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Official Review by Jim Folsom, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In DeLand, Florida, the Stetson University Hatters are the only game in town. It’s a small school in a small town with a big time college baseball team. 2012’s Hatters are 34-18 and are looking good for a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. One week during that season, the Hatters split a two game series with the number one ranked team in the country, the Florida State Seminoles. I was there for the second game of the series and it was a good one.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food at the ballpark was very good and it was very reasonably priced. They had a good selection, with hot dogs, burgers, nachos, etc. Plus they also had candy, sodas, bottled water, popcorn, and the usual ballpark fare. But at Conrad Park, they set up mobile carts in the aisles out in the bleachers, so you can go get a water or a box of popcorn or bag of Cracker Jack without ever missing a pitch. Plus, the bottled water was only $2 a bottle, which for a ball game is dirt cheap. Most ballparks charge $3 or $4 per bottle. Also, a box of popcorn was also only $2. Everything on the menu ran a bit cheaper than the typical ballpark.
The atmosphere at the game was great. But honestly, the fans that were in attendance that day were mostly there to see Florida State, the number one ranked team in college baseball. So I will have to deduct a point for the fact that I would have thought more of the home fans would show up. The weather was gorgeous. First pitch was at 4:00, so it was a bit hot to start the game, but as the game went on it got more pleasant.
Even though there was a heavy contingent of visiting fans at the game, there was no animosity between the two teams. I was there with my kids and we were pulling for the home team sitting amongst a slew of FSU fans, but nobody gave us any grief for it. But since I can imagine if Stetson were playing Jacksonville or North Florida, the crowd would be pretty small I will have to deduct points for that.
The surrounding area around the ballpark is excellent. It's located on Woodland Boulevard, which is the main road through town, so there is no shortage of places to eat near the ballpark. Plus, the whole neighborhood seems to be surrounded by huge trees, which give the neighborhood an old, cozy look. The neighborhood is also the University Campus so you have your college buildings, libraries, etc., nearby. It is a very clean and safe looking area as well. It is just a great ballpark to take the kids to and not have to worry about what they might see on the way back to the car. The only thing that would make it better would be if there were more excitement about the team.
Most of the fans there were rooting for FSU. But the Stetson fans who were there were very much into the game and their team. It's just too bad there aren't more of them.
Conrad Park is probably not the easiest place to find if you aren't familiar with the area. DeLand is about halfway between Daytona Beach and Orlando on Interstate 4. But to get to the ballpark from the interstate, you must go well into town on Florida State Road 44. Then you need to go south on U.S. Routes 17 and 92 (Woodland Blvd), but they won't allow you to turn onto US 17-92 from New York Ave (SR 44). So you have to turn down some side streets. But parking is excellent. It's free and it's right next to the ballpark. So they get a big plus for that.
I don't know how you could do much better. Tickets for the game range from $6.00 (students and seniors) to $8.00. For that you can sit close to the action in bleachers with a backrest on them. The drinks and snacks are a few steps away. The action on the field was great. The Hatters beat the #1 Seminoles 6-5 in a game that went down to the last pitch before it was decided. How can you top that?
If you're a resident of Central Florida and on a tight budget, you can still find a bargain with college and minor league baseball. Conrad Park is one of the places you need to visit. The only drawback is that it will take some gas to get you there because Conrad Park is a bit off the beaten path.
Stetson does a really good job with the "extras". They do the tee-shirt tosses and they have the ceremonial first pitch with the locals being involved. A student led the singing of the national anthem. The P.A. Announcer had a voice that suggests he must've had a career in radio. He was as professional as they come. They had a 50-50 raffle to help raise money for the baseball team and some lucky fan left with over $240 in cash. I don't think the fans could expect much more. The only thing that would have been better is if there was some kind of giveaway for the first 1000 fans or something like that.
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