The University of Michigan’s Ray Fisher Stadium opened in 1923 with a game between the Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes (Michigan won the game 3-2). There is no better way to open a new ballpark than to play your rival and win (similar to Fenway Park which opened with a Red Sox win over the New York Highlanders in 1912).
Much has changed in the stadium’s history, most notably a $9 million renovation that was completed in 2008. The current facility offers a comfortable, if less than spectacular, venue to watch college baseball. Ray Fisher Stadium is part of the larger Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex which also houses Alumni Field, home to Michigan women’s softball.
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Food options are fairly limited, but there should be enough to see you through if you're feeling peckish. On the first base side you'll find Papa John's pizza, a generously sized slice goes for $5. On the third base side you'll find hot dogs as the main entrée ($3). Both are decent and probably the way to go if you need something in your belly. Other choices include pretzels ($4), popcorn ($5), candy and cracker jack ($3). The popcorn and pretzel were both rather stale, and certainly not worth the asking price.
Coca-Cola products are available ($4), as are bottles of water ($3), and hot cocoa ($2). Get a snack if you need to, but your dollars are probably better used in downtown Ann Arbor.
This is a nice little park to see some baseball. Ray Fisher Stadium seats 4,000 when packed to the gills, and all of the seating fits from halfway up the first base line to halfway up the third base line. There are a few wheelchair accessible spots along the netting behind home plate. From there, ten rows of blue plastic bleachers extend past the concourse, followed by ten rows of blue plastic chairback seats. Most parks would place the bleachers behind the chairbacks, so it is good recognition by the school that the better seats are actually a bit further up, as you have a better view of the action on the field.
You can expect the sun to be a factor in right center during the spring so be sure to wear a hat or sun glasses so you don't end up squinting the entire contest.
They have a few fun contests through the game, with bingo being a highlight. At the end of each inning, based on the number of Michigan batters that came to the plate, they call out several numbers for your bingo game. Winners get an autographed baseball. Music is played between innings, and fans can choose the playlist by texting their requests. It's a good sound system, perhaps too good as the music was blasting louder than it needed to be.
Screens extend in front of the entire seating area. I tend to prefer to sit in an area where I don't have to look through a net. I understand the safety issue they are mitigating, but it would be nice if there were a few seats unobstructed by it. If you are able to catch a foul ball, fans are not allowed to hang on to it. Instead, the ball is returned to an usher, and you are given a piece of Michigan merchandise (a lanyard on my most recent visit). I am told that they used to trade you for an autographed baseball, which is a much better deal in my estimation.
Ann Arbor is one of my favorite college towns, and all of their notable sports facilities are a little less than a mile from downtown, so it is certainly walkable. There are several places that I can recommend. Ashley's is a wonderful bar with hundreds of beers available, and some tasty food as well. Grange is a great place for more adventurous foodies with mainly local ingredients, and some really amazing housemade sausages. I like the Blue Tractor for its BBQ and locally made brews. If you have kids with you, then the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is a great place to spend a couple of hours, and will be a winner with young ones.
It's a tough thing to be a college baseball fan in the state of Michigan, as you can expect some pretty cold temperatures. I attended a March game with better than average spring weather, and it still was a little chilly. Plan appropriately and dress in layers.
The fans that do arrive care about the team and the university. It's mainly a friends, family, and dedicated alumni kind of crowd, and many of them will be season ticket holders. College baseball is a great place for families to take in a game, and this is no exception. You can expect the crowd to be at its best when Michigan scores a run and "Hail to the Victors" is played over the PA.
Ray Fisher Stadium typically attracts over 1,000 fans on average, so especially during the week you should see some decent sized crowds, but will still be able to pretty much choose your seat.
There is a small lot with free parking right next to the stadium. Occasionally for bigger games this may become a pay lot, or it may fill up. If so, street parking is available and meters allow a 4 hour parking maximum, which should allow you to see an entire game ($1.40 an hour for the meters near Ray Fisher Stadium).
The small ballpark is very easy to navigate, and certainly wheelchair accessible. Bathrooms are adequate, and concession stands had enough staff to handle the lines.
Chairback seats cost $8, and general admission tickets are $2. Unless there is a large crowd, you should go for the GA ticket as you will be able to sit pretty much anywhere you like. Even if you end up in the bleachers they are reasonably comfortable with good leg room between rows. There are discounts for youth and senior citizens, and prices rise to $5/$10 for Big Ten games. It's still a relatively good value.
Free or low cost street parking helps to balance out the less-than-inspired concessions and higher prices there, so overall there's a pretty good return on your investment.
Along the outfield wall in left center field you'll see the retired numbers of former Wolverine greats including Moby Benedict (#1), Bill Freehan (#11), Barry Larkin (#16), Jim Abbot (#31), Don Lund (#33), and Ray Fisher (#44). The stadium's namesake coached the baseball team from 1921-1958, winning a National Championship in 1953.
The Wolverines have had a successful program with 35 Big Ten titles entering the 2012 season, and two National Championships (1953 & 1962). These accomplishments are commemorated on the outfield walls stretching from center to right field.
College baseball is generally considered to be less of a draw than minor league baseball, but the quality of play is just as good as low level minor league ball, and best of all, it's some of the first baseball you can see live after the snow melts in some northern climates like Michigan. Baseball traditionalists will frown on the ping of the aluminum bat used in play, but don't let that stop you from going to a game. Ray Fisher Stadium is a good place to spend a spring afternoon in my book.
I love attending Ray Fisher Stadium at the Wilpon Baseball Complex. Every Season, a few games are PA Announced by Tigers PA Announcer Bobb Vergiels. The seats are great, the atmosphere is nice and plus the smells of hot dogs fills the air. Every so often, the music director up in the press box plays recordings of the familiar organ music and of course "Take Me Out To The ballgame. Speaking of which, one of the promotions that they have is "Guess the seventh inning stretch time" which is what it sounds like, you have to write down on a piece of paper your guess on when the stretch will take place, for example, say you write down 7:15 PM and it REALLY takes place at 7:14, you would still be the winner because you were the closest. The food is super, I love the "David's Original Sunflower Seeds" and "Popped Maize"(obviously popcorn). They have the cheapest tickets and great student discounts. So cheer on the Maize and blue when they begin their home games in March under new coach Eric Bakich.
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