By Lauren Moore of The Tennessean
Nashville Sounds pitcher Brad Mills views First Tennessee Park a little differently than most.
He has a lot of positive things to say about Nashville's newest stadium, and with his background and degree in civil engineering, he may be as good a source on the subject as anyone with the Sounds.
Baseball wasn't always Mills' first career choice.
While at the University of Arizona on an academic scholarship, he was merely concerned with academics and graduating. But after trying out for the baseball team and making it as a walk-on, things changed for the lefty.
He was chosen in the Major League Baseball draft after his junior year, but opted to stay in school to finish his civil engineering degree.
After his senior season Mills was drafted again, and this time he took his degree and started his new journey as a fourth-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Now as he pitches in First Tennessee Park, Mills' mind lingers not only about baseball, but also about the features and dimensions surrounding him on the mound.
"It puts its own spin on AAA," he said of First Tennessee Park.
As well as the trademark giant guitar scoreboard, he's also impressed with the variety of entertainment and seating for fans.
"They have created a draw for each area," Mills said. "Even if you don't have a sellout, you still have people in every area of the ballpark."
And from a player standpoint, it's nice to know people come out, he said. "It makes players think 'oh there are a lot of people here.'"
Mills was so fascinated with the new stadium that he contacted the architects of Populous, who designed the ballpark.
They responded and took him on a tour when the park opened in April.
Mills was overjoyed to get the scoop on how First Tennessee Park was designed and why.
His biggest question: Why were the bullpens not behind the outfield wall?
"To allow fans that direct access to the players," said Bruce Miller, senior architect of Populous. "It's a very traditional thing to do, but in many new ballparks, you see the bullpen is isolated or built into the outfield wall where fans can't be up close and personal with the players."
Mills gained some valuable knowledge after talking to the park architects.
"That's the interesting thing about baseball, is that every field is different and we get to influence the game and set up the dynamic of the game based on the playing field dimensions and our design," Miller said.
And someday Mills hopes he can be one of the voices helping design a new stadium.
"I think I could be another voice from a players perspective ... this is what works the best for us," he said. "Whether or not they could use it, I don't know, but at least they'd hear it. And you could dialogue back and forth and kind of get an idea of how the design progress works.
"That's something I could bring to the table."
Lauren Moore can be reached at 615-259-8010 and on twitter @laurenmo_.