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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
As Grand Canyon University continues the process of being a full-fledged member of NCAA Division-I, a program that is seeing some immediate success is baseball.
The Antelopes baseball team plays their home games at Brazell Stadium, which is located on the GCU campus in Central Phoenix. The baseball stadium was named after former head coach Dave Brazell in 1982. Brazell led the team to 728 wins in his 28 years at GCU. After his stint as the baseball coach, Brazell spent an additional 20 years as the college’s golf coach. He is currently GCU’s golf tournament director.
When GCU joined the WAC in all sports in 2014, it was actually the second time that the baseball program had been a part of the conference. Baseball was the only sport at GCU to go Division-1 in 1995, and in 1998, the team’s last year at the D-1 level, the Antelopes won the WAC North division championship.
The most notable baseball alumni from Grand Canyon is Tim Salmon, who played for the Lopes from 1987-89 before enjoying a long career with the Anaheim Angels. The Tim Salmon Clubhouse is located right behind home plate of Brazell Stadium, and has been there since 1999. This is where the baseball locker room, offices and training rooms are located.
While Grand Canyon won’t be eligible for postseason play until 2018, they are already becoming a force in the WAC, just like in 1998. All the Lopes have to play for right now are regular season titles, and they do so in the friendly confines of the 1,500 person capacity Brazell Stadium.
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There is a small concession stand located behind home plate. It has the very basics (hot dogs, soda, peanuts, and nachos) available for $3 each. GCU is a Coca-Cola facility.
But you don't need to settle for the ballpark food. Everyone is able to bring in their own food and drink. So if you stop by a fast food place beforehand, go to GCU's student union, or even bring a picnic with you, feel free to bring it into the stadium and enjoy it along with some college baseball.
The overall feel at Brazell Stadium is quite urban. The left field wall backs right up against 35th Ave., and there's a giant parking garage looming beyond the right field fence. With the street in the way, it's a small park, going only 320 down the left field line and 380 to left center. There are also nets set up behind the outfield fence, kind of like a driving range, to keep balls from going on the street or into the neighborhood.
Some people choose to watch the game from the parking garage, which isn't the best vantage point, but is certainly unique. There are also signs hung up on the garage supporting certain players, and a giant banner that stretches from top to bottom with a player likeness on it.
Adding to that urban feel is the fact that the seating is all metal bleachers with backs, stretching 20 rows up behind home plate. There are also some picnic tables down the first base line, which would be perfect if you do decide to bring your own lunch or dinner to the ballpark.
The bleacher seating area has a giant canopy above, which gives shade to the entire block of seats. That is certainly a welcome feature on those hot Phoenix afternoons.
GCU sits in third base dugout, with the visitors on the first base side. Each bullpen is off the field of play just beyond the dugouts.
The sound system is quite loud, probably a little too loud for the small park. There's a scoreboard in the left field wall. It is a little hard to read during the day. There's also no video board or anything to give additional stats besides team runs, hits and errors.
The area around GCU is certainly not the best compared to other parts of the Phoenix region. It's not exactly a place you would want to park off-campus and walk to. Once you park on campus you're fine, but the area around is pretty sketchy.
For baseball games, it's kind of perfect that there's a Subway located at the corner of 34th Ave. and Camelback. Pick up a few sandwiches for the family and eat them at one of the picnic tables at the stadium. It could work out perfectly.
There are several Mexican food restaurants to choose from in the 35th Ave. and Camelback area, with the best option probably being Taco Tote. But this is not an area where you'll find sports bars or anything like that.
Not too far away is downtown Phoenix, but that's about a 15 minute drive from GCU's campus.
The closest hotels are off I-17 at the Indian School exit, which is one exit south of Camelback.
I visited Grand Canyon during a game against Northern Colorado, and the UNC fans were more into the game than the GCU fans.
There were not a lot of GCU fans at the ballpark that day, and there was almost no cheering for the Antelopes even though they went on to win the game easily. No chants or anything during the game either. It was a far cry from the atmosphere that's been developed at GCU basketball games. I find that surprising since baseball does have a history at the D-1 level, and has been one of the most successful programs at the university for a long time now. And Phoenix tends to be more of a baseball town than a basketball town anyway.
Grand Canyon University is located about a mile west of I-17 on Camelback Road. It's very easy to get to from all parts of the valley as it's just a couple exits north of the I-10/I-17 interchange.
Free parking can be found all over GCU's campus. I recommend parking in either the parking garage off of Camelback or the parking garage off of 35th Ave. that's located beyond the right field fence. Both garages are just a short walk to the stadium. If you park in the garage located off of Camelback, be sure to enter through the 33rd Ave. entrance because 34th Ave. is blocked off by a gate on weekends.
Once in the stadium, there's plenty of room to sit, and there's no security, with gates open everywhere allowing access into the stadium. There's no charge to get in either, so all the seating is open for everyone, and you can move around as you please.
The bathrooms are located in the Tim Salmon Clubhouse, just behind home plate. But with the small stadium, there's no lines for anything to clog any of the walking areas up.
Everything is free except concessions. This makes it a pretty good value in itself, but you can bring your own food to offset the concessions costing money too. All in all, spending zero dollars on some pretty quality college baseball is not a bad way to spend an evening or afternoon in Phoenix in April and May.
There's also free peanuts thrown out by the "Diamond Darlings" during the 7th inning stretch. Just more free things.
It's a very basic stadium with no extra frills. I'll give the one extra to the canopy over the bleachers behind home plate. It would be pretty miserable to watch a game at Brazell during the day without that thing. With it, it's very pleasant. Be sure to sit up higher to get more of a breeze than if you sit down low.
There are talks that the baseball stadium will either be renovated or completely rebuilt soon, which will hopefully draw in more fans. That was the most shocking part of the experience for me. If that team can get some serious fan support on a consistent basis, Brazell will turn into a destination stadium for college baseball fans.
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