Sorenson's Favorite Stadiums

Looking at the home fields around the nation


May 9, 2006

By Eric Sorenson

CSTV.com



ERIC SORENSON

Eric Sorenson is a regular contributor to CSTV.com, covering football, basketball & baseball. E-mail here!

 

A friend of mine asked me the other day what my favorite college baseball stadium was. That got me thinking. Hmmm, tough but fair question.

 

What would be your favorite place to watch a ballgame? I've been to a good number of college ballparks over the years, and after getting kick-started by my friends' question, I thought I'd list here my favorite places to take in a game.

 

But first, remember two things; First, obviously, I haven't been to every stadium in the country, including some of those you've seen on those previous "Best Stadiums" lists in Baseball America. Second, my reasons for including some here are probably not the same as yours might be. And third, Rosenblatt Stadium doesn't count. It gets Best Stadium Emeritus status here. So here you go, my Top 5 college stadiums to take in a game:

 

5. (Tie) UNCG Ballpark, UNC-Greensboro and McKie Field, Miami Univ.

These two stadiums are separated by 500 miles, but were built remarkably similar. Both are recent additions to their respective campus and include ultra-nice, close-to-the-field press boxes, a small but comfortable gathering of seats behind the backstop and long, rich green grass berms all the way down each foul line. And both stadiums also have very well-manicured fields. No bad hops. No bad seats. No bad nothing.

Drawback: Great venues, but could never host in the post-season.

 

4. Dudy Noble Field, Mississippi State

Nearly 10,000 fans, the famous left field lounge, the cowbells, the saturation of maroon and the history of the program; this is the best place for a big game atmosphere. Hands down. And the history of it being one of the first big-time college ballparks is also an added point of interest.

Drawback: With all those fans behind the fences, don't be an opposing outfielder that commits an error. Shoot, don't be a Bulldog outfielder that commits an error either.

 

3. Reckling Park, Rice

It says something when a school's stadium almost seats more than its enrollment. Nice, new digs with great seating and a fairly good amount of shade for those scorching June afternoons. But maybe part of why I'm putting Rice here is because of the nice drunken frat boys on the grass berm in the outfield that insisted I take a hit off their beer bong.

Drawback: That infamous sun reflection off the Hilton Hotel beyond center field that is so blinding it delays late afternoon games for 10-15 minutes.

 

2. Miller Park, Brigham Young

I visited this park in 2001 for a few games when the bowels of the stadium were still being constructed. But what a shrine for college baseball! It has 2,500 stadium seats, very little netting behind home plate and a big league feel. And that wicked-huge white tensile roof that resembles the "peaks" of the nearby mountains (similar to the Denver airport) is just too cool. It also has a nice plaza area that is shared with the softball complex behind it. First class.

Drawback: Too bad the season doesn't extend further into summer. Some of the March and April night games can be a bit on the chilly side.

 

1. Eddy D. Field Stadium, Pepperdine

There's a large combination of things makes this the perfect place to take in a game: Great setting, as the stadium is nestled into the cliff-side campus. Views of Catalina Island out in the Pacific beyond left field. The surrounding palms trees. The always well-manicured field. The screen-free sightlines above each dugout. The comfortable new stadium seats. And of course, the best collection of female co-eds I have ever seen. Bonus points for an always intriguing schedule of visiting teams, especially in non-conference.

Drawback: Up until a few years ago, games were free of charge. Now they're eight bucks. And, sadly, they now have a "no pets" policy. Damn.

 

 

And while I'm on the subject, here are a few additional accolades:

 

Best Concessions: Alex Box Stadium, LSU

This one was a real no-brainer. Go ahead, tell me another stadium that you can get a steaming bowl of jambalaya or gumbo filled with crab legs and shrimp. (Almost makes up for that terrible bleacher seating.)

 

Best refreshments: Blair Field, Long Beach State

Since USC and Cal State Fullerton quit allowing beer sales recently, this is the only place I can think of that still allows the suds to flow. That's what going to the ball game is all about people. Anybody out there know of any more beer stadiums in the college game? Let me know.

 

Best fans: Sunken Diamond, Stanford

Maybe it's the relatively high I.Q. of the institution itself, but it's rare when you see any bad fans here. No cursing. No trash-talking the other teams. To paraphrase the great Jerry Kindall, they're always respectful and are baseball savvy. I've actually seen large numbers of Cardinal fans cheer good defensive plays by the opposing team, even in the post-season.

 

Most picturesque setting: Baggett Stadium, Cal Poly

Nestled neatly among a series of strikingly lush green peaks that seem more reminiscent of Northern Ireland, there's little wonder that the Mustangs wear green to match the mountainous surroundings of California's Coastal Range. Baggett Stadium was opened in 2001 and is part of a complex that includes an ultra-new softball stadium as well. But believe me, places like BYU, Pepperdine, Southern Utah and Washington are very close on this one.

 

Best student section: Olsen Field, Texas A&M

Went to a Sunday night game against Creighton in February a few years ago and the upper deck above the visitor's dugout was packed with students who cheered, chanted and generally raised hell for the entire nine innings. My first thought? "My God! What must this place be like when Texas comes to play in May?"

 

Most surprising/least publicized stadium: Bill Davis Stadium, Ohio State

I had no idea that OSU had such a nice facility when I was in Columbus for college hockey's Frozen Four last year. A Saturday afternoon game with Purdue that weekend attracted over 3,000 fans. They also have the largest on-campus press box I've seen this side of Reckling Park. Now I see why they've hosted two Super Regionals. There is hope for Big Ten baseball.

Runner-up: Wilson Stadium, UNLV

 

Best place to wait out a rain delay: Hawks Field, Nebraska

I'm sure the Cornhusker fans appreciate the large amount of room that is both covered by the upper deck and in the plaza area. It also makes for plenty of room for when you're waiting in line for concessions. Good thinking.

 

Best out-of-the-way stadium: Mahaney Diamond, Maine

Since I was there in 2002, they've added nearly 1,000 stadium-style seats and doubled the size of the press box. Still, it's just kind of cool having a (relatively) nice facility tucked way up in the far Northeast. It'd be cool if they were able to host a regional there again someday soon, as they did in 1991 (which included over 4,000 fans there for the title game).

 

Best stadium announcer: Jay Rokeach, Miami

I think he does football games at the Orange Bowl as well. I just love his voice and delivery. Haven't heard any better, anywhere, any sport. Well, except for Monster Truck rallies.

 

Best architecture: Boshamer Stadium, North Carolina

Baseball stadiums, particularly on the college level, are notorious for bad aesthetics (Texas A&M, Hawai'i, Richmond, yawn, cookie-cutter-like). But the Bosh's stately columns resemble the famous Old Well that sits in the middle of campus (and is also used in the logo for the NCAA's Officially Licensed NCAA merchandise). Can't wait to see how the improved Boshamer Stadium will turn out.

 

Worst stadium: Cal State Northridge

A 1993 article in Baseball Weekly hung a similar moniker on CSUN's home field, and the Matadors claimed they were "proud of it." But since then, they have made some good improvements. No more four-seat open press box made out of wood, no more concrete outfield wall, no more bench/bleacher seating. But there are two things they didn't get rid of, the "this is just temporary" look to the stands and the always-present howling winds.

 

Stadiums I still need to see (well, there are a lot, but here are some that come to mind immediately):

The Rest of the SEC, especially Arkansas

Florida State

Winthrop

Oklahoma State

Texas Tech

Penn State (when the new 4,000-seat stadium is completed)

East Carolina (only saw a game at the old one)

North Dakota State (seen it, but haven't been there during a game)

Missouri State

Wichita State

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