Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex – UMES Hawks
Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.43
Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex
711 W. Naylor Mill Road
Salisbury, MD 21801
Year Opened: 2018
Baseball on the Eastern Shore
The University of Maryland – Eastern Shore (UMES) is a historically black university (HBCU) located in Princess Anne, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore of the state. The school's athletic programs, known as the Hawks, primarily compete in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), but as the MEAC does not have enough teams to sponsor baseball, the Hawks and the three other MEAC members who sponsor the sport compete in the Northeast Conference.
The Hawks previously played on campus at Hawk Stadium, but with that field desperately in need of repairs and unable to host Division I baseball, the team began temporarily playing its home games at Perdue Stadium, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds, in 2018. Excluding the COVID-cancelled 2021 season, the Hawks continued to play there until 2022. In 2023, they moved into the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex, a county park in Salisbury. The complex consists of eight baseball and softball fields used by youth, high school, and amateur teams of various levels. UMES baseball plays at field number six in this complex - when you enter the parking lot, head straight back all the way and look for the school name and logo on a banner along the outfield fence.
The good news is that in April 2023, construction began on a new on-campus baseball stadium on the site of the old one. That stadium is set to open at the start of the 2024 season. The stadium is supposed to be a vast improvement on the previous one, and after years of waiting, UMES will finally have their own home stadium again.
Food & Beverage 3
There is a concession stand in the middle of the complex shared by all the fields. Walk down the path along the right field line past fields five and seven and look for the blue building straight ahead. The menu is fairly basic but has a good selection for this level. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders are all available, and can be made into a combo with a fountain soda and fries for added value. Snacks include chips, mozzarella sticks, nachos, soft pretzels, snow cones, and assorted candies. Fountain drinks and bottled Gatorade and water are also available. Prices are affordable - no individual items costs more than $7, most are much less, and the combo will save you several dollars compared to buying everything individually.
The layout at Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex is extremely basic. There is a small set of bleachers down each of the foul lines near the dugouts, and fans are able to bring their own lawn chairs as well, which many do as the bleachers are quite uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the dugouts block views of the corners from the bleachers, and there is only a small area behind home plate to set up your chairs and avoid this as most of it is blocked off by a black windscreen. The good news is you will be up close to the action. The field UMES plays on does not even have a permanent scoreboard - a staffer gets up and hangs a cheap portable one from the chain link fence that is the backstop before the game. If you are sitting in the first base bleachers, you will not be able to see the scoreboard, or more precisely will only be able to see the back of the scoreboard, which doesn't help you any.
There is not much going on at a UMES Hawks game besides the game itself. Baseball purists will love that, while others may not. Ultimately this is a basic experience in a basic stadium.
The Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex is located in a residential neighborhood of Salisbury. If you head a short distance away to Salisbury Boulevard (US Route 13), you will find many options up and down the street. Two breweries, Gateway Craft Brewing and Burnish Beer Company, are also close by. There are many other options available about a ten minute drive away in downtown Salisbury along Main Street and the other nearby roads.
The crowd at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex is mostly friends and family of the UMES players, or the visiting players. Due to the extreme distance from campus, very few students are able to attend. While the fans can occasionally be loud, for the most part they barely make themselves heard. Of course, this is inevitable with so few fans, and it is impressive that they even occasionally manage that. With so few fans in attendance, you can hear every individual clap and every thing every individual fan yells. On the rare occasions it gets loud, this can make for an interesting experience.
Because this is a multi-field complex, you will occasionally get Little Leaguers whose game on one of the other fields just wrapped up watching from beyond the outfield fence for a few outs before they head home, and any time home run is hit over the fence, kids watching their siblings on the adjacent field will chase after the ball. This is an interesting twist on the common practice of kids chasing after balls hit out of play that you see at many ballparks.
The Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex is located a short drive off of US Route 50 via some residential streets. Salisbury is far from any major city, and depending on how late in the baseball season you come, you may hit beach traffic on the way to or from Salisbury which can add significant time to your route. Once you get to the complex, be sure to use the Scenic Drive entrance. Some GPS apps will try to take you to the Paleo Drive entrance, but this entrance is for umpires and staff only. However, there is no sign telling you this until you are halfway down the road, at which point you will have to make a three-point turn on a narrow residential street to get out, and avoid other cars coming down the road who also didn't realize it was the wrong entrance (or perhaps the drivers live on that street.)
Once you get into the complex, there is plenty of parking in a gravel lot, but be careful of parking close to any of the fields or you may be in foul ball territory. There is a single port-a-potty next to the field. Real restrooms are available elsewhere in the park although you will have to walk quite a bit to get there. The concession stand is also far away from the field, as it serves the whole complex, and lines can get long depending on what is happening on the other fields.
Return on Investment 4
Admission to UMES games is free and parking is also free. Concessions are affordable, especially if you order a combo meal to add value. However, this is too basic a stadium to earn the top score.
Look for the ball and glove statue in the middle of the complex near the concession stand.
The Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex is such a basic experience that it is hard to believe Division I baseball is played here. The field UMES plays on is not even the nicest field in the complex - field number five has a permanent scoreboard and press box. Thankfully, the Hawks are getting a new stadium on campus next year, and it can not come soon enough.