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The Baseball Factory Field at UMBC

Catonsville, MD

Home of the UMBC Retrievers

2.3

N/A

The Baseball Factory Field at UMBC (map it)
1000 Hilltop Cir
Catonsville, MD


UMBC Retrievers website

The Baseball Factory Field at UMBC website

Year Opened: 2004

Capacity: 1,000

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Not Much Glory at the Factory

With just over 11,900 students, the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) is the third largest four-year college in the state of Maryland, behind the University of Maryland-College Park and Towson University. Established in 1966, the campus is in a great location, just fifteen minutes from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and 45 minutes from the capital of the United States. The school was one of 50 public institutions recognized by The Princeton Review as a ‘Best Value College,’ combining affordability with educational excellence.

Athletically, UMBC participates in the America East Conference as the UMBC Retrievers, a mascot that pays homage to the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the state dog of Maryland. There are nine full-time members of the America East, one of the rare Division I conferences that don’t sponsor football. Of those nine, seven currently field a baseball team, with the UMBC Retrievers being one of the seven. UMBC baseball home games are played at the Baseball Factory Field at UMBC, which has a capacity of 1,000 fans. Previously known as Alumni Field, the Baseball Factory Field has undergone large renovations to the lighting system, playing surface, bleachers and dugouts since 2004. Still, the experience at the Baseball Factory Field is largely lacking, and if you’re looking for anything more than just the ability to watch America’s pastime in a college setting for free, you’re probably better off going somewhere else.

2.3

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    0

There are no concession stands or vending machines. Water is free...because it's from a water fountain. The setting is nice, in that quite a few fans put down a blanket either on the bleachers behind home plate or on the grass hill that sits above the first base line and the visiting dugout. Many of the fans brought their own food and were able to have a picnic of sorts, along with their blankets and hoodies, since it was barely spring on the East Coast when I visited (around 40 degrees in late March 2013). There was a sizable group of UMBC fans on the bleachers closest to the third-base line and the UMBC dugout that seemed to be some of the family and friends of the Retriever players. They had some food set out like cookies and beverages such as hot chocolate, but it seemed to just be for their group. In terms of food and beverages for public consumption, you have to bring your own.

Atmosphere    2

The baseball field is a bit detached from the actual UMBC campus, but if you follow the music that's playing during the warmups, you'll have no problem finding the field. Once you're there, you will see bleachers that wrap around behind home plate, which is where the majority of fans sit. The hill behind the first-base side of the field is also a popular spot to sit, as long as you have a blanket or lawn chair. On the actual field, there is a small electronic scoreboard behind the right field wall that displays the number of the current batter, ball/strike/out count and the line score with runs, hits and errors. Fans can also see a banner draped over the fence near the first-base line that displays the achievements of the Retrievers baseball team from the NCAA Tournament appearances (1977-1979, 1986, 1992, 2001) to the conference championship (2000) and the conference tournament championship (2001).

The PA announcer is clear, though he can come off as a bit mundane sometimes, even when the Retrievers are up to bat. Each UMBC hitter does have their own unique walk-up music, though, which is entertaining, as some players picked country music while others picked rap. The best part of the atmosphere probably comes from the UMBC players. Similar to high school baseball, the players in the dugout are always encouraged to be involved as opposed to just sitting quietly. The UMBC players continuously tried to get in the visiting pitcher's head throughout the early innings, while also trying to support and shoot some adrenaline into the UMBC batter. This is always fun to hear, especially since that kind of thing doesn't happen in the major leagues.

Neighborhood    4

Rather than being a city or town, Catonsville, Maryland is actually a census-designated place, with a population of just over 41,000 as of the 2010 census. Located in Baltimore County, as the university's name suggests, Catonsville is just west of the Baltimore city limits, meaning that UMBC is actually around three miles outside of the city of Baltimore. This is a great setup, because it gives fans different options. If visitors want to visit Baltimore, they are just a few minutes away, but if they don't, they can still go to UMBC without having to worry about the inner city traffic or congestion. Baltimore's Inner Harbor is 15 minutes away and the capital of the United States, Washington, DC, is about 45. If you're traveling by air, getting to UMBC couldn't be much easier, as Baltimore/Washington Airport (BWI) is only five minutes from the UMBC campus.

Catonsville, Maryland doesn't exactly have the same kind of attraction that Baltimore does. The district was the home of two professional sports teams that quickly died out; the Baltimore Tribe of the American Lacrosse League (1988) and the Maryland Bays of the American Soccer League (1988-1990). Today, UMBC is the only four-year university located within Catonsville. In terms of food, Catonsville does have plenty of good choices that are close to the UMBC campus, including Fish Head Cantina on Benson Avenue, Pizza Paradise on East Drive and Ledo Pizza on Wilkens Avenue.

Fans    2

Unfortunately, fan support seems to be a bit lacking right now at the Baseball Factory Field. Part of the problem could have been that it never really got over 45 degrees on this particular Sunday in March, but even so, much of the cheering actually came from the UMBC dugout, not from the fans. I got the sense throughout the game that most of the fans that came to the game had some sort of connection to at least one of the players, either through being part of their family or being one of their friends. A fair amount of Albany fans contributed to the attendance, which was interesting, considering the school is five hours away. For UMBC, most of the fans were either adults or UMBC athletes that played other sports; there were no regular UMBC students and no kids. Fans did cheer and applaud when the Retrievers scored runs and also cheered to support the Retrievers' pitchers when they got into a jam, but there just weren't enough fans at the game to really make a big difference in terms of the game atmosphere.

Access    4

Getting to the Baseball Factory Field at UMBC and the UMBC campus is extremely easy. From the north, take Interstate 95 to Route 166 or Interstate 83 to Baltimore Beltway via Exit 12C (Wilkens Avenue West). If you're using a GPS, enter 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250. The campus isn't in the city limits of Baltimore, but the school successfully lobbied to use 'Baltimore' in its address. There are several signs as you approach the campus, so it really becomes an easy drive and an easy find. Bus services are available from downtown Baltimore, as well as commuter trains, such as MARC and AMTRAK.

There are several signs for UMBC that show up on the interstate, so as long as you are close, you'll be able to follow those to get there. Once you're on campus, the RAC is on Administration Drive, right across from the Administration Drive Garage, building 32. Though the campus isn't in the Baltimore city limits, the school lobbied the government to use 'Baltimore' as its address and succeeded. The Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) is five minutes away from the campus.

Driving would be the easiest way to get to the Baseball Factory Field at UMBC, especially since the parking is free. There are plenty of parking spots down Hilltop Circle, as well as a parking garage on Administration Drive. Once you've parked, look for a couple of stairways that lead down a hill away from the main campus; it's a short walk to the field, which is right next to UMBC Stadium, the venue for lacrosse and track & field. The field is also close to UMBC Softball Stadium. Post-game traffic is luckily non-existent; there aren't any logjams leaving the campus after the game ends.

Return on Investment    2

One big perk about UMBC baseball is that the only money you're spending is the gas money to get to and from campus. Admission is free and parking is free. While you get what you pay for as far as entertainment at the game, there's an enjoyment value as far as being able to watch college baseball on a nice day, laying down on a blanket while hearing the 'clank' of the metal bats. This is the kind of venue whose value is what you make of it. If you're bringing some friends and going all-out with a picnic and loud cheering, it could be a fun afternoon. Otherwise, you'll probably just be counting down the innings until the end of the game. The talent well surpasses that of high school baseball, but as far as the atmosphere and entertainment, I'm afraid it's not much different.

Extras    2

One extra point goes to the free programs that were available for fans to pick up during the game. The program was unique for that particular game, and had detailed information about both the visiting Albany Great Danes and the UMBC Retrievers. This was great for fans like me who weren't very knowledgeable about the teams and players coming in. Another point is for the team spirit and pride that UMBC athletics seems to show, since members of both the softball team and the girls' soccer team were up on the hill behind the first-base line watching their fellow athletes play. It's great to see the different athletes support each other; they may all play different sports but each of them still don the same four letters on the front of their jerseys - UMBC.

Final Thoughts

Support for the game of baseball seems to be growing again in Maryland, the Old Line State. Recent success by the Baltimore Orioles and the nearby Washington Nationals has gotten the locals excited about the season again and brought them back out to the ballpark, especially at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This excitement isn't transferring over to support for the UMBC baseball program, though. Aesthetically, the Baseball Factory Field at UMBC is a fine-looking ballpark that gives fans a great view of the action. Without any other amenities, though, and with a spotty fan base, coming to a Retrievers game doesn't seem to be worth too much more than a short drive.

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