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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Baseball has been played John Cate Field at McBride Stadium since August of 1936. The former gravel pit was quickly transformed to replace Exhibition Park which had been destroyed by a fire the previous year. McBride was originally known as Municipal Stadium when it opened for legion ball and was funded by the Works Progress Administration.
The first professional team were the Richmond Roses who began play in 1946, the Class D affiliate of the Boston Braves. The 1947 home opener saw the Roses notch a 4-1 victory in front of 1,559 fans under cool, windy Indiana springtime weather. The club compiled a 202-220 record n three seasons and attracted 58,039 fans during the 1948 season, the highest total of any affiliated club at the stadium.
In 1949 the independent Richmond Robins were established, but were soon replaced after one season by the Richmond Tigers of the Ohio-Indiana League. The Detroit affiliate featured future Major League Hall of Famer Jim Bunning who posted a 7-8 record in his first year of pro ball in 1950. However, in December 1951 Detroit withdrew its affiliation citing instability with the league and the scarcity of players due to the military draft. It would be 44 years before another professional minor league ballclub would return to the city.
McBride would continue hosting American Legion and high school baseball during the next four decades, but the years of baseball took its toll on the diamond. The playing field was uneven and in bad shape; it was recrowned thanks to efforts by Richmond High School baseball coach John Cate. He would later manage the Richmond Roosters of the Frontier League, the first professional baseball team at McBride in 43 years. The ballclub would capture two league championships in 2001 and 2002.
Unfortunately, the club would relocate in 2006, but were later replaced with the Richmond River Rats of the Prospect League in 2009. The collegiate summer league team would compete for seven years before making way for the current franchise, the Richmond Jazz of the Great Lakes Collegiate Summer League in 2016.
The 1,874 seat ballpark features a small wooden roof grandstand, light standards that look like originals, sloping grass hill down the left field line, and plenty of memories from high school, legion, professional, and collegiate baseball of the past 80 years. From gravel pit to baseball ballpark, McBride is hidden gem of a ballpark in Indiana.
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There is a selection of menu choices at the stadium concession stands with most items ranging around $3-$4. Hot dogs are $2 and if you want to add cheese or chili it would cost you a dollar extra. Hamburgers and double hamburgers are $4 and $6 respectively, while brats sell for $3. There are also walking tacos that are popular for $4.50 a bag, personal pizza for $6, and nachos for $3. Bags of beef jerky cost $2.
There is also an abundant of candy and frozen treats for sale. Candy bars sell for $1, boxed candy for $2, and frozen chocolate bars and ice cream are $2. Coca Cola products cost $2 a bottle. Budweiser, Coors, and Miller products sell $4 a can, and a glass of wine is only $5.
The game day atmosphere for a Jazz game is not too far removed from previous ballclubs that called the stadium home. Many of the same elements that were initially present at McBride are still there for its current tenant.
The small ticket window greets customers walking up the hill from the parking lot. The two window concession booth has almost the same menu, and the crowds are around the same in numbers. There is a small table near the grandstand entrance that sells colorful Jazz memorabilia that's adorned in neon green and bright orange.
The entrance to the grandstand holds a bit of nostalgia as it is sunken into the field and into a hill. There are roughly 14 rows of wooden and plastic seating underneath the roof that has a small press box perched on top. The wooden columns are a reminder of ballparks of the past and the view of the game is not interrupted by them.
Down the left field line is plenty of green grass for kids to run around. The sloped area extends all the way behind the left field wall and features a wooden deck that was once used as a picnic patio section; it's now open to anyone who wants to watch the game from a different vantage point.
There are in between inning promotions and gimmicks, but on a much smaller scale than previous seasons, but there is an on-field PA announcer who does a nice job with entertaining the crowd on hand in the stands. The Jazz do not have a mascot who parades around entertaining fans young and old.
McBride is nestled into a residential community in Clear Creek Park and it is adjacent to several little league fields. It is a type of town where one can leave their doors unlocked or take a stroll at 3 o'clock in the morning without fear. It is also a reminder of what small towns might have felt like a few decades ago when minor league ballparks were almost everywhere to be found.
No dining options are within proximity of the stadium and one would need to drive a few miles to find a place to eat. The only Tim Horton's in the Hoosier state is a mere mile away on State Road 40, Little Sheeba's offers great pizza and baked jalapeno poppers, and Galo's Italian Grill is another fine option.
There are quite a bit of national chains, but one local establishment off Interstate 70 called Fricker's has some of the best hot wings in the area. And to my beer and wine connoisseurs, there are two local brewpubs in town: New Boswell and Noble Order Breweries. Noble Order also offers wine and wine slushies at their location outside of town on SR 40.
The crowds have been somewhat smaller than what the River Rats had produced the previous seasons, but on certain weekend and firework nights, the games are very well attended. The ballpark does not need to be at capacity to feel like a sellout, crowds of 1,000-1,500 could easily give the place some much needed life. Baseball of all types have been a fabric of the community and it is hard not to find someone from the area who doesn't have a memory from attending a game at McBride.
Even though Richmond is a small town, it is easy to get lost when trying to find McBride Stadium as there are no road signs to the ballpark from either I-70 or SR-40. What a shame, but it should not deter anyone from getting to the stadium (thank you GPS). The poor signage may hide the fact to outsiders that a great old ballpark exists.
If you are traveling on I-70, take exit 149 A Williamsburg Pike south, make a right onto Indiana Ave., then a left onto NW 13 St., and the stadium is on the left. Once arriving at the ballpark you should be able to find a spot in the free parking lot, on the street outside the walls of the stadium, or somewhere on the streets in the neighborhood. The parking is free and there is a little patience needed to get out the lot after the game.
Tickets to all Jazz games are only $3, a great deal for a summer collegiate baseball team that plays in a historic and lovely, little ballpark. The parking is also free and most items at the concession stand cost under $4.
Very low ticket prices; at $3 there can be no excuses to enjoy a game at McBride.
The helpful staff deserve extra credit, especially the nice women who took down my home address and sent me an article from the local newspaper describing the history of stadium. Without her help, I am not sure how this story would have turned out.
The McBride celebrating 80-years of life and still housing baseball of all kinds underneath its wooden grandstand
A trip to a Jazz game at McBride Stadium should not go unnoticed. It may not be for the casual fan, but depending on who you are with, it may make a nice little treat during the baseball season. In an era where million dollar structures are opening up and trying to outshine one another, a small cozy ball field will always be a reminder that home is not too far away.
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410 N 10th St
Richmond, IN 47374
3415 National Road West
Richmond, IN 47374
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6000 National Rd E
Richmond, IN 47374