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Official Review by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Oso is Spanish for bear. Or, bear is English for oso. Either way, the Raton Osos play baseball at Gabriele Field in Raton, NM. They are a part of the Pecos League of Professional Baseball.
The Osos are originally from Ruidoso, NM and made their move to Raton beginning the 2013 season. And even though they are a transplant, they kept the name Oso as in Raton, bears are known to roam the streets and bear proof dumpsters are the norm.
Gabriele Field sits at an elevation of 6670 feet above sea level. That is 139 feet higher than Security Service Field in Colorado Springs, CO (the highest recorded professional baseball field) and about 1,000 feet higher than Coors Field in Denver, CO.
Gabriele Field is referred to as the ‘million dollar field,’ even though it didn’t cost that much. The field is also used by the Raton Tiger high school team in the spring. I was told by a local resident the field is built over an old ravine and that old cars and even a swimming pool lay beneath the dirt of the field and the parking lot. It is a city-owned facility.
With the Trinidad Triggers only 20 miles north of Raton, the Las Vegas Train Robbers 110 miles south and the Taos Blizzard 90 miles west, the Raton Osos are looking to bring on some rivalries in the Pecos League.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is one concession stand run by the Lions Club located down the third base side. I was told the Lions Club also provides meals to the ball players after the game so kudos to them.
They offer the basic stadium food: burgers, hot dogs, frito pies, and nachos and range from $3 - $4 in price. An Oso burger (double green Chile cheeseburger w/chips and drinks) is offered for $7. Snacks such as popcorn, seeds, chips, jerky, and pickles are offered as well for $1 - $3. Sodas and water are $1.
There is a specialty coffee/tea truck parked behind the home plate area known as the Enchanted Grounds. They offer a variety of coffees and teas, especially needed on the chilly, damp evening I attended.
I suspect you can bring your own water and snacks as it is a city park.
There are nine rows of metal bleachers (no backs) which seat about 12 or so individuals on both the first base and third base sides of home plate. I did find a spot on the far end of the third base bleachers that are not behind a chain link fence. Be warned, however, as foul balls can reach this part of the bleachers. All seating areas are open to exposure of weather conditions and there is no shade.
There is one lone bleacher section on the third base side having five rows of seats. It is beyond the home bullpen area, far from the field. I would not recommend sitting there as it seems so far away from home plate.
There are no seats / bleachers directly behind home plate as that is where the game day operations booth is located (official scorer, PA announcer, music person, etc).
I was told high school team members do the announcements and music selection. The starting line ups are not called at the beginning of the game but the players are announced as they come to bat. It made it kind of difficult to know which position they played as that wasn't included as they were announced. Lighting at the park is plenty for keeping score at night.
The home dugout and bullpen is on the third base side. It's a bit sunken and there is room for fans to stand behind the third base dugout to watch the game. The city park with a grassy area and a small playground is beyond left and center field. Behind the right field area is some kind of power plant.
Beyond the first base side is the New Mexico National Guard building. Except for the power plant, the field is located in a neighborhood area.
One unique aspect of the field is that the flag pole is located behind the home plate area. All players turn towards home plate (vs the outfield) during the national anthem. I have not seen that before. It's not bad; it's just different.
Raton is not the hotbed tourist destination in New Mexico.
The ballpark is located a little over a half mile from downtown historic Raton. There is a history museum in downtown Raton which has an extensive collection of local history artifacts as well as some New Mexico art displays. If you want to get your steps in or stretch your legs a bit, Raton offers a self guided Historic Walking Tour around the downtown district.
Another place to visit, though about a 20 min drive from Raton, is the Sugarite Canyon State Park. It offers camping, fishing, and hiking trails and is worth a visit if you have a couple hours.
I did not notice any places to eat within walking distance but I'd recommend checking out the Enchanted Grounds Expresso Bar in the historic district. They not only offer specialty coffee but breakfast, salads, and hot and cold sandwiches.
For places to stay, most hotels are over a mile from the ballpark. There are many local run, non-chain motels on Clayton Rd. Or you can try a traditional chain - Best Western, also located on Clayton Rd (1.3 miles from the ballpark).
One fan said to me, "People complain that there's nothing to do in Raton. They bring in a baseball team and people don't show up."
The fans that are there are super friendly. They consist of a few families, some young adults, a few regulars, maybe parents of a player, and me. I'd suspect there were 50 people in the stands the night I visited.
The park is located right off Raton's main street, S 2nd Street. From I-25, head through downtown then make a right on Legion Dr (about 2 miles from the I-25 454 exit).
Don't park too close to the field as some areas can be potential foul ball targets. The lot is so close to the field that parking in the back is not that many more steps to the field.
I did not notice any public transportation in Raton and there's not a major or even a regional airport in the area. So driving a vehicle is the way to get there (or walking if you live in the neighborhood).
The restroom is adjacent to the concession area and it looks iffy and I did not check it out on my visit.
$6 for general admission and parking, reasonable concession prices, and a baseball game with friendly fans makes for a worthwhile investment; but only if you enjoy the game. This is not about being entertained with other extracurricular activities found at many minor and major league stadiums.
At the game I attended, it was a 'Congratulations to the Raton High School Class of 2014' night. Students could show their ID and get into the game for free. Be sure to call, check their website, or Facebook page for any promotions.
A roster sheet is handed out that contains players' names, numbers, and general position, e.g., infield, outfield, catcher, pitcher for both teams. And there's a short paragraph or two on the back of the roster sheet. Nicely done. You may have to ask for it.
It is a city owned ballpark so don't be expecting an Isotopes venue or atmosphere.
If I lived in Raton, I'd be visiting an Osos game on a regular basis; but I am a fan of the game of baseball. For those families who live in the area do check out a game or two or three. See if you or your kids can meet any of the players. Learn how to keep score. Chat with other Raton residents. Enjoy an evening outdoors listening to the crack of the bat and the players cheering each other on.
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Raton, NM 87740
HCR 63, Box 386
Raton, NM 87740
473 Clayton Road
Raton, NM 87740