Growing up here in the Hampton Roads area, I have always been a fan of our local triple-A baseball team. Up until 2007, the Tidewater Tides served as the AAA farm team for the New York Mets. That partnership lasted 38 years. Dropping the “Tidewater”, the team is now called the Norfolk Tides and is serving as the AAA farm team for the Baltimore Orioles. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, I attended many games with my parents and grandparents. I became a Mets fan solely because I could turn on the TV and tune in to the Mets game and see some of the same guys that I had once seen play here locally. If you look back through the 38 year relationship between the Tides and the Mets, it’s amazing to see just how many players came through this area on their way to the big leagues.
I happened to also love press photos – don’t ask me why. A few months ago I came across this pretty cool piece of Willie Mays playing an exhibition game against the Tidewater Tides on June 8, 1979 at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Mays of course had been retired for 6 years at that point and was serving as a coach. After being brought into town to help boost ticket sales, he was given 2 at bats and stroked a pair of singles to help the Mets to an 8-6 victory over the Tides. The ’79 Mets team, led by Joe Torre was less than stellar. Posting a 63-99 record, their efforts were good enough for a 6th place division finish.
In regards to Metropolitan Stadium (or “Met Park” as the locals used to call i
t); it was torn
down in 1991 to make way for a fancy-shmancy USAA Insurance building (my buddy works there). The Tidewater Tides were moved south to the banks of the Elizabeth River where their new home would be called Harbor Park. They dropped the “Tidewater” and are now known as just the “Norfolk Tides”. As a little-league player, I had actually attended a few baseball camps at Met Park. It’s hard to believe I’ve stood in the same batter’s box as the great Willie Mays.
Below are two shots of Met Park. The shot on the left looks to be from the ’60’s I would guess. The shot on the right was taken in the winter of ’91 just before it was torn it down.