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Official Review by Jim Folsom, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In Jacksonville, Florida, there are two Division I college baseball programs to choose from. If you’re a college baseball fan living in the “River City” you can watch a game at Jacksonville University or the University of North Florida. During the season, one or the other will be at home almost every weekend. Here are some opinions on the UNF baseball experience.
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UNF has one huge advantage over all other college baseball programs I have visited thus far: they sell beer. What? I thought there must be a law against selling beer on college campus sporting events. Because nowhere else, not football, basketball, or baseball stadiums that I'm aware of, do they sell beer. But they do at Ospreys baseball games
The food was pretty good too. They have a guy on a grill, much like you'd see in a restaurant, cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, and he makes them as you order them. So you aren't getting a dog that's been sitting there behind the counter for who knows how long. There were tables and chairs set up for you to eat right there; the only drawback is you can't see the game while you're eating. I missed a four-run inning while I was eating burgers and dogs.
The game I attended was between the two city rivals, Jacksonville University and UNF. Even with that, there wasn't much excitement and very few fans attended. I believe most of the fans that did attend were related to the players; therefore, it was almost like a high school game. I will say that they did have a good mascot and also they did throw some tee-shirts in the stands, which they didn't do at JU.
The field looked as if it could use a good groundskeeper as it looked like a high school field. It just looked like the grass needed some attention, like it doesn't get mowed often enough. In fact, the JU third baseman took a bad hop grounder to the face.
There is no neighborhood to speak of. The ballpark is on the campus, so the only buildings near it are classrooms and libraries. The campus is in the middle of nowhere, and there is no place to go before or after the game, so bring some directions or a GPS. It's a good thing they have good food at the concession stand or you'd be in trouble.
The few that were there were good fans. They cheered for their team and knew the players. The crowd was a 50/50 split and there was no animosity for the other team, which is always a good thing.
If you know how to get there, it is very easy. If you don't know where it is, you can get lost very easily. They don't have any signs to let you know UNF is coming up at the next exit or anything like that, so you need to print some directions. Parking is free. There is a bit of a walk to the ballpark, but nothing major. Once you know your way around, it's pretty easy to get back to the interstate.
Parking was free. Food was pretty cheap. They had beer at the concession stand. All pluses. The quality of the product on the field and in the stands could use some improvements, though. The program has potential, and with some wealthy donors and a good athletic director, UNF could be something special. But as of right now, if I were a resident of Jacksonville and looking to buy season tickets for college baseball, I would probably give JU a slight edge. In a few years, with the right people in charge, that could change.
One word; Beer. No other college program has it. So if you want a place to catch a ball game and down a couple of cold ones before the pros are playing (or are on the road), no other place has it. Plus, since the place only holds about 1000, anywhere you sit is a really good seat.
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