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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The New Hampshire Wild are one of four teams competing in the inaugural season of the Empire Baseball League. They play their home games at Dr. Arthur and Martha Pappas Field on the campus of Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire.
The Empire League is a replacement of the North Country Baseball League, which lasted only one season. The NCBL was itself a replacement for the East Coast Baseball League, which disbanded before ever playing a game.
The Empire League is a low-budget league designed to give recent college graduates and players with little experience a chance to be signed to higher level league contracts with affiliated or independent teams. The level of play is roughly equivalent to affiliated Rookie or short season A-Level ball.
Dr. and Mrs. Pappas were local residents and well-known philanthropists in central Massachusetts and beyond. Dr. Pappas may be more well-known as the Boston Red Sox’ medical director from 1978 to 2002.
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There are limited concessions sold at a folding table at the entrance to the ballpark. Assorted chips, candy bars and drinks are offered here. Fans looking for something a little more substantial can select hot dogs or hamburgers cooked on a Foreman Grill while you wait. While the selection is limited, nothing on the menu costs more than three dollars.
Some Wild t-shirts are also sold at this table for fans looking for a souvenir.
Like every other aspect of the Wild game day experience, the atmosphere here at Pappas Field is a bare bones one, to be sure.
There are no extraneous between inning contests or giveaways. The only noise that comes from beyond the diamond are PA lineup announcements and between inning music. There are none of the extraneous bells and whistles that have become commonplace throughout the minor leagues. On the plus side, you won't find a more laid-back place to catch a ball game.
Rindge, New Hampshire is a rural town of just over 6,000 inhabitants. The university is located on 1,200 acres of land northwest of downtown. The picturesque campus sits on 1,200 acres overlooking Pearly Pond in the shadows of Mount Monadnock.
There is nothing to attract visiting baseball fans within walking distance of Pappas Field. While there are some restaurants and hotels scattered throughout Rindge and neighboring Jaffrey, these are several miles from campus.
The Empire League as a whole has had difficulty attracting fans, and the Wild have experienced similar difficulty in this area. The league does not release attendance figures, but during the game attended by this writer on a Saturday night, under 30 fans were in attendance.
In speaking with some regular fans (yes, even a crowd this small can have regulars in attendance), they noted that this crowd was on the large side for the Wild. Early reports from the other teams in the Empire League reflect a similar dearth of fans.
Pappas Field is located on the southeastern edge of the Franklin Pierce University campus in rural Rindge, New Hampshire. Rindge is situated in the southwest corner of New Hampshire, just north of the Massachusetts border. It is located about 25 minutes from Keene, NH and 90 minutes northwest of Boston.
There are no highways that serve Rindge. The nearest interstate is I-91, 40 minutes to the west. Fans driving to Franklin Pierce will most likely arrive in Rindge via Route 202 or 119, which are little more than winding country roads.
The grounds at Pappas Field are nicely manicured and easy to navigate. Parking is located in a large lot beyond left field. Paved paths lead to the various seating areas, including 150 molded plastic stadium seats behind home plate. Metal bleachers are located further down each baseline, as well atop the hill beyond the left field fence.
Rest room facilities are located in the boat house across the street from the ballpark.
Admission to Wild games cost five dollars for general admission seating. There is no charge for parking, and no items at the concession stand cost more than three dollars. Taking in a Wild game is inexpensive, if nothing else.
An extra point is awarded for the Wild's early attempts to integrate themselves into the community. Local Little League teams are invited to spend their days practicing with the team and stick around for the game. Youngsters can be found shagging foul balls around the ballpark.
To say that the Empire League is experiencing some growing pains would be an understatement. The four teams in the league are struggling to attract fans and sponsors, and the bare bones game day presentation is a direct reflection of this lack of support. Still, the fact that the league has made it to a second season (their inaugural season was played as the North County Baseball League) offers some hope for the future.
As a facility, Pappas Field is a fine place to take in a game. As one of the only lit fields in both the state of New Hampshire and the Northeast-10 Conference, it is in use weeks before other area ballparks, as its EdelGrass surface allows it to be plowed while other natural grass fields await the spring thaw during the frigid New Hampshire spring. Five NCAA Division II Regional Championships have been held at Pappas Field.
Follow Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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21 Main St.
Jaffrey, NH 03452
158 Turnpike Rd.
Jaffrey, NH 03452