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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Pete Beiden won 600 games over the course 21 seasons coaching the Fresno State baseball team and, in 1972, Varsity Park was renamed in his honor.
Fresno State baseball competes for attention locally with the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League. Prior to moving to Chukchansi Park, the Grizzlies shared Pete Beiden Field with the university. Though Fresno is no stranger to professional baseball (they joined the original California League in 1898), the Grizzlies have only represented the city since 1998.
The Fresno State Bulldogs have been one of the more successful teams in the WAC, winning four of the last six regular season championships and five of the last six tournament championships.
The Bulldogs have also been successful on a national level, making 32 appearances in the NCAA tournament and four in the College World Series. In 2008, they won the NCAA National Championship, which represented their first NCAA championship for any men’s sport.
Pete Beiden Field is a fine place to take in a game with plenty of chair-backed seats and amenities to please the visiting fan. I did take note that the playing surface itself could use a facelift. The field and fences certainly seemed worn and showed the age of the facility.
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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".
Beiden Field offers the typical main items for your ballpark excursion; jumbo hot dog ($4.25), chili dog ($5), polish sausage ($5.25), and nacho grande ($6) are the options. Snacks include chips ($2), pretzel ($3), peanuts ($3) and popcorn ($4).
Three sizes of soda are available; medium ($3.50), large ($4.25) and souvenir ($6). A refill on the souvenir cup is $3. One combo is the souvenir cup of soda and small nachos for $8. Other drinks are coffee/hot chocolate ($3), bottled water ($3.50) and gatorade ($4).
There is a separate stand that offers pulled pork sandwiches, bbq chicken sandwiches and shaved ice.
Beiden Field is a nice place to watch a game. I like places where I have a bit of a choice when choosing my seat and there was no shortage of selection on this Friday night.
The central valley of California can get very hot during the summer so it might be in your best interest to make it to an evening game. The weather was pleasant throughout the six o'clock game.
I did think Beiden Field was a little large for the Bulldogs. It is the largest of the college ballparks that I've been to and seems like it is due for an upgrade. Luckily, Fresno State baseball has been very productive over the years and the banners signifying success are well represented.
Apartment complexes and strip malls are the mainstays immediately near Beiden Field, heavily influenced by college students.
Upon a recommendation after my trip to Bulldog Stadium, I headed over to the Dog House Grill for a pregame meal. This place is certainly popular as there were two attendants directing traffic in the parking lot to available spaces. I have a theory that drivers lose a significant amount of IQ points upon entering a parking lot, so I avoid them whenever possible. Nonetheless I parked and made my way to the entrance. With a line out the door, I found somewhere else to eat. Moral of the story: if you want to eat at the Dog House Grill (and people swear by it), get there early.
Instead, I made my way to the Red Wave Inn on E. Shaw Ave. From the outside it looks like quite a dive but the inside is much cleaner than I would've expected. The lighting was a bit dark but they had a couple of HD screens showing NBA playoffs, a great beer selection, and good food that was very cheap. Everything on the menu was $6 or lower and included burgers, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, etc. A large 26 oz draft was $6.50 and choices included beers from Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Firestone Walker, Stone, and more. There was plenty of room when I arrived but I get the sense that it is a popular nightlife spot later on in the evening; showcasing televisions, a pool table and karaoke machine.
There are many sit-down chain options like Buffalo Wild Wings and the Old Spaghetti Factory as well as several fast food options.
The Tower District is a short drive away but includes some of the more hip bars and restaurants in the central valley. It's worth a trip if you have time.
There were quite a few old-timers at the game donning their red and blue. I enjoyed watching them meet up at what were presumably their usual seats, with their usual buds.
Quickly I understood that many of the patrons knew the names of the players and were regulars at Beiden Field. However, the stadium was probably only filled to about a quarter capacity.
Four different freeways run through Fresno; 180, 41, 168, and 99, which runs as far north as Sacramento. If traveling from out of town I'd recommend staying on a freeway (41 or 168) as long as possible. You can exit from 99 at Shaw Avenue but it gets really backed up on game days and my 4 mile trip took over half an hour.
Parking was free at Beiden Field when I arrived. It seemed that weekends and evenings are free, the only exceptions were for football games and during school hours.
I entered the stadium from the entrance on the right field line. From there you can go directly into the grandstand area or walk behind the seating area to a more desirable spot. Behind the grandstands, concession stands and restrooms line one side of the walkway and memorabilia cases line the other.
General admission tickets at Beiden Field are $9 and allow you to sit wherever you want beyond the "box seats" which are nearest to the field and cost $15 per game.
Free parking is a definite plus when making a trip to see one of the most successful programs in the WAC.
From the statue of Pete Beiden beyond the seats on the third base line to the banners signifying conference and national championships and All-Americans, Beiden Field does a great job of honoring the rich history of Bulldog baseball. The memorabilia case near the concession stands showcase hats, bats, newspaper clippings, and trophies from years gone by. There is one section entirely devoted to the 2008 National Championship team.
My favorite thing though was the seats Dr. Rodney Anderson and his father sat in during the 2008 College World Series from the old Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. After he passed away, Anderson's family donated them to the school and fans had the opportunity to take a picture in them at the game. It's unclear where the seats will end up but when I went they were set up behind the grandstand with a banner honoring Dr. Anderson.
The playing surface is showing its age but it's still a fine place to catch a ballgame. I enjoyed the history strewn around the facility and especially the seats from Omaha.
While the Fresno State football and basketball teams have no competition for attention in Fresno, the baseball team must compete with the Triple-A Grizzlies which may negatively affect attendance.
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2375 East Shaw Avenue
Fresno, CA 93710
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