It’s springtime in Columbia SC and we’ve got baseball on the brain. There’s something about a warm evening that beckons us to the ballfield for a little bit of bat-cracking action, stadium eats, and some good old-fashioned family fun. Heyyy, batter batter, we’ve got your roundup of three ways to enjoy America’s favorite pastime in the Real Southern Hot Spot.
Home Base: Founders Park is one of the top three best-attended college baseball stadiums in the nation, and for good reason. Kids love the Hay Fant Sparks, Jr. Playground, which is shaded during the day and lit at night, located adjacent to the right field foul line. All ages enjoy the lineup of deliciousness, like traditional hotdogs and chicken finger baskets as well as local favorite Carolina Kernals popcorn (caramel corn, please!). And while there is truly not a bad seat in the house, the Bi-Lo Berm, a grassy hillside adjacent to right field is a fan favorite for spreading out a blanket and letting the kids move around a bit. The Berm is first-come, first served and open to anyone with a ticket.
Why It’s a Home Run: The University of South Carolina baseball team was propelled national stardom after winning back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011, and an experience at Founders Park has been touted as one of the top ten (#4 to be exact) fan experiences in college baseball (according to Stadium Journey Top Stadium Experiences of 2017).
Fun Fact: Sir Big Spur (a real live Gamecock!) watches every game from his perch by first base.
Don’t Miss: SEC games are always a favorite, where Gamecock fans welcome opposing teams and their traveling fans for some healthy in-conference rivalry. The series against Tennessee starts March 29, LSU comes to town April 1 followed by series against Ole Miss beginning on May 4, and “The Battle for Columbia” against Mizzou starts on May 11.
Before/After the Game: Before the game visit MAST General Store on Main Street to sugar up on their unbelievable selection of candy and browse a wide variety of outdoor apparel (and, yes, a huge selection baseball caps for the whole fam) and after the game head to nearby Columbia Craft Brewing Company for a locally crafted pint or Thirsty Fellow for pizza, wings, salads and more.
Home Base: Spirit Communications Park, 1640 Freed St. Columbia SC 29201. The 7,301-seat ball park earns high marks for fan experience, due to four concession stands, 25 specialty food carts (including craft brews!) and notable bar areas. Pretty days will find fans enjoying the warm sunshine and unparalleled people watching in an expansive bar beyond right field.
Why It’s a Homerun: This Single-A affiliate of the New York Mets reeled off its first pitch in Columbia in the spring of 2016, and enjoyed a banner first season. Tim Tebow had a stint with the Fireflies in 2017 and the momentum continues into the 2018 season which begins on April 5, 2018 versus Augusta.
Fun Fact: The name “Fireflies” pays homage to the unique phenomenon where hundreds of fireflies (that’s fancy for lightning bugs, y’all) synchronize their glow each year at Columbia’s Congaree National Park. It only happens in a few places across the globe, and we are lucky to have this mystical light show in Columbia SC each year.
Don’t Miss: Get your glow on at The Mason Jar, the Fireflies’ team store inside the ballpark. We’re obsessed with the adorable (and undeniably Southern) firefly logo and dozens of fun apparel options from t-shirts to hats to jerseys.
Fan Tips: With tickets as low as $5 and general parking at $4 per vehicle, it’s budgetary win. Ticket sales and detailed parking information may be found on the Fireflies website
Before/After the Game: Before the game take a Historic Columbia tour of the Hampton-Preston Mansion or Mann Simons Cottage. After the game stroll over to Bone-In Artisan Barbecue just steps from the stadium for some saucy smoked goodness.
Home Base: Lexington County Baseball Stadium (474 Ball Park Rd, Lexington, SC 29072) This intimate 2,300-seat ballpark opened in 2015, offers field level "Wrigley Field" style box seats, a covered vintage look grandstand, a "Bleacher Creature" g.a section and a left field berm, "Home Run Hill" with ticket prices starting at just $6 for adults ($5 kids and military), and ample accessible seating as well. Kids will love the "Blowie Snowie" Shaved Ice Stand (Blowie the Blowfish is the team mascot). Homeplate Concessions offers Blowfish Burgers, Dodger Dogs, Dippin' Dots and more.
Why It’s a Homerun: The Blowfish are part of the Coastal Plain League. These collegiate “Boys of Summer”, are comprised of baseball players from a variety of colleges and universities, including the University of South Carolina, Clemson, SEC/ACC, and from across the nation.
Fun Fact: The name “Blowfish” is a nod to the musical group, Hootie and the Blowfish, which got its start in Columbia when the members attended The University of South Carolina, plus the outfield dimensions are linked to three of the great Major League stadiums- RF 302' Fenway Park, CF 394' Wrigley Field, LF 318' Yankee Stadium.
Don’t Miss: The season schedule and tickets are available at www.goblowfishbaseball.com, and the first game of 2018 is May 31st. Mark your calendar for the Coastal Plain League All Star Show, to be held July 8th-9th.
Before/After the Game: Stroll the Dreher Shoals Dam Walk overlooking beautiful Lake Murray before heading over to the stadium, and round out your day with dinner on Main Street at Libby’s of Lexington or an ice cold crafty from The Old Mill BrewPub.