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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Bridgeforth Field – Winchester Royals


Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Bridgeforth Field 1001 East Cork Street Winchester, VA 22601



Year Opened: 1979

Capacity: 1,500

 

A Winning Night in Winchester

The Winchester Royals play in the Valley Baseball League, a collegiate summer wood bat league based in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The league includes 11 teams split into a northern and southern division. The Royals have been in the league since 1979 and play their home games at Bridgeforth Field. This field is located within Jim Barnett Park, which is owned by the City of Winchester and also includes several other fields, a disc golf course, and a skate pavilion. It is also home to the baseball team of Shenandoah University.

Following the 2021 season, the stadium was extensively renovated, including a new turf playing surface, better lighting, and a new scoreboard.

Food & Beverage 4

For such a small venue, Bridgeforth Field has a great selection at the concession stand, and the prices are extremely affordable. Hot dogs are $3, hamburgers are $4, cheeseburgers are $4.50, and you can make any option a combo with chips and a drink by adding $1.50. Snacks include locally made Route 11 potato chips, nachos, Pirate’s Booty, popcorn, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and candy. Water and soda are available to drink, as are iced tea (sweet or unsweet), lemonade, Gatorade, and Honest Juice. For the sweet tooth, freezie pops and ice cream bars are available.

Atmosphere 4

Bridgeforth Field has five seats of bleachers, two on each side of the field and one directly behind home plate. The one behind home plate consists of bleachers with backs, while the other four are a weird hodgepodge of chairbacks bolted onto bleachers and bleachers without backs. As the entire stadium is general admission, make sure to arrive early to get the seat you want. Winchester fans tend to sit down the third base line where their teams’ dugout is, while visiting fans tend to sit down the first base line. The seats behind home plate are more mixed. There is a scoreboard in left centerfield which shows the line score, count, and current batter. Like in most of the Valley League, fans are not permitted to keep foul balls, but can return them to the team store for a free freezie pop. You will often see kids chasing after the balls in the hope of getting one.

Unlike many summer league teams, the Royals do a great job of keeping fans engaged. Most half-inning breaks feature either contests on the field or raffle drawings using the number on your game ticket (so be sure to hold onto that!) and there are other ways to keep the fans engaged like trivia and Name that Tune contests.

Instead of playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch, the team plays its own theme song about enjoying the team and the game.

Neighborhood 3

Winchester is a small city located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. There are a number of restaurants located near the stadium, ranging from sports bars to barbecue to homemade ice cream. Since Bridgeforth Field is located near the highway, pretty much everything in Winchester is right there. While Winchester certainly isn’t a bustling city, it does have that small-town charm.

History buffs may also want to visit the many Civil War sites in and around Winchester, which played a major role in the conflict. The city changed hands 72 times during the war and was known as the Shuttlecock of the Confederacy.

Fans 4

While some teams in the Valley Baseball League don’t have many fans, the Winchester Royals do draw a good crowd. They fill up most of the bleachers and cheer on their team throughout the game. They also seem to be quite familiar with the players despite the fact that none of them stick around for more than one summer. The fans range from young families with kids to older people who have watched this team every summer for decades. Many people can be seen wearing Winchester Royals colors and hats as well. This team has been around for a while, and it is good to see the fan base continues to be loyal to their team.

Access 4

The nearest highway to Bridgeforth Field is Interstate 81, and it is easily accessible via Exit 313A. Fans coming from the east or west will need to take State Route 7 or U.S. Route 50 at least part of the way, and while these are not highways, you can usually make good time. Once you get to the stadium, there is parking available in a lot right next to it. If this fills up, there is parking available elsewhere in Jim Barnett Park as well. All parking is free.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Winchester, like most of the teams in this league, is located far from any major city. Washington, D.C. is about an hour and a half away, and no other major city is anywhere near Winchester. There’s probably a VBL team close to any fan in the Shenandoah Valley, but to fans from outside it, getting there can be a challenge.

Return on Investment 5

When admission is charged, tickets cost $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens, $2 for children six to 12 years, and free for children under six. However, thanks to sponsorship deals, many games have free admission. Be sure to check the schedule online first. Free games do still require a ticket, because this doubles as your raffle ticket for a chance to win one of several prizes throughout the game.

Even if you have to pay admission, it’s not that much, and when you throw in the free parking and affordable concessions, it can be an excellent deal for the entire family.

Extras 3

There are free programs located by the entrance, though there is a donation box next to it to raise money for team meals. Some fans stick a dollar or so in, some don’t. Either way, it’s a great deal.

There is a souvenir shop in the stadium as well which sells Winchester Royals merchandise. You don’t always see such an extensive selection at this level.

One final star for the extremely affordable prices and the possibility to see free baseball on certain nights.

Final Thoughts

Although collegiate summer league baseball doesn’t really get that much attention, the Valley Baseball League has been achieving success for many years. For fans who live in the area, a visit to Bridgeforth Stadium can be an enjoyable and affordable experience throughout the summer. Fans outside the Valley may still want to consider making a trip here as it is a nice way to take in a baseball game on a summer night.

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