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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

MacKenzie Stadium - Valley Blue Sox

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71

MacKenzie Stadium 500 Beech St Holyoke, MA 01040

Year Opened: 1933 Capacity: 4,100

Return to the Mack

Not too many people may know that the city of Holyoke, located just north of Springfield, MA, is the birthplace of the sport of volleyball. Even fewer know that Holyoke is the home of quirky Mackenzie Stadium and the Valley (nee Holyoke) Blue Sox of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

Named after Medal of Honor recipient John Mackenzie for his actions aboard the USS Remlick during World War I, Mackenzie Stadium served as the home of the Holyoke Millers of the AA Eastern League from 1977-1982. The field also hosted the Holyoke Giants of the New England Collegiate Baseball League from 2004-2007 before welcoming the Blue Sox in 2008.

The Valley Blue Sox moved from Concord, NH to Holyoke in 2008. The Blue Sox won a pair of NECBL championships, in 2017 and 2018. Three Blue Sox alumni (Stephen Lombardozzi Jr., Trey Mancini, and Juan Perez) have played in the Major Leagues.

Food & Beverage 4

Mackenzie Stadium offers a pretty impressive menu of concession items for such a small facility. The different menu items are sold out of different buildings lined up along the third base side of the ballpark.

All the ballpark basics can be found here, including hot dogs, burgers, pizza slices, and chicken fingers. In addition, items including nachos and French fries are available. An old trailer serves as a snack cart, serving up popcorn, cotton candy, and snow cones.

Cans of Coca-Cola products are sold at all the stands. In a rarity for this level of baseball, fans can purchase beer (at the ticket booth). Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Yuengling, Shock Top, Goose Island IPA, and Harpoon IPA can all be found here.

Atmosphere 2

The Blue Sox put on a game-day presentation that is similar to many teams in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. It’s low-key and geared to the younger fans in attendance, with between-inning games such as the water balloon home run derby and the dizzy bat race. There’s a lot that feels familiar and comfortable here. Many of the fans in attendance are regulars and know each other, and even as a visitor, they are friendly and welcoming. Watching the younger fans in attendance chase foul balls around the facility never gets old.

Fans who haven’t visited Mackenzie Field in a while may feel like there’s a lot less going on than in years past. This is mostly because the amount of activity on the third base midway has decreased greatly. There’s a large scoreboard in the left-center field that provides basic game information, including pitch counts, which are a big deal in summer college baseball.

The biggest negative at Mackenzie Field is the sound system. It feels as if it needs replacing, as it is unclear and fuzzy in many areas of the ballpark. Couple that with music and PA announcements turned up way too loud, and it can be a great distraction. Also, there’s no need to play the same cowbell sound effect 100 times during a game.

Neighborhood 2

Mackenzie Stadium is located in a mixed-use residential/commercial neighborhood, with little in the immediate area to attract visiting fans. Even though downtown Holyoke is only a couple of miles away, there’s not a whole lot going on to see or do here.

The Volleyball Hall of Fame and the Holyoke Children’s Museum are located in the same building about a mile and a half away on the banks of the Connecticut River in downtown Holyoke. Pair this site with a visit to the Basketball Hall of Fame in nearby Springfield and you’ve got a sports history doubleheader lined right up. Other visitors to the area may be interested in exploring the trails of the Mount Tom State Reservation.

The majority of fans looking for a place to eat or stay will likely find themselves in Springfield, a short ten-minute drive from Mackenzie Stadium.

Fans 2

After years of residing at or near the top of the NECBL attendance rankings, post-pandemic seasons have not been kind to the Blue Sox. About two-thirds of the way through the 2022 season the team is averaging only 272 fans per game, placing the Blue Sox 13th out of the 14 teams in the circuit. It’s a far cry from the 2016 and 2017 seasons when the team averaged over 2,100 fans per game.

The fans you will see at Mackenzie Stadium are a mix of die-hard fans who never miss a game and fans with a connection to the team, who either has host families or volunteers. As you would expect at this level of baseball, many families are filling the stands, taking advantage of an affordable night of entertainment. With the NECBL’s compact geographic footprint, it’s not unusual to see visiting fans at Mackenzie Stadium.

Access 3

Mackenzie Stadium is located in Holyoke, MA, a city of nearly 40,000 residents located just north of Springfield in the western part of the state. One of the first planned industrial cities in the country, Holyoke once produced about 80% of all the paper used in the United States.

Mackenzie Stadium is located on the north campus of Holyoke High School, less than a half mile from the terminus of Interstate 391. The area is well served by highways, as Interstates 90 and 91 both run a short distance from Holyoke.

Parking is available on either side of Mackenzie Stadium, either in the High School parking lot or in a lot dedicated to the ballpark and adjoining softball and football fields. The first base entrance puts you at the top of the grandstand, while the third base entrance places you at field level near home plate.

Seating consists mainly of a large grandstand that runs along the first base side of the field, with the press box located at the top. It is clear that Mackenzie Field once hosted football games with this setup. Smaller bleachers are set up on the third base side of the field and behind home plate. The old wooden bleachers behind home plate appear rickety but are a popular spot for long-time fans.

There is plenty of room for fans who prefer to bring their chairs and set up shop at field level near home plate, deep in left field, or on the steep hill behind home plate. The views from many areas around Mackenzie Stadium are not the greatest and long-time fans have their favorite spots picked out. Nets and/or fencing obstruct views from all seating areas.

The various concessions buildings are lined up on the third base side of the field, with small restrooms located in the furthest buildings down the line.

Return on Investment 5

Admission to a Blue Sox game is very affordable, with general admission tickets priced at seven dollars. Youths, seniors, and active members of the military receive a two-dollar discount. Parking is free in either of the parking lots adjacent to the ballpark. Concession prices are also quite affordable, with most items priced at under five dollars. It all adds up to a very affordable night of entertainment for Pioneer Valley sports fans.

Extras 1

In the past, the third base concourse felt like a carnival midway, with giveaways, numerous food options, and sponsors booths lining both sides of the walkway. While the concourse is much less crowded these days, it still retains that feel, complete with a food truck serving snow cones and a table hawking Blue Sox gear. All fans are given a free roster sheet.

Final Thoughts

It’s kind of hard to believe that a ballpark like Mackenzie Stadium once was able to host AA-level baseball. While this old field’s glory days are most likely in the past, this quirky place has found its niche with the presence of the summer collegiate Blue Sox. Here’s hoping that the fans return to Holyoke and the Blue Sox regain their familiar place near the top of the NECBL attendance rankings.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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