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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
A simple field sits below a sloping hill on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. You have found the home of Golden Grizzlies baseball, a member of the geographically expansive Summit League.
We have used the phrase “no frills” to describe some of our venues in the past, but this one may take that to a whole new level of bare bones. Despite some of the expected amenities, I found myself enjoying the experience of sitting hillside on a cool spring day watching baseball. As “stadiums” go, it doesn’t really qualify as such, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a worthwhile and affordable experience to be had.
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".
This was a first for me. There was no food or beverages available at the game. If come prepared, then this would be a great place to bring a picnic basket and some snacks, but if you are hungry and hoping for a ballpark hot dog, then you will be disappointed. If you are desperate, then head into Varner Hall, just across Pioneer Road, at the top of the hill. There you will find some vending machines where you can buy some chips and a drink to get you through. The advice here though is eat beforehand, or bring your own supplies.
This is of course dependent on your expectation level and your appreciation for minimalism, but I found myself having a fairly good time at Oakland. There are a few metal bleacher seats directly behind home plate (five rows), and another small set of wooden bleachers down the left field line. The metal bleachers shake any time someone moves around and aren't very comfortable. I think your best option is to sit on the large hill behind home plate. Just pretend you're in the upper deck and you have scored box seats that include a spot to lay out a blanket (note: bring a blanket). I would estimate seating for about 150 in the bleachers at capacity.
There is a small merchandise table behind home plate as well, and they were selling t-shirts for $5 on this particular day. I have a feeling that there are usually bargains to be had here.
There is a small scoreboard in left center field, giving you the bare essentials. There are no distances posted on the outfield fence, but the athletic department has dimensions moving from left to right as 333-353-380-338-320. So, it's a fairly small park to center. There's a high wall in right center, which the athletic department describes as, "reminiscent of Boston's Green Monster." That's stretching it, but it at least adds some character to the field.
There isn't much in the immediate vicinity. The closest place to grab a bite to eat is bd's Mongolian Grill, which I usually enjoy, so you can stop in there if you are hungry after your concession-free visit.
For the capacity, there were actually quite a few fans in attendance for the weekday game I attended. That's part of the charm of a facility like this; it doesn't take much to make it feel like a big crowd. I don't want to overstate things, this was still a small group of people who seemed somewhat indifferent, but it was nice to see people at the game. The fans in the bleachers seemed to be family or friends of the players and seemed more vested in the game. The capacity is officially 500, but you could easily have 1,000 fans sprawled along the hill if there was a big game.
Parking is free in the lot at the top of the hill, or in the nearby garage. The downside to access is that there are no bathrooms at the field, so you need to go inside one of the nearby buildings if you require a restroom. It's not that they are far away, but the hike up the hill could be somewhat daunting.
There also isn't an address listed for the facility, so if you are GPS-dependent like I am, it can be a bit of a challenge for a first time visitor. The field is located next to the Athletics Center O'rena, home to the Golden Grizzlies basketball team, so look for the big bear statue out front and you will be close.
Parking is free and there is no admission charge so it is hard to argue with that. If restrooms and concessions were available at the field, then this could be a really good experience. On the whole though it is just so-so, and probably almost entirely weather dependent. If you have a nice spring day, and are in the area, pack up a blanket and some food and take your picnic to the OU Baseball Field, and you'll have a good time.
Small programs were available in the bleachers behind home plate with information on both the home and visiting teams. There was even a scorecard included, although you would have to be able to write really tiny to be able to utilize it.
Foul balls caught by the fans needed to be returned as is often the case in college baseball settings. In exchange for your help retrieving foul balls though, you were given a gift card to a local restaurant, so at least there was something. My four year-old son was with me, and I found that retrieving the ball is the real thrill, so he wasn't too disappointed that he couldn't keep the ball.
This is about as bare bones as it gets, and categorizing this as a "Stadium" Journey is probably a bit of a stretch. It's a field, with a baseball diamond and some fencing. That's it. The hill is really the star in this case, and if you set your expectations appropriately, then you can still have a very enjoyable afternoon watching America's pastime at Oakland University.
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3325 University Dr
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
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