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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Baseball and the United States Military Academy at West Point have a long history together. One of its graduates, Abner Doubleday, is credited to having created the game, and the field the Black Knights play on is named for him. Baseball was the first official sport to be sanctioned by the academy with the first games taking place in 1890. The physical location of Doubleday Field has been hosting games since 1909. The field was formally dedicated as Doubleday Field in 1939, baseball’s centennial year.
The stadium has undergone numerous renovations over the years, with major work being done in 1996 and again in 2013. The Johnson Stadium part of the complex’s name is a salute to Rupert Johnson, class of 1922, who helped raise funds for these renovations.
A number of famous Americans have been members of the Black Knights baseball teams over the years. Among the most famous are Omar Bradley, Douglas MacArthur, and General Bob Neyland, the team’s all-time record holder for wins as a pitcher, who went on to be a Hall of Fame football coach at the University of Tennessee.
Babe Ruth hit the longest home run ever at Doubleday Field during an exhibition game in 1934, with the ball traveling more than 500 feet. Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson also served as Army’s coach for a few of its earliest teams.
The present day Black Knights continue the proud history of Army baseball. They have won seven Patriot League championships and made six NCAA tournament appearances. Due to the harsh winters at West Point, the team has pre season training at the Yankees complex in Tampa and the first half of its regular season is on the road in warmer climates. This allows the cadets to have a long string of home games at the end of the season in front of a friendly home crowd and to build momentum heading into the league and NCAA tournaments.
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For those who have served in the military, you definitely have better food offerings at Doubleday Field than the MRE's you once subsisted on! Cadet Food Services brings a fully stocked concession trailer to the field for each game. Among their food offerings are sodas for $3, water for $2, hot dogs and pretzels for $3, while assorted candies and chips are $2. They also offer coffee and hot chocolate as it can get cold on the cliffs above the Hudson far into the spring.
Due to security regulations, coolers are not allowed on the campus, and visitors are not permitted in the Cadet Dining Hall, so bringing in or purchasing food other than at the ballpark are not options.
Attending a baseball game at Doubleday Field is a unique experience as you are surrounded by history. There are buildings bearing the names of famous generals, the cemetery where many of America's heroes are buried, and monuments to their accomplishments. All of these are just steps away from Doubleday Field. Over the right field wall are the library and academic complex. Over the left field wall are stunning views of the Hudson River winding past the campus.
The stadium is designed for this very purpose. Its low profile does not obstruct the views and its outer walls of granite are meant to emulate the architecture of the surrounding buildings. A nice addition to the exterior of the stadium is a series of engravings of a pitcher, catcher and fielder with West Point buildings in the background.
Topping it all off, sitting next to you and playing in front of you are tomorrow's heroes. You can't help but to root for the home team and you stand a little straighter and much prouder when the national anthem is played before the game.
Another unique moment during Army baseball games comes at 5pm when Evening Retreat (the lowering of the main U.S. flag on campus) is sounded across the campus. The game stops immediately, even if in the middle of a pitch count, and the players, fans and visiting teams all face the parade grounds where the flag is located. Players place their caps over their hearts and anyone in military uniform gives a salute. The campus is completely silent except for the sound of the trumpet until the flag has been lowered. Then the game resumes.
The area immediately surrounding Doubleday Field is the United States Military Academy campus. The best way to see the campus is via a free tour bus, as much of the campus is not open to civilians.
Outside of the campus is the quaint village of Highland Falls, New York. The town is made up of mom and pop stores, no chain or big box stores.
The nicest accommodations in town are right at the entrance to the USMA's Thayer Gate at the historic Hotel Thayer. It is filled with memorabilia about the Academy and offers stunning views of the Hudson River below the academy. Two other lodging options in town are the West Point Motel and Overlook on the Hudson (a bed and breakfast that was formerly Billy Joel's home).
Among the restaurants to choose from in Highland Falls are Park Restaurant and the Hacienda. Other restaurants and the usual chains are located about 15 miles from the academy in adjoining communities or along I-87. The visitor's center for the USMA is actually located in the town and is an excellent source of information on the surrounding areas in addition to the Academy itself.
The mix of fans you will run into at a Black Knights game is quite a mix. Obviously a large portion will come from the corps of cadets, seeking a short respite from the rigid lifestyle of a military academy and known for its demanding academic standards. Their allegiance to the team is unquestioned and they will cheer loudly, but you will hear no trash talking due to the strict code of conduct at the academy. You are just as likely to be sitting next to a retired general and alumni, who may be on the Board of Directors of a Fortune 500 company now. The third segment of the crowd is the townspeople of Highland Falls, whose lives and jobs are often intertwined with the Academy.
The United States Military Academy is an active military installation, and has stringent security regulations. All visitors to the campus must enter through the Security Checkpoint located at Thayer Gate. A valid photo ID is required for admittance. Cars may be searched by security personnel during high alert periods, but typically this is not required. You will be given instructions on how to reach Doubleday Field from security. Do not leave the instructed route as many areas of the campus are off limits to civilians.
You may want to acquaint yourself with the campus by stopping at the USMA Visitors Center located outside the gates in downtown Highland Falls, which is just outside the Thayer Gate. The nearest airports are in White Plains, NY or Newburgh, NY. By car you would take I-87 to the Highland Falls exit and follow the directions to the USMA.
There is no charge to attend a Black Knights baseball game, nor is there any charge for parking. The concessions are limited, but very reasonable in price. Throw in that you are attending a game in one of the most historic and important facilities of United States history as well as a well played game and it is impossible to feel you have not gotten your money's worth out of the experience. The remoteness of the location and the stringent security requirements are a small price to pay when we realize that national defense depends on the work done on this campus.
The best way to see the academy campus is via West Point Tours. They are the licensed vendor with the USMA and are allowed in areas off limits to cars or visitors on foot. One and two hour long tours are available.
Bear Mountain State Park is just outside of town and offers great hiking with the views of the Hudson you will never see from the road.
Woodbury Commons Outlet Mall is located at the I-87 exit leading into town and has more than 100 stores for those who like to combine shopping on their stadium journeys.
Member Review by ballparkreviews on Apr 24, 2017
Taking in any sporting event at West Point is a treat simply because you can feel the history of the place as soon as you set foot on the campus. The baseball field here is surrounded by buildings made of stone (some new, some old), which make for a great backdrop. While the ballpark is comfortable enough (all the seats are individual fold downs), the sightlines are poor. This is due to the thick screen that protects the entire grandstand. The only unobstructed views are from standing room areas down each line. Concessions are sold out of a food truck and are a bit high in price - $4 for hotdogs, $4 for drinks, $10 for chicken tenders. At least admission to the games is free of charge. I'm not typically a fan of college baseball, but taking in a game at West Point is definitely a cool experience.
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674 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
156 Main St
Highland Falls, NY 10928