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Official Review by Dennis Morrell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Two years ago, pro baseball returned to Joplin, Missouri and Joe Becker Stadium. The ballpark, named for a popular ballplayer for the Joplin Miners (1936-42), umpire and business manager, has been in operation since 1917, making it one of the longest tenured pro ballparks still in use.
Ty Cobb travelled here with the Detroit Tigers to play an exhibition game in 1920. Several Hall of Fame players played here for the Joplin Miners, a New York Yankees affiliate. They include Mickey Mantle (1950) and Whitey Herzog (1951). The miners played for 49 seasons, from 1902-1954 (some seasons during this time they played in alternative cities while retaining the Joplin Miners name).
Now the current home of the American Association’s Joplin Blasters, it remains a unique ballpark in that it is cozy and intimate with unique perspectives around home plate and features a steep grade along the right field wall boundary. The blend of old with new makes a trip to Joe Becker Stadium a must visit while in the area. The AA Springfield Cardinals are an hour to the east while the AA Tulsa Drillers are 90 minutes to the west. The AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers are three hours to the west and the Kansas City Royals are a three hours to the north.
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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".
In short, it seems to all be edible, but the service is slow, even with very low attendance. Take it in stride though, after all, this is the lower minor leagues.
Just know that if you want something which needs to be cooked, get it before the game with time to spare or know you might miss some of the game if you go between innings.
Wall menus to the side of the counter have white tape covering items which appear to no longer be available. Seems a little odd, but maybe that is how they decide to handle communicating the low or out-of-stock supplies on hand. Prices are fair.
A cheeseburger and fries basket is $7.50 and it is tasty. A Ľ hot dog is $4 and a bratwurst with kraut is $5.
As for draft beer, Leinenkugel, Sam Adams, Coors Light, Miller Light and Blue Moon are available, $4 for domestics and $5 for craft brews.
Bottled soda (Coca Cola products) and water for $3.00, bottled Gold Peak tea for $3.50 and bottled water for $2.50 are other beverages offered.
Popcorn is available in two sizes for $3 and $5 and a pretzel with cheese is $3.00. As for sweets, consider the Oreo Churro with Oreo Sauce for $2.50.
The ticket office is right out front of the main gate. Once you get inside there are some unique things to see. Most lower minor league stadiums are cozy and intimate by their nature of drawing smaller crowds. Joe Becker Stadium is no different, but there are some even more unique features than what you would expect at a ballpark.
Start with right field and take a gaze toward the foul pole, tracking along the warning track and continue your glance through center field. The grass between the warning track and the three-foot outfield wall is a 60-degree upward grade. It narrows as the wall reaches the batter's eye in center field.
The second feature is the uniqueness of perspective for fans behind home plate, particularly in the lower rows. Pay close attention to the photos where you can see a person's first-row view is right in line with the level of the playing field. It is a bit interesting and at first experience, a little odd.
Related to this seating around home plate is the back stop netting which is far more pole than netting. Take a look at the way the netting is mounted and you will see it is attached to curved poles instead of cables from the top fastened to roofing or a second level. This might impact your decision on where to sit.
Upgraded and cozy, the ballpark is comfortable with the best seats for the money on the outfield side of the dugout areas, choose first base side for afternoon games and third base side for evening games.
The home team takes up the dugout on the third base line while their bullpen is down the left field line. The visitors occupy the dugout along the first base line, but their bullpen is behind the left field fence.
Straightaway center is a distance of 400 feet from home plate while left center is 320 feet away from the batter. The foul areas are quite narrow, putting fans very close to the action.
The only scoreboard occupies the area behind right center field. It is standard electronic and functional and does not provide any video, graphics or pitch count.
The Upper Reserved Seats which are $11 and include a regular stadium chair or the General Admission, further into the outfield for $7 and are a simple bleacher seat with no chair back. Other seats include behind home plate at $14, box seats at the infield side of the dugouts at $12 and box seats in the outfield side of the dugout at $10.
The pitch in row ascension is good and will give you the feel of being right on top of the field, particularly the areas around the plate and to a slightly lesser degree in other areas. Seats are as comfortable as most hard plastic and contoured chairs. There are no cup holders.
Concourses narrow on the outer ring where the concession are at home plate and widen as you walk further toward the outfield. Interior concourses where the seats are relatively wide, are only behind the dugouts, extending toward the outfield. Seats behind the plate are all seats, no walkways.
Private boxes are at the second level on either side of the press box and are airy, providing comfort and provide the highest view of the field.
No matter where you sit, the stadium is largely wide open and you will enjoy the breezy feel.
Joe Becker Stadium is in a residential area where there are no nearby places to eat or drink, at least within walking distance. Not too far away, though there are these places to enjoy. The Red Onion Café, Eagle Drive In, and Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs.
While the fans attending provide a fervent support for the Blaster, I can't say they draw very many of them. For the 2016 season the Blasters rank last in the 12-team league, drawing an average of 646 fans.
There have been a number of issues between the team and the city, which owns the ballpark and allows the local college team to use it. Financial and operational challenges have caused a rift and there has been little effort to market the club.
The main strip in Joplin from Highway 44 is route 42 (or Main Street). From exit 6, head north almost 3 miles and make a left at East 4th Street. Follow this west a little more than a mile and make a right in S. High Street. Travel 200 feet and the ballpark is on your right.
Parking is $5 and there is little street parking nearby. Street signs detail many of the side streets prohibit it, so be careful.
Bathrooms are clean and wide open to accommodate any crowd, particularly small ones.
Cheap by many standards, in terms of ticket prices, food and merchandise. But you do expect a little more. The uniqueness of the right field with the steep grade in play and the cozy plate area makes for Joe Becker Stadium being a ballpark worth visiting. Make sure you see it.
Mascots - Blue the Wolf (sponsored by Blue Buffalo) and RBI (sponsored by Golden Paw Animal Rescue and Sanctuary). They are pretty fun to watch, one is a real mascot and the other a dog. A point for the real dog that is playful and docile enough to walk around the ballpark and mingle with fans.
Public Address Announcer - this person is more unique than in many venues, he is always on top of things, but not too much that you would find him overbearing. It is common for you to hear him say, "Let's hear it for the center fielder on that great catch!" He is engaged and plays a role which might better be described as cheerleader than the guy who announces the players when they bat.
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203 E 4th St
Jopin, MO 64801
4224 Hearnes Blvd
Joplin, MO 64804
527 S Main St,
Joplin, MO 64801
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