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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

O’Donnell Field – Harvard Crimson


Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.43

O’Donnell Field 65 North Harvard St Boston, MA 02163

Year Opened: 1898 Capacity: 1,600

 

Crimson in the Clover

 

Baseball has been played at Harvard since 1862, with the school sponsoring its first varsity team in 1865. At first, baseball was played at various locations around campus and greater Boston, including Jarvis Field, Holmes Field and Boston Common. In 1890, Major Henry Lee Higginson donated a parcel of land on the southern shore of the Charles River for use by the university. Originally known as Soldier’s Field in honor of six of Higginson's friends who died fighting in the Civil War (Yes, I said Civil War. We’re dealing with some seriously old stuff here), the site has been the home of Harvard baseball since 1898.

 

The field was dedicated for Harvard class of 1967 alum, baseball captain, and football team standout Joseph O’Donnell in 1997. Mr. O’Donnell donated $2.5 million to the baseball program in 1995, allowing the university to hire a full-time baseball coach for the first time. He also donated an additional $30 million to the university in 2012.

 

The Crimson have qualified for 15 NCAA Tournaments and four College World Series, most recently in 1974. 17 Harvard alumni have played in the Major Leagues.

 

Food & Beverage 0

 

There are no concessions available at O’Donnell Field. There is a nice little pavilion on the first base side of the diamond, but it is usually occupied by alumni, particularly during Ivy League games. It’s not unusual to see tailgating parties going on, sponsored by alumni of both competing schools, throughout the game.

 

Unaffiliated fans are welcome to bring their own snacks to enjoy during a Crimson game.

 

Atmosphere 2

 

The gameday experience at O'Donnell Field is typical of the small college ballparks in the northeast. The game day experience at Harvard is pretty laid back (and dare we say, scholarly?). There’s not a lot going on to distract your attention from the game. Music plays between innings and batters while the PA announcer goes about his duties in an unobtrusive manner. Much of the noise at O’Donnell Field is created by the fans in the stands and the players on the field. A simple scoreboard in left field displays basic game information.

 

Harvard boasts an NCAA-best 42 varsity sports, and the majority of them play their games on the Soldier Field complex. It's not unusual to have softball, lacrosse, baseball, track and field and more all going on at the same time. It creates a nice festival-like atmosphere where fans wander around from game to game throughout a lovely spring New England afternoon.



 

Neighborhood 4 

 

The Harvard campus is located in Cambridge, MA, on the north shore of the Charles River. O'Donnell Field is located on the opposite shore of the Charles, in the Boston neighborhood of Allston. Many of the school's athletic facilities, including Harvard Stadium, Lavietes Pavilion, Bright-Landry Hockey Center and Jordan Field are located here, as is the world-famous Harvard Business School.

 

 There’s not a whole lot to do in the immediate vicinity of O’Donnell Field and the Soldiers Field Complex, but fans who venture out into Allston and Brighton will find many dining and lodging options. Fans visiting Harvard from out of town who want to get the full Harvard experience should head back across the Charles.

 

To see the sights of Harvard, take a walk across the Anderson Memorial Bridge, which spans the Charles River leading into Cambridge. A few blocks from the river is the Harvard campus. Harvard Square is the heartbeat of campus, and while it may not be the bohemian center it once was, it is still one of the most popular areas in Boston for walking, shopping, and people watching. If the fickle New England weather is cooperating, it’s a great place to be.


For those wishing to bask in the history, architecture, and aura of Harvard, this is the place for you. Take a walking tour of the campus along with the obligatory picture in front of the statue of John Harvard. Just remember these three things about the statue: 1) it is not actually a statue of John Harvard (no image of him exists), but of a random student; 2) John Harvard was not the founder of the college, but its first benefactor; and 3) the college was actually founded in 1636, not in 1638, as the statue claims. But remember to touch his shiny shoe, it is rumored to bring good luck.

 

Fans 2

 

As is the case at most college ballparks in this part of the country, the Crimson don’t attract huge crowds to baseball games. A Harvard baseball crowd is best described as a “friends and family” crowd, as most of the fans in attendance have a personal connection with the players down on the field. As you might imagine, the fans here are knowledgeable about the teams competing and enthusiastic in their support.

 

While you won't find a cohesive student section here at O'Donnell Field, students do take advantage of the great number of outdoor activities available at the Soldiers Field Complex. It's not unusual to see students bouncing between games at the many sporting venues here, catching a few innings at the ballpark before moving on to other activities.

 

Access 3 

 

Boston can be a difficult city to get around, but luckily for visiting baseball fans the majority of Harvard’s schedule takes place on the weekend, when traffic is somewhat less congested than during the week. The Soldiers Field Complex is accessible fairly easily from either Storrow Drive or the Mass Pike (Interstate 90). Detailed driving directions can be found here.


 Locals will tell you that the preferred method of transportation in Boston is the subway, or "T", as it is called locally. The Harvard Station MBTA stop is a 10-minute walk from Harvard Stadium across the Charles River. Several bus routes also stop at Harvard Station. In addition, the 66 and 86 bus routes stop on North Harvard Street, directly in front of the athletic complex.


If you are driving to O'Donnell Field, you will find ample parking tucked in between the many facilities at the Soldier Field Complex. Parking is free for Crimson baseball games (that's right, free parking in Boston!), unless there is a men's lacrosse game going on at the same time. There are some spots dangerously close to the field. Your best bet is to park a little further away to protect your windshield.


Seating consists of three sets of aluminum bleachers without backs. There is a large set of bleachers behind home plate, with smaller sets far down either baseline. Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of standing room here, at least not without an obstructed view. There are no permanent rest room facilities at O’Donnell Field, meaning fans will have to make due with a row of port-a-johns next to the track, or take a long walk into the Stadium or the Gordon Indoor Track building.



 

Return on Investment 5

 

With free admission and parking, taking in a Crimson baseball game is a most affordable entertainment option for Boston sports fans. It's possible to catch a ballgame (as well as a few other games) without spending a single cent.

 

Extras 1

                                                                                               

While not a flashy facility, O’Donnell Stadium does boast a tremendous backdrop. The colossal hulk of Harvard Stadium towers over the field on the first base side of the facility. It’s fun to watch errant foul balls clank of the concrete façade or through the arches that line the exterior of the stadium.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Harvard boasts a long and storied athletic history. While the school boasts some legendary venues and baseball has been played on the O'Donnell Field site since the 19th century, this is very much a bare-bones facility. Aside from the colossal Harvard Stadium hovering over the first base line, there's little to make a visit to O'Donnell Field a memorable one.

 

If planning to make a visit to Harvard, keep in mind that the baseball season takes place largely in March and April, when the weather in New England can be fickle. Changes in schedule, postponements, cancellations and even changes in venue are commonplace. Be sure to make your plans flexible.

 

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

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