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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Rutgers installed a new FieldTurf baseball surface in 2007, thanks to a generous donation from Ron and Pat Bainton. The venue, formerly known as the Frederick E. Gruninger Class of 1953 Baseball Complex, was renamed in the Bainton’s honor after the upgrade, and the Scarlet Knights baseball team has enjoyed a 60%+ win rate since that time.
The all-weather FieldTurf is used at professional and college football, baseball, and soccer stadiums all over the country, and allows fields to be usable (and makes them much safer) even in the worst of weather conditions. Note that only the playing surface itself is new – the rest of the complex was built much longer ago, back in the mid-eighties, and you can tell this from the heavy wear on the sign out front.
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".
With a stated capacity for baseball of 1,500, the food and beverage options are very disappointing, especially when you consider that the snack cart is shared by both the baseball and softball facilities. Only eight options are offered - hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, candy, and chips, plus soda, bottled water, and Gatorade. Everything is $3 except for chips and water, which are $2. Thankfully admission is free, however, and there are other restaurants nearby, so you can walk over and get back in without any problem (see the Neighborhood section for more details).
Some have compared Bainton to a high school venue, due to the quasi-temporary banks of metal bleachers dotted around the field, although most of them do have chair back rails, which is a plus. There are five sets, including one behind the outfield, three between the dugouts, and another near third base, which is painted a different color than the others so was probably added later. The bleachers are raised, but you can walk right up to the infield fence if you want to get closer to the action.
Bainton Field does have a couple of unique features, although none of them are good - first off, they don't have any lights, so they can't play night games here. In fact, a game was called during the 2015 season due to darkness, and thus ended in a tie, which is very unsatisfying.
Another unique negative at Bainton is that the press box is open-air, and at field level, which doesn't allow very good views of the action, and is probably annoying for the announcers because fans are walking around right behind them to get to and from the seats - this is the only stadium I have seen where the fans actually sit higher than the announcers.
Lastly, the bathrooms and snack cart are not technically part of the complex - it isn't like they are that far away from the stands, but you do have to go for a short walk to get to them. Check out the video to see these unique features for yourself:
The main campus for Rutgers University is located in New Brunswick, NJ, and is actually divided into five sections. Bainton Field is part of what they call the Livingston Campus, which is located across the river from New Brunswick in Piscataway Township. If you are looking to stay the weekend, there is not a ton to do in Piscataway, although New York and Baltimore are only an hour or two away depending on traffic, so there is that.
There are a few restaurants near the field - on the other side of Hospital Road, behind the parking lot, there are some apartment building style dorms with a retail plaza on the ground level, which includes a movie theater, a Starbucks, a Qdoba, an asian restaurant, a frozen yogurt place, a convenience store, and a retro-style diner named Henry's that offers a slew of fun milkshake flavors. Henry's has a great atmosphere and offers both breakfast and lunch/dinner options all day long - I recommend the Eggs Benedict, but not the Monte Cristo. All of these restaurants are on campus so they don't serve alcohol, nor do they have TVs.
One excellent option for a restaurant when attending a Rutgers athletic event is the Barça City Cafe & Bar. Besides offering fantastic and authentic Spanish cuisine, Barça City Cafe & Bar also has wonderful happy hour specials. If you bring your ticket with you, and mention Stadium Journey, you will receive 10% off of your food bill.
If you are looking for a cool hangout that offers both, there are a couple of good options about 3 miles from the field - Brick House Tavern + Tap is on the same side of the river in South Plainfield, while Olde Queens Tavern and Tumulty's Pub are over in New Brunswick. Brick House and Tumulty's are both a little on the pricey side; Brick House offers mainly pizza, burgers, and meatballs, while Tumulty's has a much fuller menu including sandwiches, seafood, and beef/chicken entrees - both have a wide selection of drinks. Olde Queens is a little odd in that their food offerings consist mostly of sliders provided by a popular local food truck, but they do have nightly drink specials.
Probably in part because they can't play night games, attendance at Bainton is pretty sparse - they might only get 100 fans (or fewer) at a typical game, so the stands look pretty empty. However, those who are there seem pretty knowledgeable and are very intent on the game. In fact, some will even make a fuss if you block their view of a pitch! About half of those in attendance wear Rutgers gear.
Piscataway is easy to get to since it is right off the freeway. The baseball field on the other hand is a little tricky to find since it doesn't have a real address, so your GPS can only get you very close.
Parking is free and easy to find, if a bit haphazard; some fans just park on the grass right next to the bleachers behind the outfield, and there is a small parking area (I wouldn't call it a "lot") next to the field which can accommodate most of the tiny crowd. There is also a large lot just across the street which offers covered parking, which is a better idea in warmer weather.
The bathrooms are very tiny; there are only two urinals and one stall in the men's bathroom, which is more than adequate for the typical crowd, but could be problematic for bigger games. Also, the bathrooms are not part of the stadium per se, so you do have to walk a little to get to them.
They don't even bother to sell tickets, so admission is free, as is parking. Concession prices are also low, but the few options offered are not very interesting, so that isn't much of a plus.
Attending a game here is probably worth it if you are just looking for an activity to do with your kids, or if your team is playing here, but not much fun otherwise.
One point for Piscataway - hands down the most fun city name in the US. Except for maybe Joe, Montana (which is a real place, by the way).
They have a new field, and lots of money coming in for other improvements such as the Fred Hill Baseball & Softball training complex, so there are good things coming for Rutgers baseball. The venue may be worth another look in a couple years.
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47 Easton Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08902
4901 Stelton Rd
South Plainfield, NJ 07080
108 Easton Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
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