In 1947 the first ever College World Series was played. No, it wasn’t in Omaha. The games were played on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The site of the games was Hyames Field, named for WMU head baseball coach and Athletic Director Judson Hyames. Playing 1B for Yale was future President of the United States George H.W. Bush. With that backstory, you know you’re in for a historic experience.
Today, the location is known as Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field. The structure was dedicated as such in 2011 after a $2 Million renovation (including more than half from the namesake, Robert J. Bobb). It is a simple and beautiful little facility located in between Waldo Stadium (home of the Broncos football team) and Ebert Field (home of the softball team).
The combination of a modern seating area, historic significance, and the great town of Kalamazoo make for a wonderful destination for college baseball.
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Really the only downside to a trip to Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field is the food selection. There is one cramped booth behind home plate, no posted menu, and a very basic selection. I tried the hot dog ($3) which was below average. If I wasn't starving, I wouldn't have eaten the thing. You can find other snacks like chips ($1), candy ($2), tortilla chips & salsa ($3), popcorn ($2), cotton candy ($3), sesame seeds ($3), and ice pops ($1).
Coke products are available ($1), as is water ($2). The guy running the booth was extremely friendly, and even allowed me to copy down the menu from his hand written notes, but this is clearly an area that could use some improvement.
It is difficult given the typical attendance for college baseball in the Midwest to invest too much into the concession area, so it is somewhat understandable that the choice is limited, but I am hopeful that they can at least install a menu and a couple of decent options in the future. In the meantime, you may consider bringing your own food into the park with you if you think you'll need some sustenance.
Being at the site of the original College World Series (and 2nd CWS for that matter as well, also held at this site) is special. The field is found at the bottom of a hill, with the stands built into the hillside. It's a nice little spot, and the view along the right field line is steep, and is a comfortable place to watch the game on a warm day.
The seating is interesting in that there are eight sections with chairback seating, each named for the donor who contributed the necessary funds for the seats (3-5 rows of chairbacks per section). There are no seating assignments for these seats, but fans are asked to vacate the chairback seat if the donor should happen to appear for the game. During my visit, one donor pointed out that his name was on the seat occupied by another, and asked the gentleman to move over a chair. It's unique for sure, essentially creating lifetime season tickets for the donors. Leg room is way above average for these seats, so you can understand the desire to sit in one. There are no cupholders unfortunately for these seats.
The remaining seating is black metal bleachers (10 rows) which stretch from dugout to dugout. The seating area has a screen that stretches out in front of all seats, so if you want a completely unobstructed view, then you'll have to head for the hill on the first base side.
There's a good speaker system at the stadium, and music is played between innings and as walk up music for each batter. Like most college baseball games, if you catch a foul ball, you'll need to return it to a staff member.
I like Kalamazoo, and the location of Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field makes the options that much more accessible. You are located in the heart of the Western Michigan campus, and just across the street is the University Roadhouse. There you will find fantastic burgers, 15 beers on tap, and an interesting menu.
If you're looking for more of a divey bar with inexpensive drinks, then Waldo's Campus Tavern is a good choice, and walkable from the stadium as well.
Further afield is an icon in the microbrew world, Bell's, and their taproom known as Bell's Eccentric Café. You would need to drive, but if you love Bell's beer, then this is the place for you. They also have pretty good sandwiches.
College baseball is generally not a huge draw in the Midwest. Western Michigan does what they can to attract fans to games with free admission and free parking, a very wise decision. Attending a game against an in-state team (as was the case during my recent visit vs. Michigan State) helps add to the atmosphere. Overall though I was impressed with the number of fans at the game. Many of whom were involved participants throughout. You likely will not have a goose bump induced experience, but you can be sure that you won't be sitting alone watching the game either.
Let's start with parking. It's free in one of the nearby lots. Your best bet is to turn at the corner of Olivet and Stadium to find a spot. There's not a ton of available spaces so come a little early. Additional parking can be found near the ticket window gate for Waldo Stadium, but if you park here there will be some stairs to climb to get to the field, so keep that in mind.
There is one bathroom for each gender at Robert J. Bobb Stadium. It is clean, but very small (2 stalls). There likely won't be enough of a crowd to cause you to wait in line, but if you do attend when the stadium is at capacity it could be a bit of a wait.
Getting around once you're inside the stadium is easy enough. There is one main concourse above the seating area that allows you to walk from the dugout along third base to the right field foul pole.
Parking is free, tickets are free, and concessions are inexpensive. You can pick up a free scorecard and program. It's not flashy, but again, it's free. This is such an easy decision for a family that wants to see a baseball game. You'll spend maybe $5 per person on food (or bring your own snacks and don't pay a dime). If you're anywhere near Kalamazoo in the spring, check the Western Michigan baseball schedule and go see this historic field and stadium.
One additional point for the history of Hyames Field. There aren't too many places still in use where you can see where a former President of the United States once played (go see Yale Field if you want another example).
One additional point for the free program and scorecard. Both are good quality, including the scorecard which actually gives you enough room to properly score the game.
Finally, a point for Kalamazoo. This is an underrated sports town, and generally a small city that I like to visit regardless. I am hopeful that the city will again get a minor league baseball team, but for now, if you want to see the pastoral game, the Western Michigan Broncos are a great option.
If you love baseball, then a trip to Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field should certainly be part of the to do list for the state of Michigan.
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1332 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
355 E Kalamazoo Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
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