McCrary Park – Asheboro ZooKeepers
Photos by Brian Wilmer, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
McCrary Park 138 Southway Rd. Asheboro, NC 27205
Year Opened: 1946
Union of the Snakes
It is a reasonably safe bet that anyone reading this piece — even those who have been to North Carolina multiple times — may have missed Asheboro. This long-time mill town rests a half-hour south of the better-known Greensboro, in the Uwharrie Mountains of Randolph County. The town is known to many as the home of the North Carolina Zoological Park. The NC Zoo opened in 1976 and is one of the more popular travel destinations in the southeastern United States.
It is that mill history, however, that helps to tell the baseball story of Asheboro. McCrary Park was built in 1946, and it served as the home for the city’s entry into the tile leagues of the period. The Acme-McCrary mill played a considerable role in the building of this park (there is still a large red sign in the park commemorating the sock-making company), and the company still owns the park to this day, providing use of the facility to the city at a reduced monthly rate.
The facility is still used by the local high school, American Legion teams, and the Asheboro Copperheads, who joined the Coastal Plain League as an “expansion” team in 1999. The Southeast Regional tournament for American Legion baseball is also played in the park.
Note: The team name changed from Asheboro Copperhead to Asheboro ZooKeepers in 2022.
Food & Beverage 3
This is very much a small-town park staffed by friendly, small-town folks, so you will not find endless concession offerings served from the large brick building on the first base side. Many of the things one would normally expect at the park are here, with popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs, corn dogs ($2.50 for hot dogs, $2 for corn dogs), cheeseburgers, and Chick-fil-A sandwiches gracing the menu.
Domino’s Pizza slices and Zaxby’s chicken tenders are also among the more easily recognizable choices. Nachos are available, and the cheese and jalapenos one might ordinarily expect on those chips are also available for your hot dog. On the sweet side, lollipops, candy, and ice cream are available.
All of this can be washed down with a bottled Pepsi product, Gatorade, or water. There is also a beer garden down the right field line called the Snake Pit that seems to be quite popular with the locals. The club offers several different beverage choices in the Snake Pit, along with the requisite Thirsty Thursday discounts for Thursday home games. There is a television in the Snake Pit area, and plenty of seating both in the pit and along the adjoining hill.
The third base bleachers are a bit closer to the action, but the view of the field is somewhat obstructed by a fence that extends down the line from the dugout area. It is recommended to sit a little higher up in the bleachers on this side to give yourself a better view of the action. The left field bullpen is, unfortunately, blocked from view from almost everywhere in the park, and the aforementioned interesting angles allow for a vast expanse of foul territory on both sides of the field.
Most of the between-innings entertainment that awaits you in Asheboro is the same you see in many other places – the dizzy bat race, the tire roll, kids putting on team uniforms, and such – but it is not what truly “makes” this experience. Asheboro is not a baseball tourist destination, as it were, so the people sitting near you in the stands are families, multiple generations of baseball fans, and – most importantly – friends.
Most of them know each other, and they treat you as though they know you, too. This makes for a tremendous community event. The rhythm of the game is rarely broken, and the focus is largely on the action on the field. There is a small-town PA announcer on the microphone, and he is both funny and unobtrusive.
The Copperheads employ a mascot named Fang, who largely oversees the between-innings entertainment. He also wanders through the stands to hang out with the fans and be a part of the hometown group.
There are, oddly enough, two scoreboards in McCrary Park. There is an electronic scoreboard in the right-center that displays all of the standard game information (line score, balls, strikes, outs, and the like). There is also an old manual scoreboard in left-center, which, though no longer used, is a nice reminder of days past in Asheboro.
One minor note — one of the speakers down the third baseline was blown on the night of our visit, so it sounded at times as though the announcements were being made in a drive-thru. This may be repaired with time, but you may need to strain to hear some of the announcements at times if you are sitting on the third base side of the field.
McCrary Park is in a residential area just off US Route 220 and Interstates 73 and 74. There is next to nothing within walking distance – or even a short drive – of the field. Most of the so-called action is off US 64, near the NC Zoo. This is all nearly five miles from the park, however.
Should you decide to eat in Asheboro, Something Different Restaurant seems to be a popular choice among those who call this central North Carolina burg home. Something Different offers a reasonably upscale menu that — to fit the name of the establishment — is reasonably unexpected in a town this size. Pasta, kebabs, Greek food, and finer beverages line the menu.
If you’re more in the mood for a sports bar-type atmosphere — or just want something closer to the park — The Flying Pig is just two miles or so from the park. All of the usual sports bar favorites can be found at the Flying Pig.
A lot of the other establishments in town are chain fare, so if you want something without a drive-thru window, these might be a decent fit.
The local nine do not play in front of capacity crowds every night, but that doesn’t seem to damper the spirit of those who do pass through the gates. Copperhead baseball is one of the few shows in town during the summer, and those in Asheboro love the guys who make up the team each year. The fans have their favorites, but they support each player wearing the home colors, whether he’s 4-for-4 or 0-for-4.
Asheboro draws a respectful, friendly bunch who pays attention and supports their team. They do this while enjoying conversation with friends and sharing the game they love.
It could be easy to panic when approaching McCrary Park. There are cars parked along both sides of the street approaching, with a small entrance to the parking lot just past the main ticket building. There is no need for you to worry, though, as there is more than enough parking for any game that may take place at this facility.
The parking area is grass with a gravel-based navigation path and is somewhat banked, but there is no real trouble with traction or muddy places on rainy nights, should one occur. Parking is free, which is always a welcome sight, but be careful where you place your car. The lot is close to the stadium, which is great for saving you a long walk, but might be detrimental to the health of your car’s windshield.
The concourse area is very wide, and though there are some strange angles in trying to see the field on your walk to the concession stand or restrooms, there is no problem with feeling cramped. The restrooms are on either side of the concession stand, and despite their being somewhat spartan, they are clean and a short walk from your seat.
Return on Investment 5
The Coastal Plain League is one of the most affordable entertainment values in the sport, and Asheboro is no exception. Tickets are a very reasonable $6 for reserved seats under the roof behind the plate. General admission is $5, and this can get you a bleacher seat or a spot on the lawn for your lawn chair. Bring a cushion if you choose the bleachers, however, because they can be tough on your backside after a while. If seniors or children are part of your party, they can gain entry for just $4.
It’s pretty tough to beat a ticket, a pizza slice, and a drink for under $10, which illustrates the value offered by the Copperheads.
There is something about a small-town ballpark experience that trumps the sparkling downtown facilities, and Asheboro is loaded with super nice people. From ticket, staff assuring you that they were giving you the winning raffle ticket for the evening’s giveaways — which came true, astonishingly — to the concession workers, and everyone in between, going to a game in Asheboro will give you a feeling of being at home. That level of comfort is more than enough to keep you even warmer inside than the hot North Carolina summers can achieve.
Speaking (somewhat) of the elements, the typical Carolina pop-up storms are far less of a worry in McCrary Park than in most facilities. The park received some upgrades in 2010, and one of those upgrades is a turf infield. When storms do arrive, the only tarps necessary are over the bullpen areas and the pitcher’s mound. Storms frequently pop up in the Uwharrie region, but the turf infield and grass outfield make for resumption after a delay of as few as 15 minutes. Though rain delays are far from ideal, the field helps speed along the process.
If you are sitting in the reserved seats, there are two nice added features you will notice. First, the seats have been set up to allow for larger rows than usual, which allows some much-appreciated legroom for taller fans like myself. There are also very large, powerful ceiling fans like those you would see in affiliated ballparks like Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta. There is not an abundance of day baseball in Asheboro, but the summers do get extremely warm, and this is a nice touch.
The team has sponsor nights instead of promotions, and the sponsors usually donate some kind of giveaway item for those nights. The team publishes a list of its sponsor and giveaway nights on its website. As an example, Di’Lishi Frozen Yogurt gave away some prizes on the night we visited. This is a nice little added touch from a summer collegiate team.
There are a few things to know about the seats at McCrary Park before your visit. The bleachers on the first base side are designated as the Family Section, and they are situated somewhat above the action on the field. These bleachers and the hill down the right field line make for some interesting angles while watching the game.
One of the true beauties of baseball, particularly baseball in this part of the United States, is the small towns in which it is played.
Sure, there are teams in larger markets, but baseball is a community experience in some of the smaller markets. This is no exception in Asheboro, and what you miss in luxury boxes, you make up for in the luxury of a comfortable baseball experience among friends. No amount of money you can pay in a larger town will buy you that type of enjoyment for nine innings.