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Official Review by Drew Cieszynski, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Dedeaux Field was opened in 1974, which happened to be the same year the Trojans would win their NCAA record fifth consecutive College World Series championship. The venue is located in downtown Los Angeles and was named for former head coach Rod Dedeaux, who coached the program from 1942 to 1986 (45 years).
The program has now 12 College World Series titles to its name, quite the feat considering the next highest school has just six. Though the stadium is approaching the end of its fourth decade, visiting fans would never guess it as numerous renovations over the years have kept the venue looking as one of the best in all of college baseball.
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".
With such a spectacular venue, history, and fan base, the food and beverage options were the last thing I expected to be lacking. After leaving the Memorial Coliseum and Galen Center pleased with the offerings, Dedeaux Field left something to be desired.
The primary food stand was located just inside the gates. The menu items included chicken tenders with kettle chips ($8.50), pulled pork sandwich or cheeseburger with kettle chips ($7.25), nachos ($5.50), Hebrew National hot dog ($4.75), peanuts ($4), cracker jacks ($3.25), M & M's ($3.25), Red Vines ($3.25), chips ($2.25), and sunflower seeds ($1.50).
The beverage options included bottled water, bottled soda, Powerade, Vitamin Water, coffee, hot cocoa, or Minute Maid frozen lemonade, all for $4 each.
The redeeming item was the kettle corn with flavors of "Chicago," cheese, raspberry, cinnamon, choco- cherry, and caramel (small for $3, medium for $5, large for $7, extra large for $10).
There are few venues in college baseball that give you a sense of awe like this one does. After parking, fans will walk down Mark McGwire Way where they will pass twelve championship banners along with images of familiar faces that fans nationwide would recognize due to their major league success.
If that fails to get you excited about some baseball, the Hall of Fame Complex probably will. I would recommend fans that have never visited arrive an hour prior to gametime to take in this great memorial to players of USC's past. I can't imagine a school doing a better job than USC at honoring their athletes between the displays here and at Heritage Hall.
For nearly all of USC games, fans are treated to clear blue skies and a beautiful natural setting surrounding the field. Here, the atmosphere is not anywhere near the exciting setting of a 90,000 seat LA Memorial Coliseum, nor does it have the raucous student section that fans will find at the Galen Center, but it certainly does provide the perfect baseball setting.
While the food and beverage doesn't necessary stack up against some of the other venues in Division I, the lacking almost acted as a benefit. The food stands were far from the action and fans in the seating area probably would not even be aware of their existence had they not passed them on the way in. There were some promotions between innings, but nothing invasive that even came close to taking the attention from the game at hand. My favorite touch was the playing of the Trojan fight song upon every run scored, which really got all of the fans involved.
The stadium sits on the USC campus, allowing quick access to all of Los Angeles. If visiting fans have the opportunity, I would highly recommend checking out the nearby Exposition Park before or after the game. The 160 acre area includes the Coliseum itself, but so much more: the Memorial Sports Arena, Natural History Museum, California Science Center, Exposition Park Rose Garden, California African American Museum, and the Expo Center among others. Clearly, you'll need a day or more to view all of this as each of them could take several hours to view. If I had to choose, I'd recommend the Science Center (a large DC-8 Jetliner sits out front) or the Natural History Museum (largest museum on the west coast and home to nearly 35 million artifacts).
Catering to the college students, the surrounding area has all sorts of fast food, including Togo's Subs, Subway, Taco Bell, Denny's, and Wendy's all less than a mile away from Dedeaux Field.
La Barca is a popular spot for Mexican and Margaritas, Pasta Roma for Italian, Manas for Indian, and Mo-Chica for Peruvian. Another popular spot for pub food is The Lab Gastropub. Their extensive beer selection, sweet potato fries, and mac and cheese are favorites of many Trojan students.
Lastly, another Mexican establishment to consider would be El Cholo. While no one really cares what Rachael Ray has to say, she has stated that El Cholo does have the best tacos in LA. The worst seat in the house is affectionately referred to as the Nacho Table because they compensate you for the bad seats with free nachos. Don't forget to try the margaritas as many say that they are the best around!
With more championships than any other school and a spectacular venue, it's no surprise that the USC fans support their team in droves.
At the Saturday afternoon game, I was rather impressed by the diversity in the crowd. There appears to be an equal distribution of everyday, alumni, students, and child fans taking their place in the stadium. The practice field for the football team is next door, and I even noticed a few of the players in the stands supporting the baseball team.
The fans seemed to support the defensive side of the team just as much as the offensive, something you don't always see with less committed fanbases. There was great interaction from start to finish, so any visitor can expect some engaged fans when they visit Dedeaux Field.
With the campus being located in downtown Los Angeles, there is a multitude of ways to get to the stadium. If fans can dodge the traffic, they can get to the venue via the 5, 10, 100, or 405 freeways. Fans can also easily get to the game via the metro rail line, bus, or taxi.
If driving to the venue, gameday parking runs at $8 per vehicle near the field through gate 6 off Vermont and 36th Street. There are also meters just outside the gates that run for $1 a hour with a four hour maximum.
I was surprised by the smaller scale of the restrooms, but there was a set on each side of the seating and there did not appear to be any backups on gameday.
I am ashamed that I can only provide five points here as this value far exceeds many that I have experienced in the past. A mere $7 for adults and $5 for children gains admission to the park. I felt that the opportunity to walk through the Hall of Fame Complex alone was worth the price of admission.
If anyone is really fanatical about USC baseball, season seats can be had for $150 and a season parking pass for the same price.
Value packs are also offered in a "Pick 5 Plan," where fans can pick any five games for just $20 (a $15 savings) or the "Family Fun Pack," where four fans get a game ticket, hot dog, drink, game program, and parking for just $30.
The price of parking is more than that of a ticket, so if you can use public transportation or split the cost of parking, one of the best experiences in college baseball can be had for under $5.
The extras are another category where USC could potentially be a 10/10. First time visitors should ensure that they arrive early so that they can take all of the Extras in.
Most importantly is the Herbert V. Nootbaar Baseball Office and Hall of Fame Complex. Inside this building located down the first base line, fans will find the Major League jerseys of many of the former Trojan players. Beautiful pieces of art that feature pitchers such as Randy Johnson and batters such as Aaron Boone hang from the wall. A timeline of notable events in USC baseball and its alumni surround the room at the top of the wall. The many NCAA championship trophies and individual player awards are displayed prominently in display cases. There are even stacks of Baseball America magazines that feature Trojan players on a coffee table surrounded by nice leather couches.
Next of mention is Mark McGwire Way. All fans will take this walk on their way into the stadium past the ticket office. The walk is lined with palm trees, images of notable USC players, and the years of the College World Series championships.
Also on the first base side is Prior Plaza, which was established by former Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior. This monument recognizes past USC players who have been either All-Americans or appeared in the major leagues. Obviously with all of USC's success, there is quite the list of players noted here.
I also enjoyed the outfield wall. Free from tacky advertisements, fans will see a black circle with a white "1" in left center field. This is the retired number of Rod Dedeaux and is the only retired number fans will see in the venue. There is also a black home plate shape on the wall next to the right field foul pole with the name "Sparky" in white letters. This is a nod to the Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, who was a batboy for the 1948 USC National Championship team. It is said that Anderson lived in a home near where the current right field pole is (the Trojans played at Bovard Field at the time) and was offered the job as a bat boy after returning a foul ball to Rod Dedeaux.
Speaking of Dedeaux, there is a large baseball just inside the entrance with a plaque below with Rod's name and the quote, "Voted the Collegiate Baseball Coach of the 20th Century by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Well Done Tiger."
Another nice touch is the multiple openings in the home run wall. Most notably is the one in left field where fans passing by can watch some of the action. There are also flowers that are colored cardinal and gold (team colors) that can be seen just beyond the fence.
Lastly is the balance of the aesthetics surrounding the field. It seems that everything is named for a donor. Everything from the John G. Brooks Memorial Pavilion to the Mike Gillespie scoreboard and every seating section being named after a donor. The donations have went to good use with not only a visual appeal, but a historic one as well, such as the plaques listing all members of the national championship teams at the top of every seating section.
Los Angeles is certainly known for the Dodgers and Angels, but USC also presents another extremely entertaining experience for just a fraction of the cost. The value, the history, and the experience is easily one of the best in college baseball.
Follow Drew's Travels through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew
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