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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Eagle Field is almost brand new, but the site has been used for baseball since the 1940s. The site was originally dedicated as Veterans Memorial Park back in 1948, in honor of area veterans who died in World War II, but has since been re-dedicated to include casualties of other wars. Prior to the JMU Dukes moving here in 2010, the site was used for collegiate summer baseball, specifically the Harrisonburg Turks currently of the Valley Baseball League. The Park includes separate venues for both baseball and softball – the baseball field has a capacity of 1,200, while the softball field (only a few hundred feet away) has a capacity of 500.
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Eagle Field has only a single concession stand, but that is sufficient to accommodate even the max fan capacity of 1,200. Variety is somewhat limited, as you might expect from a single location, but there are several options for your dining enjoyment - hot dogs for $3, burgers or Italian sausage for $4.50, or chicken tenders (with fries) for $6.50. Other options include fries, popcorn, candy, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and nachos for around $3 or $4. You can even buy a blow pop for 50 cents, which is the cheapest single item I have ever seen at a sports venue.
Bottled water and soda are available for $3, and coffee/cocoa start at $2.75 for a regular size cup, or can you purchase a larger souvenir mug for a little more. Sadly there are no Cracker Jacks.
The venue is almost brand new, and features a modern press box, a large electronic scoreboard opposite the grandstand, chairback seating in all areas, and a state-of-the-art playing surface. The sightlines are nice, and all fans are very close to the action given the size of the park, so it is a great place to watch a baseball game. There is plenty of purple to be seen, and plaques commemorating the Dukes' past achievements are dotted around the stadium, so the school spirit is quite evident. There is also a memorial outside the stadium which is dedicated to Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents who were casualties of war - the park is named in their honor.
Located on campus, Eagle Field is right next to several university buildings, including the former Harrisonburg High School which now houses the College of Education. There are a number of restaurants 5-10 blocks away, including Billy Jack's Wing & Draft Shack, and Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint, either of which would make a great pre or postgame hangout option. Billy Jack's offers 12 rotating beers on tap, and a full menu including favorites such as oysters, wings, chicken & waffles, and house made specialty donuts. Jack Brown's, on the other hand, focuses on the beer with food merely as an add-on. Their menu features over 100 craft beers, but only four things to eat, namely grilled cheese, fries, fried oreos, and of course burgers - every day you can enjoy one of 10 different burger options, each with a clever name and a different topping, with the 10th choice varying based on the day of the week.
The college baseball season starts waaaaaaaay too early - games begin in February with snow still on the ground. That said, it shouldn't surprise you to see almost completely empty stands at Eagle Field early in the season, though the traffic does pick up by April or May, with up to around 800 fans per game in a decent year. Those who are there wear school colors and cheer loudly for their team, and generally seem to enjoy themselves.
James Madison University is located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, a small town of about 50,000 located on I-81 halfway between Roanoke and Hagerstown, Maryland. The school is easy to get to, and the baseball stadium is easy to find. You can park right next to the field for free, and while there is only one set of bathrooms, like the sole concession stand this is plenty for the number of fans in attendance.
Game tickets cost only $6 each for bleacher seats with chairbacks, or $8 for the slightly better bucket-style seats. However, you can get even better deals on multiple tickets - $40 for the whole season, or $25 for 10 tickets to any combination of games (for example any 10 games for a single person, or multiple seats at multiple games of your choice, up to 10 entries in total). Concession prices are on the low end, and parking is free, making a game at Eagle Field a fairly cheap date.
The first point has to go to the veterans, including naming the park in their honor and for the memorial out front. There are a number of sports venues across the U.S. that are named in honor of veterans, and it never gets old; we can never do enough to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, and the world of sports should be no exception.
A second point is given for all the plaques dotted around the complex commemorating the Dukes' past accomplishments, specifically the marker paying tribute to a dozen JMU major leaguers, of whom Billy Sample is arguably the most famous.
A third point is given for the history lesson that is the state of Virginia - the Commonwealth is replete with historic sites, monuments, and other locations of interest, including numerous Civil War battlefields, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum in nearby Staunton, or the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, to name just a handful. If you make the trip to Harrisonburg, or even if you don't, you can never go wrong with a visit to Virginia and its myriad windows into the past.
Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park is a well-appointed, modern venue that is not overly crowded, nor overly expensive. Rarely can you get this close to the action, and hear the sounds of the game so clearly - the crack of the bat, the grunts of the umpire - so take advantage if you have the chance. Throw in comfortable seats and a bit of history, and for what more could you ask?
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92 S Main St
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
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