Mobile, Alabama has seen its share of fantastic baseball players pass through its city. While many teams have stopped there on their way to the show, players such as Ozzie Smith, Satchel Paige and Hank Aaron all called Mobile their birthplace.
With Hank Aaron Stadium being named after one of the best players of all time, the product on the field has matched the stadium’s namesake since setting up shop in the 6,000-seat capacity stadium in 1997.
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".
Nothing about the menu at Hank Aaron Stadium stands out as a must-have item. Most of the food is standard ballpark food at ballpark prices: hot dogs ($3), corn dogs ($3.50), hamburgers ($5.50), cheeseburgers ($6), three chicken tenders ($5).
From a snacking standpoint, fans can get nachos ($5), nachos grande ($6.50), fries ($3) or chili cheese fries ($4.50).
Pizza by the slice ($4) from Hungry Howie's looks to be the only food sold that is not made by the contracted vendor.
There appears to be other specialty booths in the concourse, but they were not open when I visited in spring 2013.
On the drink side, fans can get beers such as Bud Light, Budweiser, Natural Light and Michelob Ultra for between $3.50 and $4.50, and a separate vendor sells mixed drinks. There are a variety of different specials, such as "Thirsty Thursday" where, from 6-8 pm, domestic cans are $1.50. On draft, fans can find a variety of beers on tap from the Goose Island Beer Co. and Longboard Island Lager from the Kona Brewing Company.
The Mobile BayBears do an excellent job of honoring baseball in Mobile throughout the venue. Whether it is their Hall of Fame at the entrance, seats and photos from various stadiums connected to the players from Mobile, or reproductions of sports pages about baseball and Mobile, the team makes sure that fans know how special Mobile finds baseball.
For a little extra, fans can sit just about on the field near the dugouts and a bit down the foul lines, but with a sparse crowd in attendance, fans can buy cheap tickets and move over to BayBear Beach. The area has seating in a covered boardwalk by the visitors' bullpen, and it has a play area (with a changing room) for kids. The only drawback to the boardwalk is that it does not have the best sight line if sitting there for the entire game.
When in the concourse, which only crowds up near the entrances, fans can keep up with the game, as the radio broadcast is played throughout the area.
If you choose to sit behind home plate, choose your seating carefully. In section 106, choose a higher number seat on your row, and if you are in section 107, choose a lower number seat on your row. If not, you will have a pole that supports the protective netting in your line of sight.
The seats are not among the largest found in ballparks, and they do not come with cup holders.
Mobile has a lot to offer people coming through town or for a visit. One of the most popular attractions is the U.S.S. Alabama. The area also boasts courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and a historic downtown area.
The problem for Hank Aaron Stadium is that the ballpark is nowhere near these attractions. In fact, the only place to eat within walking distance of the ballpark is a Steak 'n Shake. Instead of the usual downtown atmosphere around ballparks, car lots dominate the area.
If grabbing a bite before or after the game is important, make a trip to Airline Boulevard, where many different restaurants are available within a 15-20 minute drive.
The fans at BayBears games enjoy watching the game and being part of the crowd. The problem (at least on my visit) is that there is not much of a crowd of which to be a part. (side note: This game was delayed because of rain that came through early in the afternoon and had a listed attendance of 1,290).
Attendance at BayBear games has been an ongoing problem. While there have been some crowds nearing 3,000 in attendance, many of the seats still remain empty at most games.
Finding Hank Aaron Stadium should prove to be easy for most visitors. The stadium exit is the first exit north of the I-10/I-65 junction in Mobile. Fans driving on I-10 would not know this, as there are no signs in the area about the stadium.
The entrance to the ballpark is right off the interstate, so fans do not run the risk of getting lost looking around for the stadium. However, fans going to the game do need to make sure to have $3 in cash, or they will not be able to park.
With a lack of a crowd, fans should be able to sit wherever they want to at the game. Even if a game draws a crowd, moving about the concourse areas will prove easy, as they are open.
While the crowd may be lacking, the quality on the field in Mobile is top-notch. The team, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been a fixture near the top of the Southern League standings for most of its time in Mobile.
Fans can sit within about 20 feet of the field for $16 a ticket, and box seats only cost $8 a ticket. If the chance of sitting in a suite for a night is appealing, suite seats can be bought for $50.
Hank Aaron Stadium gets one star for having a large number of tables and benches for eating and drinking, if it is difficult to haul food to the seat.
Hank Aaron Stadium earns another star for all of the fun for kids. Even if a child is not into baseball, they will be into BayBear Beach and the inflatable jumpers in the stadium.
The tip of the cap to the baseball history of Mobile snags a third star for Hank Aaron Stadium. Walking around the stadium almost feels like a visiting a fun museum.
The final star goes to the Hank Aaron birthplace, which is located at the stadium and open until one hour before the game.
The next time you are passing through the Mobile, Alabama area you may want to stop and catch a game at Hank Aaron Stadium. In fact, if you are traveling south on I-65 through the city of Mobile and you glance to your left just before you reach I-10 you will catch a glimpse of Hank Aaron's childhood home which is now located next to the stadium that bears his name. Hank Aaron's childhood home is part of the new "Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum" that was opened in the spring of 2009. The museum is filled with mementos and artifacts donated by Aaron and his family, as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Negro League Baseball Museum. "Hammering Hank" was born and raised in Mobile and considers having Hank Aaron Stadium named in his honor and then locating a museum dedicated to his legacy in his hometown a great honor.
Hank Aaron Stadium officially opened in 1997 and is the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks' double A affiliate, the Mobile BayBears. The stadium has a seating capacity of 6000 as well as 22 unique luxury suites. These luxury suites are unique because they are located at field level which really gives this stadium an unusual look. The city of Mobile is one of the oldest cities in the South dating all the way back to 1702, so it seems strange that Mobile is also home to one of the newest minor league ballparks in the south. In fact the Mobile BayBears were the first minor league team to play baseball in Mobile in over 25 years. That means an entire generation of young baseball fans have grown up in Mobile without a minor league baseball team to fall in love with.
When it was announced that Mobile was getting an affiliated team, I thought for sure it was going to be a home run. Mobile had deep roots in baseball history, from Satchel Paige to Luis Gonzales, and was getting a brand new state-of-the-art baseball stadium.
It wasn't quite a home run, maybe, a solid line drive base hit. The ballpark was uniquely designed, to say the least, the suite level is UNDERNEATHE the general seating area. You can say it elevates the average box seat and gives it a one-of-a-kind vantage point, not often seen in minor league baseball. You could also say it is an attempt to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the fan base. The suites being at field level gives them a more premium feel, as does the exclusive stadium club and premium seating on the first base side. This means the average, commonfolk ticket buyer will have to carry their nachos and sodas up two steep flights of stairs. Joe Schmoe also doesn't get to bring his kid to the ballpark early to get autographs by the dugout, not without a premium stadium club level ticket.
With all that being said, the ballpark was still a brand new ballpark, in 1997, and had the new ballpark aura and new ballpark excitement. Fifteen years later, the aura and excitement has worn off. All that's left, is an aging ballpark with some unique character and some unique hassles.
I awarded the team three extra points, because they have done a great job celebrating the history of baseball in Mobile and the history of the BayBears. Around the concourse, there are enlarged articles from the Mobile Press-Register (the local newspaper) posted, telling of the important moments in Mobile baseball. Also, the Hank Aaron childhood home in front of the ballpark..... awesome.
Mobile, AL 36601
12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road
Theodore, AL 36582
1028 West I-65 Service Road South
Mobile, AL 36609