A Thursday Night Visit to Arvest Ballpark, Home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals

This past week (February 5th through the 10th), I was lucky enough to attend a leadership conference at the corporate offices of ArcBest, the company I work for. ArcBest being the parent company, ABF Freight the division I work in, is based out of Fort Smith, Arkansas. The conference focused on employee relations, leadership skills, communication, and coaching techniques that will make me and the team attending better employees and supervisors. The conference and its classes ended on Thursday afternoon. And for most of the attendees, their stay in Arkansas ended as well with them flying out to their homes in Reno, Albuquerque, Dallas, Chicago, and dozens of other locations nationwide. Not so much for a handful of us whose flights would leave yesterday (Friday) morning at 6:08am on the first flight out of Fort Smith to Dallas, TX then to our connecting flights home. So, with a rental car that was provided to us for the week and a night to myself, I decided to take a drive from Fort Smith to the Fayetteville area of Arkansas to see a baseball field.

For those of you who read my blog, The Rhode Island Baseball Experience, you will know that I take any and every opportunity that I can to visit baseball fields. I can honesty say with full confidence that every park I visit is unique and special in its own way. So, after dropping off a few ABF Freight conference attendees to the Fort Smith Airport on Thursday afternoon, I decided to plug in “Arvest Ballpark” into my GPS and head north on an Arkansas baseball adventure.

I was happy to leave before sunset because the drive from SW Arkansas to NW Arkansas was very picturesque. I hopped on I-540, drove over the Arkansas River, merged onto I-40 before hopping on I-49 North towards University of Arkansas, Fayetteville area. Lots of farm land, lots of wide open spaces on either side of the highways, beautiful scenery, and the Bobby Hopper Tunnel – overall a fairly straight shot north from Fort Smith to Springdale, the home of Arvest Ballpark and Minor League Baseball’s Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

After exiting at Don Tyson Parkway, yes that Don Tyson from Tyson Chicken, it was a quick trip through a rotary and then over to Arvest Ballpark. I arrived just before sunset, so I hurriedly found a community parking lot near the stadium, parked the rental, and headed over to see what I could see. Of course it is the off season for the Naturals and every other MILB team, so I wasn’t expecting anything but locked gates and views from afar. Still, I was able to walk around the perimeter of Arvest Ballpark and get some cool views and learn a few things.

First, The Naturals are the AA Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. There is a wall just outside the main gate area that showcases former players, current MLB players to have suited up for the Naturals, and some recent league and team history. MLB All-Stars Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield, and Eric Hosmer are just a few to have worn the Naturals uniform over their 15 plus year existence there in Springdale, Arkansas. Second, the Natural’s name was a bit of a mystery to me. I guessed it had something to do with a nearby natural structure like a waterfall or spring or lake. After doing some research on the team’s history online, I discovered that Arkansas’s state nickname is “The Natural State” and in addition, the Naturals name was inspired by the amazing baseball movie “The Natural.” To read more about the Naturals history and how they ended up in Springdale, here is a link that describes the baseball journey of the Rich family in minor league baseball ownership as well as how the Naturals landed in Springdale – NW Naturals.

As the sun was setting, I hustled around the perimeter of the ball park to catch some of the park’s features. There is a playground located just passed the center field viewing area. I think I spotted a putting green back in that area as well. As I was walking the sidewalk around the perimeter, the stadium’s walkway street lights came on and I got a better view of the seating areas in the outfield. With the sun setting, the temperature began to drop so I took one more spin over to the front gate area, the ticket office area, and got a few nice photos of the park as the sun was setting.

Arvest Ballpark, home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, is located in Springdale, Arkansas. Springdale happens to be in the Northwest section of Arkansas. The Naturals are the AA Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and can lay claim to having several MLB players as their alumni. Not being very familiar with Arkansas, Springdale was really easy to get to from my hotel in Fort Smith. Just about an hour’s drive straight up I-40 then I-49 passing through the Fayetteville area, the views on either side of the highway were incredible. The Bobby Hopper Tunnel surprised me a bit and I am looking into its significance and why they built it (it looked like something out of a movie to be honest). With the team from the leadership conference all but gone, I was happy to take the opportunity to visit this incredible minor league baseball park and learn more about the Naturals of Northwest Arkansas.

To learn more about the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, visit the site I trust for all things minor league baseball, http://www.milb.com, and head to the “Teams” page to find Kansas City’s affiliate teams.

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The RIBBE is The Rhode Island Baseball Experience. It is promoting the game of baseball here in the great state of Rhode Island for the entire baseball world to see. The RIBBE is positive stories, photos, videos, and responsible social media posts. The RIBBE is an information resource for families looking for an AAU team or a summer camp or a great place to buy a first baseman’s mitt. The RIBBE is a network of coaches, tournament directors, parents, leagues, and baseball junkies whose passion of the game of baseball is unquestioned. I believe that providing expert analysis, information and directions to ballfields, and coaching advice from some of the top RI baseball minds will help promote the game of baseball here in RI to a whole new level.

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