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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Baseball has been played at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester (pronounced “Woostah” by locals), MA since 1876. The Crusaders have played on the site of Fitton Field since 1905. In addition to the Holy Cross baseball team, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League’s Worcester Bravehearts play here. Fitton Field has also hosted professional baseball, as the Can-Am League’s Worcester Tornadoes spent eight seasons in Worcester 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 Crusaders compete in the Patriot League, and have four College World Series appearances on their resume, including a national championship in 1952. Their most recent College World Series appearance came in 1963. The Crusaders’ most recent NCAA tournament appearance occurred in 1978.
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Despite the presence of concession stands at Fitton Field, there are no food or beverages available at Holy Cross baseball games. Experienced Crusader fans will bring their own items into Fitton Field to enjoy.
Fans expecting an elaborate game day presentation at Fitton Field will be disappointed with the straightforward approach at Holy Cross. There is an excellent PA system here, and the team utilizes it to provide music between innings, as well as the usual announcements for upcoming batters and lineup changes. Most of the noise at Fitton Field comes from the field, as fans can hear the chatter from the infield and antics from the dugout. It's a baseball purist's dream, but the atmosphere at Fitton Field will never be confused with Fenway Park.
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," which boasts 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 immediately 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.
Crowds at Holy Cross baseball games fall into the "friends and family" category. Even though the Crusaders draw larger crowds than most other schools in the area, attendance still tops out at about 300 fans. There is a minimal turnout from the student body, as students tend to wander in and out of Fitton Field, taking in only part of the action before wandering off to other parts of the campus.
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 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. Buildings that house the concessions flank both sides of the entrance, and a building housing the bathrooms is located on the third base side.
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 more than wide enough to handle the average Crusader baseball crowd with ease. Fans requiring accessible seating will find Fitton Field easy to navigate.
There is no charge for either admission or parking at Crusader baseball games. Fans are welcome to bring their own snacks into Fitton Field to enjoy during the game, so there is no need to reach for your wallet even once while enjoying some Division One baseball in Worcester.
There isn't a whole lot going on at a Holy Cross baseball game that can be considered extra, but the site of Fitton Field is a historic one in the annals of college baseball. Baseball has been played here for over 100 years, and Ted Williams hit his first home run in a Red Sox game during an exhibition game here. Between 1952 and 1967 the Crusaders appeared in the NCAA tournament ten times, and remain the only team from the northeast to win the College World Series.
While the crowds of over 20,000 that frequented Fitton Field in the 1950's are a thing of the distant past, the current incarnation of the ballpark is a solid, comfortable place to take in some quality baseball.
When planning a trip to Worcester, remember that the college baseball season in New England takes place in March and April, and the weather in New England can be very fickle at this time of year. Be warned that the weather often plays havoc with the schedule, and can ruin even the best laid plans. Keep a close eye on the forecast when heading to a game anywhere in New England.
You can follow all of Paul Baker's stadium and arena travels on Twitter @puckmanri
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