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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
College baseball in the northeast is hardly the big deal that it is in other parts of the nation. The short season, a necessity in these parts due to the unpredictable weather of March and April, means that many teams in this area play only a handful of games at their home parks each season. Many ballparks in the northeast are a reflection of the low priority given to baseball. These parks contain only the basics; plain, wooden bleachers, few (if any) amenities, and at best, bare bones concessions. Many of these ballparks are notable only due to their surroundings, and many even a lack bathroom facilities.
Some parks, however, buck this trend. Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park in picturesque Hanover, NH, is a case in point. Located on the Dartmouth College campus, Rolfe Field boasts a modern, durable facility that is one of the finest fields in all of the northeast.
The baseball field at Dartmouth College is formally known as Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park. Robert “Red” Rolfe was a 1931 alumnus of Dartmouth College who went on to play for the New York Yankees for ten seasons and served as the school’s athletic director from 1954 to 1967. Big Green alumni Mike and Cindy Biondi donated $5.2 million dollars to the school for improvements to the ball field prior to the 2009 season. Their donation funded renovations that included the installation of a new FieldTurf synthetic surface, new permanent seating for 650 spectators, dugouts, batting cages, bullpens, a new scoreboard, pressbox, and landscaping. Mike Biondi played baseball at Dartmouth in the late 1970’s, and died suddenly just before the start of the renovations he funded. The ballpark is dedicated in his honor.
The Big Green has participated in 7 NCAA Tournaments, and has made one College World Series In 1970. Dartmouth has a storied sporting history, with 28 Big Green alums making it to the major leagues.
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There is a concession stand behind the grandstand operated by Dartmouth Dining Services. The menu offered here is your basic ballpark fare, with hot dogs ($3.00), burgers ($3.50/$3.75), sausage and pepper sandwiches ($5.00), and chicken tenders ($5.00) among the offerings. Fans looking for snack items can find French fries ($3.00), kettle corn ($3.50), cotton candy ($3.00), popcorn ($1.50), Cracker Jacks ($1.50), assorted candy ($1.00), and potato chips ($1.00). For those looking for those items not usually found at a ballpark, check out the variety of home-baked items ($1.50) or fruit ($1.00) for sale.
Bottles of Coca-Cola products can be purchased for $2.00, as well as bottled water ($2.00), and Powerade ($2.50). Since it can get pretty chilly in this part of New Hampshire during baseball season, coffee and hot chocolate are sold for $1.25. Alcohol is not sold at Big Green games, given the field's location on campus.
Red Rolfe Field features the typical laid back, no-frills atmosphere familiar to college baseball fans in the northeast. Extraneous noise is kept to a minimum, despite the presence of a top notch PA system here. Music is played between innings, and announcements are limited to upcoming batters and lineup changes. A more elaborate game day presentation just would not fit here in the White Mountains.
The town of Hanover, New Hampshire boasts a population of about 11,000 citizens. The population increases by over fifty percent when Dartmouth's 6,300 students roll into town. As you would expect, there is a great small town feel to Hanover. In fact, CNN and Money rated Hanover as the sixth best place to live in the United States. Visiting fans will want to take the short walk to The Green, which is usually the hub of activity in the town. On a typical spring day you will find numerous people out on bikes or walking around trying to shake off the long New Hampshire winter. From here one can explore the classic Ivy League architecture of the campus, or head down Main Street and explore the shops and eateries that line the street. For a town of this size, there is no shortage of places to eat or drink. The Appalachian Trail runs through Hanover, and there are a great many outdoor activities available for visitors to the area to sample as well.
As you might expect from baseball played in the mountains of New Hampshire in the early springtime, attendance at Big Green games can vary widely from game to game depending on the weather. Crowds at Red Rolfe Field generally top out at about 500-600, which is a very impressive total in this area, indeed. Don't be surprised if the attendance at a particular game drops to around 100-200. It's not that the fans at Dartmouth are fickle, it's just that it can be really cold in this area in April, and there is a lot to do on the Dartmouth campus. The baseball team is competing with many factors in drawing fans. The fans that attend Big Green fans are vocal and supportive. This may be a "friends and family" type of crowd, but it's a big family to be sure.
The small town of Hanover, New Hampshire may be somewhat off the beaten path, but it's easy to get to. Located near the intersections of Interstates 89 and 91, the Dartmouth campus is located only a couple of miles from the highway. Driving is easily the most efficient method to arrive in Hanover, but there are bus and car services that run from Manchester, located an hour to the southeast, and to Logan Airport in Boston. You can get more information here. Also, Amtrak has a train station just across the Connecticut River in White River Junction, Vermont.
The Dartmouth campus dominates the small town of Hanover, and Red Rolfe Field is located on the southeast edge of campus alongside the other athletic facilities. Signs direct out-of-town drivers to the best parking spots for the day's athletic events. There is ample on-street parking in the immediate vicinity of Red Rolfe Field, as well as a large parking lot adjacent to Thompson Arena, across the street from the ball field.
Once at the ballpark, fans will be greeted by a modest, attractive grandstand that features individual plastic seats in the sections behind home plate and bleacher seating along the baselines. Temporary bleachers are located farther down the foul lines on either side of the field. Rest rooms are located in the adjacent Memorial Stadium. These rest rooms are clean, new, and more than adequate for a typical Big Green crowd. No matter where you sit at Red Rolfe Field, you can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and adjacent athletic buildings.
There is no charge for admission to Big Green games at Red Rolfe Field. Parking is also free of charge in a large lot across the street next to Thompson Arena, as well as ample on-street parking around the ball field. If you wish to bring your own food and beverages to the game, feel free to do so. Otherwise, the food offered by Dartmouth Dining Services is reasonably priced. Attending a game at Red Rolfe Field will certainly not break the bank.
A free roster sheet is available for all fans attending Red Rolfe Field. This roster contains game notes, stats, standings, and a place to keep score. It's a huge upgrade over the simple one-page lineup sheet provided at most ballparks in the area.
An extra point is awarded for the ability to sample several different sporting events at Dartmouth College throughout the day, should you be so inclined. It's not unusual to see the baseball, softball, lacrosse, and tennis teams, among others, all playing simultaneously, all within walking distance of each other. With all events free of charge, Big Green fans can sample a week's worth of sporting events in a single afternoon.
Fans who frequent college ballparks throughout the northeast often speak to Red Rolfe Field as one of the nicest facilities in the area. Wedged into a tiny footprint surrounded by the other athletic facilities of Dartmouth College, and with the picturesque White Mountains in the distance, Red Rolfe Field is a fantastic spot to take in the Ivy League's traditions and atmosphere.
When making plans to visit Dartmouth, remember that this is baseball in the northeast. The weather in this area can be quite fickle in March and April, and will wreak havoc with even the best laid plans. If you are lucky enough to come on a beautiful spring weekend, take some time to explore the many sporting events taking place around campus, and explore the quaint town of Hanover. You won't be disappointed.
Follow all of Paul Baker's ballpark travels on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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