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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Worcester Bravehearts are the newest member of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. They play their home games at Fitton Field, on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross. Baseball has been played on the site of Fitton Field since 1905. In addition to the Holy Cross baseball team, Fitton Field has been the home of the Can-Am League’s Worcester Tornadoes, who spent eight seasons in Worcester (that’s pronounced “Wustah” by locals) before folding in 2012. During their time at Fitton Field, the Tornadoes installed lighting and permanent seating, bringing the venue up to professional standards.
Fitton Field, properly named Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field, is named after the Reverend James Fitton, who donated the land that the baseball and adjacent football stadiums are located on. The name “Bravehearts” refers to the hearts in the city’s official seal and the city’s nickname as “the heart of the commonwealth”.
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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 two buildings serving food and beverages on the first base side of the ballpark. The menu covers the basics, with cheeseburgers ($5), hot dogs ($2), sausage and pepper sandwiches ($6), French fries ($5), chicken fingers ($6), and nachos ($4) comprising the menu. Fans can also purchase chips ($1.50) or cotton candy ($3) if they are feeling like having just a snack. Fountain sodas (Coca-Cola products) are available for $2.50, as are slushies for $3.
Fans not finding what they want at the main concession stands can venture off to a portable fried dough cart, where they can purchase the snacks for $5. An ice cream truck is also parked next to the concourse for your eating pleasure.
Fitton Field offers a large selection of beer for thirsty Braveheart fans. Several brands are available in both draft and cans. Coors Light, Yuengling, Budweiser, Blue Moon, Wachusett Monstah, Shock Top Lemonade, and Leinenkugel Shandy are all available on draft for either $5 or $5.50, depending on your choice. Cans of Coors Light, Miller Lite, Narragansett, Corona, Sam Adams, Sam Adams Summer Ale, and Mike's Hard Lemonade range in price from $4 to $5.50. It's an impressive array of beverages for a summer college ballpark.
Being just a year removed from professional baseball, the fans in Worcester are used to a certain level of game-day presentation here at Fitton Field. Luckily, the staff here deliver an experience similar to that experienced in the Can-Am League. Nightly promotions and giveaways dot the schedule, an active mascot prowls the ballpark, and music blares over the speakers in between innings. In addition, several contests are held in between innings to keep the fans engaged. There is a small play area in right field, as well as a picnic area for groups. The Futures League, run by former minor league executives, provides an atmosphere similar to what you would find in any minor league outpost.
Fitton Field, located on the northern edge of the Holy Cross campus, sits adjacent to a residential area outside of downtown Worcester. As a result, there are not many dining options to choose from in the immediate vicinity. When looking for the best places to eat in the city, head to Shrewsbury Street, home of Worcester's "Restaurant Row," boasting more than forty different eateries ranging from fine dining to casual, takeout to nightclubs, as well as multiple salons and shops. The downtown area around the DCU Center is another up and coming location for dining in Worcester.
For fans looking to stay in Worcester, there is a similar dearth of lodging options in the area right around Holy Cross. Luckily, there are options available in downtown Worcester, only a couple of miles away from the Holy Cross campus. Worcester is not known as a destination city, and is often overshadowed by its neighbors in Boston and Providence. However, Worcester is carving out its own niche as an affordable, attractive alternative place to visit, and is considered to be an up and coming city in its own right.
After a year without baseball of any kind at Fitton Field, Braveheart fans have taken to their new team with great enthusiasm in 2014. Halfway through their inaugural season, Worcester leads the Futures League in attendance, averaging close to 1,700 fans per game. In many college summer league venues the crowd consists mainly of those with an immediate connection to the team. The Bravehearts have been able to establish a strong connection to the community at large thus far in their tenure. Fitton Field's smaller size ensures that the ballpark does not swallow up a smaller crowd.
Out of towners may be surprised to learn that Worcester is the second largest city in all of New England, behind only Boston. Worcester is centrally located in New England, less than an hour's drive from Boston and 45 minutes to Providence. Four major airports are located about an hour from Worcester: Boston's Logan Airport, Providence's Green Airport, Hartford's Bradley Airport, and Manchester's Manchester-Boston Airport. Worcester is served by Amtrak train service, Greyhound Bus Lines, and Peter Pan Bus Lines. Both train and bus terminals are located in downtown Worcester, a five minute drive from the Holy Cross Campus.
Fitton Field is located on The College of Holy Cross which is located in southwestern Worcester, at the junctions of Interstate 290 and Route 146. Fitton Field is located on the northern edge of campus, directly off of Interstate 290. Fans using public transportation can catch the 25 bus to city hall or the 42 bus downtown. Both bus routes stop at Southbridge Street at the bottom of College Hill adjacent to Fitton Field. There is ample parking near the stadium both on street and in a parking garage adjacent to the ballpark.
Fans will enter the ballpark on the first base side of the field, at the top of the seating bowl. The concessions flank both sides of the entrance, and a building housing the bathrooms is located on the third base side. A giant inflatable amusement apparatus (for lack of a better term) is located below the stands in right field.
The majority of the seating at Fitton Field is made up of individual seats. There are a few sections of metal bleachers with backs down either foul line. The concourse is wide enough to handle the average Braveheart crowd with ease. Fans requiring accessible seating will find Fitton Field easy to navigate.
Tickets for Worcester Bravehearts games cost $9, $8, and $7 depending on where you would like to sit. Children and seniors can discount these prices by an additional $2. Parking is free in both the garage next door to the ballpark, as well as on the streets near the campus. Ticket prices are in line with other venues in the Futures League. Add in affordable prices for food and beer, and a night at the Worcester Bravehearts is an affordable alternative for families in central Massachusetts.
The Bravehearts staff provide a variety of promotions and extras for fans attending Fitton Field. Theme nights such as Ladies' Night and Hawaiian Night are held to liven up the night and attract fans. The atmosphere at a Bravehearts game rivals that of any minor league game, and that suits the fans of Worcester just fine.
The Futures League has placed several teams in abandoned minor league ballparks in New England, and has enjoyed success with this business model. In their inaugural season the Bravehearts are certainly validating their inclusion in this venture. Fitton Field was known as a solid, if unspectacular venue while hosting professional baseball, and holds up as one of the better venues in summer collegiate baseball.
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