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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Way out in East Texas sits Nacogdoches, the state's oldest city and home of Stephen F. Austin State University. The area is part of a greater region known as the Piney Woods, a name that will become obvious on your trek to Jaycees Field. The home of SFA Lumberjack baseball is situated in the middle of a heavily wooded area and is part of the Nacogdoches City Baseball Complex. The partnership between the city and SFA provides not only a home to SFA baseball and softball but also several fields for youth and adult baseball/softball. The complex was originally dedicated in 1980, however, a recent facelift in 2009 allowed for the upgrade of Jaycees Field and for SFA baseball to begin play. The atmosphere isn’t one of the elite, but traveling fans will enjoy the condensed seating area that bring fans together and unifies the crowd noise.
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Jaycees Field offers just enough concessions items to get you through the game. A small trailer is located right outside the main entrance on the third baseline. To access, you'll need to leave the ticketed area and step just outside the stadium. As you enter, you'll get a stamp on your hand that the usher can use later to allow you easy access in and out. It's unlikely that you'll encounter a line as you approach the stand. Your major options include the ballpark staples: hot dogs ($2) and nachos ($2). Snack items include sunflower seeds ($1), popcorn ($2), peanuts ($2), chips ($1), and candy ($2). Drink options are bottled Coca-Cola products and will cost $3. Bottle Dasani water is $2. Though the variety and quality of options is nothing to write home about, at least the pricing isn't outrageous.
The hot dog is about as plain as it gets, but it's probably your best option at just $2. The popcorn isn't that great since it's prepared before the game and delivered to the stand. I've actually overheard fans complaining about how it's bland, cold, and unsalted. Try a bag of peanuts or sunflower seeds instead. Make sure you bring cash to the park because the stand is cash only.
As mentioned, Jaycees Field is a part of the Nacogdoches City Baseball Complex located a couple of miles away from the university campus. The complex includes several fields for youth baseball and adult softball, as well as the home field for SFA softball. The seating capacity is listed at 1,000 and all seating areas are together surrounding the homeplate backstop. This allows the crowd noise to be concentrated and a bit louder than if the seats were spread out. The seating structure is made from aluminum and includes a shade covering above the chairback seats directly in front of the pressbox. The chairbacks are made from a simple plastic and aren't quite as comfortable as you'd hope. On both sides of the chairbacks area are aluminum bleacher seats with no backing.
Looking out towards the field, a thick foul ball netting covers all direction of field view. Though netting is a norm behind homeplate, this particular style of netting is a bit to thick and detracts from the overall viewing experience. Beyond the left field line lies an unofficial seating area where about 10 or so fans sit just above the fence in fold-out chairs perched on a stand. A few folks even back their trucks up to the fence and take in the view. On a hot Texas day, the best seating option is the chairbacks under the shaded covering.
The backstop is made from a green padding and wraps from both dugouts. Down the right and left field lines is chain link fencing covered by a green wrapping which displays the team name on the right field side and the logos of Southland Conference teams on left. A green aluminum fence lines the outfield wall and a simple electronic scoreboard sits just above the fence in right center field. A heavily wooded area is visible beyond the outfield wall.
The playing surface is a natural grass field which stays in a pretty decent condition. Lining the back of the home plate area is a small strip of artificial turf with "Lumberjacks" on it. The turf doesn't match the grass color and is fading from excessive wear. The field dimensions are: left field - 330 feet, center field - 400 feet, and right field - 330 feet.
The atmosphere for SFA baseball is traditional. There's very few (if any) promotions or activities. Music is very limited and the announcer just provides the basic facts of gameplay. Traditionalists will love it, others would hope for a bit more. The version of Take Me Out To The Ballgame is the traditional organ song with no words.
The immediate area around Jaycees Field is void of any restaurants, attractions, or lodging. The field is located in country setting that is sparsely populated and heavily wooded. However, the greater Nacogdoches area offers some good restaurants and is just about 3 miles east of the stadium.
One of the most popular stops in the area is The Jalapeńo Tree which serves up Tex-Mex favorites and some American dishes. While in town, make sure to stop in for their complimentary chips and salsa (the green salsa is amazing) and their absolutely delicious Quail Kabobs. To compliment your meal, grab one of their select Mexican brews or a Coronita (Margarita with a Corona turned upside down inside). A couple of other good options are La Carreta and Clear Springs Restaurant.
While in Nacogdoches, relive a piece of Texas history by visiting the Sterne Hoya House Museum. The house was originally built by Adolphus Sterne and is one of the oldest homes still standing in Texas, bringing visitors back to the time of the Texas Revolution. If you're looking for a thrill ride, just outside of Nacogdoches is Nac Zip, which offers five different zip lines and hours of fun. On the SFA campus, check out the oldest university arboretum in the state. There are plenty of hotels in the area, but I recommend staying at the Jones House Bed & Breakfast.
Fan support for SFA baseball at Jaycees field could certainly use a bump in attendance. Average crowds usually range between 200 - 300. Though the crowds are small, they are vocal and passionate. It's hard to tell if its just simply a high level of crowd noise or if the noise is louder due to the condensed seating areas. Either way, you'll definitely hear the fans during big plays. The fan makeup is largely family oriented with a few older life-long fans. Few students make the trek from the SFA campus to the ballpark.
The Stephen F. Austin State University campus and Jaycees Field are both located just off of Hwy 59 (future I-69 corridor). Be sure to map out the location of Jaycees Field before beginning your trip. Don't wrongly assume that the ballpark is on the SFA campus. Jaycees Field is located about 3.5 miles west of the SFA campus in the Nacogdoches City Baseball Complex. I usually trust my iPhone map to get me safely to my sports destinations, but Siri was a bit confused on this one. Searches for Jaycees Field came up empty and the address provided on the SFA website got me close, but not on target (I was hopeful the trailer park I arrived at wasn't part of the stadium). Your best bet is to find it on Yahoo! or Google maps under the Nacogdoches City Baseball Complex search. As you arrive, the signage isn't obvious and it's easy to overlook.
As you make it to the park, the parking can be a bit tight depending on the other activities going on in the complex. However, parking is free and you should be able to find a spot. It's also not easy to tell where the entrance is to the complex. Once you finally find the small walkway leading in, you'll eventually run into a restroom facility and the stadium becomes in view just beyond that. The ticket line will likely be short and you'll quickly move through the gate. The concourse is a small walkway at the bottom of the seating areas and next to homeplate. The seating areas have an adequate amount of aisles and they are spacious enough to move around comfortably. The restroom and concessions facilities are located outside the seating areas. The restrooms are pretty dingy, but at least you won't have to hold it since there's enough room to accommodate the average crowd.
You really can't beat the overall cost of attending an SFA baseball game at Jaycees Field. Adult ticket prices range from $5 (bleacher) $8 (chairbacks). SFA offers a very liberal interpretation of "kids" with the cost of admission at just $3 for those aged 9-18. Children 8 and under are free. Given the strong family crowds, this is great news to SFA supporters and traveling families. Parking is free and a game handout which lists team rosters is also free (no program for sale). Though the concession options are a bit sparse, the pricing isn't outrageous. Overall, you'll get to experience a great Southland Conference baseball game for very little cash out of your pocket.
Every great live sports experience is highlighted by certain 'extra' features which are unique compared to other venues or make the overall experience memorable. For Stephen F. Austin State baseball at Jaycees Field, be sure to consider the following during your stadium experience:
• Though many fans would prefer to see athletic facilities on the university campus, it's nice to see SFA working together with the City of Nacogdoches to provide a baseball complex for the community, as well as Lumberjack athletics.
• If you're a baseball traditionalist, the atmosphere at Jaycees Field is very old-fashioned. You won't notice blaring music, on the field promotions, or a video display. If you're coming simply for the love of on the field baseball action, you won't get easily distracted.
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