Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Eddie Stanky Field 307 N University Blvd Mobile, AL 36608
Year Opened: 1980
Baseball in Mobile has a very rich and storied history – the Port City can lay claim to more players enshrined in Cooperstown than any other town in the world besides New York and LA, as Hank Aaron, Satchel Paige, Billy Williams, Willie McCovey, and Ozzie Smith were all born, and got their start, playing baseball right here in Mobile.
But there is another former professional ballplayer associated with Mobile and his name is Eddie Stanky, the longtime coach for the South Alabama Jaguars. Stanky had a 10-year stint in the Big Leagues for multiple teams from 1943-1953, where he was a four-time All-Star who would play in three World Series and was even teammates with Jackie Robinson.
After his playing career ended, he began a 16-year stint as a manager with the Cardinals and the White Sox, and after his firing in 1968, became the head coach for South Alabama. Stanky would put the USA program on the map; he led the Jags for 14 seasons, compiling a 490-195-2 record, and led the program to five NCAA Regionals.
During his time with the Jags he took two absences from the team, the first in 1977 when he took a job mid-season to be the manager of the Texas Rangers – he coached one game before deciding to return to Mobile to resume coaching the Jags. He later said he had second thoughts about taking the job, as that meant he'd be away from his adopted hometown of Mobile - his 18-hour stint as manager for the Rangers remains the shortest tenure for a Big League manager in the history of the MLB.
The second absence occurred in 1979 when Stanky retired, but as soon as he saw the unveiling of the stadium that bears his name in 1980, he came out of retirement where he would coach for four more seasons.
After 43 seasons Eddie Stanky Field has held its age and remains one of the finest facilities in the Sun Belt Conference. South Alabama has been a powerhouse since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 1976 – the Jags are perhaps the most storied baseball program in the Sun Belt, with 27 tournament appearances and 17 conference championships.
Over 150 players have been drafted in the program's history, with notable players including Luis Gonzalez, David Freese, Marlon Anderson, Jon Lieber, Frank Bolling, and Juan Pierre. As of the 2023 MLB opening day, three former Jags are on MLB 40-man rosters.
Food & Beverage 2
There are two concession stands here, one each down the first and third baselines. These stands offer the usual fare and nothing stands out. Chicken tenders, hot dogs, Conecuh sausage, cheeseburgers, pretzel sticks, popcorn, and candy round out the menu, with prices ranging between $3 and $8. You can purchase hot dog combos with a souvenir soda for $10, or the cheeseburger combo with a souvenir soda for $11. Coca-Cola is the soft drink provider at Eddie Stanky Field, with the South Alabama signature cup selling for $6.
Alcohol is sold at Stanky Field with 16 oz cans of Bud, Miller, and Coors Lite selling for $6.50, with Michelob Ultra, White Claw, and South Alabama's special beer selling for $7.50; the special beer is called Spotted Tail Jaguar Ale and is brewed locally by Braided River Brewing. This brand is only sold at South Alabama athletic events.
From the outside, it's hard to believe Stanky Field is over 40 years old. At the main entrance, a statue of Eddie Stanky greets you as you enter. Also, as Mobile is nicknamed the Azalea City, a nice garden of azalea bushes lines the outside of the stadium right next to the statue. Once you enter there is a wide-open concourse that goes in both directions under the bleachers, with one set of restrooms and a concession stand on each side. There is also a pop-up truck with a team store, where you can buy a nice selection of South Alabama merch.
The Jaguars baseball program does a really good job honoring their success on the diamond. On the walls are banners and pennants of past achievements of the program – the Baseball Ring of Honor is down the third base line and is has a nice little setup there with a bust of former coach Steve Kittrell, along with plaques of other Jag greats. Kittrell was another legendary coach who took over for Stanky in 1984 and led the Jags until Kittrell’s retirement in 2011. Also along the wall is a listing of all 28 Regional appearances the Jags have made, as well as all MLB players who have come out of the program. Seeing the names of all the famous ballplayers from here only add to the intimidation, as you can sense this is a hallowed place.
The seating bowl is basic with 15 rows of seats, set up with the outer bleacher-style seating painted red, along with blue chairback seating behind the home plate. The press box is two stories high and includes one suite on the first floor; nicknamed the Stadium Club, this area features TVs and a full-service bar and buffet.
The field faces northeast with dimensions of 330-400-330. Fans are scattered throughout the seating bowl, but there are also several party decks in the right field, as well as a standing-room-only area with umbrellas in left field. The right field party decks feature elevated wooden decks with mostly college students grilling out and drinking during the game.
Beyond the right field is the soccer stadium, and at the last baseball game I attended here there was a spring soccer match going on at the same time, so many fans were going in between the soccer stadium and the right field area. In the left field sits an outdated scoreboard with a small video board and line score.
Mobile is really big and spread out, 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 Stanky Field 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.
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 – the Alabama is located after the tunnel if you are headed east, in-between the main I-10 causeways.
If you are interested in something for kids and families, the Exploreum and IMAX Theatre are worth checking out as well. In addition, if you want to make a beach trip during 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 a nice town, and you can find plenty to do here.
South Alabama consistently finishes in the Top 50 in terms of attendance for college baseball. South Alabama is a baseball school and it shows here, from all the history and big-time players that have played for the program – baseball is the most successful sport at South Alabama. In 2022 South Alabama averaged about 1,400 fans per game, but the Jags are also off to a rough start in 2023, with the most recent game I was at having just 1,000.
Being that this is the University of South Alabama (a.k.a. USA), it is only appropriate that the team colors are red, white, and blue. So, when fans do come out it almost feels like you are at an Olympic game featuring Team USA. The attendance record at Eddie Stanky Field was set in 2018 when a standing-room-only crowd of 4,500 packed the stands for a game against Alabama; when any school from Alabama visits here expect a raucous crowd, especially if it's Auburn, Alabama, or Troy. In addition, Sun Belt rival Southern Miss also brings a packed house to Eddie Stanky Field.
There is no easy way to get to campus – USA is located in northwest Mobile on the corner of Old Shell Road and University Blvd, and no matter which direction you are coming from you will encounter numerous red lights en route to the stadium. Mobile can also have horrendous traffic, so it's best to plan for traffic delays. I-10 runs and east and west about 10 miles south of the USA, so that is the main road you will use if coming from out of town.
I-10 runs into I-65, which runs north and south; take that for several miles until you hit the Dauphin Street exit, then take Dauphin west for about 6 miles and you'll reach the campus. Once on campus, there is plenty of parking available in the Mitchell Center parking lot right next door. There is also not any congestion on the concourse when moving around the stadium once in the ballpark.
Return on Investment 4
The best way to remember the ticket prices is that the red bleacher seats down the first and third baselines are $7, while the blue chairback seats behind home plate are $10. There are also five rows of cushioned chairback box seats located in front of the grandstands, with a price of $15 each. Eddie Stanky Field will rarely sell out, however, so you should have no trouble being able to get tickets. With a program with so much history, I consider a visit a great return on investment – Eddie Stanky Field is a very underrated experience that is usually in the top 50 in the country in attendance every year.
One extra for South Alabama naming their facilities after former players; the Jon Lieber Club House sits down the left field line and opened in 2017. Lieber played here in 1991 and 1992, before embarking on a 15-year career in the Big Leagues.
Inside is the David Freese Weight Room, named after another Jag great. Freese played here in 2005 and 2006 before playing 11 seasons and winning the 2011 World Series MVP. Also down the left field line is the Luis Gonzalez Hitting Facility, named after the 5-time MLB All-Star and 19-year veteran Luis Gonzalez, who played here from 1986-1988. #5 Gonzalez is the only player to have his baseball jersey retired by the program.
Eddie Stanky Field has also hosted the Sun Belt Baseball Tournament 12 times, more times than any other site, with the first tournament hosted here in 1980 and the most recent in 2014. In addition, the 1978 tournament was held on the former field located on the same site as Stanky Field. The Jags have also clinched a Sun Belt Championship 5 times on their field.
Stanky Field also hosted minor league baseball in 1994 and 1995 – the independent Mobile Bay Sharks of the Texas-Louisiana League brought baseball back to the Port City after a 24-year absence. The Bay Sharks led the league in attendance, averaging over 100,000 fans per season in each of the two seasons they played here.
The success of the Bay Sharks at Stanky Field led affiliated minor league baseball to come to Mobile in 1997 when the Double-A Southern League Mobile Bay Bears began to play at a newly built stadium named after Mobile's favorite son Hank Aaron. The Bay Bears would play 23 years at Hank Aaron Stadium before relocating to North Alabama and becoming the Rocket City Trash Pandas.
For a baseball-related attraction, I recommend checking out Hank Aaron's Childhood Home and Museum. His home was moved to the stadium named after him and is located about 3 miles away from South Alabama’s campus. His house has been restored to how it looked on the inside when he lived there in the 1950s. On display in his bedroom are many of his old jerseys and trophies, including the Braves World Series trophy and his home run ball. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you are in town for the weekend for a Jags baseball game.