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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Alumni Field - Keene Swamp Bats

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Alumni Field

77 Arch Street

Keene, NH 03431

Year Opened: 1941

Capacity: 4,100

Keen on Keene

The Keene Swamp Bats have competed in the New England Collegiate Baseball League since 1998. Over their two decades in the circuit they have become one of the flagship franchises in the league, annually ranking among the top four teams in attendance. The Swamp Bats have qualified for the playoffs 17 times, winning the Fay Vincent Cup as league champions four times, second only to the Newport Gulls. Seventeen Swamp Bat alumni have reached the Major Leagues.

The Swamp Bats play their home games at Alumni Field on the campus of Keene High School. In addition to hosting the Swamp Bats, the athletic fields adjacent to Alumni Field host several of Keene High School’s varsity teams. The defining feature of Alumni Field is its covered wooden grandstand, which was built in 1948.

Food & Beverage 4

Jerry’s Hard Ball Café is located behind home plate, and puts out an impressive variety of food for a stand at this level of baseball. All the standard ballpark fare can be found here, including hot dogs, burgers, sausage and pepper sandwiches, pizza and grilled chicken sandwiches. Sandwiches are served plain, or various toppings can be added for a charge.

Fans looking for healthier options will be pleased to find garden salads on the menu, either with or without grilled chicken, as well as veggie burgers. The Swamp Bats also offer healthy meals for kids in the form of their “batter box.” These souvenir bags are filled with a pizza slice, peanut butter and jelly sandwich or salad, along with carrot sticks, water, and fruit. Kids get to keep the bag and refill it at later games at a reduced price.

Fans not so concerned about healthy options can choose from a large variety of candy, snacks and ice cream. Popcorn can be purchased in a souvenir Swamp Bats megaphone. Root beer floats are another popular item on hot New Hampshire nights.

Coca-Cola products are featured at Alumni Field. Alcohol is not sold at Swamp Bat games.

Atmosphere 4

Everything in Keene starts with the setting. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have dreamed up a setting that says “New England” more accurately than this. Surrounded by pine and maple trees, with a barn just beyond the right field fence, Alumni Field boasts a most picturesque setting. Of course, the giant wooden grandstand that runs the length of the first base line from home plate past first base sets the tone in this bucolic setting.

Usually the game day experience at a summer college baseball game in these parts is rather laid back and reserved, fitting in perfectly with the New England setting. Keene breaks from this template with a whole lot of activity throughout the game, including between inning contests for the kids and raffles and giveaways for the adults. While the shenanigans going on at Alumni Field don’t approach the level of distraction present at a typical minor league game, it helps keep the younger fans in attendance involved.

Neighborhood 2

Alumni Field is located amongst the athletic fields of Keene High School in rural Keene, NH, a city of just over 20,000 citizens. There isn’t much to do in the immediate vicinity of Alumni Field, but just a couple of miles away downtown Keene features several restaurants, shops, and the campus of Keene State College.

Keene is a popular destination in the fall, both for the magnificent foliage in the area and to witness the Keene Pumpkin Festival, which set a world record in 2017 with 30,851 lit jack-o-lanterns on display.

Fans 4

Keene has ranked in the top four of the NECBL in attendance in every season of their existence. The Swamp Bats average in the neighborhood of 1,500 fans per game, and these fans are some of the most dedicated you will see. Fans will come to Alumni Field hours before game time to stake out their favorite spots, and many regulars have been sitting in these spots for years. It’s not unusual to see several generations of a family taking in the action from all corners of Alumni Field.

During the game, these fans do not just sit quietly to watch the game. Many fans bring their own noisemakers (cowbells seem to be the preferred item in Keene), and cheer not only the home team, but outstanding efforts from the visitors as well. Sportsmanship is very much alive at this level of baseball.

Access 3

Keene isn’t somewhere you stumble upon accidentally. Keene is located in southwestern New Hampshire, about a 90 minute drive from Manchester. The area is not served by any interstates, with the closest one being I-91, which runs north-south across the state line in Vermont about a half hour away. Several state routes converge in Keene, but they are all of the two-lane, winding variety. Most visitors to Keene will arrive via the Franklin Pierce Highway, otherwise known as Route 9. If you are heading to a Swamp Bats game, you are most definitely driving there.

Once arriving at Alumni Field, you will find ample parking either the parking lot directly behind the ballpark, or in a nearby lot by the high school. Just be careful not to park too close to the field, as home runs leave Alumni Field with great regularity, threatening the windshields of cars parked too close. The Swamp Bats provide shuttles from the lots to the field’s entrance, a nice extra for those fans who need a lift.

You will need to walk all the way around the baseball field to enter into the concourse, located behind home plate. After passing by the snack bar, rest rooms, and souvenir tables, you will see a large, covered grandstand along the first base line. This grandstand makes up the majority of the permanent seating here, although there are two small sets of bleachers behind home plate, and another large set of aluminum bleachers along the third base line. Many fans choose to sit along the edge of the field in their lawn chairs or blankets. Some fans are known to arrive hours before game time to stake out prime locations. It’s not unusual to see lawn chairs lined up all the way down both foul lines.

There is plenty of spare room to roam at Alumni Field, and the youngsters that attend the game make the most of it, playing their own games of catch in the grass or chasing foul balls around. Combine this action with the game at hand, the sights of the mountains in the background, the smells of the grill, and you have an ideal setting for a ball game.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets to see the Swamp Bats at Alumni Field cost five dollars. Seniors are admitted for three dollars, and children 10 and under are admitted free of charge. The Swamp Bats offer a family pass, which admits two adults and all their children for ten dollars.

Parking is available at no cost in the lot directly behind the ball field. This lot tends to fill up quickly, but there is another lot within a short walking distance adjacent to the high school. This lot connects to Alumni Field via a paved path. Factor in inexpensive food prices, and you have the makings of an affordable night out for the whole family.

Extras 4

The Swamp Bats keep fans engaged with an enriched schedule of promotions and giveaways not often seen in the summer leagues. In addition to the usual 50/50 raffle, the Swamp Bats run contests between most innings. The team gives away a roster sheet to all attendees, and several nights feature additional giveaways as well.

An extra point is awarded for the shuttles to and from the parking lots. After the game, the Swamp Bats open a gate in the outfield fence, letting fans walk across the field into the parking lot instead of taking the long way around the field.

If you like home runs, you’ll love Alumni Field. With the center field fence only 352 feet from home plate, the long ball is virtually guaranteed.

A final extra point is awarded for the setting at Alumni Field. From the classic 1948 wooden grandstand to the barns just beyond the right field fence to the views of the mountains in the distance, it’s hard to find a more picturesque setting anywhere.

Final Thoughts

It’s readily apparent once you step foot into Alumni Field why it’s one of the marquee venues in the New England Collegiate League. Take an unforgettable setting, add in great fan support, enthusiastic staff and tons of extra features and you have all the elements of a fantastic place to catch a ballgame. The baseball taking place on the field is top notch, as well. 149 NECBL alumni have reached the Major Leagues, including 34 so far in the 2018 season.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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