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Official Review by Jason Bullock, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Raymond H. ‘Hap’ Spuhler was the first head coach for the George Mason University baseball program, and in 1986 was honored by having the Patriots’ new home field named after him. Hap led the program for 12 years, winning over 65% of his games and leading his squad to the 1976 NAIA World Series.
Not only did the Patriots open a new home in 1986, they also joined the Colonial Athletic Association. It didn’t take long for them to make their presence known, as they advanced to the NCAA Regionals in 1988 under the leadership of coach Bill Brown, who has coached for over 30 seasons in Fairfax, VA. Brown has coached over 1500 games during this time, and has one of his former players currently in the majors - Shawn Camp, who pitches for the Chicago Cubs.
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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".
Before entering into Spuhler Field, you will find the concession trailer located outside of the left field fence. There is not really much to offer here that would entice you to want to wait until you get to the game to eat. Hamburgers ($4) and hot dogs ($3) are the main course offerings, and you will find a variety of bottled sodas and water. Chips, candy and popcorn are also available as snacks.
There is no menu board with prices, which I found slightly annoying as I like to know what I am paying for my food. The cashier was patient as he quoted the price of everything that was for sale, however. This is a cash-only stand, and I suppose it will suffice if you must have something to eat or drink at the game.
After parking in the adjacent lot, you will enter Spuhler Field on the third base side of the park. If you don't already have a ticket, you can purchase one at the tent located on the pathway to the stands. Games played on Monday-Thursday do not require a ticket, but for weekend series it is cash-only, so be prepared if you didn't purchase online.
There is a main grandstand located behind home plate and two smaller sets of stands, one located on the far side of each dugout. All seats are aluminum bench-style seating, so bring a cushion or stadium chair for extra comfort. Your ticket will have a seat number on it, but all seats are general admission. The last game I attended, I sat all the way at the top of the main stands, which not only gave me a great view of the field, but also a cool audio aspect. I could hear the radio broadcast of the home team on one side and the visitors on the other. I appreciated not only the play-by-play I was getting, but also the different perspectives and emotions from each announcer depending on what was happening on the field.
The home team is located in the third base dugout - which really isn't a dugout, but a field-level concrete building. The dugouts fill the large gap between the main stands and the smaller ones, and this makes the fans feel as though they are spread out. The way this stadium is set up, it makes a small crowd feel even smaller, which takes away from the atmosphere.
There is an electronic scoreboard in right-center field that looks a little dated, but does supply all the important information. On the left field wall, you will find banners representing the Patriots' six NCAA Regional playoff teams and one NAIA World Series team. The PA system is clear and not too loud, and the announcer sticks to the basics, with player info and music during breaks in play.
The playing surface at Spuhler Field is always in great condition and has won numerous awards in the past. Unfortunately, the overall stadium experience does not match up.
There is not much to do in the immediate area of the campus of George Mason. Downtown Fairfax is about a mile away, but I would not consider it an area attractive to tourists. A restaurant recommendation would be The Auld Shebeen Irish Pub & Restaurant. They have a great menu and beer selection, along with a dozen or so TVs to catch up on the latest in sports. Be warned, it's not cheap - but good food never is.
If you're looking for shopping, Fair Lakes Mall is 15 minutes west and Tyson's Corner is 20 minutes east. Both will meet your shopping needs, but Tyson's is a little more upscale in its offerings and has a better selection of eating establishments. If you are from out of town and need accommodations, each of these areas has ample hotels.
If you're willing to venture a little further, you can be in downtown Washington, D.C. in about 45 minutes during non-rush hour traffic. There are plenty of sights to see and things to do in our nation's capital - many of them free (or almost) - so if you're going to visit, plan your time to get the most out of your experience.
Spuhler Field has a capacity of 900, with Mason drawing 150-225 fans for a typical home game. While I did notice fans that were into the game and actively cheering on their home team, it appears that more of the crowd was interested in personal conversations or their electronic devices. I attended a couple of games this 2013 season and noticed the same behavior at both. The team has experienced some recent struggles, but the players on the field deserve a little more fan support at the game.
Spuhler Field is located on the west side of campus and is accessible from both I-66 and the Capital Beltway. Traffic can be a bear at times in this area, so allow yourself plenty of time to get to the game. For those in need of accessible seating, there are ramps to the main stands behind home plate and areas beside the dugouts where you are able to bring your own chair and view the game.
If you are in need of a restroom, there are two portables available for use outside of the left field fence, close to the concession stand. This requires a little bit of a walk, so time your break so you don't miss any action.
Depending on when you go, your return will be a little different. While weekday games are free, weekend series (including Friday) are $6 adult and $4 for youth or senior tickets. Parking is free on all game days in the field house parking lot adjacent to the stadium. I would recommend stretching your entertainment dollar budget and taking advantage of a Monday-Thursday game.
The banners on the left field wall honoring George Mason's postseason success earn one extra point. Otherwise, there's not much extra of note here - just the basics of a college baseball game.
There are better college baseball experiences in the D.C. metro area, and if you don't have a vested interest in either GMU or their opponent, there is really not much to see here.
Member Review by sgilliam03 on Jul 31, 2014
My father and I are always looking to try out new sports experiences, so one weekend we drove down from Alexandria, VA to take in a Mason game. The concession stand was mightily inconvenient due to its location beyond left field. The sound system was adequate, but the field itself feels like one more fitting for a high school. I would only come if invested in a certain player or the visiting team.
3971 Chain Bridge Rd
Fairfax, VA 22030
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