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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
There are a few hidden gems in the world of baseball these days, but when it comes to the wood bat leagues that operate during the summer months, there are a lot of these gems to be found throughout the country. One such place is Don McBride Stadium in Richmond, Indiana where the Richmond RiverRats of the Prospect League play from May until August. An old stadium that offers fans a baseball experience that is slowly dissipating from the minor league footpath.
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Both the selection and prices of food at the stadium are surprising. All of the concessions are served out of one booth near the entrance of the stadium. There are foot long Coney dogs with either melted or shredded cheese for $3, pretzels and nachos for $2, local beer for $3, and some great tasting Italian ice for $3 (a couple bucks more and you can have it served in a collectible mini baseball helmet).
The food is not fancy, but it is tasty and appropriate for a ballpark. If you are in the mood for a five pound burger, fried chicken served on a doughnut, or fried cow testicles, you are out of luck. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best; this is definitely the case at this ballpark.
McBride Stadium was built as a Works Progress Administration project in 1936 and currently has covered seating for 1,874, with lawn seating accommodating close to 4,200 people. Minor league baseball existed in this facility from 1946-1952 and again from 1995-2005. The ballpark features authentic lighting poles from the 1940's, a small press box that sits on top of the stadium's roof, three rows of plastic theater seating, and wooden bleachers throughout the rest of the stadium.
There is plenty of space to roam around down the left field line as sloping grassy hills adorn the majority of this area. There is also a small concession booth, a community garden and beer garden inside the stadium.
There are not a lot of wacky gimmicks between innings, but one source of entertainment during my visit were the competing bat boys racing one another for foul balls in back of home plate. The team has an official mascot who signs autographs and has a bevy of little children racing behind him. In essence, baseball is center stage and most likely gives us a window to minor league baseball a few decades ago.
McBride is nestled into a residential community in Clear Creek Park and it is adjacent to several little league fields. You can find people sitting on their porch, the local dry cleaner closing up shop, and folks taking a stroll as you approach the stadium. It is a type of town where one can leave their doors unlocked or take a stroll at 3 o'clock in the morning without fear. It is also a reminder of what small towns might have felt like a few decades ago when minor league ballparks were almost everywhere to be found.
There are not any dining options in the area and one would need to drive a few miles to find a place to eat. The only Tim Horton's in the Hoosier state is a mere mile away on State Road 40, Little Sheeba's offers great pizza and baked jalapeno poppers, and Galo's Italian Grill is another fine option.
There are quite a bit of national chains, but one local establishment off Interstate 70 called Fricker's has some of the best hot wings in the area. And to my beer and wine connoisseurs, there are two local brewpubs in town: New Boswell and Big Dawg Breweries.
I would be lying if I did not expect a larger crowd at the ballpark. After all, it was a beautiful Saturday night and it was the start of the season. I was told that a crowd of 1,800 was on hand the night before for fireworks, but I would like to think that Richmond can always adhere to a crowd somewhere around the 1,500-2,000 mark for every home date. It might be quixotic dreams on my part, but this is a small community that is less than an hour away from the metropolises of Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Dayton. In fact, when you have some great baseball venues in these three cities, a game in little old Richmond might get overlooked. Then again, for a town of 36,000, I would like to think of nights at McBride as the place to be in town. The fans are a dedicated bunch as most stayed the extra innings to see the Rats win the game on a walk off homerun in the 11th inning.
Even though Richmond is a small town, it is easy to get lost when trying to find McBride Stadium as there are no road signs to the ballpark from either I-70 or SR-40. What a shame, but it should not deter anyone from getting to the stadium (thank you GPS). The poor signage may hide the fact to outsiders that a great old ballpark exists.
If you are traveling on I-70, take exit 149 A Williamsburg Pike south, make a right onto Indiana Ave., then a left onto NW 13 St., and the stadium is on the left. Once arriving at the ballpark you should be able to find a spot in the free parking lot, on the street outside the walls of the stadium, or somewhere on the streets in the neighborhood. The parking is free and there is a little patience needed to get out the lot after the game.
Tickets are either $6 or $8 for all 30 home games and there are specials that start with groups of 20 or more. There are also five firework nights and vouchers for local students with high GPA's and perfect attendance. When you are competing with other entertainment options, where else in the area can one enjoy a baseball game, a foot long hot dog, nachos, and three beers for just $20?
Great choice of having either shredded or melted cheese for the Coneys, along with offering baseball in a picturesque setting that once existed in many other small towns across North America. If it was not for the collegiate wood bat leagues and the efforts from team ownership, such visuals would exist only in memory or black and white photography.
Any time you can see a game in a ballpark where Satchel Page, Jim Bunning, Bob Feller, and Joe Nuxhall once pitched, it is hard not to feel nostalgic.
Everyone should make a trip to see a RiverRats game at McBride Stadium. It may not be for the casual fan, but depending on who you are with, it may make a nice little treat during the baseball season. I always have the most admiration for stadiums like this. In an era where million dollar structures are opening up and trying to outshine one another, a small cozy ball field in Richmond, Indiana will always be a reminder that home is not too far away from us stadiaphiles.
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175 Fort Wayne Ave
Richmond, IN 47374
107 Garwood Rd
Richmond, IN 47374
410 N 10th St
Richmond, IN 47374
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