Most people who are familiar with Davidson College know them for their success on the hardwood. Davidson basketball has made a name for itself on the national stage over the last few years, led mainly by Stephen Curry's magical run a few years ago. The Wildcats have maintained that momentum, making themselves perennial NCAA Tournament participants.
Davidson baseball has not experienced the same success as their hoops brethren, but they still put a competitive product on the field each season. The Wildcats call Wilson Field their home, and this on-campus facility recently celebrated 45 years of service. The ballpark, named for Davidson graduate and multi-sport star T. Henry Wilson, Jr., got its start in March 1967, though under a different name (Wildcat Park). Though Wilson Field's age is certainly evident if you look hard enough, it provides a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere in which to take in a game.
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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".
It is not likely that the Food Network will ever visit a Davidson game to partake in their unique delicacies, but you certainly won't go hungry at Wilson Field. There are several hot options from which to choose, including hamburgers and cheeseburgers ($4 for a single, $6 for a double), hot dogs ($2) and chicken sandwiches ($4). One item of note is that there is a grill just outside the concession stand, on which the burgers and dogs are cooked. It is highly unusual to see a grill at this level of baseball, so that is a nice touch.
Additional snack options include candy ($1), popcorn ($1), Blow Pops ($.25), gum ($.05) and sunflower seeds ($1). Sunflower seeds and baseball seem to go hand-in-hand, so this is a good item to add to the menu.
Coca-Cola products are available at the lone stand behind the third base dugout, with Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite for $1 each. If you prefer drinks of the non-carbonated variety, Gatorade is $2, with water available for $1. Coffee and hot chocolate are also $1 each. These were both popular selections on the rather cool day I visited Wilson Field, and they will help keep you warm early in the season.
There is also one special note about Wilson Field's concessions. All of the proceeds go to the Davidson volleyball team, and team members staff the stands. It is great to see teams supporting each other at the college level, particularly in sports where money is at a premium.
The real draw to Wilson Field is what you see on the outside of the park. The park is directly in the center of campus, surrounded by residences on one side and athletic facilities on another. As you approach the park, there is a staircase up to the park, with an arched entryway. The campus is beautiful, and the exterior of Wilson Field is an appropriate fit.
The fixed seating in the park is all bleachers, and as is usually the case with bleachers, gets a bit uncomfortable after a while. If you take a cushion along, though, the seats are decently roomy -- as bleachers go, anyway. The fixed seats behind the plate start to feel a bit like watching baseball in a cage after a while, though, as the backstop is topped by an excessively high net. If a less obscured view is what you desire, bring a lawn chair and head down the third base line. There is a wooded walkway where a number of fans tend to stand or sit and watch the game. The bonus of this area is that it is shaded, which is nice once it starts getting warm in North Carolina.
There is not much inside the park to distract you from the experience of just watching baseball. A standard musical soundtrack plays between innings, and there are no cartoonish sound effects or overdone radio voices to be heard. The scoreboard is even quite utilitarian, offering just a basic "Guests" and "Home" linescore listing (a "Wildcats" tag may be good here), along with the number of the current batter, ball/strike/out counts and a hit or error indicator. The scoreboard can be a bit difficult to see during afternoon games, as the sun shines directly on the board.
Davidson is a small northern suburb of Charlotte, and there is a certain small-town feel throughout the area. There are a number of parks and walking areas within a short distance of the campus -- assuming, of course, that you want to walk somewhere other than the scenic campus. There are also a number of dining options nearby, a lot of which are chronicled in our review of Richardson Stadium, Davidson's football facility. North Carolina micro-chain Char Grill is between the campus and North Carolina Interstate 77, offering char-grilled burgers, fries, milkshakes and a number of additional post-game choices.
Lake Norman is minutes from the campus, and in most cases, if you are attending a Davidson game, it is warm enough to go boating or get on your jet ski after the final pitch. If you would prefer to stay on the shore, there are fine restaurants near the lake for your evening meal. The communities of Huntersville and Mooresville are also within minutes, and center-city Charlotte or the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord are only 20 minutes away.
A decent amount of fans attend Davidson games, and a lot of them come out wearing their Wildcat gear. The only issue with the fans is that there is not a lot of noise going on during the course of the game. At times, the stands were eerily quiet on the day I visited in early 2013. Wilson Field only seats 700 fans, so one should never expect ear-splitting sound, but the feeling much of the time is as though someone pressed the mute button on the crowd.
There is a group of students that sits on the hill behind the right field fence, and they are somewhat rowdy. There is also a sign in front of their seating area that says "Welcome to Right Field", along with another that sports a bullseye. Unfortunately, if you want to hear these fans, you will most likely need to venture out near where they are seated. They are in safe heckling distance of the right fielder, but are not easily heard elsewhere.
There is good and bad to the parking situation at Wilson Field. The good is that parking is free, which is always a nice touch. The bad is that there is very little parking nearby, leading to a potentially confusing situation. There is one very small lot in front of the stadium, and it is both usually full and highly susceptible to foul balls. Several cars were plunked with foul balls on the day I visited, much to the delight of the kids in the stands.
The better suggestion is to park along the road near the campus golf center. This will result in a considerably longer walk, but will save you both the aggravation of looking for a parking place and the dollars on your comprehensive insurance deductible. If the golf center is not in use after the game, you can walk across the course to return to your car. Keep in mind, however, that the parking is in the grass, so this may be a problem if it starts raining.
Davidson is served by Charlotte International Airport (CLT), which is approximately 25 miles southwest of the campus. Interstate 77 is less than 10 minutes away from the campus, serving cities to the north and south of Davidson. US Highway 21 and North Carolina Highways 73, 115 and 150 are also located within minutes.
The bathrooms inside the park are reasonably small, but they are adequate to serve the crowds that usually attend Davidson games. The facilities are reasonably clean and appropriately maintained.
Davidson offers one of the best perks possible: free admission. No ticket is required. All you need to do is walk through the gate and pick a seat. This alone is enough to provide a tremendous return on investment.
Because of the free admission and parking, you can get into the game, get a hot dog and soda and park your car for $3. It seems virtually impossible to see a Division I baseball game, eat and park for $3. You can, however, accomplish all of this in a day at Davidson.
Free stat sheets are available in a bin along the front row of the bleachers at Wildcat games. This is not a program, per se, but it does provide you with the statistics of the home and visiting players. This, in conjunction with your smartphone (wi-fi is intermittently available) should give you all the information you require.
The walk from your car will likely lead you by the Davidson indoor practice facility. The facility, located down the first base line, features a number of indoor batting cages, and provides plenty of room for Davidson's players to take some swings between innings or anytime the weather outside prevents them from hitting on the field. The facility is extremely attractive for a school Davidson's size, and if you can take a glance inside, it is recommended to do so.
A dedication plaque rests at the entrance to Wilson Field. This plaque honors T. Henry Wilson, Jr., for whom the field is named. The plaque is mounted atop a brick column, and lists the date of dedication (March 19, 2005).
There are not many of the trappings of some of the so-called "cathedrals" at Wilson Field. The baseball experience is very straightforward, and is almost akin to a throwback when baseball was just baseball, and not dizzy bat races, kiss cams and wacky mascots. For those who like baseball -- just baseball -- and the warm North Carolina sunshine, Wilson Field is certainly worth a visit.
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