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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
In 2005, Kent State University opened a new facility for their baseball program. Officially named Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium, the venue is modest with a capacity of only 500. What the ballpark lacks in glitz, it more than makes up for in history. Schoonover Stadium was built on the site of the previous home of the Golden Flashes, Gene Michael Field. But it’s more than just the location where you’ll feel the history, you’ll also see it on display on the outfield walls.
There is no doubt that Kent State has been the most successful baseball program in the Mid American Conference (MAC). The Golden Flashes won eight MAC Tournament titles from 2001-2012. In that 2012 season, Kent State also made a rare appearance in the College World Series in Omaha.
There are 21 players who have gone on to play in the Major Leagues including Gene Michael, Thurman Munson, Steve Stone, and Dustin Hermanson. When you see a game at Schoonover Stadium, you can be sure that you’ll see a future Major Leaguer and some of the best players that the MAC has to offer.
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There's one small concession stand near the entrance toward the third base side of Schoonover Stadium. Here you'll find hot dogs ($3), burgers ($5), chicken sandwich ($4), and Italian sausage ($5).
Pepsi products are available in 20-ounce plastic bottles for $3. If it is a cold spring evening, you can also pick up either coffee or hot chocolate ($2). The quality is a little less than average, and the prices are probably just a tad on the high side.
The seating at Schoonover Stadium can be found in the grand stand behind home plate, with mostly metal bleachers, but also a few rows of blue plastic chairback seats. It's a fairly comfortable view, although if you're in the bleachers you may either want to bring your own chairback or head for the top row where you can lean up against the fence.
The numerous displays of Kent State's success on the field really add to the overall atmosphere as well. Besides the years noted for MAC championships and Regional appearances, you'll also find the #15, in honor of Thurman Munson, who starred at Kent State and the New York Yankees, and died way too young in a plane crash at nearby Akron-Canton Airport in 1979.
You'll see the number 30 down the left field line and the number 14 down the right field line, both with the name Schoonover. These are meant to highlight the fact that the Kent State baseball program has won 30 or more games in 14 consecutive games (through the 2013 season).
Schoonover Stadium is located about two miles from downtown Kent, Ohio. There is nothing within walking distance of the ballpark, so you'll definitely need to have a car with you. The best place for a pre or post game meal and/or drink is the Water Street Tavern, which also offers the adjoining Cajun Dave's. I love this spot primarily because Cajun Dave's offers a fantastic menu with a lot of barbeque and southern influences. I especially like the shrimp and grits. As for the Water Street Tavern, they have a good beer menu, and plenty of TVs to stay up on the day's sporting events.
Zephyr Pub is probably better suited to the football crowd when the weather is a bit nicer. They have a wonderful outdoor beer garden, but also a pool table in case you're looking to shoot some stick.
If your inner beer snob is calling, then Ray's Place should be your destination. They have the best beer selection in Kent, and recently have won acclaim for their MoFo burger recommended by Chef Michael Simon.
If you're in the area for a weekend series, consider staying at one of the hotels south of the stadium, near I-76. I have stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, and it is certainly suitable for baseball fans on the road watching their favorite team.
You'll find the usual mix of friends and family that make their way to a baseball game in the Midwest, but the spectators at Schoonover Stadium also display a little more hardball knowledge and passion than most similar venues in the region. This is not a social event, it's a chance to root the Golden Flashes on to victory.
Stand along the left field line and you'll find a particularly high level of baseball conversation amongst the ardent viewers leaning against the fence.
The parking situation is a little unusual when you go to see a game at Schoonover Stadium. There is a small lot immediately outside the gate, but it fills up quickly, so if you want to park nearby, then be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before the first pitch.
If that lot happens to be full, then there is a nearby larger parking lot. They discourage fans from walking along the road to the stadium, so there is a free shuttle bus that runs continuously between the two parking lots. If you can't stand to wait, then you could of course walk (although the parking attendants will do their best to persuade you not to). In any case, parking is free.
If you're feeling sneaky, you can walk through the orange fencing that separates the baseball and softball fields and access the venue for free. I'm sure the attendants will certainly flag you down, and it's really not worth being dishonest to save yourself $5, but that's your call.
Restrooms are adequate on site, and sure beat the port-a-potty options you'll find at many Midwest parks.
Unlike many MAC ballparks, there is a charge to attend a game at Schoonover Stadium. It will cost you $5 for an adult ticket, and $3 for a ticket for anyone aged 60+ or between the ages of 4-14. Children under the age of 4 are free to enter. The ticket window only accepts cash, so come prepared.
When you add in the concession prices and free parking, Schoonover Stadium offers an average return on investment.
One extra point for the consistent excellence that the Kent State baseball program has shown since the turn of the century.
Another extra point for the efficient bus shuttle that runs between the two parking lots.
One final extra point to the subtle tribute to Thurman Munson, one of those great players that you can't help but wonder, "what if?"
If you like college baseball, then you'll enjoy a trip to Schoonover Stadium. The history of this fantastic mid-major program is on full display, so sit back and enjoy a high level of baseball.
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132 S Water St
Kent, OH 44240
106 W Main St
Kent, OH 44240
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