Olsen Field was opened in 1978 and named for C. E. "Pat" Olsen, a 1923 graduate of Texas A&M and a former player in the New York Yankees system.
In 2011, renovations made possible through donations by local ice cream company Blue Bell Creameries were started and this led to the new name which came into effect before the 2012 season. Amenities provided by these renovations include a larger concourse and concessions area, a new press box, two grass berms, and more seating closer to the field. Interestingly, capacity was decreased from 7,000 to 5,400 to accommodate the changes.
In 2004, Sports Illustrated ranked Olsen as the best college baseball venue in the country. Of course, that was nearly 10 years ago so Stadium Journey has made the visit to see how the stadium ranks a year after the renovations were completed.
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There are large concession stands on each side of the concourse but they offer the same basic choices. An Aggie dog is $3, while Slovacek sausages and bratwursts are just $4 and likely the better bet. There are a few smaller specialty stands - one serves kettle corn for $4 or $6 depending on how hungry you are, while a Double Dave's table boasts 2 pepperoni rolls for $5. Cinnamon roasted nuts are offered in small ($4), medium ($6), large ($8) or ridiculous ($12) sizes. Soda comes in regular or souvenir sizes and there is no beer for sale.
The biggest problem was the condiment dispensers had not been properly stocked and were quite messy as well. It was early in the season and a few other stands were not yet operational, so perhaps food and beverage might be a bit better as the spring progresses.
Before the game, a number of baseball songs such as "Centerfield" were played, getting fans ready for the show to come. During the game, there are a number of cute little sound effects and songs that are played to match the situation. Often a team will use the same clip over and over, but there they were playing different bits into the ninth inning and it wasn't annoying.
There were some trivia quizzes and other promos between innings, just enough to keep you entertained but not overly loud or distracting.
I really enjoyed the banter between the PA announcer and the Raggies, the group of fans that I will discuss shortly. The PA announcer here was on top of the game and occasionally made comments directed to the Raggies, who responded as a group. I'm not sure if they do this every game, but it was good fun and something that I had not seen before.
A train track runs beyond the outfield fence and during the game a freight train passed through, adding a nice touch to the proceedings.
The Texas A&M campus hosts the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, a must-see regardless of your political leanings. The surrounding town of College Station exists because of the university and has plenty of small hangouts for students as well as your typical chains such as TGI Friday's and Buffalo Wild Wings. However, the place to go is Sully's Sports Grill and Bar which is just across Texas Avenue from the campus.
It is always a bit tough to rate a neighborhood when visiting college stadiums, but when a school has athletic facilities like Texas A&M, it becomes a little easier. Kyle Field is just beyond center field and Reed Arena is just a few minutes away. Combining the local scene with what is available on campus makes College Station a worthwhile destination for more than just sports.
There is a section of fans that call themselves Raggies as they constantly "rag" opponents, other fans, and even the PA announcer. Sitting in section 202, they have a wide repertoire of responses to whatever may happen on the field or in the stands. For example, when a foul ball is hit into the stands and a fan is unable to make a catch, they yell "Eeeeeeeee" as in error. When an opposing player strikes out, they make shooting noises to the theme song of "The Rifleman". The list goes on and on, and it is worth taking in a game here just for this unique fan group. They are quite fair as well; when a fan made a great catch of a foul ball, they stood and applauded.
Of course, there are other supporters too. In 2012, the Aggies ranked 9th among Division I baseball programs in attendance, averaging 4,369 per home game and most of these are happy to sit back and enjoy the action. Almost everyone has a maroon jacket or sweater and they all seem to know each other.
All fans stand before the game and sing the alma mater and they stay standing for the pregame ceremonies, only sitting after the national anthem. A great group overall that would be fun to join on a regular basis.
Located on the campus off Olsen Road, the ballpark is surrounded by several parking lots, which are $5 for visitors. Getting in is easy, but it took a few minutes to get out as the stop lights for turning onto George Bush Drive were not well-timed. This is a minor issue though.
The bigger problem is that walk-up tickets are quite limited. There are two separate seating levels but you are limited to the upper deck seats on the 3rd base side ($9) or the berms ($8) when you arrive on game day. The price is reasonable but if you like to sit lower down, you are out of luck. I would suggest getting section 210 or 211 to avoid the netting if you prefer a clear view.
Walking around the concourse or the seating bowl presents no issues at all, and the washrooms are more than adequate.
Assuming you park, buy a ticket, a bratwurst, and a program ($1), you are spending less than $20 for a great show. Not only the team, but the fans and the staff all do their part to make a game at Olsen Field memorable. No complaints here at all; the value for the money is tough to beat.
There are a number of small additions worth noting. First, banners on the exterior of the façade celebrate Aggie baseball accomplishments over the years. You will also notice a monument dedicated to Pat Olsen, after whom the ballpark was originally named.
Inside, there are photos on the support poles that turn an unsightly necessity into something worth checking out, if only briefly.
A playground down in the right field corner was quite popular with the kids.
There are two honored numbers on the fence next to the foul poles. Tom Chandler was coach for 26 years from 1959-84 and the number 26 is on the left field fence in his honor (although he wore number 23). On the right field fence is number 7 for Mark Johnson who coached from 1985-2005 and leads the Aggies in wins.
One thing I had never seen before was a 20-second pitch clock, although this was only used when the bases were empty and it never reached zero.
The exterior of Olsen Field is beautiful and no doubt the recent renovations have made it even more so. Inside it is more typical with concrete dominating the concourse, but the two-level design is very rare in college baseball. It is good that they have such a strong fan base that sells out the lower level, but as a stadium journeyer, I would prefer to have the option to sit closer. Then again, sitting on the 3rd base side does give you a great view of the Raggies and that alone makes a visit to Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park worth the trip to College Station.
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