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Official Review by Jim Folsom, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Atlantic Sun Conference Baseball Tournament is held on Memorial Day Weekend in DeLand, Florida, the home of the Stetson University Hatters. In 2012, there were six teams participating for a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the winning team. The #1 seeded Belmont Bruins won the tournament which saw six pretty evenly matched teams go at it for four days of exciting baseball.
Conrad Park is the perfect spot for this tournament. Stetson has the best facility in the A-Sun Conference, a point agreed upon even by the fans of the other schools. Plus, with its close proximity to Daytona Beach, many of the fans stayed in hotels on A1A to enjoy the ocean when their team wasn’t playing.
The A-Sun Tournament will return in 2013 with eight teams participating. If you want a nice little, easy-on-the-budget vacation and something to take the kids to while you’re here, Memorial Day Weekend in Daytona Beach might just be the ticket. Go to the beach, catch a few baseball games, work on your tan, and don’t break the bank.
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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".
At Conrad Park they have your normal ballpark fare. They have popcorn, peanuts, Cracker Jack, nachos, hamburgers and hot dogs. Plus they also have some interesting items such as key lime pie on a stick (where else but Florida?) chicken sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, pizza, assorted candy and ice cream. You can even get a slushy which is the perfect elixir on a hot day.
I spoke with the manager of the concession stand. She was a nice lady who told me she travels to other ball parks just to see what they have to offer. She does make an effort to offer a variety. Plus, her prices are lower than most of the ball parks I've seen in this area. $2 for a box of popcorn? Not bad. They even have a souvenir soda cup that you can save and bring back for $1 refills as often as you want. And as an added bonus, she had TVs hooked up so you could watch the game while you're in line.
Now I do have to admit, the hot dogs at UNF were a little bit better than the ones at Stetson, so I'll have to dock them a point for that. But otherwise, very good concessions stand.
When you have fans from six different teams there and they are all fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the games will feel intense in the stands. Though the crowds were not really very large, the people who were there were into the game. The games were all very close as well which added to the excitement. On Day One of the tournament, two of the top three seeds lost and the #1 seed, Belmont, had to go 15 innings to beat the sixth seed Hatters. So this was truly anybody's tournament. Watching teams playing to keep their season alive, that's the best time of year for a sports fan.
The ballpark is in a great neighborhood. It's in the middle of DeLand, FL which is a clean little town about half way between Orlando and Daytona Beach. The ballpark is on the main road through town, HWY 17-92, so there are shops and restaurants all around within a short driving distance. The University Campus surrounds the ball park as well as a residential neighborhood to the east. You'd be hard pressed to find a better neighborhood for a ball game to take the kids to. The only drawback is there is not a lot of excitement about the local team. It would be nice to see some more of the home folks dressed in green and getting excited about the Hatters.
The fans were great. They were passionate about their teams. There was no fighting in the stands even though fans from all the teams were there. They cheered their teams on but there was no booing that I can recall. There just needs to be a few more of them next year.
You could easily get lost if you don't know your way around DeLand when you're trying to find Conrad Park. If you try to get to it from the interstate, you do have to drive through a residential neighborhood for a few minutes to get there. And from SR 44, you cannot turn onto 17-92 so you have to make a couple of extra turns to get there. But it's not that terribly hard to find either. Just print some directions or cue up the GPS.
Tickets for the whole tournament (four days, 11 possible games, 10 games minimum) went for $35-$45. A one day ticket (three games per day except day four, which was either one game or two) went for $10-$15. So if you bought a tournament pass for $35, that's only $3.50 per game. How are you going to beat that? With the reasonably priced concessions, the only thing you have to worry about is the gas to get you there or the hotel if you live someplace not within a reasonable drive from the park.
The weather was fantastic. It was hot, but not too hot. There was a nice little breeze blowing that kept it from getting too unbearable. Plus, they allow you to bring umbrellas in for shade.
One thing I would like to have seen was more team merchandise for sale. They had a stand there selling items with the A-Sun Tournament logos, but there wasn't anything from the teams. Also, they didn't have the usual "Stetson game" things that usually keep the crowd involved like throwing t-shirts, a 50-50 raffle, etc.
At least, those type promotions were not at the games I attended that I noticed. But I admit I did not go all four days, so I might have missed it. If they had some promotions such as "First 500 fans get a free souvenir t-shirt" they might draw a few more fans. Maybe next year they should try to get a local business or two to sponsor some giveaways.
All in all, the Atlantic Sun Baseball Tournament is an event you may want to attend if you are a baseball fan on a tight budget. If you are a baseball fan, you won't be disappointed.
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1330 Saxon Blvd
Orange City, FL 32763