- Matt Colville
Eddie Stanky Field – South Alabama Jaguars
Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Eddie Stanky Field 307 N University Blvd Mobile, AL 36608
Year Opened: 1980
USA Baseball Lights Up Eddie Stanky Field
Baseball in Mobile has a very rich and storied history. Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Satchel Paige, Billy Williams, Willie McCovey, and Ozzie Smith were all born, and got their start playing baseball, right here in Mobile. Mobile can lay claim to have given birth to more players enshrined in Cooperstown than any other town in the world besides New York and Los Angeles.
There is another former professional ball player associated with the city of Mobile and his name is Eddie Stanky. Unlike the Hall of Famers listed above, Stanky wasn’t born nearby and never even went to school here. But Stanky’s influence on the city and the university would be cemented forever when the baseball stadium named in his honor opened in 1980.
Stanky would have a 10-year stint in the big leagues from 1943-1953 with 5 different teams (Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Giants, and Cardinals), and would also play in three World Series. He was even teammates with Jackie Robinson in 1947 after Robinson broke the color barrier.
After Stanky’s playing career ended, he began a 16-year stint as manager with the Cardinals and White Sox, and after his firing mid-season in 1968, Stanky became the coach for the University of South Alabama Jaguars. Stanky coached the Jags for over a decade, where he led the program to seven regional appearances and four conference championships.
During his time with the Jags he took two absences from the team, the first in 1977 when he was hired mid-season to be the manager of the Texas Rangers. He only coached one game, however, before deciding to return to Mobile to resume coaching the Jags. He later said he had second thoughts after taking the job, as that meant he’d be away from his beloved “adopted” hometown of Mobile – his 18-hour stint as the Rangers skipper remains the shortest tenure for any MLB manager to this day.
The second absence from the Jags came in 1979 when Stanky retired, but as soon he saw the unveiling of the stadium that bears his name he decided to come out of retirement (in 1980) to coach the Jags for four more seasons.
Eddie Stanky Field is a beautiful baseball facility that suits the team quite well. The Jaguars have been a powerhouse in the Sun Belt Conference since joining in 1976. With 27 tournament appearances and 16 conference championships, the Jags baseball program is the most successful of all the sports in USA. Over 150 players have been drafted in the program’s history, with notable players including Luis Gonzalez, David Freese, Marlon Anderson, Jon Lieber, and Juan Pierre.
Food & Beverage 3
Food is plentiful at Eddie Stanky Field – there are two main concessions stands set up, one on each side of the concourse under the stadium. These stands offer the usual ballpark fare, as well as some other menu items that stand out, such as the chicken tender sandwich which is pretty good – $6.50 gets you fries and three medium-sized chicken tenders on bread topped with the toppings of your choice, or you can just get the chicken tenders by themselves with fries for $4.50. Other menu items include burgers ($4), pork sandwiches ($4), sausage dogs ($4), nachos and pretzels ($3.50), popcorn and cotton candy ($3), fries, peanuts, and candy ($2.50), and chips ($2).
Coke is the stadium’s soft drink provider with 20oz souvenir-style cups costing $3.50 – Powerade is also $3.50 while bottled water is $2.50. In addition, even though Eddie Stanky Field is on campus, alcohol is sold here with craft beer (Southern Pecan and Abita Mardi Gras Bock at $5), premium beer (Dos Equis, Blue Moon, Redd’s, Heineken, and Corona at $4), and domestic beer (Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, Coors, Miller, and Yuengling at $3.50) all available.
From the outside, it’s hard to think that Eddie Stanky Field is entering its 40th season. At the main entrance, there is a statue of Eddie Stanky, as well as azalea bushes on both sides of the stadium as you walk up. Once you enter there is a wide-open concourse that goes in both directions, with restrooms and one concession stand on each side. The field faces northeast, and you cannot see the game action from the concourse as it wraps under the stadium, with one portion going to the north while the other goes to the east.
The Jaguar baseball program does a really good job of honoring their success on the diamond, as the concourse is lined with banners and pennants showing the past achievements of the program. The Baseball Ring of Honor on the north concourse is a really good example, as here there is a nice little setup with a bust of former coach Steve Kittrell along with plaques of Jaguar greats. In addition, at the top of the concourse are banners with pictures of former big leaguers who played here. Seeing the names like David Freese, Jon Lieber, and Luis Gonzalez only adds to the intimidation, as you know this ballpark is a hallowed place.
The seating bowl is basic with 15 rows of bleacher-style seats, set up with the outer sections painted red and the inner sections are done in blue. Fans are scattered throughout the seating bowl, but there is also additional standing-room-only “seating” in the right field, which requires a separate ticket and is filled with college.
students grilling out and drinking during the game. A unique thing about this stadium is that the press box is two stories high, but includes a suite on the first level. Nicknamed the Stadium Club, this suite features TVs and a full-service bar and buffet. For a Sun Belt-level baseball program, the stadium and game presentation are on par with the SEC – everything from the scoreboard to the PA announcer to the Jaguar Ring of Honor just screams top-notch.
Mobile is really big and spread out of town, and one could spend the entire weekend here, as there are numerous things to do for people of all ages. Within walking distance of the campus, you will find numerous places to eat such as Fuzzy Tacos, Mellow Mushroom, Ollie’s Mediterranean Grill (a Moroccan-themed bar and something different for the area), and Heroes Sports Bar (which has cheap drink specials).
If you’re looking for some cheap food, Foosackly’s is located a couple of blocks from Mitchell Center and has cheap chicken tenders. Or if you are in the mood for BBQ, Dreamland (an Alabama staple that I highly recommend) has several locations in Mobile. Also, Airport Road and Old Shell Road, the two main roads on campus, have all the typical fast-food restaurants and national chains you could want. All in all, you should be able to find plenty to eat within a couple of miles of the university.
About 15 miles east of the college is downtown Mobile, and this is where the college kids like to hang out. Dauphin Street is a smaller Bourbon Street with fewer tourists and is lined with bars that get pretty packed on weekends. FIVE Mobile, Loda Biergarten, Haberdasher, and Dumbwaiter are all good bars located on Dauphin Street. Or if you are looking for seafood, Wintzell’s Oyster House and Chuck’s Fish have you covered in the downtown area.
But if you are looking for a nice sit-down restaurant try Dauphin’s – located on the 34th floor of the Trustmark Bank Building, Dauphin’s has a wonderful view of Mobile Bay; just make note that the place is expensive, and reservations are encouraged as it often gets packed out.
Mobile is one of the oldest cities in the Gulf Coast region, having been founded in 1702. In addition, it has been ruled by four different nations since its founding over 300 years ago, so there is plenty to do in town for history buffs. Fort Conde, founded in 1723 and located in downtown Mobile, is a cool place to visit; the area surrounding the fort has many colonial-style buildings that are rumored to be haunted. In addition, the USS Alabama, a World War II battleship, is also worth checking out while in the area – Alabama is located after the tunnel if you are headed east, in between the main I-10 causeways.
Or, if you are interested in something for kids and families, the Exploreum and the IMAX Theatre are worth checking out as well; this is a favorite spot for school field trips, and I went on many field trips there when I was younger. In addition, if you want to make a beach trip over the weekend, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are each about 45 minutes away.
If staying in the area you will find numerous hotels located along Airport Road and Old Shell Road, as well as several high-rise hotels located in downtown Mobile. There are also numerous bed and breakfasts located in the historic antebellum houses that line Dauphin Street, so you should be able to find plenty of places to stay. All in all, Mobile is nice town and you can find plenty to do here.
Compared to USA football and basketball, the score for fans at USA baseball is much higher – the fans come out for baseball games with a mix of students, alumni, and baseball fans in general. South Alabama is a baseball school and it shows. Also, being that this is the USA it is only appropriate that the team colors are red, white, and blue, and fans consistently turn out for every game and show their support by wearing the colors of America and the Jags – it almost feels like you are at an Olympic baseball game featuring Team USA. The Jags averaged 1,500 fans per game last season (2018), which ranked them 41st in the country in attendance.
During my most recent visit the Jags played Southern Miss, and the Golden Eagles faithful had a good turnout as well, with black and yellow scattered down the first baseline. Many of the students were scattered throughout the grandstand, but there were also a lot of students tailgating in the special seating area in the right field; I saw many students drinking and grilling.
Let’s face it – there is no easy way to get to campus. USA’s campus is located in northwest Mobile on the corner of Old Shell Road and University Boulevard. I’m not going to say it’s in the middle of nowhere because it’s not, it’s just that no matter which direction you are coming from you will encounter numerous red lights en route to the campus, not to mention Mobile can have horrendous traffic, so it’s best to plan for traffic delays if attending a game here. I-10 runs east and west about 10 miles south of campus, so that’s the main road you will use if traveling from out of town.
There are several different ways to get to campus if coming from the west – your best bet would be to take the Schillinger Road exit and go north to Old Shell, which runs right in front of campus. Keep in mind Schillinger Road is notorious for its traffic delays and road construction, so even though you’re only on the road for maybe 8 miles, it can take forever.
If coming from the east or north I’d suggest taking I-65 north or south instead, and then taking the Old Shell Road exit – the campus is about 4 miles west on Old Shell. This road runs right into University Blvd, which runs parallel to campus, and the stadium is located on the south side of campus right next to Mitchell Center, home of the USA basketball arena, softball field, and track and field complex.
Return on Investment 4
The easiest way to remember the ticket prices is that the red bleacher seats are $5 and the blue chair backs are $8. The stadium has 15 rows of red bleacher seats located on the first and third baselines, while the blue chair backs are behind home plate and in the first four rows closest to the field all the way across. There is no parking fee and concessions prices are reasonable, so you get to see quality D1 baseball for less than 20 bucks per person.
The Jags do t-shirt tosses and promotions between innings similar to what you would find at minor league games, my favorite being the free car wash to the owner of the dirtiest car in the parking lot. The fact that somebody had to prowl the parking lot looking for the dirtiest car and then find the owner of the car in the stands is deserving of an extra point in and of itself.
Mobile also has a lot of baseball-related landmarks in the city. Just down the road on the campus of Spring Hill College is Stan Galle Field – opened in the 1880s it is believed to be the oldest continuously used ballpark in the country, though baseball is believed to have been played on the field dating back to the 1860s.
Also just down the road at Hank Aaron Stadium you can visit the boyhood home of Hank Aaron – everything is still intact from his kitchen to his bedroom, and you can also view all of the trophies and achievements of the greatest home run hitter that ever lived. The latter is a neat little museum, and both sites are located close to USA’s campus and are worth the detour.
Another plus is the fact that professional baseball can trace its roots to the city dating back to the mid-1920s when the Mobile Bears would play at Hartwell Park downtown until 1970. Hartwell Field would sit vacant until destroyed by a hurricane in 1992, but Eddie Stanky Field has some professional baseball history as well, as the independent Mobile Bay Sharks played here for two seasons in 1994 and 1995.
South Alabama is a baseball school and it shows – fans constantly pack out Eddie Stanky Field and show their support and appreciation in a way that hasn’t yet been captured by the football and basketball programs. It also helps that USA baseball is a conference contender, and puts out a winning program year in and year out. In addition, though the USA is a small school they had six players get drafted last season. So come to a game at Eddie Stanky Field, and chances are there will be several future big leaguers on the field.