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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

First Bank Park – Strasburg Express


Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

First Bank Park 162 Stickley Loop Strasburg, VA 22657


Year Opened: Unknown

Capacity: N/A

 

Hop Aboard The Express

The Valley Baseball League is a collegiate summer baseball league consisting of 11 teams in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley, in the western part of the state. The Strasburg Express made their Valley League debut in 2011, replacing the Fauquier Gators, and won their first league championship only four years later. The Express play their home games at First Bank Park, which is located on the grounds of Sandy Hook Elementary School (no, not that one), part of the Shenandoah County Public Schools system.

Food & Beverage 5

The Express have an impressive selection of concession offerings for this level. In fact, it would be impressive even if this were a minor league park. Options that are too numerous to list include traditional ballpark favorites such as hot dogs, burgers, and pizza as well as less traditional ones like sloppy joes, taco wraps, and macaroni & cheese. Prices are affordable, with nothing costing more than about $7 and most things being much less.

All items are prepared fresh at the ballpark, which is good, but also means it can be a bit of a wait to get your food. If you plan on eating at the ballpark, we recommend arriving early and getting your food before the first pitch so you don’t miss any of the action.

As the stadium is on the grounds of an elementary school, alcohol is not available.


Atmosphere 4

The Express logo is a giant train, and the team leans heavily into railroad imagery. The starting lineup is introduced to the sound of an inbound train, and more train sounds feature throughout the night on the PA system. The team store is even called The Train Station.

There are four sets of bleachers at First Bank Park, two on either side of home plate. Each side features one set on either side of the dugout. If you sit on the third base side, expect the sun to be in your eyes for the first couple innings, but then you will be able to watch it set over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The first base side offers less glare but doesn’t have quite as scenic a view. The bleachers on the home plate side of the dugouts are extremely close to the action, and you may wind up closer to home plate than the pitcher is. Unfortunately, some parts of the bleachers have obstructed views of the corners as they are blocked by the dugout, and that does take this score down a bit. A scoreboard beyond the outfield fence shows the linescore and other basic information. After the sun goes down, expect the mayflies to come out in swarms, attracted to the stadium lights. They do not bite (or even have mouths) but they can be quite annoying.

Finally, a couple of unique Valley League traditions are worth noting. Your game ticket doubles as a raffle ticket for a chance to win prizes from team sponsors throughout the night, so be sure to hold on to it. To save on costs to the team, fans are not permitted to keep any foul balls hit into the stands, unlike at higher levels of play. However, they can return them to the team store and receive a free ice pop from the concession stand. After any foul ball hit out of play, expect to see kids run after it hoping to get the free Icee.

Neighborhood 3

Strasburg is a quaint little town in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley. As First Bank Park is located on the grounds of an elementary school, there is not much within walking distance, but Downtown Strasburg is a short drive away and offers many options. Queen Street Diner is a local favorite and longtime sponsor of the Express, and there are many other options as well. Some chain places are located closer to I-81, but fans would be advised to sample the local color while in town if they can.

Fans 4

Express fans pack First Bank Park night in and night out to cheer on their team. Many of them have been coming to games since the team’s debut a decade ago and have built up a sense of loyalty. They’re knowledgeable about the team, its players, and its history and have built up a deep relationship over the years with each other as well as the team. That being said, you do get fans who go to just a game or two each year, and these fans can be passionate as well. As all Valley League teams are within a couple of hours of each other, you will typically see some fans of the visiting team as well. Strasburg fans will outnumber them, but if you are wearing visiting colors, expect nothing worse than a friendly ribbing from the hometown faithful.

Access 3

Strasburg is located just a few miles off I-81 via Exit 298 (US 11). From there, fans will take local roads to the stadium where they can park in one of several lots on school grounds. The small lot closest to the field is in foul ball territory, so be careful where you park. The concourse layout can be confusing at first if you don’t know where things are, but staff or longtime fans will be happy to help you if you ask. Restrooms are small but sufficient for the crowds, although the sign on the men’s room door has fallen off. Men can simply head for the restroom that isn’t the women’s room.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and kids under 12, and free for kids in little league jerseys. Concessions are very affordable and parking is free, making a trip to First Bank Park an excellent value for fans in the area. Fans who live further away may have to spend a bit on gas to get here, but it’s still well worth it.

Extras 5

There are cornhole boards set up behind the third base bleachers for fans to play. This seems to be a favorite of kids and families alike.

The Train Station is a team store selling Express gear at affordable prices.

In between the cornhole boards and the store is a sign showing the distance and direction to various major league parks. On top, it says “Major League Dreams Straight Ahead”, reflecting the dreams of Express players to someday play in the big leagues.

There are free programs available under the press box. They are basic but you can’t argue with the price.

A fifth and final star for the excellent and friendly staff here, ranging from the ticket takers to the concession workers to the PA announcer.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for affordable baseball with a great atmosphere and a scenic setting, a visit to First Bank Park to check out the Strasburg Express is definitely worth a visit. Like the rest of the Valley League, Strasburg offers high-quality baseball for low prices and is a great way to spend a summer evening. Just watch out for those mayflies once the sun goes down and you’ll have a great time.

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