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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
College baseball does not have much of a storied history in the Northeast. However, there is one notable exception and it comes from a university that is both storied and historic. At Yale, they have played on the same field since 1885 and a ballpark was built around that field in 1927. Many famous names have played at Yale Field and though Yale Field was renovated with new seating in 1993, much of the same character has been retained in the old ballpark. There are certainly some issues with the whole baseball experience, however if you are looking for a simple place to watch baseball in a historic setting, this one certainly qualifies.
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Fans are much better off bringing their own food into the ballpark. There is only one spot to buy concessions and it is from a small cart near the entrance. The offerings are limited: hot dogs and pretzels, along with various snacks and candy. Beverages are more assorted, though there is no alcohol with this being an on-campus facility.
Yale Field retains a lot of charm and the simplicity of an Ivy League baseball game is quite enjoyable. The old seating bowl has a very "Yale" feel to it with many old designs. From the support beams in the middle of the seats to the overhanging grandstand roof and open archways behind the seats, there is a lot here to make for a great, old setting. Though I'm not a fan of the gentle slope of the seating pitch (leading to some less-than ideal views), it is well worth moving around to different sections throughout the game. Try sitting in the last row, where the original seats were left intact.
The presentation features very little in the way of music and the hand-operated scoreboard is quite simple. There's also hardly any wasted time during the games, making for a very smooth pace and flow.
Unfortunately, the ballpark is not in an ideal spot where fans can tour Yale and then catch a game. In fact, Yale Field isn't even in New Haven; it is just over the city line in West Haven. There is not much to check out here and the location is in the same vicinity as the historic Yale Bowl and the Connecticut Tennis Center. A couple of miles away is Yale's campus, intertwined within downtown New Haven. I highly recommend either taking an official tour or just strolling through as the history and architecture is awesome.
Along with the University, New Haven has become a dining hotspot and there many bars, lounges, and restaurants to check out before or after the game. One suggestion, head a little past the city to the Wooster Square area to Sally's or Frank Pepe's for an authentic (and delicious) New Haven style pizza. Many locals would tout Modern Apizza as their preferred pizza choice and I can certainly vouch for that.
Only a couple hundred fans make it to the games and that is when the weather cooperates. Therefore, the ballpark is mostly empty and for the most part, quiet. The fans that are here, however, care about the game and there are even a handful of students (the Dog Pound) that camp out in right field. During the game I attended, Yale entered the game on a 12-game losing streak and they were able to come back and win. As the Bulldogs made the comeback, a few clusters of fans were standing and cheering loudly. It was great to see that passion and happiness, despite a long losing season winding down.
Getting to Yale Field isn't bad as a couple major interstates converge on the New Haven area (I-95 and I-91). It is a little easier to come in from I-95 and though there can be traffic from both directions, it is straight forward to get to the field. The major issue here is parking as there are no signs or directions on where to go. Incoming cars turn down a path in front of the ballpark and the very limited parking starts with a tiny lot followed by grassy spots adjacent to a football practice field. These spots became full when there were only 350 at the game, so I'm not quite sure where people park if crowds were ever to reach 1,000. If it's a nice day, try getting there a little early to ensure a spot.
The concourse below the seating is very cramped and dark in spots. Getting around is no problem, though getting around is never a problem because of the small crowds. Surprisingly, bathrooms were quite expansive and there was plenty of room.
Here is the best part, everything is free! (except of course, the limited concessions, but those are very cheap). Yale does not charge for attending a baseball game and it is a unique feeling to walk into a historic ballpark of this nature and not go through a turnstile. Though Ivy baseball may have a small following, the Bulldogs have actually produced a couple of Major Leaguers in the last few years.
All along the concourse wall are baseballs with a name and year. This display is called "All-Star Alley", an impressive overview of all the players that have played here. Some of the baseball players that appear on the wall are people who had interests other than baseball. Definitely worth reading every name.
Two more points were given to the history of Yale Field. The ballpark is a historical structure, but there is also a lot that has happened on the field. In the '30s, exhibitions brought in some of baseball's biggest stars, including Babe Ruth, who also made Yale one of his last public appearances in 1948. That same year, George H. W. Bush was the captain. In 1981, the Bulldogs played one of the greatest college games ever when they took on St. John's in the Northeast Regionals. Frank Viola and Yale's Ron Darling pitched amazing games, with Darling throwing 11 consecutive no-hit innings until the Redmen won in the 12th. A lot has happened here and it's nice to see the old field stand the test of time and remain home to the Bulldogs.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium & Arena Visits.
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