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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Austin Peay State University is a liberal arts university located in Clarksville, Tennessee. It is affiliated with the Tennessee Board of Regents and has a student body of more than 10,600. The University was founded in 1927 and is named in honor of former Tennessee Governor Austin Peay, a native of Clarkesville. This explains the unique nickname and mascot for the school, the Governors. (Note: Please do not take offense at the title of the review… it is cheer that proudly erupts at all APSU sporting events and is on signage all over the campus!) The school was originally founded as a two-year normal school to train teachers, became a four-year college in 1941 and attained University status in 1967. APSU offers more than 50 majors, including arts and sciences, business, education, engineering, nursing and human services. Best of all, every Austin Peay graduate has the right to be addressed as a Governor!
The Governor athletic programs are members of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), which includes teams such as Belmont, Murray State, Morehead State, Tennessee Tech, UT Martin, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State . Their fiercest rival is nearby Murray State University. Austin Peay has fielded a baseball team since 1931, and has a near .500 record over its entire history. During this period, it has won 10 OVC season championships, six OVC tournament championships, and made six NCAA tournament appearances. Seven APSU baseball alums have reached Major League Baseball.
The Governor’s “mansion” for the baseball program is Raymond C. Hand Park. Built in 1970, it was originally named Governors Park, and then renamed for Mr. Hand in honor of his contribution to major upgrades to the park in 1993. These improvements included lighting for the field, as well as chair back and bleacher seating to replace the concrete seating of the original structure. Subsequent renovations have added wrought iron fencing at the gates, new signage reflecting the Governors' baseball history and upgrades to the press box, restrooms and concession areas. Raymond Hand Park has a natural turf field and a permanent seating capacity of 777.
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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".
Concession items are available at Peay!Nuts Grill, which is located on the concourse at the top of the stands on the third base side of the stadium. The menu consists of hot dogs ($2), hamburgers ($3), peay-nuts (that is how they spell it, folks!) ($3), popcorn ($3), nachos ($5), candy ($1.50) and chips ($1). Pepsi is available for $2, Gatorade for $3 and bottled water is $2. Food and beverage cannot be brought into Hand Park, so plan to eat before the game, or you may decide to set up a picnic on the hill behind the outfield walls to watch the action.
APSU also has a souvenir stand on the first base side of the concourse with a good variety of Governors baseball gear.
The setting for Hand Park is quite attractive, in that it has a city park-like setting, with nice landscaping and trees surrounding the field. You will enter through one central wrought iron gate, which, of course, has the Governors' likeness on it. The concourse is located at street level and includes the concessions, press box and restrooms. The stands and the field fill the natural bowl below you.
The seating directly behind home plate is all stadium seats with cupholders. The next two aisles on both the left and right side of the stands are aluminum bleachers with seatbacks. The seats closest to the dugouts on both ends are aluminum bench seating.
One of the quirks in the shape of the field is a huge amount of open area behind home plate and in front of the dugouts. Even though all of this is in foul territory, this can play a significant part in a ball game. A wild pitch/passed ball may allow a runner to advance two bases, and runners on second can tag up on a popup into the first base foul territory, as it would take a long throw to get them out.
The turnout for Governors games usually fills about two-thirds of the stadium, and the student body and Clarksville locals form a majority of the crowd. The stadium announcer pretty much sticks with the basics of the game, and the only fan participation activity is to play baseball bingo at the end of each inning.
APSU is located in the heart of downtown Clarksville, and is within easy walking distance of a majority of the town's shopping, restaurants, museums and businesses. Clarksville has a population of more than 132,000 (the fifth-largest city in Tennessee), with APSU and nearby Fort Campbell being the main employers. This has insulated the area somewhat from the recent economic downturn, so you will not find many empty storefronts. Some of the more interesting sites in the area around the university include the Roxy Theatre and the L&N Train Station (the inspiration for the Monkees' hit song "Last Train to Clarksville"). One of the more popular restaurants in downtown Clarksville is the Blackhorse Pub and Brewery. For the best view in town, stay at the Riverview Inn, located on a bluff with terrific views of the Cumberland River below.
Clarksville has been the hometown to an amazing variety of famous people. They include Wilma Rudolph of Olympic fame, Tennessee basketball coaching legend Pat Summitt, golfer Mason Rudolph, poet Robert Penn Warren and General William Westmoreland.
You will definitely be seeing red when you attend a game at Hand Park, as ASPU fans wear the team colors proudly. They love their Governors through thick and thin, and also travel well to the team's away games. One of the great things about the Ohio Valley Conference is that half of the member institutions are in Tennessee or in southern Kentucky, which is just across the Cumberland River from Clarksville. This means a short drive to a majority of the school's away games. The mix of fans you will see at an APSU ball game includes townspeople, students, a large turnout of soldiers from Ft. Campbell and an unusually large contingent from the visiting team that make the short drive over. This results in spirited cheering matches when either team puts on a rally. Offensive rallies are met with the cheer "let's go Peay!," while visiting rallies are greeted with chants of "Peay U!"
APSU is located just 40 miles north of Nashville, then six miles off I-24 via Wilma Rudolph Parkway. Though it is the fifth-largest city in Tennessee, Clarksville is very easy to navigate traffic-wise, and there is plenty of signage to guide you to the campus. Fans coming in from outside the state can fly into Nashville and rent a car, or take advantage of several shuttle services that run hourly between the airport and Clarksville.
Tickets to Governors baseball games are priced at $5 for an adult ticket and $3 for a youth/senior ticket. (Youth tickets are for ages 2-18 and seniors are fans age 65 or older.) Members of the APSU student body and the military receive free admission upon presentation of their appropriate ID. The concessions are limited, but are priced well for the value. Free parking is located across the street in the football stadium parking lot. Unless you are traveling a great distance to see a game, an overnight stay is not required, as Nashville is less than a 45-minute drive away. If a stay is required, most hotels are in the $60 - $80 range, as their primary users are family visiting their loved ones at Ft. Campbell.
For a town its size, Clarksville offers a surprisingly large number of extras. The Cumberland River Walk lines the banks of this large river on the north side of the city. It features a marina, scenic overlooks, an amphitheater for concerts and connections to the Clarksville Greenway for hiking/biking enthusiasts. The Customs House Museum has some great exhibits and is housed in one of the most architecturally stunning buildings in town. Those with a taste for the finer things in life may want to sample the Beachhaven Vineyard and Winery just outside of town. The third weekend in April hosts the River and Spires Festival, saluting the river on which Clarksville grew and the many spires found on the older businesses, churches and academic buildings in town. The festival offers concerts, a food midway, quilting exhibits and a salute to the military.
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