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Official Review by Drew van der Poel, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Varsity Field has been the home of UAlbany’s baseball team for over 30 years. It underwent renovations before the 2004 season, as the fences were moved back and a section of the center field wall was raised 20 feet, amongst other additions.
UAlbany baseball first played in Division I in 2000, winning their first-ever Division I contest at Varsity Field. There is no official listed capacity for the field, but there is plenty of standing room if for some reason the bleachers are completely filled. While not much more than some bleachers, Varsity Field is a fine venue to catch some Division I baseball if you don’t hold too high of expectations heading in.
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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".
There is no where to get food, but you could bring food or drink in to the stadium.
Nestled up against Indian Pond, Varsity Field is in the nicest section of UAlbany's sprawling campus. There are no covered seats, just one set of larger bleachers directly behind home plate and another couple of smaller sets down the foul lines. There is also a nice berm down the third base line that a good number of fans were enjoying. All of the bleachers are metal without backs, your standard bleachers. The field itself is beautiful, and there's a large UAlbany logo behind home plate. The only real oddity is the raised section of the center field fence.
I would recommend sitting behind home plate, as this allows you to see the entire field. The berm also offers quality views, but it is more in the wind than the bleachers. The bleachers are not very comfortable, but a seat cushion could easily balance that out. One downfall to sitting behind home plate is that there is a metal bar that's part of the backstop that obstructs your view of part of the field if you are sitting higher up in the bleachers.
UAlbany's dugout is on the first base side and their bullpen is further down in the right field corner. The visitor's dugout and bullpen duplicates this along the left field line. There is a batting cage behind the left field wall. There are no suites, on-field promotions or mascots. This is a real no-frills baseball experience, but this purity can also be an attraction.
The scoreboard is sufficient, as it is updated after every pitch, and holds the count, running line score and holds the field's namesake on top. UAlbany players had walk-up songs, and while nothing special, the sound system worked. The person who was running the sound did have some difficulties, as did the PA announcer, but they still add to the experience.
There are a ton of restaurants and bars on Western Avenue, just across the way from the field. Crossgates Mall is also just down the road, a five minute drive, and downtown Albany is just ten minutes away. While not spectacular, this area holds pretty much any necessity you could ask for.
While not large in number, pretty much all of the UAlbany fans were knowledgeable of the game and showed support for their team. The crowd didn't get overly loud, but they supplied plenty of applause. If there were more of them it would help the overall experience, but it's what one should expect really for a small college baseball field.
Varsity Field is easily accessed by the CDTA, as the stop at Western Ave & University Place is just a very short walk to the field in the southeast corner of campus. Parking is free and there seemed to be enough in the area. It's really just a field that is part of the athletic complex, as opposed to its own stadium.
It is free baseball. Not a huge facility, but if you like baseball and live in the Albany area, it's worth attending. The quality of baseball is better than anything else you'd see in the area outside of the Tri-City ValleyCats in Bruno Stadium, so why not check out Varsity Field?
I think it's cool that some foul balls end up a "splash hit" in Indian Pond.
College baseball in this part of the country really isn't much of a big deal. Given this, no one should feel disappointed when attending a UAlbany baseball game. It's sports in its purest form, and there's something nice about that. It is hard to compare a place like Varsity Field to the huge stadiums we have come to know, but I hope there is always a place in the sports world for the Varsity Fields out there.
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