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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, 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 14 NCAA Tournaments and four College World Series. 17 Harvard alumni have played in the Major Leagues.

Food & Beverage 0

While there is food all around at O’Donnell Field, there is no concession stand where visiting fans can purchase snacks or drinks. There is usually a barbeque going on at the pavilion for the players and boosters, but this is not available for the average fan. It’s also not unusual to see tailgates or catered parties happening around O’Donnell Field for those fans making a day of it at the ballpark. It’s a cruel trick to smell the food cooking on the grill and to not be able to partake.

Veteran fans simply bring their own refreshments to enjoy during a Harvard baseball game.

Atmosphere 2

The game day experience at O’Donnell Field is typical of the small college ballparks in the northeast. There’s not a whole lot of extra bells and whistles that go along with watching a Harvard baseball game. Aside from the standard PA announcements and walk-up music for the home team, you aren’t going to hear any extraneous noise at a Crimson game. Much of the noise generated here comes from the fans, who are louder than your typical New England baseball crowd.

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 and other sports all going on at the same time. It creates a nice festival-like atmosphere where fans wander around from game to game throughout an 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.

While the neighborhoods of Allston and Brighton on the south shore of the Charles are, on the whole, underrated places to spend some time, there’s not a whole lot to see or do in the immediate vicinity of O’Donnell Field. Fans visiting Harvard for the first time who want to get a flavor of the campus should head back across the Charles.

Before or after a game at Harvard, take a walk across the Anderson Memorial Bridge, which spans the Charles River, and explore Harvard Square, a top Boston tourist destination. While Harvard Square 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. It’s a great way to spend a weekend afternoon in the spring.

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

Fans turn out in decent numbers for Harvard baseball games. While still best described as a “friends and family” type of crowd, Crimson fans are louder and more enthusiastic than most crowds you will find in the area.

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

Anyone who has spent any time in Boston will tell you tales about never ending traffic, construction projects and streets that have been in use since colonial times that are laid out in seemingly random directions. Even if heading over to O’Donnell Field on a weekend, give yourself extra time to get there, or have a local with you who knows the crooked, crowded streets of Boston.

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 ten-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.

Driving directions to O’Donnell Field can be found here. There is 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.

O’Donnell Field is located in the shadows of Harvard Stadium, which looms over the first base side of the field. Seating consists of three sets of aluminum bleachers without backs. There is a large set of bleachers behind home plate, with smaller sets down either baseline. There is room around the field for fans who wish to bring their own chairs or stand and watch the action. The biggest negative here is the lack of any type of permanent rest room facilities in the area. With all the venues and people around, you would think that this would be a no-brainer.

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

An extra point is awarded for the sheer amount of options available for the visiting fan. On any spring weekend, it’s possible to catch several varsity games at the Soldier Field Complex, not to mention the many pick-up games going on all over the place.

Final Thoughts

Harvard is known, among many other things, for its 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 a bare-bones facility. Aside from the colossal shell of 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.

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