to visit:
The Legacy Museum, visible from Riverwalk Stadium, is “situated on a site where enslaved Black people were forced to labor in bondage” and “presents a unique opportunity for visitors to reckon with challenging aspects of our past.”
The Hank Williams Museum celebrates the country music legend, who was born 50 miles south of Montgomery. This statue of Hank is just a block from Riverwalk Stadium.
I, like Hank, am a Ramblin’ Man. Pensacola was the next stop, which I’ll detail in next week’s newsletter.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.