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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Stanford Cardinal have won 116 National championships, 102 of which are of the NCAA variety, second most all-time (UCLA). Of those 102, 41 represent women's sports, the most all-time. It's clear that the Cardinal athletic program is prolific and the baseball team is just one piece of it.
Winning back-to-back championships in 1987 and 1988, Stanford baseball is one of the elite programs in the country. They have won 20 conference championships (most recently in 2004), have had 29 NCAA Tournament appearances (most recently in 2011), and 16 College World Series appearances (most recently in 2008).
In recent years the football program has experienced greater success with back-to-back BCS bowl game appearances. In 2011 they beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium and in 2012 they lost to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Combine that with a NIT basketball championship in 2012 at Madison Square Garden by the Stanford men’s basketball team and a Final Four appearance at the Pepsi Center by the women’s team, and the Stanford baseball squad is experiencing raised expectations.
The Cardinal baseball team have been playing at the Sunken Diamond adjacent from Stanford Stadium since 1931 and at a capacity of just 4,000, it provides a much more intimate atmosphere than its 50,000 seat counterpart.
There is one level of seating that stretches around the backstop from first base to third base. Two sections of grass seating are located near the foul pole on both sides of the field where fans sprawl on picnic blankets and kids have the opportunity to run around a bit. The remodel in 2001 brought new seating, a three-tier press box, and new dugouts to Sunken Diamond.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are 6 main food items at the Sunken Diamond; the grilled colossal dog, cheeseburger, hamburger, grilled chicken sandwich and garden burger (all $6) and the cardinal dog ($5). The various sides include nachos ($5), french fries ($5), peanuts ($4), and licorice rope ($2).
No alcoholic beverages are served at Klein Field however soda, frozen lemonade, hot chocolate and coffee were all available. The latter two items were particularly popular on this breezy, chilly night at Stanford.
The Sunken Diamond consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful venues in college baseball. This is due in part to the trees that hug the outer rim of the venue and the mountains in the background that make this a nearly perfect place to take in a baseball game. Keep in mind that the stadium is located at one of the most picturesque universities in the nation and be sure to check out the architecture viewable from inside and outside of the ballpark.
There is a friendly vibe in the air at a Stanford baseball game. While there certainly is a family-friendly atmosphere at the Sunken Diamond, it certainly doesn't lack a competitive nature. The game I went to pitted two top-end programs against each other as Stanford welcomed the Texas Longhorns to California. There were a good amount of Texas supporters as the game but they only enhanced the atmosphere. There was not a bit of mean-spirited nature in Stanford that night, yet the place was jacked the entire time, a great experience.
Keeping with the theme of aesthetics, the Stanford baseball team satisfied with their classic uniform designs. One can picture the same uniforms being worn in 1931, complete with the high hosiery.
On a silly note, you can almost assuredly bet for clear skies and pleasant whether at Stanford as they are neighbors to Redwood City, "Climate Best by Government Test."
The university covers a lot of land and two zip codes and is separated from downtown Palo Alto by the El Camino Real. The downtown area is an affluent area with beautiful, safe streets. There is a bunch of shopping, bars and restaurants that are sure to meet anyone's fancy.
Right on the other side of El Camino Real is the Town and Country shopping center which includes a couple cafes, restaurants, a bookstore and a Trader Joe's.
Emerson Street and University Avenue is where most of the restaurants and hangouts are along. Wine bars and upscale dining dominate the scene in downtown Palo Alto with Vin Vino Wine, The Wine Room, Vino Locale, and Gravity Bar all serving the wine connoisseur. Other bars include Gordon Biersch, Scotty's, The Old Pro, and Antonio's Nut House. My choice would be Rudy's Pub (corner of Alma and University) for a beer before the game, perhaps on my way from the Caltrain Station, which is right across the street.
Dinner options in Palo Alto include: Pampas for steak, Tamarine for Vietnamese, Darbar for Indian, Garden Fresh for vegan, and Cafe Pro Bono for Italian.
Most appealing may be the natural beauty you find yourself in. Seeing as most of the games are held during the day, a walk through campus may be the perfect way to start your college baseball gameday.
After going to a USF baseball game I didn't have the highest expectations of the college baseball fan experience. However, Stanford fans really came out strong.
The Sunken Diamond was packed. Granted, it was a Friday evening prior to the professional baseball teams nearby got going but I was still impressed. Families, students, and seniors were all engaged throughout and they were immediately rewarded with a lead-off homerun in the bottom of the first inning by the Cardinal.
As I mentioned before it was a very positive atmosphere and the fans had as much to do with that as anything. There was playful ribbing with the opposing fans as well as passionate support of their own squad. Though there was a lot of visiting amongst fans and wandering of kids, I never got the sense that the fans weren't paying attention to what was going on on the field.
Stanford sits between two major freeways (101 and 280) and along the thoroughfare El Camino Real. This provides easy routes into and out of the university with ease unless it is rush hour. Palo Alto as with much of the vehicle-heavy peninsula is troubled by severe traffic after work hours. Your problem is solved if you take Caltrain which runs from San Francisco to San Jose. A ride from San Francisco to Palo Alto will run you $6.50. You can hop on the free Stanford shuttle from the train station if the 15 minute walking is daunting.
Unlike during games at Maples Pavilion or Stanford Stadium, parking at the Sunken Diamond is free on gamedays. There may however be a fee if the game is played during normal school hours like there is at other parking lots on campus. For the game against Texas, the main lot filled out quickly so I was forced to park in a gravel lot adjacent from the main lot, a five minute walk.
There is an upper and lower walkway that helps alleviate some foot traffic. The upper walkway allows access to the seats while the lower heads to the snack bar and restrooms. There is however only one set of restrooms, but they didn't back up very bad and were quite clean.
Stanford baseball tickets are quite affordable as adult general admission tickets start at $7 and children start at $4. The most expensive ticket is $21 and that includes rivals such as California or UCLA.
With parking being free, the most expensive part of the experience will undoubtedly be food. Though not overly expensive, it does seem a bit high in comparison to the ticket price. Even still, a hot dog, a ticket and parking will only run you $12. Can't beat that.
Though Klein Field at Sunken Diamond is a beautiful place to catch a game, it doesn't provide an over-the-top "extras" though that's fine for me.
The Cardinal do display their two NCAA championship flags down in the right field corner near the entrance and the restrooms and there are plaques in the entryway. Also in the entryway is a plaque dedicated to Bud Klein by his family.
Outside the entrance are three monuments representing Stanford world record holders, National Champions and Olympians. These monuments form a crescent shape and display the person being honored, the sport, and the year of accomplishment.
The last bit of "extras" is the Stanford campus. Walk it; you likely won't be able to see it all in one day.
Though the Bay Area has two professional baseball teams in the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants as well as the minor league San Jose Giants, the Stanford Cardinal provide an atmosphere on par, albeit smaller, than any of the above. It is my favorite of the three main venues on the Stanford campus.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Jan 07, 2013
The Cardinal play at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond, located on the east side of campus next to the football stadium. When the football stadium was built back in 1921, they excavated dirt from the area which created a sunken field on which the diamond was built in 1931. Hence, the name Sunken Diamond. In 2008, it was renamed Klein Field at Sunken Diamond in honour of Bud D. Klein, a former Stanford baseball player who succeeded in business and helped the program by supporting many initiatives.
There is plenty of free parking at the Varsity Lot right next to the ballpark. Drive in along Nelson Avenue off Galvez to access it.
Although the facility is 80 years old, it has been renovated several times. The most obvious addition arethe Kelly Green seats, which are much wider than your typical stadium seating and make the stadium more comfortable than that to which I am accustomed.
There are three pricing levels for walk-up patrons: The first three rows are $20, the rest of the reserved seats go for $11, and lawn seating just past the bases is $7. There is also an unreserved section of seats above third base (section 11). There are ushers around and they seem to let you sit anywhere as long as it is not in the first three rows. Note that the seats themselves have no numbers on them - Stanford is known for having intelligent students and alumni, so I guess they can all count up to 12 (the number of seats in a typical row).
Since NCAA baseball is not a business, it doesn't need to attract fans with bells and whistles as they do in the minor leagues. There is nothing but the field and a few concessions; the lack of advertising on the fences is refreshing. Do buy a $1 program as they have some game notes as well as a lucky number which is used for drawings throughout the game. I didn't try any of the food, but it looked quite tasty.
The ballpark is surrounded by beautiful trees, which in addition to providing a scenic background also stop plenty of foul balls from bouncing away. Smart kids stand under these trees, which slow down foul balls and make them easy to retrieve.
The field itself is symmetric at 335 down the lines and 400 to center. The foul area is quite large which is helpful when you are sitting close and the balls are pinging off those metal bats. Above the right field fence is the digital colour scoreboard which is quite impressive for college ball.
One memorable moment was provided by a visiting fan. The road team was Oregon State who go by the nickname Beavers. A gentleman was loudly exclaiming to all those around that he was a "Big Beaver Fan!". He may want to rephrase that in the future, especially if his wife is sitting next to him.
Sunken Diamond is a perfect place to see a ball game. If you are in the Bay Area and looking for something different to fill your sports calendar, consider driving down here.
546 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
117 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
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