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Official Review by Dale Yarborough, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park is home to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons baseball team in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Demon Deacons moved into the 6,000-seat facility before the start of the 2009 season after playing the previous 28 seasons on campus at the historic Gene Hooks Stadium. The stadium is named after Wake Forest’s 1950 All-American third baseman, who led the Demon Deacons to the 1949 College World Series the year before. Hooks graduated from Wake Forest in 1950 and later went on to play professionally for the Decatur Commodores in the Cincinnati Reds organization as well as spending the majority of his professional career playing for the Chicago Cubs organization. Hooks took the position of athletic director at Wake Forest in 1964, and throughout his tenure led the Demon Deacons to three NCAA national championships and 21 Atlantic Coast Conference championships. In 1999, Hooks was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Wake Forest baseball games are an experience. Going to a baseball game is America’s oldest pastime, and Wake Forest baseball in particular gives off that old timey feel when you attend a game.
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Before taking your seat, grab some food. You'll smell corn dogs cooking, and they may be hard to resist.. The homemade corn dog is only $3.
You may also smell an aroma of sugar and cinnamon, and your first guess may be that it must be a funnel cake. I walked nearly around the entire ballpark to find a pretzel stand selling a variety of unique flavored pretzels. The pretzel shop is called Patriot Pretzel and is run by an ex-military man and his son. The pretzels are fantastic, in particular the cinnamon sugar with a special glaze. The pretzels are only $4 each, with a dollar extra for a special glaze on top. The food is well worth the price, and better than most college ballparks.
The scenery around Winston-Salem is beautiful to say the least. The ballpark isn't flashy on the outside, but it is very well kept on the inside. As soon as you walk into the ballpark, the ushers welcome each visitor and assist those looking for a seat. The baseball field is pristinely taken care of with bright green grass and golden WF letters painted on the grass right between second base and center field.The scoreboard is located to the right of center field and has somewhat of an old-fashioned look about it. The fence bordering the outfield is a low chain-linked. There is an unmistakable Demon Deacons character printed in the dirt that lines the grass along the field, just behind home plate.
Fine rows of trees line the ballpark just outside of the field. Just past the trees, a large building can be seen in the distance. Your eyes may be drawn to the advertisements that surround the scoreboard and can be seen to the lower right of the ballpark fence.
Almost all of the seats in the stadium are metal benches, but just under the overhang that shades behind the home plate are plastic seats that are much more comfortable than they appear. The seats are not luxury first class seats from Delta Airlines, but for a baseball stadium they'll do just fine. If you do have any sort of sensitivity to seats that are relatively firm, bringing a pillow or cushion to sit on could help promote a more comfortable experience.
The dugout and bullpen for the home team are located on the first base side of the stadium, and down the third base side are the visitor's bullpen and dugout. The seats line just close enough to the field that it feels like you are in on the action going on down below.
There is a safety net that reaches all the way to the dugouts, protecting fans from oncoming balls.
The portion of campus where Gene Hooks Stadium is located is very nice. It is parallel to the basketball arena, Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, just across the street, and together the venues are a staple in the surrounding area.
Down the road from the ballpark, the Smith Reynolds Airport can be found just before you exit to I-40. If you stop to watch a plane fly in or look into the overhang where many of the planes lie, you might just be taken aback by the size of the airport and how up close and personal you can really get to the airplanes.
When you go towards the city of Winston-Salem and leave the Wake Forest campus area completely, large buildings of million dollar corporations light up the night sky. There is a certain untouchable beauty to the view the city of Winston-Salem provides.
One preferred destination for most of the locals is Putters Patio & Grill. Located a half mile or so away near Deacon Boulevard's intersection with University Parkway, Putters offers a diverse menu for all of the fans in your party. Steaks, sandwiches and burgers are among the many choices on which to dine. If you need a beer to wash down your meal, a large selection of drafts, bottles, imports and microbrews is available on the menu.
Another good bet is to go downtown Winston-Salem and stop in at the excellent Foothills Brewing Company. It's an easy drive of about two miles from the Wake Forest campus. They have as many as 17 locally-brewed beers on tap, and the food is good as well. Parking meters in the area are only 25 cents per hour.
The Demon Deacon fans are painfully quiet. There are but a few handfuls in attendance, even on a nice Friday afternoon. The crowd is quiet for most of the game. Some fans can be heard nearly every play shouting for their favorite player or cheering the team on as a whole, but there just aren't enough of them to really provide that great support for the squad or create much atmosphere in the stands.
Parking is very easy to find at Wake Forest, which is a luxury compared to some stadiums. The Demon Deacons' stadium has an older feel to it; very welcoming from the time you enter the ballpark.
The parking lot leads right to the stadium gates, and an usher is there to direct any lost fans if needed. Overall, it is very easy to navigate the stadium. It has a simple layout, and you can't walk farther than you can see. There are no lines for the bathroom, the concession stands, or any traffic after the game.
Tickets to the game are cheap compared to average college baseball games at this level; general admission is just $6 per ticket. If you have a group of individuals to go with you, then the price of a ticket drops 33% to $4. For the overall cost of the game, the experience is well worth it. Expect to spend roughly $10 on concession food if you don't eat before you attend the game. But altogether a price of $14-$16 per person is well worth the experience.
The atmosphere that Wake Forest brings to the Winston-Salem area is an enjoyable one. You can see that there is tradition in the school and that many alumni are passionate about the success of their school academically and athletically. If you want to experience a little extra fun while attending the game, you can measure the velocity of your speed in a bullpen simulator with a radar gun that clocks the speed of your throw. Each ball cost $3, or for $5 you can throw the ball three times.
Wake Forest is a cool place to see a baseball game. It has a great atmosphere and plenty of great people and good food along with it.
Member Review by brian on Apr 08, 2013
One could easily be excused if they experience a feeling of familiarity when walking through the gates of Gene Hooks Field. This place, after all, used to be Ernie Shore Field, one of the advanced-A Carolina League's storied facilities. Professional baseball spent 52 years on the site before moving downtown to BB&T Ballpark. This allowed Wake Forest University to have all three major athletic facilities in the same complex, with football's BB&T Field next door and basketball's Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum across Deacon Boulevard from the ballpark.
With the university now having the keys to the gates, the stadium is named for North Carolina Sports Hall of Famer and former Wake Forest student-athlete and athletic director Gene Hooks. Significant renovations, completed in 2011, helped to personalize the facility for the Demon Deacons. With a brand-new playing surface, seats, video board and much more, Gene Hooks Field presents an interesting mix of historic and modern influences. This blend makes for one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's preferred destinations.
3005 Bonhurst Dr
Winston-Salem, NC 27106
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