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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Cowboy Diamond offers a cozy atmosphere for small college baseball. Located in Lake Charles on the campus of McNeese State University, the ballpark is home field for MSU Cowboys baseball, a member of the Southland Conference and NCAA Division I. Though originally constructed in 1965, the stadium has seen several major upgrades in recent years including a new grandstand in 2008 which features chairback seating behind home plate. Cowboy Diamond has an official capacity of 2,000 but can easily accommodate overflow crowds.
While the ballpark both literally and figuratively sits in the shadow of Cowboy Stadium, home to the pride and joy of MSU athletics, Cowboy football, MSU baseball seems poised for an increase in popularity both within the university community and the Lake Charles region. Whether you’re traveling in support of your favorite college ball club or just in town visiting Lake Charles, the Cowboy Diamond has a lot to offer fans of small college baseball in a traditional atmosphere.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Cowboy Diamond offers up the staple ballpark classics while also providing alcoholic beverages to fans in the Miller Lite Beer Garden. While the experiences lacks a signature item, you'll likely find something to satisfy your hunger (or thirst) during the game. The main stand is located behind the main grandstand, in a separate facility, closer to the first baseline side.
Your main entrée options at Cowboy Diamond include hot dogs ($3.50), hot links ($4.50), hamburgers, ($4.50) and nachos ($3.50 for regular, $4.50 for nacho grande). Snack items range from popcorn and pretzels for $2, to Cajun peanuts ($4.50), sunflower seeds ($3), and more.
Soda options at Cowboy Diamond are headlined by Coca-Cola products. Fountain sodas are available ranging from $2.50 for a small to $4.50 for a large souvenir cup size. Bottled Dasani water is available for $2.50.
The Miller Lite Beer Garden is a neat seating area and pavilion located at the end of the third baseline. There's a small little hut in this area which sells an assortment of beers and sodas as well.
When it comes to recommended concession items, you'll likely want to stay clear of the hot dog here, as it's not the best of quality. However, try out the hot link, nacho grande, or keep it simple with a bag of Cajun peanuts.
The Cowboy Diamond provides a nice, cozy atmosphere both for families and those looking for a tailgate-style viewing experience. Seats in the main grand stand behind home plate provide shelter from the rain and heat thanks to an overhead awning. Featuring both chairback and bleacher seating, this area is where you'll find most Cowboy fans. Netting wraps across the entire viewing area in front of the grandstand seats from ground to the top of the awning.
Down the third baseline towards left field, you'll find the Miller Lite Beer Garden and Boardwalk areas. The Boardwalk is a nice place to plop down a tailgate style chair along the foul line wall. Just behind is the Beer Garden area complete with a beer sales tiki hut and a small strip of bleachers. There's also a pavilion in this area which is a great place for group events and parties.
The field dimensions at Cowboy Diamond are 330 down the lines, 375 in the power alleys and 400 in centerfield. The infield features an artificial surface with a natural grass outfield. There is a traditional styled scoreboard beyond the left field wall.
While the interior provides a nice atmosphere for fans, some work could be done to the exterior to make it stand out a little more. For example, the ballpark could have more of a presence if the stadium name was posted on the exterior behind the grandstand seats instead of just a blank white space.
The game day staff ensures a traditional baseball atmosphere with a few promotions between innings. Expect to see some smaller on-field promotions like a kid base race. The music selection is appropriate for the typical crowd with a focus on country and rock classics, plus player selected walk-up music.
The Cowboy Diamond is located in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on the southern side of the McNeese State University campus. Adjacent to the ballpark is Cowboy Stadium, home to MSU football and the Track and Field Complex. Lake Charles is a medium-sized city in southwest Louisiana and thrives on the oil and gas industry as well as casinos and gaming. In Cajun country, expect to find a few great places to eat and unique entertainment.
When it comes to eats, be sure to grab lunch (and a couple of local brews) at Darrell's. The "Darrell's Special" is a New Orleans style "poboy" which includes ham, turkey, and roast beef smothered in a roast beef gravy. Steamboat Bill's serves up delicious seafood including boiled crawfish and a fried seafood platter. Raising Canes is a Louisiana college town staple, and there's a location off Ryan Street near the ballpark.
Considering that casinos aren't allowed in Texas, Lake Charles benefits greatly by a large crowd making the trek over from the Houston area for a weekend of gambling fun. The Isle of Capri and L'Auberge du Lac are two of the more popular options, if you're into the casino scene. If you time your visit right, you can catch the Mardi Gras season and a parade or two while in town. Just across from the Cowboy Diamond is the Frosty Factory. This is a great place to grab a local frozen daiquiri before or after the game.
Both the L'Auberge and Isle of Capri casinos are also a great place to stay while in town as each also offer hotel services.
In Lake Charles, Cowboy football is the unmatched king of the sports scene. Support for Cowboy baseball, however, seems to be on the rise. Cowboy Diamond is the perfect size not only for current baseball crowds, but reasonable growth in the future.
For your typical weekend series, expect to see about 600 - 750 fans in attendance. The best attended games of the year will likely come when the Cowboys host in-state rivals like UL-Lafayette or LSU. Within the conference, expect nice crowds for cross-town rival Lamar, and in-state conference foes of Southeastern Louisiana and Northwestern State.
Cowboy baseball crowds are engaged and interactive throughout the game. Expect outbursts during big plays and support for pitchers closing out games in the ninth inning. While there are certainly moments where the crowd is quiet, Cowboy fans know when to get into the game. Fans are active during the seventh inning stretch joining in with the classic "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and clapping along to a fan favorite song referred to as the Cajun National Anthem, "Joli Blon."
Lake Charles is accessible from the west and east via I-10 and the I-210 loop. Take the Ryan Street exit off I-210 and head south towards the McNeese State campus. Turn left onto East McNeese Street and then take a right onto Common Street. The ballpark will be on your left on Common Street.
Look for a grass parking lot at the corner of Common and Terrace Lane, just behind the left field wall. Parking here will be plentiful and free, plus provides a quick walk to the ticket booth and entrance.
The ticket booth shouldn't have much of a line. If you are purchasing your tickets, be sure to bring along cash as credit is not accepted (though it is accepted at concessions). You'll quickly grab your tickets and breeze through the entrance, which is at the corner of left field and the third baseline.
There's plenty of room to move around the ballpark, with a courtyard wrapping from left field to the end of the grandstand by first base. The restrooms are old and not the cleanest, but are easily accessible. The main concourse is located at the bottom of the seating area in the grandstand and is wide enough for good traffic flow.
The return on investment for attending an MSU baseball game at Cowboy Diamond is pretty strong. With general admission tickets beginning at $8 ($5 for children), there's very little out-of-pocket investment to get in the gate. In fact, a weekend pass can be purchased for just $20. Reserved chairbacks run $15. Concessions aren't cheap, but also not completely unreasonable. Parking is free.
The Cowboy Diamond features a couple of "extra" components which enhance the fan experience at the ballpark.
The Miller Lite Beer Garden and Boardwalk area is a neat spot for fans to take in the game in more of a tailgate style, laid back atmosphere. It is a nice overall addition for fans wanting to escape the traditional experience in the main grandstand.
There's a plaque and flower bed honoring the late Harry Chozen, a former McNeese legend. It's always nice to see programs memorialize the past.
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