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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Mesa Community College Baseball Stadium – Mesa Thunderbirds


Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86

Mesa Community College Baseball Stadium 1833 W Southern Ave Mesa, AZ 85202



Year Opened: 1966 Capacity: 600

 

Mesa Thunderbirds


Founded in 1963, Mesa Community College (MCC) campus sits on the southwestern part of Mesa, AZ between Gilbert and Tempe. The athletic teams started play 1966 and are part of the NJCAA – Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC). The baseball team, first known as the Hokams, began play in 1966, became known as the Thunderbirds in 1974.


The Thunderbirds have won four National Titles since their origin, the latest in 2014. It has reached the NJCAA World Series 13 different seasons and has been the ACCAC champions a multitude of times.


The on-campus stadium is a decent looking stadium with block dugouts, sturdy shaded bleachers, restrooms, an immaculate green diamond and plenty of parking. Field dimensions are 330’ down the foul lines and 400’ to straight away center, a pretty standard layout.


The college built the stadium in 1966 but I suspect they constructed the bleacher seating and canopies in later years.


Food & Beverage 0

A small, two-window concession stand is on the stadium premises before entering the seating area. The Athletic Public Relations department told me this is not used very much as the crowds are just too small.

Fans can bring in outside food and drink for their enjoyment.


Atmosphere 3

Mesa Community College Baseball Stadium is an attractive looking venue with clean shiny bleachers and a lush green field.


Two separate sets of red canopy-covered bleachers are the seating choices for fans. The set behind home is for Thunderbird fans and the one by third base is designated for visitors. To watch the game net-free, sit on the third base side bleachers. Bring a cushion. The canopies provide needed shade for afternoon games; the sun sets behind the stands. No noticeable area is available for lawn chairs.



Located above the right field wall is an easy to read, manual scoreboard. Several players do an excellent job at updating the balls, strikes, outs, hits, errors and runs in a timely fashion.


The stadium does not have lights installed; teams only play day games here, usually 12pm and 3pm.


The outfield wall highlights 22 names – all former MCC athletes who have made it to the major leagues. Past the left field wall is the football stadium (with lights). Take notice of the uniquely designed Performing Arts Center beyond the first base side.


Depending on a flight’s approach path, fans can watch planes descend as they head toward Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.


To me, the best feature about this game day experience (besides the baseball game) is no music, at all, during the game. It’s the pleasant noise of crowd chatter and the sound of encouragement from teammates. Speakers emit some pregame music at a comfortable sound level but it ends when the game starts. It’s truly a blessing in this age of non-stop noise.


Neighborhood 3

The Mesa Community College campus itself is across from a hospital. The campus is exquisitely xeriscaped, has a planetarium, and a performing arts building. On campus activities shut down because of the pandemic but expect an abundance of entertainment once this is behind us.


Fast food places surround the campus. Korean (Hodori), Mexican (Los Sombreros), an Olive Garden (Italian), a Longhorn Steakhouse are a few of the sit-down restaurants within walking distance.


A few miles south of campus is the Arizona Wilderness Gilbert Brewpub and east just off US 60 and Stapley Dr is a favorite of mine, the Beer Research Institute (good IPAs and excellent lunches).


Downtown Mesa is less than five miles northeast from the campus where visitors can find several breweries and taprooms (12 West Brewing, Chupacabra Taproom, Oro Brewing), pubs, restaurants (Pete’s Fish & Chips, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, and plenty more), and even a cidery (Cider Corps).


Enjoy breakfast before a noon game at First Watch, just across US 60 on Dobson.


Hotels are prominent less than two miles east on Southern Ave and Alma School Rd and include Courtyard Marriott, Double Tree by Hilton, LaQuinta, etc.


Of course, visiting Arizona in the spring means spring training. Mesa offers two parks: Sloan Park (Cubs) three and ½ miles north and Hohokam Stadium (Athletics) about six and ½ miles northeast.


Fans 2

Fans tend to be mostly men, though some parents make the trip. As several teams in the ACCAC are within an hour’s drive, visiting fans draw a decent number. Very few children attend weekday afternoon games.

Fans are generally quiet when watching the game, except for teammates.


This first season after the COVID pandemic (2021 season), 65%+ of the fans still do not follow the ‘wear a face mask’ rule.


Access 4

Located on the northeast corner of US 60 and Dobson Rd, the school is easily accessed by car. It is 20 min east of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.


Valley Metro Bus Route 96 stops outside the campus but it looks like that only runs on weekdays. The closest light rail stop is Sycamore Ave and Main St where a healthy 2.1 mile walk will get fans to the park or they can jump on the 96 bus going south (on weekdays) from the light rail station and get off at the college. However, the best bet is to drive there.


Plenty of free parking is on hand with the Southeast Parking Lot closest to the field.


The bleachers are wheelchair accessible with ramps leading up to the bottom platform. Handrails are provided for ascending the few rows of bleachers. Blue taped X’s on bleachers indicate physical distance seating. I haven’t quite yet figured out whether fans should sit on the X’s or not sit on them. Fans comply with the physical distancing but not the face mask rule.


Clean restrooms are located in the same building as the concessions; four stalls in the ladies’ room.


Bags are not required to be plastic nor clear.


Moving around once on campus and near the park is simple and easy.


Return on Investment 5

Free. Soaking in the sun, listening to the sounds of the game and the crack of the bat, removing oneself from life’s everyday hustle and bustle, and simply passing time on a lovely Arizona spring afternoon doesn’t get much better than a Thunderbirds game at Mesa Community College.


Extras 3

The manual scoreboard deserves an extra mention. Most enjoyable is having only the crowd noise and no loud piped in music.


The team’s championship years are proudly painted on back of one of the dugouts easily seen when entering the park.


Lastly, the stadium was the site of a Kris Bryant prank, sponsored by Red Bull Energy Drink, where he pretended to be a potential new player joining the team at practice one day. It’s a short, fun video.



Final Thoughts

If you just want to get out of the house for a few hours one spring afternoon in the Valley of the Sun, taking in a game at Mesa CC Baseball Stadium hits the spot.

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