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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Valparaiso University is a private university of 4,500 in Valparaiso, Indiana. Founded in 1859, the city is an hour southeast of Chicago. The baseball program was founded in 1916 and has called Emory G. Bauer Field home since the 1970 season. The 500 seat ballpark features grass berm seating along the third baseline, grandstand seating behind home plate, and bathroom facilities on site.
Bauer Field is named after former Valpo coach Emory Bauer who coached the Crusaders for 28 seasons and posted a 361-245-2 record. The stadium received renovations in 2001 that resulted in a clubhouse, locker rooms, and indoor training facility. In 2008, a new PA sound system and outfield fence were added to the ballpark, while the press box was renovated as well.
What makes a visit to a baseball game is the city itself; the town of 32,000 features a beautiful downtown square that includes restaurants with outdoor seating, small shops, and bars. A visitor to the city could definitely make the most before or after the game here in Valparaiso.
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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".
There are no food or beverages served at the stadium, even though there is a grill near the training facility that looks as if it has been used for a few burgers and hot dogs in its day. However, many in attendance can be found with something to eat that includes bags of chips, peanuts, a cold drink from the cooler, or take out from the Wendy's, KFC, or Culver's that are within walking distance from the field. In fact, you could catch foul balls in the Wendy's parking lot. It would be nice if a grilled hot dog and cold drink could satisfy a fan or two at the game, but for now you'll have to bring your own.
The atmosphere at the field is pleasant, relaxed, and is definitely a perfect place to enjoy a couple of hours under the spring sun. The funky little stadium incorporates grass berm seating all the way down the third base and left field line, while a set of bleachers stand tall behind home plate.
There does not seem to be many traditions, fans are friends of the players on the field, and many in attendance are enjoying themselves with friends and family. The rowdiness, team sections, and pleas to make noise from the PA announcer are not there, which could be a blessing.
It is a very condensed and relaxed way to watch a baseball game. Many would agree with the decision to simply enjoy the game, keep score, and enjoy the weather. This is pure college baseball at its essence.
Valparaiso's downtown square offers a collection of amazing eateries, shops, and great places to drink craft beer. The streets are packed with people, enjoying dinner and drinks on outside patios. There is a selection of retail shops that sell olive oil, wines, fresh cheese, meats, and homemade sauces. The colorful and pleasant main street is definitely worth walking to check out the many selections of restaurants.
Don Quijote is legendary for its Spanish cuisine. Pikk's Tavern specializes in steaks, ribs, and other traditional food offerings. Figure Eight Brewing has set up shop a block off the main street and features an impressive selection of beers and pub fare inside their swank little building. Vaps offers the town's most interesting street food, with ground lamb and beef selections served in flat bread with feta cheese, cabbage, cucumbers, and yogurt at an inexpensive price (they are also huge). Stack's Bar and Grill, Industrial Revolution Eatery & Grille, and Serrano's Mexican Grill are other great options when in town.
About a mile west of downtown is Four Fathers Brewing; the small little brewery is off the state road and offers a fantastic pale ale and is popular among the locals.
There is a collection of chain retail stores within a mile from the stadium that features common names that many traveling to the game would be familiar with -Marshall's, Best Buy, Menard's, etc. If you decide not to visit downtown, Santini's and Tomato Bar Pizza are two fantastic family options to share a pie with the family.
The fans in attendance seem to be friends and family of the ballplayers on the field. Many are on their cell phones, carrying on conversations, or discussing what to eat after the game. A few die-hards don the school's colors and cheer on the Crusaders on the field of play. Most on the lawn are simply taking in the sun on a lazy, and extremely leisurely, afternoon. You cannot blame them for that.
The university is 15 miles off of I-65 at the Merrillville exit and the baseball field is located a few yards off the main road of SR 130. However, there are not a lot of directions to the baseball field from the road. The field is directly in back of the Wendy's and the Speedway Gas Station at SR 130 (Sturdy Rd) and Warbler Drive. The baseball field does not turn up on GPS or Google maps, but if you stay on the main road in town, you should not get too lost on your way to the game.
Tickets and parking are free at the games. The bleachers can get a little packed due to the size of the structure, but many in attendance are glad to lift their legs up to have you walk by without obstruction. The baseball facility has mens and womens restrooms, bleacher seating, and the grass lawn seating is a nice touch for visitors who enjoy a little more leg room. These are all positive features for anyone to make a return visit in the future.
One extra point for the 500 seat bleachers in back of home plate.
One extra point for the great downtown with plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants. It's a very prominent and interesting place to enjoy with either friends or family.
A visit to Valparaiso is much more than just the baseball game. It is the charming downtown and small time atmosphere that make this college town a little more vibrant from other small university towns in the state of Indiana. World class restaurants, fantastic breweries, and local shops is what puts a stadium journey on the list.
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Valparaiso, IN 46383
62 W Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383
150 Washington St
Valparaiso, IN 46383
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