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Official Review by Gordon Sheldall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
UC Irvine (UCI for short) is a clean, beautiful campus located in sunny Orange County, California. They’ve got more than the nearby beach going for them, though. One of the coolest team nicknames in collegiate or pro sports is “Anteaters” and this school makes the most of its tongue-in-cheek moniker. Legend has it that two former water polo players came up with the nickname back in the 1960’s, having been inspired by the insect-zapping anteater in Johnny Hart’s comic strip, “B.C.”
The school’s athletic programs boast 28 national championships, including back-to-back NCAA Division-II baseball titles in 1973 and 1974. UCI’s baseball program always fields a competitive team, and since 2002, have played in a ballpark sure to entertain and satisfy even the hardest-to-please baseball critics.
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".
The food and beverage options at Anteater Ballpark are varied and of very good quality and offered at reasonable prices. All of the food and beverage concessions are conveniently located on the concourse where you have a clear view of the action at all times. Nearby tables with umbrellas provide shade while you relax and eat, also within view of the field.
This list is, by no means, exhaustive, but here are some of the culinary delights awaiting you at a UCI game: "Zotchos" (fried Tater Tots with sour cream, guacamole, bacon bits, salsa and nacho cheese); grilled Nathan's foot-long hot dogs, protein burgers, sausages, chili and onion rings. If you like tri-tip, you'll love the fact that you can have BBQ tri-tip on a sandwich, tacos, nachos and fries. The Acuna Chicken Club is delicious and there's a booth with Mexican food as well. Beer and wine are served here, along with the usual Pepsi products.
Is it a warm day outside? There is flavored shaved ice to refresh you. How about a chilly night? UCI's got you covered with coffee and hot chocolate. If you have any appetite at all remaining, funnel cake should finish you quite nicely.
You have a great view of the game from everywhere in the ballpark. The seats behind home plate and extending to first and third base have chairbacks which are very comfortable and each comes with a cup holder. There is a long grass berm called "The Anthill," always open along the first base side and stretching all the way out to the right field fence. There are no bleachers as there are trees behind the left field and center field fences.
The parking structure looms high behind the right field fence with a large "438" painted on its wall. Presumably, a UCI engineering student with a sense of humor came up with the precise distance from home plate. The east-facing orientation of the field ensures that no fan will be squinting into the sun during bright afternoon games. I love the retro scoreboard with the analog clock, protruding flags and Erector set-like stanchions.
A major improvement since the previous (5 years ago) review of Anteater Park is the installation of new speakers for the sound system. Now the PA announcements, walkup music and occasional "ZOT!" sounds from Peter the Anteater can be heard clearly throughout the park.
Newkirk Pavilion, located on the third base side stands, is a structure added in 2007 that serves as a clubhouse and training facility for the ballplayers, but also hosts VIP donors and special events, providing excellent views of the game. It is adorned with MVP and College World Series trophies and features a bar under a smaller replica of the Anteaters scoreboard.
The ballpark is located on the UC Irvine campus. Within 2 miles of the ballpark, there is a good choice of restaurants ranging from the Anteatery (many vegetarian menu items) located across Mesa Drive from the ballpark to the Hen House Grill (Persian food) only 2 miles away in the Campus Plaza Shopping Mall. The Irvine Spectrum Center is 7 miles away and features attractions, entertainment and more dining options. The beautiful Irvine Barclay Theatre is on the campus, presenting a busy calendar of music, dance and theatre productions year-round.
"Rip' em" (Call) - "'Eaters!" (Response) is the battle cry of the generally loyal and involved UC Irvine fans. The students also try to put the "whammy" on their opponents with the Anteater hand-sign, made by raising the index and baby fingers, forming a "snout" using the middle and ring fingers, while tucking the thumb underneath. There was a good attendance on the Sunday afternoon when I visited, and it was amusing to see the friendly "back-and-forth" carried on with the opposing team's supporters. UC Irvine wear is much in evidence at the games.
The Diamond Darlings is an organization made up of female UCI students who support their baseball program through their on-campus spirit and community outreach throughout the season. They take part in several in-game promotions and are always happy to answer questions or assist fans.
Getting around the UC Irvine campus is pretty easy. The ball park can be accessed off of 2 main roads. Fans traveling on University Drive can turn south on Mesa Road and find the ball field and the Mesa parking structure on your right. It's not quite as easy, but if you are coming to the game on Campus Drive, turn west on W. Peltason Drive and make a right turn on Mesa Road. The next left turn will take you to the parking structure.
A Reserved seat will set you back $10 but all seats have chairbacks with a cup holder and are very comfortable. Festival-style seating on the Anthill is 8 bucks, 6 for youth. Parking seems a bit high at $10; however it is in a parking structure adjacent to the field and there doesn't seem to be any cheaper alternatives. Food and drink are reasonable, considering the quality and choices offered.
One extra star for the free 2017 UC Irvine Baseball Yearbook available at guest services while they last. It contains information on the ballpark, schedule, players, coaches, history and timeline of the baseball program at UCI, as well as numerous photos.
There is a small souvenir stand on the concourse that sells school caps and other gear. Second star is for the Anteater bobblehead (although in a basketball uniform) and plush toys.
A third star is well-deserved for the very friendly, helpful and well-staffed students and former students who run the ticket booth, guest services, concession stand, media relations, et al. with aplomb.
The fourth and final star is for the overall family-friendly atmosphere that begins before the start of the game and runs throughout. One or more kids are allowed to run out onto the field with each position player who signs baseballs for them. Throughout the game, there are various contests for children, allowing them to win small prizes. Many families choose "The Anthill" to set up their chairs and watch the game while their kids play on the grass. I saw a several kids playing a touch football game while another younger child amused himself by playing with his set of toy dinosaurs.
Everything about Anteater Park seems to have been designed with the comfort and enjoyment of baseball fans in mind. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of another ballpark, pro or amateur, that I have visited that hits so many "high spots" on the rating scale. See a game here if you are in the area during the season. It's well worth it.
Member Review by DrewCieszynski on Feb 24, 2012
In less than ten years, the University of California Irvine has come back from the dead, achieved a #1 national ranking, and played in the school’s first College World Series.
When you attend a UC Irvine game and experience the buzz of the crowd, it’s hard to believe that the baseball program was ceased in 1992 due to state budget cuts.
The program was resurrected in 2002 when Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark opened its doors. The field itself was named for the school’s Chancellor from 1998 through 2005, a period that brought Irvine’s baseball team back to prominence.
4001 Mesa Rd
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