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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Bowen Field - Bluefield Ridge Runners


Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Bowen Field 2003 Stadium Dr Bluefield, VA 24701

Year Opened: 1939 Capacity: 3,000

 

Along the Appalachian League Trail: Bluefield

Bowen Field has been the home for baseball in the Bluefield area since 1939. The original structure was built as a WPA project under President Franklin Roosevelt, but was nearly totally destroyed by a fire in 1970. The stadium was rebuilt and opened again for business in 1975. The reconstructed stadium has seating for 3,000 fans. Its teams have been affiliated with several major league organizations over the years, most notably the Baltimore Orioles from 1958 – 2010 and the Toronto Blue Jays from 2011 to the present. The Bluefield Jays play at the Rookie level of the Appalachian League.


The Blue Jays are shared by the neighboring towns of Bluefield, Virginia and Bluefield, West Virginia, which are separated only by the VA / WV state line. Bowen Field is located within Peters Park, which is operated by the West Virginia city. However, the baseball facility itself is located within the boundaries of the state of Virginia.


Food & Beverage 5

The concession stand at Bowen Field is aptly named the Birdfeeder. It serves one of the larger selection of foods in the Appalachian League. Among the items on the menu are hot dogs ($2.50), corndogs ($2.25), chicken sandwiches ($3.50), nachos ($2.50), hamburgers ($3.50), cheeseburgers ($4), candy ($2), ice cream ($2), brats ($3.75), cheese steaks ($4.50), popcorn ($2), peanuts ($2), pretzels ($2.50) and chips ($1).


Ballpark beverages include bottled water ($2), Pepsi brand sodas ($2.25) and slushies ($2.25). Alcoholic beverages are sold within the Railyard at the Ballyard area along the third base line. Patrons have a front row view along a drinking rail within the area. Domestic canned beers are $3.50, craft beers are $4 and Shock Top and Bold Rock Cider sell for $4.


Bowen Field offers a service found at few ballparks in the minor leagues. It has servers roaming the stands taking food orders from fans. While the Birdfeeder welcomes fans to place their orders at the concession stand this food service allows spectators to see every pitch. The service is extended to all fans, not just premium seat holders.


Atmosphere 5

The beauty of West Virginia is on full display as Bowen Field is built in a valley between two mountains. Not only is this scenic, it also keeps the area shaded for most of the games in the summer and the temperatures in the very mild range.


We have all heard the phrase “take ownership”…. in Bluefield they take it literally. The team is run by the community under the direction of a local board of directors. Locals help in virtually every aspect of the club… concessions, ticketing and even keeping the park spotlessly clean. The walls along the concourse are filled with plaques recognizing or remembering a local for donating funds toward some physical part of the stadium. In some cases, the money comes from a will or in other cases it comes as gifts in kind from a local business.


Ballparks are nice, but what you put on the field is equally important. The Bluefield Jays can almost always be found atop the Appalachian League standings. Before the Jays arrived, the town had a nearly 50-year relationship with the Baltimore Orioles. Some of the top Baltimore Orioles ever got their start in Bluefield.


Neighborhood 3

Even if you add the populations of the two Bluefield’s together they still add up to a small town. A lot of this is due to the surrounding mountains which surround the ballpark and the villages.


Most of the dining establishments in town are fast food chains. Two exceptions are the Big Whiskey BBQ Co. and The Railyard. The only hotel in town is the Econolodge, but the Baker’s Hill Inn B&B has some nice accommodations at reasonable prices.


As far as attractions, nature provides the most interesting sights for the visitors. There are several scenic viewpoints on surrounding roads that are worth checking out. Since you are in West Virginia, a stop at the Coal Heritage Interpretive Center can provide you with a great deal of information about the state’s largest industry.


Fans 4

The fans at Bowen Field see coming to the games as a community event. Their parents and grandparents attended games there and so will the next generation. At the Rookie League level many of these fans will actually be housing a Blue Jay player during the short June-August season. The games give the fans an opportunity to see their friends and neighbors after an exhausting day at work and to relax. These fans know their baseball, as they have seen many valuable players get their start in professional baseball at this very facility. Visitors will often hear the locals sharing stories of a young Cal Ripken, Jr or Boog Powell making a great play right in front of them.


The two Bluefield’s cheer as one, as they share in the civic pride and long history associated with baseball in the town. Bluefield’s main rival are the Princeton Rays, a neighboring town just a few miles down the road. When the two teams compete, there is some good-natured banter between the opposing fans. After the game is over, the two sets of fans head off to the Dairy Queen together. In this competitive world, this small town friendliness is refreshing.


Access 3

Bluefield is very isolated from any major cities as it is located amidst the Appalachian Mountains at the Virginia / West Virginia border. However, it is located only four miles from I-77. To reach the ballpark take the Bluefield exit (#1) off I-77. This will put you on Rte. 290 going west. Follow Rte. 290 to Rte. 460 West. Take Rte. 460 to the third traffic light and turn right on Leatherwood Lane. Turn left when you get to College Avenue. You will stay on College Avenue until you reach Stadium Drive. (There will be a Shell Station at the corner.) Turn right on Stadium Drive and Bowen Field will be ¼ mile ahead on your left.


Parking is available just outside of the stadium. The bleachers making up Bowen Field are built into a hillside and may be difficult for some persons with walking issues to negotiate. There is plenty of seating at field level for those who cannot manage the steps in the grandstand.


Return on Investment 4

The Blue Jays games will not put much of a dent in your wallet. Tickets range from $11 for a box seat to $8 for general admission.


Parking at Bowen Field is free and concessions are very reasonably priced.


Accommodations are limited in town, but most people at the games are locals, so you should find very reasonable rates at either the Econolodge or one of the many B&B’s in the area. The town of Princeton, West Virginia is just 12 miles away and has a large selection of lodging choices.

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Extras 4

Several famous players got their starts in professional baseball in Bluefield. These players include Cal Ripken, Jr, Boog Powell, Eddie Murray and Kevin Pillar.


The seats at Bowen Field were salvaged from the old Anaheim Stadium, the original home of the California Angels.


The at your seat food service deserves an extra.


The Bluefield Jays and the neighboring Princeton Rays compete each year for the Mercer Cup. The team with the most wins in head to head competition during the season wins the cup and gets to hold onto it until the conclusion of the next baseball season. This is a friendly rivalry, but there is a lot of civic pride involved as well.


Final Thoughts

Bowen Field is one of the treasures of minor league baseball. Though it does not have many of the bells and whistles of more modern stadiums, it more than makes up for it in small town friendliness, a beautiful natural setting and a community and their ball team putting their best efforts to ensure you have an enjoyable night at the ballpark. It is definitely a park you should put on your baseball bucket list.




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