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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The University of South Alabama is located in lovely Mobile, Alabama, along the shores of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It was founded in 1963 and is part of the Alabama University System, with an enrollment of more than 16,000 students. It is home to one of Alabama’s two state-supported medical schools, and also has a large School of Education. When you arrive on campus, you would swear it was the 4th of July, as the school colors are red, white and blue and a majority of the locals and the school itself go with simply “USA.”
It seems very appropriate that at USA, America’s Pastime rules the athletic roost. The Jaguars' baseball program has been extremely successful during its first 50 years in existence. Much of the credit for this success goes to Eddie Stanky, a former major league star (he took part in three World Series and was a four-time All Star) who led the USA baseball program for 15 seasons, with a .717 winning percentage. In recognition of all of his efforts on behalf of the university, the Jaguars' lair was christened as Eddie Stanky Field in 1997. The facility has a capacity of 3,775, with both bleacher and fixed back seating. The Jaguars are members of the Sun Belt Conference and have been to the NCAA Tournament 25 times.
A number of major league ball players got their start at USA, including Lance Johnson, Luis Gonzalez, Mike Mordecai, Jon Lieber, Adam Lind and David Freese. These alums and the championship teams of the past are saluted in the Jaguar Baseball Ring of Honor, a monument on the grounds of the USA campus. In return, USA baseball alumni have been very generous to the university, as Luis Gonzalez's name is on the baseball team’s indoor hitting facility and the clubhouse bears Jon Lieber’s name.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Jaguars have a wide variety of concession offerings available to fans. Beer is available at domestic ($3.50), premium ($4) and craft beer ($5) levels. Peanuts, cotton candy and Cracker Jack cost $3.50, while pretzels, popcorn, candy and chips go for $3. A barbecue sandwich or wings combo with fries is available for $6.50. Soft drinks are $3 and water is $2. They handle the lines very quickly at Eddie Stanky Field, which is good, as the concession stands do not offer a view of the field of play.
The University of South Alabama goes first-class in anything that has to do with the baseball program. Eddie Stanky instilled that in his handling of his athletes, and his influence is still present in the field that bears his name. USA almost always has a full house for its home games, and they are strong supporters of the program. Baseball alums are accorded their own seating area at the Jon Lieber Clubhouse in Kit's Corner, behind the left field wall. Jaguar Alley is the haunt of the USA student body, and they can always be counted on for vocal support. The grounds crew has the field in immaculate condition, even as the season comes to an end. This reverence for the program and what it stands for is evident in the respect for the visiting team, as good plays in the field are applauded, even if made by an opposition player. You will hear no trash talking here... Eddie would not stand for that. You will definitely enjoy the atmosphere at Stanky Field.
The University of South Alabama is located in Mobile, the third largest city in Alabama and the oldest city in Alabama, founded in 1702. The combination of population size and long history means Mobile has a very vibrant cultural and educational background. Its Mardi Gras celebration even predates those in New Orleans. There are many forts in and around the Mobile area, due to its strategic location during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and the USS Alabama, made in the Mobile shipyards is now permanently moored in Mobile. It is a major tourist attraction.
The neighborhoods immediately surrounding the University of South Alabama are predominantly residential. The only restaurant within walking distance of the baseball complex is the Mellow Mushroom. Other restaurants of note within 2-3 miles of the school include Wintzell's Oyster Shack and Dreamland Barbecue, an Alabama tradition.
The student body at USA simply loves its baseball team. The temperate climate in Mobile brings them out in droves, even for the early season games in February and March. They even have their own dedicated section, Jaguar Alley behind the right-center field wall at Stanky Field. Another designated section is Kit's Corner, which is reserved for baseball alums of USA. The Gulf Coast is very popular for both retired civilians and ex-military brass, and they are major supporters of the USA baseball program. You almost feel like you are at the Olympics, due to the constant chanting of USA! As a result, Eddie Stanky Field can be a very intimidating place to play for visiting teams.
The University of South Alabama's sports facilities are very easy to reach. They are located five miles from Mobile Regional Airport via Airport Parkway/University Boulevard. From I-65, you would simply take the Shell Road exit and head west four miles.
No matter the price, you are going to see top notch baseball played at USA. The baseball has varying ticket packages: Box seats with chairbacks at field level are $10, chairbacks above the concourse run $8, general admission seating on aluminum bleachers are $5, seniors (55 plus) and children (12 and under) are $4. Faculty and USA students are free with a USA ID. There is plenty of free parking and concessions offer a wide variety of foods and drinks at reasonable prices.
College baseball season and spring combine to be the best time of year to visit Mobile and the University of South Alabama. First of all, you are next to the Gulf of Mexico, an excellent way to escape winter's doldrums in a very temperate climate. Next, in February, you can enjoy the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States, complete with floats, masked balls and all types of revelry. March brings the world famous Azalea Trails Festival, complete with tours of Bellingrath Gardens, road races and concerts.
Many people do not realize the contributions Mobile has made to baseball. All-time home run leader Hank Aaron is a Mobile native, and you can visit his boyhood home, which has been converted to a museum. It is located right next to the Mobile BayBears' minor league stadium, Hank Aaron Stadium. (The BayBears are the Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.) Other MLB Hall of Famers from Mobile include Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith and Billy Williams.
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