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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County is most commonly referred to as UMBC. Located about 15 minutes west of Baltimore between the suburbs of Arbutus and Catonsville, the university has just under 15,000 students. Sciences and Engineering are some of the highest profile programs at UMBC, although there are over 50 undergraduate majors and more than 60 graduate programs in total.
The university began in 1966 and is obviously a sister college to The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as well as Towson University and University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
Freeman A. Hrabowski III has been the charismatic president of UMBC since 1992. Born in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, Hrabowski has a unique surname for an African-American, as his family gained that name from his great-great-grandfather, Eaton Hrabowski, who was a Polish-American "slave master”. He is is the co-author of the books, Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males and Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Women. UMBC has risen from a small, largely unknown commuter college to one of the regions most innovative universities.
Sports have not always had great success at UMBC. Lacrosse and soccer are the biggest sports, along with the amazing chess team.
Chess has won the Pan American Chess Tournament 9 times between 1996 and 2009. Former team captain Alexander Onischuk went on to become the United States Champion in 2006.
Lacrosse is a usual fixture on the scene and is a common sight in the NCAA tournament. Men’s soccer made the Final Four of college soccer, the College Cup, in 2015, eventually losing on the biggest stage around.
The baseball program is frankly little-recognized, although they have won their share of games and occasional conference championships over the years.
The mascot of the school is a Retriever and celebrates the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the state dog of Maryland.
The home field of the baseball team is Alumni Field.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are no food operations in place at the stadium. You can freely bring your own to the games.
It seems that many of the fans bring food at various tables near the field; however, it is clearly not for sale, but for consumption by specific groups only.
There is not much of an atmosphere. Alumni Field looks to be jammed in between the UMBC Stadium (home of Retriever lacrosse) without much thought. Many fans even stand on the top row of UMBC Stadium to watch games.
There are some simple bleacher stands that surround the backstop towards third base. There are no real stands towards the first base side, but fans will sit on the hillside to watch the game action.
There is a PA announcer and music is played between innings and during player walkups. The PA speakers even sit on the rear of the press box of UMBC Stadium. That press box, itself, has a pretty distinct look, which is one of the few things that gives Alumni Field a certain look or feel.
There is no neighborhood around UMBC. The campus is located between the Arbutus and Catonsville neighborhood of Baltimore County. Downtown Baltimore is roughly a 15 to 20 minute drive down I-95.
Fans may want to stop into some of the shops and restaurants that line Frederick Road in Catonsville for pre-game activities. Taneytown Deli (807 Frederick Rd) and Duesenberg's (10 Mellor Ave) both have limited hours but they are the best bets for stopping before afternoon games. Peace-A-Pizza at 15 Mellor Ave offers some very unique pizza options in a family friendly environment. For adults, Jennings Cafe (808 Frederick Road) is a nice neighborhood bar. A great Chinese takeout called China Kitchen is located in Arbutus at 4642 Wilkens Avenue.
That quick drive to Baltimore opens up a world of activities and dining options. The new Horseshoe Casino is located directly south of the Oriole Park/M & T Bank Stadium complex. Jack Binion's Steak and Guy Fieri's Baltimore Kitchen & Bar are two of the restaurants at the casino worth checking out. Not too far from the casino is one of my favorites, the Abbey Burger Bistro, near the Cross Street Market at 1041 Marshall Street. The beer selection is good and they offer a large array of burger choices, and all are likely to satisfy.
This is a very typical Mid-Atlantic college baseball fan group, where most of the fans in attendance are family and friends of both teams. There may be a few local residents who attend the games. The fans are knowledgeable and friendly to visitors.
The UMBC campus is easy to access, as it is located off of the Route 166 / Exit 47B of I-95. You will be routed directly into the campus without even going onto any surface streets. Park in Lot 17, which is free, and you will have only a small walk up a hill, past the soccer field and lacrosse stadium.
Weekday games, while school is in session, may involve looking a bit harder for parking spaces, although it is doubtful this will be much of an issue.
If you venture around through the nearby towns of Arbutus and Catonsville, you will use area roads like Wilkens Avenue, Frederick Road, and Rolling Road. You may need a GPS, as these roads tend to ramble a bit.
Games are free, and parking has no cost associated with it. Your only expense will be gas and the cost of food you decide to bring to enjoy during the game.
Check out the plaque for the indigent school for boys that existed on the grounds of UMBC many moons ago. That is an interesting piece of history, indeed.
This is not the most high-end stadium and really seems like an afterthought. Jammed in between other athletic fields is a simple baseball stadium that will not wow you, but offers cheap, quality entertainment.
Member Review by mmspatz on Apr 08, 2013
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.
5411 East Dr
Halethorpe, MD 21227
4802 Benson Ave
Halethorpe, MD 21227
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