Tinker Field, the historic Orlando ballpark where the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins trained for decades, will be torn down to make way for the Citrus Bowl expansion.
The above photo shows the 91-year-old Tinker Field in the 1920s, when the orginal grandstand was built to house Cincinnati Reds spring training. (The Reds trained there in 1923-1930, and the Brooklyn Dodgers trained there in 1934-1935.) We were there last week; in general, the place was in terrible shape, with the outfield being used as a staging area for the heavy machinery utilized in the Citrus Bowl renovations. In the end, the renovations did in the facility: a new concourse at the football stadium will extend into the Tinker Field outfield, putting the outfield fence only 250 feet or so from home plate. That's not a practical situation for anyone involved.
The summer-collegiate Florida Collegiate Summer League has had two teams playing there in the last decade, most recently the Orlando Monarchs; before that it was the home of the Orlando Rays (Class AA; Southern League) through 1999 before that team moved to Champion Stadium and then to Montgomery.
The concourse was a lonely place; still standing was a bust of Clark Griffith, former owner of the Senators. The Senators/Twins trained at Tinker Field between 1936 and 1990, save the three wartime years when the team trained in College Park, Md., and are most closely associated with the facility There are some Griffith Stadium seats still installed in the Tinker Field grandstand. It was built in 1923 and named for former Chicago Cubs infielder Joe Tinker -- he of Tinker to Evers to Chance fame -- who retired in Orlando.
Orlando officials say they'll rebuild Tinker Field next door at McCracken Field, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In a way, it's a wonder the place is still standing: After the Rays left, the ballpark was left to deteriorate, and over time parts (such as some amazingly rickety bleachers) were removed. The original 1920s plumbing is still in use (and been known to back up in a dugout), and the field was more than a little rough, to say the least. The total cost of tearing it down and moving parts to McCracken Field will be $3 million. Most recently it's been used for concerts and does turn a profit for the city. The replacement facility is set to open in 2015.
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