Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
David F Couch Ballpark
401 Deacon Blvd
Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Year Opened: 1956
David F. Couch Ballpark – Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Baseball has been played at Wake Forest University since 1891, but life at its current home, David F. Couch Ballpark, goes back to just 2009 when it was known as Ernie Shore Field. Wake Forest took control of the stadium when the minor league Winston-Salem Dash began transitioning to their new home in downtown Winston-Salem, the current Truist Stadium.
Affectionately known as “The Couch” to the Wake Forest faithful, David F. Couch Ballpark received a major 41,000-square foot upgrade along the third base side in 2017 that would include suites, a new clubhouse, player amenities, and the Wake Forest Pitching Lab, which is possibly the most technologically advanced facility of its kind in the nation.
The investments in the baseball program at Wake Forest have helped propel the Demon Deacs into not just the top tier of teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but also the nation.
Food & Beverage 3
The in-house concessions are not necessarily going to knock your socks off, but the food and beverages are saved by the wide selection of craft beers, as well as the food truck which is brought in each game.
For fans who would be satisfied by the typical concession fare, The Couch has got those bases covered – hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, pizza slices, along with all of the typical snack foods that are native to sports facilities, are plentiful at the two concession stands. The craft beers, food truck, and outside food vendors who set up along the concourse also help bolster the offerings, and bring a touch of the Winston-Salem community into the ballpark.
When it comes to the beers offered, fans will not find the mass-produced lagers that are commonplace at most stadiums; the Wake Forest beer selection is exclusively from local breweries and features the Wake Forest branded, Demon Deacon Brew.
David F. Couch Ballpark is a historic stadium that first opened as Ernie Shore Field in 1963. Given the age of the facility it has undergone two significant renovations, one in 1993 and the most recent in 2016. The latest upgrade totally redid the third base side of the stadium – not only did it create a state-of-the-art player development center and spaces for Wake Forest’s baseball operations, but it also added suites, upgraded restrooms, and concessions.
After passing through the brick, arched entry way through the security check at the front gates, fans enter at the top of the seating bowl and are greeted by a well-framed view of the playing area. With a double-sided press and game operations box, the first view fans have is of the field and the large, golden “WF” logo in short center field.
The stadium sits down a steep hillside and, much as it was when first constructed, the hill down the right field side remains. The facility has a strong theme of brick throughout, with the backstop around and down each of the lines having a short two-to-three-foot wall.
Wake Forest plays on a fully synthetic field, from its grass to its dirt. The oddity of the warning track is that a change in the color of the turf itself would not be enough to alert fielders of an impending collision with the outfield wall, but upon closer inspection the ground is slightly sloped, to give fielders the change of feeling as they approach the wall.
Unlike many collegiate baseball stadiums, which have a nearly symmetrical curved wall, David F. Couch Ballpark has an outfield wall with several nooks and crannies, outcrops, and angles. The wall juts out at more than a 45-degree angle from both foul lines, and has four separate offsets from left center around to right center; this creates fantastic opportunities for awkward carroms and challenges for the outfielders to contend with. At one point, the short distances down the lines were balanced out by a large, 24-foot wall, but it has since been removed in favor of a more standard 8-foot wall.
The field definitely plays to the advantage of pull hitters; left field measures just 310’, while the right field wall is an even shorter 300’ from home plate.
The seating bowl runs from the cut of the left field grass to midway down the right field line. Seats from the third base side to the start of the visiting team dugout are black, individual seat backs, while seating from the visiting dugout down the right field line are aluminum bleachers. If staying shaded is your top priority, any of the seats under the canopy behind home plate stay shaded most of the game, while seats behind the dugouts provide practically no shade. Front row seats do have a wide walkway in front of them, which does have a good amount of traffic throughout the game.
When it comes to the game presentation, for the most part it is not cluttered by an overload of sound effects encouraging fans to get involved – the Wake fans do a good enough job on their own of getting and remaining involved in the game.
Overall, the combination of stadium aesthetics, the level of game production put on by the game day operations staff, and the quality of the baseball on the field makes a game at The Couch an enjoyable experience.
Wake Forest’s athletic facilities are split into two separate neighborhoods; soccer, track and field, and volleyball all play on campus, while the university’s football stadium, basketball arena, Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Wake Forest Tennis Center, and baseball stadium are all off campus, adjacent to the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. Though this does take a bit of the college baseball feel away, it does not overly impact the excitement of the game.
There are plenty of restaurants and hotels off University Boulevard, but the area does not give off a strong college community vibe. Wake Forest’s campus is just over a mile away, and downtown Winston-Salem is close to three miles. This section of Wake Forest’s athletics facilities is in a bit of limbo position between the two areas – even though the facilities are well concentrated off campus, the location does seem to impact the overall college feel.
The fun of attending baseball at Wake Forest starts even before passing through the arched entry ways of the stadium – hours before first pitch, fans gather in the lower parking lot area for tailgating as younger fans organize a sandlot style baseball game.
Inside “The Couch”, Demon Deacon fans are engaged with the game. Even a two-strike count in the first inning gets fans clapping, backing the pitcher to finish off the batter.
Throughout the game, fans seem to be hanging on every big opportunity to get the go ahead run across the plate, or to will the team out of a jam. Wake fans are loud and passionate, and they remain that way from the first pitch strike and throughout extra innings.
The area around Wake Forest is just over three miles from downtown Winston-Salem. Greensboro is probably the most accessible airport to the area and is just a 30-minute drive.
Winston-Salem and the surrounding metropolitan Greensboro area are well fed with interstate highways that make getting to Wake Forest rather easy.
Once at the ballpark most fans park in the lower lot, which is a short walk to the front gates of David F. Couch Ballpark. The concourse is easy enough to navigate, but the first base side does tend to get a bit congested, mostly due to the concession lines backing up. The concourse along the third base side is more spacious, and the concession stand there is offset from the main walkway, so there is not the same issue with concourse congestion.
Return on Investment 4
Weekday games are great deals, with tickets starting at $5 and concessions and Deacon Brews priced the same. Weekend series and conference games are reasonably priced at $10 for general admission seats and $15 for reserved seating.
Ticket prices do increase by $5 the day of the game if purchased at the box office, so plan ahead when purchasing tickets.
The manual scoreboard built into the left field wall is a nice touch; similar to Fenway’s Green Monster, the scoreboard has both the inning-by-inning line score and the current count, along with the number of outs (signified by colored lights).
The Wake Forest Pitching Lab is one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the nation. While most facilities of its type would be exclusively for the team’s pitching staff, Wake Forest has made it accessible to the public – it is available for youth pitchers starting at age 12, all the way up to those in the professional ranks.
The story of Kevin Jordan, former Wake Forest baseball player, and Coach Tom Walter’s donation of a kidney to him is chronicled on the concourse with a display on the back of the first base side press box.
Just to the left of the front entry point is a monument recognizing inductees into the Greater Winston-Salem Professional Baseball Hall of Fame; some recognizable names include Wade Boggs, Mark Grace, Rico Petrocelli, and Earl Weaver.
Through their investments in stadium and facility upgrades, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons have been building a baseball program that is not just one of the top teams in the gauntlet of quality teams in the ACC, but also one of the top teams in the nation. These investments have not just benefitted the players who have come through the Wake program, but go a long way in improving the overall fan experience here.