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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Buck Bowman Park - Clover Hill Bucks


Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Buck Bowman Park 2228 Clover Hill Road Dayton, VA 22821

Year Opened: 1954 Capacity: 1,500

 

Small Town Baseball Beneath the Clover Dome

Nestled in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, the Rockingham County Baseball League is one of the oldest amateur baseball leagues in the country. The league's eight teams consist of a mix of current and former college players with ties to the area. Some of the latter have been playing in the league for years.

The Clover Hill Bucks play in the RCBL and call Buck Bowman Park home. Known as the Clover Dome to locals, it is one of the last remaining parks with a wooden grandstand. Since moving here in 1954, the Bucks have won 18 RCBL championships, the most of any team in the league.

Food & Beverage 3

There is one concession stand at Buck Bowman Park, although it has windows on both sides, one facing the field and one facing a grassy area behind the grandstand. Although the menu is limited, prices are some of the best you'll be able to find in baseball. Hot dogs are $2 (add 50 cents for chili), burgers are $3.50 (add 25 cents for cheese), fries are $2, popcorn and candy are $1.50, and lollipops and gum are just 25 cents each.


Bottled water and assorted soft drinks are available for $2.50, while a cup of mint tea costs only $1.25. Although you may not want them on a warm summer night, hot chocolate and coffee are also $1.25. Keep in mind the stand only takes cash and it can take some time to get your food, although if you use the side facing the field, you will be able to watch the game while you wait.




Atmosphere 5

Entering Buck Bowman Field feels like a step back in time to baseball as it used to be played. A covered wooden grandstand, one of the last of its kind, is behind home plate and while it may not be in the greatest condition, you can sense the history just by sitting there.


More modern wooden bleachers are located further down the lines, and beyond those lies a seating area where fans can set up their chairs. This last one is the only area not behind a net, and in fact, there is not even a fence separating it from the field. Instead, there is a chalk line marking the boundary of the playing area that fans must sit behind (this should not be confused with the foul line.) If the ball crosses this line, it is considered out of play and will be treated as such under the ground rules.


Although the wooden grandstand may be the least comfortable place to sit here, it does have the advantage of being extremely close to the action. Fans sitting in the front row are closer to home plate than they would be in almost any other ballpark, close enough to hear the conversations between catcher, batter, and umpire and see the drops of sweat dripping from the face of the person prepping the batters' box before the game. You will truly be up close and personal to the action if you sit here.


A Clover Hill Bucks game is baseball at its purest. Although there are some advertisements on the fence and over the PA system, they are all for local businesses that support the team. There is no billion-dollar corporate influence here. Some music will be played over the PA system, but it does not get in the way of the game itself. This is baseball as it was meant to be played.


One unusual quirk of Buck Bowman Park is that the sun sets in straightaway centerfield. Like at Waconah Park in Pittsfield, this means that games will sometimes feature sun delays and start 20 to 30 minutes after the scheduled time of 7:30 PM to wait for the sun to go behind the tree line.





Neighborhood 1

The problem here isn't so much that the area around Buck Bowman Park is a bad neighborhood as much as that there is no neighborhood at all. The ballpark is surrounded by farms, and while there are a few local businesses that cater to those who live here, and they seem well-liked by the locals, nothing is likely to be of interest to out-of-towners attending a Bucks game except maybe a couple of fresh produce stands.


If you want any place to eat, drink, or sleep, you will likely need to drive about 20 minutes into Harrisonburg, the nearest remote major population center. While Harrisonburg isn't a large city by any means, more of a small college town, it is at least a city. Macado's has some of the best sandwiches in the Shenandoah Valley, Kline's Dairy Bar is known for its ice cream, and there are other places to visit as well. That being said, you will have to do a bit of driving to get there.


Fans 5

Despite Clover Hill's small size, it seems like almost the whole town turns out for a Bucks game. Many of the fans have been cheering on the team for decades, coming to almost every home game for a long time. This being farm country, some of the fans will ring cowbells after the Bucks score. The covered grandstand helps to trap in the sound and make it seem even louder than it otherwise would.


Given the RCBL is spread out over such a small geographic footprint, many visiting fans will also make the short trek into Clover Hill. They are treated well enough by the home fans, but this still very much feels like a Bucks home game. The locals love their team and show up in droves to prove it.




Access 2

As we mentioned earlier, Clover Hill is in the middle of the farm country. The nearest remote major town is Harrisonburg, about 20 minutes away via US Route 33. Once you get to the stadium, you will need to drive down a gravel path to a grass lot and park there. No marked spaces or attendants are directing you, other than to tell you to park anywhere that won't box anyone in. Despite this, cars park haphazardly, making it hard to figure out where you parked and get out when the game is over. Luckily everyone seemed to at least follow the instructions not to trap anyone in.


There are restrooms on the grassy area down the right field line, near the concession stand, team store, and batting cages. They are small, but there is usually no wait to use one. The steps of the wooden grandstand behind the home plate have a long drop from one to another and may prove challenging for those with mobility issues.


Even those who are physically capable of climbing them may get nervous stepping off the bottom step onto the ground because of the drop involved. The newer wooden bleachers down the lines are easier to climb but do not offer nearly as good a view.


Return on Investment 5

Admission to most Bucks games is free of charge thanks to local business sponsors. For a few games, there may be a $5 admission charge. Check the Bucks' social media in advance to find out about specific games. Concession prices are incredibly affordable, and while you may spend a bit on gas to get here due to the park's remote location, a trip to a baseball game under the lights at the Clover Dome is still an outstanding value.

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Extras 4

One bonus star for how close the home plate grandstand is to the action. Look for the team store on the grassy area down the first base line, and the deer skull above it. Both of these are worthy of an extra star.


There are several places at Buck Bowman Park for kids to hang out and play baseball while their parents watch the game if they so choose. Before the game, the aforementioned grassy area will be full of kids playing catch with each other and their parents. Once the game starts, kids will hang out in the batting cage further down the right field line, playing their version of baseball with a toy bat and ball.




Final Thoughts

Buck Bowman Park is small-town baseball at its finest. The spirit of baseball is alive and well here in Clover Hill, at a ballpark steeped in rich history and a throwback to days of yore. An evening at the Clover Dome to check out a Bucks game should be on the bucket list of every baseball fan in Virginia.




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