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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Montgomery Blair Stadium - Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts




Photo by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Montgomery Blair Stadium 51 University Blvd East Silver Spring, MD 20901

Year Opened: 2005 Capacity: 710

 

Home of the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts

Montgomery Blair Stadium is located in Silver Spring, Maryland on the grounds of Montgomery Blair High School. During the school year, it is home to the school’s baseball team, while over the summer, it plays host to the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. The Ripken League is a collegiate summer wood bat league in the Washington, D.C. area containing three teams in Maryland, two in Virginia, and one in the District itself.


Although the field itself has existed for many years as the home to MBHS baseball, until 2005 it was just that – a field, not a stadium. In 2002, the Thunderbolts came to town and opted to expand the field into a proper stadium with a capacity of around 700 seats. At the time, the team competed in the Clark Griffith Collegiate Baseball League, but they opted to move to the Ripken League in 2005 and the Griffith League folded shortly thereafter. The name honors both the city of Silver Spring, where the team is located, and the nearby city of Takoma Park. Several former T-Bolts have gone on to play professionally, including major league pitchers Jonathan Papelbon and Brett Cecil.


Food & Beverage 3

Montgomery Blair Stadium has a surprisingly wide range of concessions considering the level, but not everything is available every game, which takes this rating down a notch. Main dishes include hot dogs, pizza slices, and hamburgers for $3 each, and cheeseburgers and salmon burgers for $3.50 each. Drinks include water, soda, and Sunny-D for $2 each as well as Gatorade for $2.50. Although you probably won’t want them in the hot D.C. summers, coffee and tea are also available for $2 each.


There is a wide range of snack options as well, ranging from traditional treats like ice cream, peanuts, and popcorn to more unusual ones like honey buns. These range in price from $1 to $2. Ice pops, fruit roll-ups, apples, and cookies are available for 50 cents each, and Twizzlers cost a quarter. The stand does take credit cards, which is rare at this level, but there is a $5 minimum if you want to pay this way.


Given the stadium is located on the grounds of a high school, alcohol is obviously not sold here. Although outside food and beverages are allowed in the stadium, glass, cans and alcoholic beverages are not. Bringing the latter in not only violates stadium policy but state law and could potentially result in criminal charges.


Atmosphere 3

Although Montgomery Blair Stadium is not large by any means, it is still a nice place to watch the game. All seats are chair backs – rare at this level – divided into three stands. One is located directly behind home plate and is in the shade of the press box before the sun goes down. The other two are between the dugouts and home plate. There is not a bad seat in this stadium. A scoreboard is located down the left field line, but it only shows the most basic information.


The Thunderbolts do a better job at promoting an atmosphere than most teams in this league. There are several between inning contests for the kids and trivia questions for the adults to keep everyone engaged. There is also a “50-50 raffle” where fans can win various prizes from the team and sponsors, but not, as one might expect from a 50-50 raffle, cash. This really makes you wonder why the team calls it that. Music is played over the PA, but the sound system is not the best and seems to alternate between being way too loud and being way too quiet.


A firehouse is located beyond the left field fence, and on nice nights the firemen will sometimes stand out there and watch the game when they are not responding to an emergency.


Neighborhood 4

Silver Spring is a suburban neighborhood typical of what you would find just outside our nation’s capital. The stadium itself is located near the Four Corners intersection, where Route 29 meets University Boulevard. A number of restaurants are located at that junction, including The 4 Corners Pub and a number of chain restaurants, but your best bet is to take the short drive into downtown Silver Spring. This is where most of the action is located in this town, including several bars and restaurants ranging from Italian to Ethiopian to Cuban to, of course, American.


You are also about a 30-minute Metro ride away from downtown Washington, D.C. where you can tour the many monuments, memorials, and museums dedicated to our country’s history. All of the government-run attractions are free, though some of the private ones charge for admission. Just keep in mind that if you want to tour the Capitol or White House, you will need to book in advance.


Fans 3

The attendance when we visited was just over 130 fans, which sadly is above average for this league. With so much else going on in this area, fans are just not that into summer collegiate ball, and may not even realize this league exists. However, the fans who do show up are knowledgeable about the team and the game, cheer on their T-Bolts, and stay until the end. Some of them seem to be friends and families of the players, but there are also local individuals and families who just want to attend a baseball game. There were even some people from outside the local region, presumably tourists visiting the District over the summer who decided to take in a baseball game while they were here.


Access 4

Montgomery Blair Stadium is located on University Boulevard (State Route 193), just east of the junction with Route 29. There is ample parking in the high school’s main lot, though you may not be able to park right next to the stadium. The front gate is located in between the school’s softball stadium and its football stadium. Once inside, you can purchase your ticket from a table in a little vestibule area, then head in. You should have no trouble getting around once inside. Restrooms are located in the football stadium adjacent to the baseball stadium. They are more than big enough to handle the crowds at T-Bolts games considering they were designed to handle much larger football crowds.


Return on Investment 5

Tickets are $6 for adults and $2 for children under 18. Children under the age of five and all youth in baseball and softball uniforms get in free. Concessions are affordable and parking is free. Tickets cannot be purchased in advance and must be purchased at the venue, but you don’t really need to worry about it selling out. The ticket table does take credit cards, but there is a $10 minimum if you are paying this way. If you do not have enough people in your party to hit this threshold, bring cash as you will need it. A visit to a Thunderbolts game certainly won’t break the bank, and they put on enough of a show in a nice enough stadium to make it a worthwhile trip.

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Extras 3

There are free programs available at the entrance. Although half of the program consists of advertising, the team has to make money somehow and there is still some good information on the team and its players. Most of the ads are for local businesses as well, which can provide some ideas for places to check out after the game.

There are about 40 college flags located in an area between the entrance and the home plate stand, representing some of the schools represented by current or former T-Bolts players. The displays are really quite impressive.


One final star for a cart selling Thunderbolts merchandise that is located near the concession stand. The prices aren’t bad, either.


Final Thoughts

If you ask sports fans to name a baseball team in this area, they will almost certainly mention the Washington Nationals. But the Nats are not the only baseball team to play their home games in the capital area. Unfortunately, most baseball fans don’t realize the Ripken League exists, or that it has teams in almost every part of the D.C. area. Most people in Silver Spring, Takoma, and the rest of Montgomery County don’t realize this fabulous opportunity to see baseball at an affordable price exists right in their backyard. Although a visit to Nationals Park will obviously be a much higher quality of play, why pay $20 a ticket to sit in the sky and buy overpriced concessions when you can watch a baseball game in a cozy, intimate environment for a fraction of the price and not even have to worry about heading downtown?




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