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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When Saint Mary's College moved their baseball stadium 400 feet down the right field line from their old stadium, they had big plans. These plans have been slow to materialize but one can definitely see progress. The new Louis Guisto Field is a facility under transition and part of the greater Athletics and Recreation Corridor which will include a gym, swimming pool, locker rooms and additional seating at the baseball stadium.
Though they set out to add a 1,500 seat grandstand at Louis Guisto Field after the 2012 season, that hasn't occurred yet. It's clear that while the field is in perfect shape, the bleachers are decades old and from the old field. The portable building press box is clearly not yet the "state of the art" one they will have when renovation is complete.
Since my last trip in 2012 they have demolished the old Louis Guisto Field to make way for the rest of the Athletics and Recreation Corridor. You can see an artist rendering of the corridor as well as an outline of the new facilities here. You can see that the baseball stadium is at the center of it, with the softball field Cottrell Field beyond its left field wall.
The Gaels hope that upgrading the stadium and facilities that go along with it will help propel the program to the top of the WCC. In their brief tenure at the new Louis Guisto Field they have struggled and have been at the bottom of the standings.
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".
One folding table is for concessions and one for condiments. Hot dogs, peanuts, and nachos are the fare. Bottled soda and water as well as coffee, hot chocolate and Gatorade are the drink options.
Though the bleacher seating is clearly decades old, the field and surrounding areas are beautiful.
The field lies beneath a tree-covered hillside in the quiet town of Moraga. The ping of the bats is the only sounds other than PA system playing walk-up music and announcing the next hitter.
Cottrell Field, home of the Gaels' softball team is just beyond the left field wall. Since I got there early, I caught a few innings of the Saint Mary's vs Utah Valley game on the softball field.
There are 3 seating areas. 2 sets of bleachers separated by the pressbox and a picnic area down the right field line. All of the bleacher seats have the foul ball netting in sight while the picnic area does not.
There is a new scoreboard in right-centerfield that has basic stats as well as a video board that displays pictures of Saint Mary's players when they are up to bat.
One major problem while sitting in the bleachers is that the new dugouts are in the way of whichever outfielder's line you are on. The dugout structures seem rather tall and interfere with sightings. If you want to sit in the bleachers, I recommend getting as close behind the plate as possible to minimize the issues with the dugout.
It's tough to judge this neighborhood. Benefits include the closeness to the more happening places in the Bay Area and the beauty of the surrounding community, complete with hiking trails. Drawbacks include a lack of a vibrant, bustling community to take advantage of on gameday.
The diamond is located on the Saint Mary's campus in the town of Moraga. Moraga has a population of less than 20,000 and is a quiet, but beautiful place. Rolling hills and tall redwoods allow for beautiful day hikes in the area.
Being located on campus, though scenic, is not conducive to grabbing food or drink prior to or after a Gaels baseball game, it's quite the drive. Your best options are in downtown Moraga or Rheem Valley. Here you can find area favorite Loard's Ice Cream, Italian restaurant Amaroma, and Asia Palace (mostly Chinese food).
Moraga is a mostly sleepy community where you can enjoy being outside, cruising the farmer's market or catching a movie. You won't find a row of sports bars where you can catch a game on a big screen.
There are many hiking trails within 20 miles of the Saint Mary's campus that allow beautiful views of the entire San Francisco Bay.
Saint Mary's fans were relaxed for this Saturday afternoon matchup in early 2013. There were a few dozen of them along with about a few dozen LMU fans. It was nearly 50/50 Gaels/Lions fans. It seemed the vast majority of those in attendance were parents and other family members plus a few students.
I would have liked to see more students at the game considering it is free for them to attend but I believe it may have also been during spring break when I attended.
As mentioned above, Moraga is somewhat secluded from the rest of the Bay Area. The nearest freeways (13 and 24) are more than 5 miles away, accessible only by winding roads, with one lane going each direction.
During rush hours, the Caldecott Tunnel really backs up as the lanes go down from 4 lanes to two. This tunnel connects most of the Bay Area to Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Walnut Creek, etc. You are usually safe on weekends however.
For many Bay Area residents avoiding traffic can be solved by taking a BART train. Unfortunately the nearest station is 5 miles away, so it is not walkable. Riding a bicycle is an option from the train station and would be a nice ride through the rolling hills, but isn't advisable as there aren't many street lights from the station into town.
Parking is free and plentiful on the weekend but there may be a fee during the week. The parking lot is along the right field line but there is an additional one across the street from the right field wall, next to the soccer/rugby fields.
The two grandstands are mirror images of each other and equally accessible.
To access the nearest restroom you need to leave the baseball field and walk directly behind home plate about 50 yards and enter that classroom building. Restrooms are on the right hand side, just inside the entrance.
I thought tickets were a tad expensive since they were the same rate ($10) as the nationally recognized basketball program. It should be noted that seniors and children are $7 and SMC students are free with valid I.D. It is nice that you can move around to find your favorite spot to sit.
Food is inexpensive and with parking free on the weekends you could get by on just a $10, which is well worth the experience.
There isn't much in the way of extras at Louis Guisto Field. I did however appreciate that I was able to catch a softball game on the same day.
The Gaels have retired Tom Candiotti's #49 and that is displayed on the left-centerfield wall. Unfortunately there aren't any notes about SMC history beyond that.
Lastly, there was an equal amount of merchandise for visiting LMU as there was for Saint Mary's. I'm not sure if these schools have a unique relationship or if that is consistent across the WCC.
Once the seating area matches the field of play in terms of quality, a trip to Louis Guisto will jump several points on the FANFARE scale.
Member Review by ryannorris on Jun 26, 2012
The Saint Mary’s Gaels baseball program upped capacity by 1,000 when they moved to their new Louis Guisto Field at the beginning of the 2012 season. A nice celebration corresponded with the move, as the most famed Gael in the program’s history, Tom Candiotti, threw out the first pitch on opening day.
Louis Guisto Field is just a part of the greater $30 million Athletics & Recreation Corridor which will include an aquatics center, fitness center, and climbing wall. They are currently in the process of adding a new grandstand now that the season is over.
Adjacent to the old baseball field, the new one shares the same beautiful surroundings that the old one did, making it one of the more picturesque environments in all of Northern California.
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