Cleaveland Field at Phil Williamson Stadium (map it)
400 Panther Way
LaGrange, GA 30240
Year Opened: 2001
There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
LaGrange College is the oldest private college in the state of Georgia. It opened in 1831 and is affiliated with the Methodist Church, a denomination that has its roots in the state of Georgia. Though it only has 1,000 students, it plays an outsized role in developing students to go out into the world and make a difference. Its charming campus is fittingly atop the highest hill in the small town of LaGrange, Georgia.
Cleaveland Field at Phil Williamson Stadium (for brevity sake we call it Williamson Stadium) is the home of the LaGrange Panthers baseball program. It is proof that a small school can still have great athletic facilities. The $2 million stadium was made possible through a grant from the Callaway Foundation. The Callaway name is synonymous with anything civic, educational or cultural in this part of Georgia. The family owned the mills that employed the citizens for this entire region of the state, and believed that their workers should share in a better quality of life in return for their hard work. The nearby Callaway Gardens are another significant example of the family’s important role in the community. The botanical gardens are not just a place of beauty… they provide jobs to the locals when many of the southern mills closed.
The Panthers play at the Division III level of NCAA baseball and are members of the USA South Conference. Other members of this conference are Averett College, Covenant College, Greensboro College, Huntington College, Maryville College, Methodist University, North Carolina Wesleyan, Piedmont College and William Peace College. LaGrange College has been a dominant force in the league, as they have won 6 regular season championships, three tournament championships and made one NCAA Division III regional over the years. In an earlier affiliation they won the US Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship.
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There is one well stocked concession stand located in the central concourse of the stadium. It offers a wide variety of typical baseball fare at extremely reasonable prices. Items available include hot dogs ($2), popcorn ($2), chips ($1), sunflower seeds ($1) and peanuts ($1). Beverages include Coca-Cola brand sodas ($1.50), Powerade ($2), and bottled water ($1).
When you arrive at Williamson Stadium you will immediately realize that this is a baseball program that takes great pride in its home. The facility is constructed of brick and has a very impressive entryway lined with plaques saluting the many championship seasons that have taken place in this facility. You will also learn more about the two longtime LaGrange faculty members for whom the stadium is named. The stadium seats more than 500 fans, and is often filled to capacity. It features both an inner and outer concourse, with the outer concourse featuring the concession stands and restrooms and the inner concourse including the enclosed batting cages and other field elements. The press box is much larger than you would expect in a small college stadium. The dimensions of the field are 330' down the lines, 400' to dead center and 375' to the power alleys. The outfield fences are eight feet tall, which can allow for some spectacular leaping fielding plays at the wall.
Williamson Stadium is located along Panther Way, which bisects all of the LaGrange College athletic facilities. The neighboring fields host soccer, lacrosse, softball and tennis matches. The college itself is just a block away and occupies the highest hilltop in town. The campus is small with academic buildings often assigned to a wide variety of degree programs. A majority of students live in on campus dorms, but there are some apartments for upperclassmen located just off campus. The close proximity of the campus to the athletics complex makes it no problem for students to either walk or bike to games.
You will find plenty of chain restaurants along Lafayette Parkway as you enter town, but it's always fun to try out a local haunt. Among the favorite local dining establishments in town are the Brickhouse Grill and Tavern, Ou La La's, Mighty Joe's Pizza and Country's BBQ. Most of the lodging options are right at the exit from the interstate and include local franchises of Comfort Inn, Country Inn and Suites, and the Hampton Inn.
As a first time visitor to a LaGrange Panthers game, it is readily apparent that the team draws a regular crowd. The fans tend to know all the players on a first name basis. The bleachers at Williamson Stadium are elevated above the field level, which provide an excellent view of the action. A majority of the stands provide chair back seating, but the regulars prefer to set up shop with their lawn and camp chairs along the backstop as close to the action as possible. This does not interfere with the view of those behind them, as the stands are several steps up from the concourse level.
The fans at Williamson Stadium are very knowledgeable about the game, and are very welcoming of visitors from the opposing teams. It is not unusual to see a parent of a Panther player sitting with the parent of a player from the opposing team and comparing notes. Many of the schools in the USA South Conference have either religious origins or are affiliated with a denomination, so rude behavior or bad language is not something you will experience at Williamson Stadium.
LaGrange College is located 65 miles southwest of Atlanta via I-85. Traffic on this stretch of interstate is light compared to the other interstates exiting Atlanta. LaGrange is also only 18 miles from the Georgia/Alabama border, so it is also an easy drive over from cities such as Auburn or Montgomery. Once you exit I-85 at exit 18 you simply go west on Lafayette Parkway until it passes the LaGrange College. Go one more red light and turn left onto Panther Way and Williamson Field will be on the right. Parking is more than adequate at the stadium. The design of the stadium is excellent for those with mobility issues as the entrance to the stadium is at the same level of the bleachers. Service such as the concession stand and bathrooms are also on the same level.
A trip to a baseball game at LaGrange College is very economical no matter how you add it up. Admission is free and so is the parking. The concession prices are amongst the lowest seen at the college level and a hotel stay if you want to stay overnight is very reasonable. LaGrange is also a great jumping off point to a whole weekend of visiting such nearby attractions as the Hills and Dales Estate, Callaway Gardens and the Little White House in Warm Springs where FDR often came for therapeutic relief of his polio. It all adds up to a fun day or an extended weekend at very good prices.
In Division III athletics there are no athletic scholarships, so it is baseball at its purest... the players compete simply for their love of the game.
Earlier we mentioned the Callaway family and its benevolence in this region of Georgia. Two legacies of their generosity are major attractions that bring tourism and jobs to the area. Their former home, known as Hills and Dales, has been turned into a museum and garden facility. It is located inside the city of LaGrange. Their second gift to the area is the world famous Callaway Gardens located in nearby Pine Mountain.
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