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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Alabama A&M University is a Historically Black College and University (HCBU) located in Normal, Alabama. The university is home to more than 5,000 students on a more than 2,300 acre hillside campus located just north of downtown Huntsville. It is made up of five schools: Agriculture and Environment, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Engineering/Technology. The school was founded in 1891.
The sports teams at AAMU are known as the Bulldogs and the baseball team is headquartered at Bulldog Field (more fondly known as the “Dog House”). Bulldog Field was built in 1997, and has gone through two renovations since then. It features an asymmetrical shape, as its dimensions are 330 down the left field line, 318 down the right field line, 395 to the gaps and 402 to dead center. The playing surface is natural grass and a gravel warning track in the outfield. Bulldog faithful have their choice of sitting in the 500 person aluminum bleachers directly behind home plate, or bringing a lawn chair and staking out a location behind the fences along the first and third base lines. The Bulldogs compete in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) with teams including Alabama State, Alcorn State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling, Southern University and Texas Southern.
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There is one concession stand to serve the fans, which is adequate considering the size of the stadium. The available drinks include sodas ($3), water ($2), and Gatorade ($3). Food choices are limited to chips ($2) and popcorn ($2) as the concessions are housed in a temporary seasonal building. Many fans choose to bring small coolers filled with supplies, and then use the coolers as seats if they choose not to sit in the bleachers.
Games at Bulldog Field harken back to simpler times where the game was the entertainment. There are no musical introductions for each player, admission is free so people are welcome to come and go as they please, and there are not a lot of bells and whistles to distract from the competition. The setting is a major plus, as the nearby mountains and well-designed A&M campus designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (who also laid out Central Park in New York City) provides a very scenic backdrop for the action on the field.
Even though AAMU is listed as being in Normal, Alabama, in reality it is a part of Huntsville, Alabama. Normal only exists as a zip code for the university itself. Huntsville is the fourth largest city in Alabama and is home to several colleges and government facilities. By far the most famous is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, which is just a few miles from the AAMU campus. There are a number of hotels located within a five mile radius of the school, including the Embassy Suite Huntsville, Homewood Suites, and the LaQuinta at Huntsville Space Center.
Huntsville has a vibrant downtown with many great restaurants to choose from. Among the local favorites are the Below the Radar Brewhouse, which features a rotation of 32 beers and home brews. The Brewhouse has live music on Friday and Saturday nights and has a dining menu featuring everything from soups to salads to seafood. Two other area restaurants of note are The Office Break Room and Bar and the Po Boy Factory.
Shopping options in the area include the Bridge Street Town Center Mall and Harrison Brothers Hardware, which is more of a posh general store than a place to buy hammers and nails.
You can expect a mix of students, parents and families at a Bulldogs game. Since many of the players hail from nearby communities, there is a great deal of familiarity with the team members. The Bulldog faithful are very supportive of their team, especially when a rally is going on or a player makes an outstanding fielding play. The families who attend often cover three generations, which is a nice touch. All in all, you will find the A&M fans to be a fun bunch to watch a ball game with.
Huntsville is located off I-65 via I-565 in northeastern Alabama. It is served by Huntsville International Airport with daily flights by Delta, American and US Airways. The local public transit system is known as the Huntsville Shuttle.
Free parking is available for all baseball games in the large parking lot for the Lewis Crews Football Stadium, which is located adjacent to Bulldog Field.
A visit to a Bulldogs game will not take a bite out of your wallet. Both parking and admission to the game are free. The concessions are reasonably priced and hotels in the immediate area go for $90 -$100 a night. Huntsville has enough attractions that you definitely can fill a getaway weekend agenda.
There are a number of extras in the general area of the A&M campus. Foremost among these is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Often called "Earth's largest space museum" the facility showcases rockets, achievements and artifacts from the U.S. Space program. It also features interactive exhibits from the Gemini to Apollo to Space Shuttle eras, and the very famous Space Camp Program.
Located right next door is the Huntsville Botanical Gardens, another one of Huntsville's top attractions. The 112 acre gardens are in the height of blooming season at the same time college baseball season is going on, so it should definitely be on your itinerary.
Huntsville is quite proud to be known as the Beer Capital of Alabama as it is home to five production breweries, three contracts breweries and more than 20 craft brewers. To celebrate this title the city puts on The Rocket City Brewfest at the Historic Huntsville Railroad Depot each May.
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