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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Wachusett Dirt Dawgs play their home games at Doyle Field, the most utilized public park in the city of Leominster, Massachusetts. The Doyle Field complex consists of a football/soccer field, a lighted baseball field, a running track, and a playground. The name “Wachusett” comes from the neighboring mountain, which is the highest point in Massachusetts east of the Connecticut River. The term “Dirt Dawg” refers to a scrappy, hard-nosed player, and came into use in the region in the early 2000’s to describe Red Sox players such as Trot Nixon and Dustin Pedroia.
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There is one temporary concession stand located on the first base side of the field. The menu offers the basics, with hot "dawgs" ($2), burgers ($4), pizza slices ($2), pretzels ($2.50), and fried dough ($4) among the offerings. Thirsty fans can purchase cans of soda or bottles of water for a dollar, and bottles of Powerade for $2. Fans looking for something a little different can try a corn dawg for $2.50. The burgers and dogs are grilled to order, and are definitely worth the price.
New for the 2014 season at Doyle Field is the beer garden, located beyond the center field fence. Cans of Coors Light ($3), Sam Adams, Yuengling, and Wachusett (naturally) can all be had for $3.50. Fans visiting the beer garden be warned, you will be 400 feet away from any other fans, and are confined to the beer garden area for the duration of your beverage.
The staff at Doyle Field try hard to create a fun environment for families and other fans, and the atmosphere at Dirt Dawg games has improved by light years over previous seasons. The typical between batter and between inning music can be heard, as well as occasional on-field promotions for the kids.
Another new addition for 2014 is Baseball Bingo. Fans can win prizes by filling out a bingo card filled with random baseball plays. One problem with the setup: many of the squares require these events to happen in later innings, and winning cards must be handed in by the end of the sixth inning. It's a minor hiccup that could easily be fixed.
Doyle Field is located in a residential neighborhood just off of North Main Street and close to Route 2. About a mile from Doyle Field on Route 2 is a shopping district with several shops, restaurants, and offices. There is not a large local dining scene in Leominster, but there are several chain restaurants here to satisfy any hungry baseball fan.
Leominster is hardly a destination city in its own right, but is close to Worcester and Boston. Fans visiting the area from out of town would be best served to spend their time in the larger cities.
In a league full of teams playing in former minor league ballparks, the Dirt Dawgs struggle to attract large crowds to cozy Doyle Field. Even on big event nights such as Opening Night, the Dawgs only attract between 100-200 fans. Those fans who do show up generally have a connection to the players on the field, so they are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the game at hand.
Route 2 runs east-west across northern Massachusetts, and less than a mile from Doyle Field. Fans traveling to Leominster from the north or east will arrive at Doyle Field by taking Interstate 495 to Route 2, turning onto Main St. (from the east) or North Main St. (from the west), and then turning onto Priest Street. Fans traveling from the south or west will take Interstate 190 to Route 2, and follow the directions listed above. Leominster is located about a half hour north of Worcester, and about an hour west of Boston.
The ball field is located on the far side of the Doyle Field complex, behind a track. Fans can reach the ball field via a couple of cement walkways that line the complex. Once at the baseball field, the cement ends, but the area is still easily passable. There are bathrooms located in the field house here, but they could really use a little TLC.
Admission to a Dirt Dawg game is $4.50 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for youths. Free parking is available in a large lot across the street from the park, but be warned, it's a decent walk to the ballpark. With reasonably priced food, a night at Doyle Field is an affordable night out for the family.
While the Dawgs staff have come a long way with their game night entertainment, this is still the bottom of the Futures League food chain. There is not too much going on at Doyle Field that can be considered an extra. A free roster sheet is available, but that is about all.
One reviewer once called Doyle Field "one of the 10 worst facilities we have ever seen." While I wouldn't compare Doyle Field to Fenway Park, it's certainly not that bad. Many improvements have been made here by the city and the team, both to the playing surface and to the overall ballpark experience. The results are apparent. Doyle Field is now a serviceable, if unremarkable, place to take in a ballgame.
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