Ballpark Rankings: D1Baseball Staff PicksFeatures
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We spent last week presenting the results of our Division I ballparks survey, voted upon by more than 160 coaches and sports information directors. Our voters ranked the top 25 ballparks overall, the prettiest settings, the most intimidating venues and best ballpark traditions, the best practice facilities/player amenities, best family atmosphere, best media facilities, best ballpark food and best overall ballparks in each conference.
Now, to put a bow on this series, it’s time for D1Baseball’s staff writers to name their favorite ballparks. We asked our writers to rank their top five ballparks (like the coaches, we’re all limited by our own experiences — we’ve all been to many stadiums, but not all of them). It’s very difficult to narrow it down to five favorites — so difficult, in fact, that I couldn’t do it and had to cheat. So I’ll get us started by listing my 10 favorite parks, taking into consideration atmosphere, setting, amenities and everything else.
Aaron Fitt’s 10 Favorite Parks
1. Blue Bell Park (Texas A&M): The best combination of atmosphere and amenities you’ll find anywhere. I love the double-decker effect that makes it feel like the fans are right on top of the action, and I love how engaged fans are — there’s a reason our voters picked A&M for Best Traditions. The locker room and player facilities that fans never see are also incredible.
2. Founders Park (South Carolina): The House That Ray Tanner Built got all of the little details just right — Tanner even agonized over the right height of the dugout railings. I love the grand entrance plaza in center field; the picnic terrace down the left-field line and the 360-degree wrap-around concourse; the one-of-a-kind designated area for scouts behind the plate; and the nation’s best press box, with windows that open on a nice day.
3. Alex Box Stadium (LSU): There’s nothing else like the roar of The Box. When LSU is trailing late in a game and gets a rally started, that sound is deafening, and countless opponents have wilted in that pressure cooker. The ballpark itself is very nice too (though I’d rank it behind A&M and South Carolina from a structural perspective), and extra points for the jambalaya.
4. Swayze Field (Ole Miss): Tucked into a beautiful wooded setting in the heart of one of the nation’s prettiest campuses, Swayze offers a lot more than just those famous beer showers in the right-field student section (but those are cool, make no mistake). The terraced area beyond the left-field wall has a charming family-friendly atmosphere, the seating bowl is great for the die-hards, and the luxury suites are fantastic.
5. Baum Stadium (Arkansas): Arkansas has a loud, passionate, devoted fan base that regularly packs this beautiful ballpark. The atmosphere at the Fayetteville Super Regional in 2015 was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Baum’s pole-to-pole luxury suites are the best you’ll find, and their new training facilities won the vote for Best Practice Facilities/Player Amenities in our survey.
6. Dudy Noble Field (Mississippi State): The Left Field Lounge is the quintessential college baseball experience — perhaps the single most unique fan experience our sport has to offer. The passion and knowledge of these fans is incredible; the sheer size of the crowds for big games is overwhelming. But the stadium needs updating (and the Bulldogs are working on raising funds for an expensive overhaul).
7. Fowler Park (San Diego): I was surprised Fowler didn’t rank higher in the Prettiest Setting category (it failed to make the top 10 — probably because Pepperdine hogged all the West Coast votes). I love the panoramic view over the valley as you descend into Fowler, and I love the Spanish mission-style architecture that matches the spectacular campus. Gorgeous park; only loses points because it just can’t match the electricity you’ll find in SEC stadiums.
8. Husky Ballpark (Washington): Like USD, the Huskies have a real gem that combines incredible vistas with excellent amenities. On a clear day, it’s hard to beat the view over Lake Washington to snow-capped Mount Rainier in the distance, and the seating areas and press facilities are all very comfortable.
9. Doug Kingsmore Stadium (Clemson): The addition of a fantastic three-story baseball center down the first-base line made Doug Kingsmore competitive with the great SEC stadiums. The outfield bleachers add a nice element, especially the bus parked beyond the right field fence (where you can find some original seats from Rosenblatt Stadium and outstanding food). It’s a scenic wooded setting, and the fans are loud and dedicated.
10. Boshamer Stadium (North Carolina): As some of our voters pointed out, the Tar Heels took great care with the details at the Bosh, which does a stellar job with signage depicting the history of the program. It’s a classic brick-facade-and-green-seats ballpark that blends seamlessly into the heart of the campus, and the setting is very pretty.
Kendall Rogers’ Five Favorites
1. Alex Box Stadium (LSU): Easily the best atmosphere in college baseball for me. No one cares more about college baseball than LSU fans. Oozing with tradition, and the only place that smells of bourbon before a Sunday series finale.
2. Founders Park (South Carolina): Everything South Carolina did with this ballpark is perfect. From the national title trophies in center field to the overall feel of the park, the Gamecocks aced this place.
3. Dudy Noble Field (Mississippi State): Perhaps I am biased because I’ve been to some massive series in Starkville, but no overall experience was better than mine during Super Bulldog Weekend against Ole Miss a few years ago. Awesome fans, great experience, and best of all, great food and beverages (of the adult variety, of course).
4. Swayze Field (Ole Miss): Absolutely love the setting nestled in the middle of campus next to the football stadium and the forest. In addition to being right on top of the action, the outfield and the beer showers are a great tradition in college baseball.
5. Blue Bell Park (Texas A&M): Another great part of college baseball. From the traditions and everything else the Aggies have to offer, it’s top notch. Outside of LSU, no place is better in the postseason in terms of atmosphere.
Mark Etheridge’s Five Favorites
1. Sewell-Thomas Stadium (Alabama): It’s like a greatest hits of many great ballparks. No corners were cut with functionality or aesthetics.
2. Founders Park (South Carolina): One of my favorite settings beyond the outfield. Classy design with loads of amenities.
3. Alex Box Stadium (LSU): Festive and lively, no park exemplifies the college game better.
4. Swayze Field (Ole Miss): Love the outfield scene and the grandstands are nice as well.
5. Dudy Noble Field (Mississippi State): This is all about the outfield as the rest of the park is just OK. But the smoky party scene beyond the walls is as good as it gets.
Frankie Piliere’s Five Favorites
1. Boshamer Stadium (North Carolina)
2. Jackie Robinson Stadium (UCLA)
3. Sunken Diamond (Stanford)
4. Blair Field (Long Beach State)
5. Fowler Park (San Diego)
Eric Sorenson’s Five Favorites
1. Eddy D. Field Stadium (Pepperdine): Surf in the morning. Baseball in the afternoon. Paradise Cove for a beachside dinner. With the palms swaying, views of the Pacific beyond left field and some of the best pitching and defense in the country, there is still no better setting to take in a game. Usually one of the better manicured fields too.
2. Miller Park (BYU): Unreal setting. The snowcapped Wasatch Mountains looming overhead and the very comfy seating, the Cougars combine all that with one of the more loyal fan bases in the country.
3. Fowler Park (San Diego): The brand-spanking new Fowler Park is pretty freaking incredible. Also, whether you go to a game in February or in May, San Diego provides the best weather of any place in the country. Rain? Cold? Heat? Pfft. Those things aren’t allowed here. The extra bump also goes to USD usually bringing in some high-quality nonconference opponents.
4. Dudy Noble Field (Mississippi State): If you’re looking for the best postseason environment, this is it. Food. Fans. Facility. Food… Wait, did I just say “food” twice?
5. TD Ameritrade Park (Creighton): Oh come on, who can say they wouldn’t want to go to a game at TD Ameritrade Park? Besides, they sell whiskey, vodka and rum at their games. Yes, that means they treat the fans like grownups. Thank you Bluejays.
Shotgun Spratling’s Five Favorites
1. Eddy D. Field Stadium (Pepperdine): Best backdrop in all college baseball.
2. Jim Patterson Stadium (Louisville): Omaha Lounge is great for players. Right across from Churchill Downs.
3. Fowler Park (San Diego): Top class facilities.
4. Blue Bell Park (Texas A&M)
5. Smith’s Ballpark (Utah): Mountain backdrop is gorgeous at sunset. Minor league ballpark.