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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field - Mercer Bears



Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field 1501 Mercer University Drive Macon, GA 31207

Year Opened: 1962 Capacity: 1,500

 

Hail to Thee, Mercer University

Baseball was the first intercollegiate sport to be played at Mercer University, in the central Georgia city of Macon in 1871. The team would even be led by baseball’s all-time wins leader, Hall of Famer Cy Young, for three spring seasons from 1903 to 1905. “Big Bob” Jones, father of golf legend Bobby Jones, would also star for Mercer just before this time.


The university suspended their sports programs in 1942 as the United States entered World War II the previous year. Athletics would not resume until 1948. Mercer would see baseball return under the leadership of head coach Claude Smith, the field’s namesake. Originally members of the Dixie Conference, Mercer would join eight other colleges throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee in the league.


Following the 1952 season would see the Dixie Conference fold and Mercer play as an independent team, until the formation of the Trans America Athletic Conference in 1978, which would later become the Atlantic Sun Conference. Following 36 years in the TAAC/A-Sun, Mercer would finally move to the Sothern Conference, where they have been members since 2015.

 

Food & Beverage   3

Fans at OrthoGeorgia Park have a variety of concession options to choose from. Positioned at the end of the third base concourse is a tent dedicated to the local chicken franchise, Zaxby's. Here, fans can find premade meals featuring chicken tender sandwiches with a selection of sauces, alongside chips, cookies, and a choice of Coca-Cola products or lemonade.


For those seeking more traditional fare, a concession stand is part of the brick building along the first base line. This stand offers hot dogs, nachos, chips, and candy. Additionally, patrons can enjoy classic options like popcorn and peanuts.


In terms of beverages, the concession stands provide selections from the Coca-Cola family of soft drinks, with Powerade and Dasani water also available. Craft beer aficionados can indulge in offerings from the local Macon brewery, Fall Line Brewing Company, located as part of the Bear Wear souvenir shop situated along the third base line.

 

Atmosphere   4

Upon approaching the front entrance to OrthoGeorgia Park, fans are greeted by a quaint, arched brick entryway leading directly to the concourse.


The grandstand runs even with third base, around to first base, and extends five rows deep. The majority of the seating consists of aluminum bleachers with back support. However, a small section of individual chairback seats is situated behind home plate. High-top tables and drink rails occupy the spaces between the press box structure and facilities on either side, the latter housing restrooms, an apparel shop, and a concession stand; suite-style seating bookends both sides of the press box.


While there is not a designated outfield seating area, a tiered hillside extends from the right field side of the batter’s eye to the foul pole, often filled with fans lounging in lawn chairs.


The scoreboard displays inning-by-inning line scores, run-hit-error totals, and the current count on the batter. A small video screen at the center of the scoreboard typically showcases team logos and advertising graphics.



Game presentation is straightforward yet engaging, with mid-inning breaks often featuring games hosted by an emcee or a series of advertisements. These activities do well at engaging fans, while not distracting from the game.


Considering the challenging sun field, especially for spectators behind home plate and up the third base line, seating along the first baseline offers some relief from direct sunlight. Additionally, a few high-top tables with attached seating and drink rails along the concourse provide shaded areas that are popular among fans.

 

Neighborhood   4

OrthoGeorgia Park is situated within the athletics cluster alongside Five Star Stadium, just beyond the right field wall, with Hawkins Arena positioned up the hill behind home plate.


Despite its location in a city of over 150,000, Mercer University retains a distinct college town ambiance. Downtown Macon is adorned with Mercer Bears banners on many of its light posts, and features numerous billboards promoting Mercer athletics.


On campus, fans have two main areas to grab a meal or drink during their visit. Mercer Village, a small area just off campus, offers a variety of food options including Margaritas Mexican Grille, JAG’s Pizzeria, Nu-Way Wieners, and Francar’s Buffalo Wings. Just south of campus, within a half-mile radius of OrthoGeorgia Park, fans can find Amici Pizza and the Library Taphouse.


Mercer’s campus is also approximately 6 miles from downtown Macon, which boasts a wide array of entertainment and dining options for visitors.

 

Fans   4

When trying to quantify the fan support Mercer baseball receives, it can be difficult to put an exact figure on it. While NCAA statistics report an average attendance of just under 600 fans per game, this number doesn't fully reflect the additional nearly 100 spectators who watch from the hillside beyond the right field fence.


Mercer baseball fans are characterized by their supportive yet laid-back attitude – while they may express vocal reactions, especially to questionable calls, they tend to foster a welcoming atmosphere rather than an intimidating one for visiting teams. In essence, Mercer baseball fans can best be described as "pleasant".


 

Access   4

Situated less than a half mile from Interstate-75, accessing the Mercer campus is rather straightforward.


The parking lot is conveniently located just beyond the outfield fence, requiring only a short walk to reach the front entrance of OrthoGeorgia Park.


The box office and main gate are positioned at the home plate entrance, with a secondary entry available on the third base side of the stadium. Both entry points lead to a well-marked concourse that runs along the top of the seating area, making navigation easy for visitors.

 

Return on Investment   5

While some teams in the SoCon offer free admission to baseball games, Mercer charges fans for entry. Tickets start at $8 for bleacher seats and $10 for individual chairback seats behind home plate. However, fans have the option to sit beyond the right field wall at no cost. Additionally, the absence of a parking fee adds to the affordability of attending Mercer baseball games.


Making the experience even more enjoyable, concession prices for the stadium staples are kept refreshingly low.

 

Extras   4

During the early innings of the game, Mercer’s mascot duo, Toby and Tot, make their rounds throughout the stadium, engaging with fans and posing for photos with those who approach them.


At the home plate entry, visitors are greeted with pride, as championship trophies from Mercer’s time in the Southern Conference, as well as its tenure in the Trans America Athletic Conference, are prominently displayed.


Possibly the pride of Mercer baseball, 2016 Golden Spikes Award Winner Kyle Lewis is honored with a display in the entry leading to the concourse, as well as with a banner hanging on the outfield wall under the scoreboard.


Banners hung from the brick wall in foul territory down the right field line recognize the four NCAA baseball tournaments the Bears have played in, while a second collection of banners on display beyond the left center field wall celebrate the five SoCon championships won by the Bears.

 

Final Thoughts

Baseball at Mercer is enough to keep fans entertained throughout the game, without the feeling of being overwhelmed with sound effects or over the top mascot skits that take away from the entertainment of the game itself.


OrthoGeorgia Park at Claude Smith Field has a rather laid-back atmosphere that provides fans with different options for enjoying college baseball – either remaining outside to take in the game via more of a tailgating atmosphere, or more traditionally watching the game from the comfort of a stadium seat.


The coming years will see the addition of coaching accommodations and a player development center down the left field line. The facility upgrades will add to the ambiance of an already quaint college baseball facility, which provides fans with a positive college baseball experience.

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