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Official Review by Ed Pelle, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Stony Brook University officially began competition in NCAA Division I athletics in 1999 with little to no fanfare. In the years that followed several of the programs made strides in adapting to the new, more difficult level of competition, but the athletics department lacked a singular defining win that would make news on a national level.
The men's soccer team did qualify for the NCAA Tournament three times prior to 2012, as did the men’s lacrosse team, with a 2010 run to the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals.
The Stony Brook baseball team had also been a successful program with three conference titles prior to 2012, but the culmination of the 2012 baseball season saw the Seawolves make an improbable run to the College World Series in Omaha as the lowest seeded team remaining in the field. No team from the Northeast had accomplished this feat in 26 years and even Big Ten power conference commissioner Jim Delaney had previously complained that teams from the north would not be able to compete with their rivals from the South, demanding changes to the NCAA structure of college baseball.
The team adopted the simple mantra of "shock the world" and won on the road at a regional in Miami, Florida and then again at a Super Regional at LSU. After defeating LSU on the road some fans of the prohibitive favorite from Louisiana even began to display "Geaux Seawolves" signs at the College World Series in a gesture of respect. The run to the College World Series is to date the most well-known accomplishment of Stony Brook Athletics and made the program known to more casual fans who resided outside of the Long Island area.
Stony Brook Baseball plays its games at Joe Nathan Field, which is dedicated to current MLB player and the most prominent baseball figure in the program’s history after a large donation by Nathan to upgrade the facilities. The renovations were completed prior to the 2011 season. The current configuration of the field seats 1,000 and has a full FieldTurf playing area. Although Joe Nathan is known for his career as a relief pitcher for several MLB organizations, he began his professional career as a shortstop and was converted to the position despite protesting against the switch.
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As is usually customary in the Northeast where there are usually no concessions, supporters bring food for the team. What is unusual at Seawolves games is that supporters tend to bring food for everyone in attendance. The phrase "you can't complain if it is free" seems apt here, though incoming athletic director Shawn Heilbron has stated in interviews that he would like to address this issue by adding better seating and amenities for baseball.
Located at the northern most corner of campus adjacent to the softball field, Joe Nathan Field is a symmetrical playing surface 330 feet long down the foul lines and 390 feet from home plate to dead center.
There is a bullpen along the third base side and a bullpen behind right field. If you were to circumnavigate the park you would not be able to watch the action from the outfield area as it is fenced off. Fans tend to cluster in the stands behind home plate, though some will prefer to stand along the foul lines.
Along the third base line bullpen are large signs highlighting each victory stage in the 2012 post season run. The field of play is entirely artificial which is a significantly better approach than those baseball fields which only have an infield diamond artificially installed. The seating provided for the fans is of the aluminum bench variety with a small press box at the top of the stands behind home plate.
Located on the north shore of Long Island, Stony Brook is a quiet town that is very close to the Long Island Sound. Historically the north shore of Long Island had been home to some of the most influential aristocrats and many of these historic estates are still in existence. One such estate belonging William Vanderbilt has been turned into a museum in nearby Centerport. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for children under 12 years of age. There is also a planetarium that Suffolk County, who oversees the property, built there in 1970.
For pre or post game libations there are two great sports bars within walking distance of Joe Nathan Field on the other side of the train tracks. The Bench Bar and Grill has several large televisions placed throughout the establishment with sports programming always on. They have 25 beers on tap daily and a full menu of lunch and dinner dishes. Some highlights are steak and mushrooms ($19.99), St. Louis BBQ ($18.99), bourbon glazed pork chops ($16.99), seared tuna ($17.99) and rigatoni chicken alfredo ($15.99).
Jake Starr Cafe is located one block east and has a similar set up with sports themed television programming, a full bar and an extensive menu. I would highly recommend a deluxe burger platter here with several combinations at starting at $11.75.
Interest in all things Stony Brook has been on the upswing in the last few years. Since the 2012 post season run, baseball fans have turned out in larger numbers than ever. Often visitors to campus on other business will ask if the baseball team is in, and the location of the field hoping to see the Seawolves play while they are in town.
One of the great things about the Joe Nathan Field is its proximity to a Long Island Railroad terminal. It is very easy to walk from the station to the game. Most people in attendance will drive in headed north on Nicolls Road. Once you make a left on North Boundary Road right before the train trestle you are looking at the center field fence of Joe Nathan Field.
Parking is available right next to the field without charge. You could even travel to, or from Southern Connecticut easily on the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson auto ferry which is a sponsor of Stony Brook Athletics. The terminal is only four miles away in neighboring Port Jefferson.
There is no charge for baseball games and parking adjacent to the field is also free. The only costs here would be transportation to and from the venue. The opportunity to see high level NCAA Baseball up close for free cannot be understated.
Behind the grandstand is a tree with two flat large rocks next to it. This shady outpost is constantly one of the most popular spots to watch the action from, though it may not have even been placed there by design.
Stony Brook has a very large, interesting campus filled with modern buildings, large outdoor art pieces and a hospital on the eastern side of campus. Taking one of the free campus buses through the University would give you a sense of just how much is going on here.
After the post season run in 2012 the pressing question was, could this success be the product of a team that had all its parts magically come together at the right time or was this run the dividend of many years of hard work by the people involved with Seawolves athletics. As a few seasons have passed since 2012 it seems apparent that a consistent high level of play is the new benchmark for the baseball team. The future seems bright as the University has taken a renewed interest in providing a better experience for the fans in every athletic program.
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1095 New York
Stony Brook, NY 11790
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