Delmarva’s Perdue Stadium bridges pastures to boardwalks


When I first heard the geographical designation “Delmarva,” I assumed it was a desperate attempt by Delaware’s chamber of commerce to associate with states of greater recognition — Maryland and Virginia — like how a somewhat socially-inept middle schooler would describe his friend group to include people who would likely not reciprocate in their own descriptions. But now that I live in Delaware and better understand the strange geography east of the Chesapeake Bay, it makes sense that the Delamarva peninsula is referred to in such a cohesive way, despite there being three states that occupy the small sliver of land that could easily its own. Even still, I don’t think Marylanders refer much to the Delmarva peninsula because they’re too busy referring to their own slice of it as the “Eastern Shore,” whatever that means.

Salisbury, however, Maryland’s de facto capital on the peninsula, manages to respect the name of the tri-state landmass while appeasing its citizens’ need for ocean satisfaction by way of the Delmarva Shorebirds, the low-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

Opened in 1996, Arthur W. Perdue Stadium plays host to the Shorebirds and is a sizeable, relaxing ballpark getaway. With diverse food options, several tiers of seating, and a thoughtful boardwalk around the outfield, Purdue Stadium ranks among the most impressive low-A ballparks, coming out as intentionally Maryland while remaining humbly subtle.

 

The Neighborhood

Just off US-50 West, named “Ocean Gateway” in this part of the Old Line State, Perdue Stadium is suburban and requires automobile transportation to arrive at it with any sort of ease.

But to its east sits downtown Salisbury with a number of impressive attractions for a city of just over 30,000 residents.

The Salisbury Zoo is open daily and showcases animals of the Americas. Pemberton Historical Park, along the Wicomico River includes walking trails, a water landing, and Pemberton Hall, the mansion of an 18th century plantation.

And the Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art features the world’s most comprehensive collection of carved birds and decoys. The museum’s website notably does not use the word “largest,” but hangs its hat on being the “most comprehensive.” Choose whatever superlative makes you seem the best.

If you’re sensing a bird theme here, I’m right there with you. Perdue Stadium, actually, is named after the founder of Perdue Farms — the blue and yellow frozen chicken brand you’ve probably bought more times than you realize.

You can get some of that locally-sourced, tasty chicken (among other menu items) at Evolution Craft Brewing and Public House, a downtown Salisbury restaurant that comes with the recommendation of Sam Jellinek, the Shorebirds’ play-by-play broadcaster.

Once you make it to Perdue Stadium, check out the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, located directly inside the main gate. On its website, the ESBHOFM (that’s the acronym we’re going with here) characterizes its mission as preserving baseball heritage on the Delmarva peninsula, notably extending its honorable area beyond the state of Maryland.

If you visit on a summer Saturday, plan to stay after the game for a fireworks show. 

 

Where to Sit

After you have your fill of waterfowl and fried fowl, you’ll have your pick of a number of seating sections inside Perdue Stadium. Reference the Perdue Stadium seating chart above.

The 100 level is classified as the Field Box and Lower Reserved (closer and slightly farther rows, respectively). Tickets run about $15 and $13 during the week.

To access the 100 level, signs at the stadium’s entrance direct you to walk through an indoor hallway between the team’s offices and the ESBHOFM, spitting you out right behind home plate on a wide cross-aisle. There’s a single concession stand on that level. Above the cross aisle, you can walk up to the 200 level. The stadium’s main concourse is above the 200 level.

The 200 level seats are called Upper Reserved and are much larger sections than on the 100 level. Tickets here go for about $11. The Field Box, Lower Reserved, and Upper Reserved are all standard stadium seats. Luckily for fan comfort, there are no bleachers.

In a proper second deck, fans have the opportunity to buy seats in the Luxury Level — sections 301, 303, 305, and 307. Tickets up here are also about $15. Funny enough, in MiLB, tickets get more expensive when you go up a level. The view is good, even closer to the field than a mezzanine club level at an MLB park, and the best concession stand in the stadium is right next door. 

If you don’t have a ticket to the Luxury Level, you can still hop upstairs for a good view. There are several high top tables behind the Luxury Level seats where you can post up and watch the game while you eat. 

A few notable group areas exist for parties of 30 or more.

The Executive Club, on the 300 level on the first base side, is an indoor-outdoor group option featuring a buffet for $37 per person. 

Behind home plate on the 200 level, the Hardball Cafe is similar, but just $29 per person and featuring slightly lower-scale ballpark fare. 

And down the right field line, the Picnic Deck is $26 per person and seats up to 150 people, food included.

Opposite the picnic deck, down the left field line, is an amusement zone with inflatable carnival games. For $5, you can play unlimited. 

While the park does not have a 360-degree concourse, a composite wooden boardwalk, in the style of Ocean City’s, wraps around the outfield, accessible from the 100 level seats on either side. There’s a high-top railing around the boardwalk wide enough for fans to set down food and drinks and watch the game standing directly behind the outfield wall. It also gives fans the rare opportunity to catch a minor league home run.

 

What to Eat

The most unique food options inside Perdue Stadium are offered on the 300 level at the Bird’s Eye Cafe. Barbecue sandwiches, crab cakes, and Italian sausages highlight the menu.

On the main concourse, you can find traditional ballpark food and sweet tooth stands.

 

Sense of Place

There’s a fine line in ballpark architecture when implementing an element of local culture. It lies between a lukewarm accoutrement that can’t compensate for an otherwise-bland stadium and an overwhelming structure that detracts from any semblance of elegance (think the Marlins Park home run sculpture). 

Perdue Stadium’s boardwalk is subtly one of the greatest minor league ballpark features I’ve seen. Its elegance is in its simplicity, performing an edifying function of allowing fans a 360-degree view of the field while structurally harkening to a local landmark. 

That said, the floor of the boardwalk is hidden by the outfield wall, keeping the structure out of view from the stands. So the view from the infield remains a ubiquitous hodgepodge of billboards separating the outfield from the rural pastures east of Salisbury. 

Rural pastures, though, more accurately characterize the Eastern Shore than blue crabs and beach umbrellas from Maryland’s sole seaside city, despite what the state’s urban elites prefer you to think. And the Delmarva peninsula is full of seaside avian species, many of whom could be classified as “shorebirds.”

I wondered what specifically a shorebird was as I sat in Perdue Stadium. Football fans may or may not be aware that the Seahawks are a fictionally vague species fabricated for Seattle’s team. Delmarva is kind of the same way.

The team’s logo until 2010 featured what appears to be the head of a crane. The newer logo is slightly more ambiguous and could show the long-beaked head of a wader, colloquially called a shorebird, which scavenges on mud and sand for food. 

As I drove up a quiet, tree-lined lane in the marshy surroundings of Dover last weekend, a gray crane swooped from the treeline and flew above my car for several seconds before veering off to the right toward the tall grasses. I’d prefer to think of Delmarva’s mascot as this regal creature rather than a sandpiper, but should you ever visit the peninsula, you’re free to render your own judgment.

Either way, the Delmarva peninsula is thankful for the Shorbirds of Salisbury, for without them, these rural hinterlands would be woefully devoid of professional baseball. 

 

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