- Matt Colville
Pete Taylor Park at Hill-Denson Field – Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Pete Taylor Park at Hill-Denson Field 3321 W 4th St Hattiesburg, MS 39401
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles website Pete Taylor Park's website
Year Opened: 1984 Capacity: 4,300
To the Top of the Golden Eagles Roost
In the Pine Belt region of Mississippi lies a beautiful and very intimidating place to play college baseball. The overall game experience and atmosphere here rivals some of the best that college baseball has to offer, inside Pete Taylor Park at Hill-Denson Field. The ballpark is named after Southern Miss alum Pete Taylor, while the playing surface pays homage to another Southern Miss legend, former coach Hill Denson.
The ballpark opened in 1984 and since then over one million fans have watched baseball at “The Pete.” Pete Taylor Park currently seats 4,300, routinely drawing great crowds and placing the Golden Eagles among the top teams in the country in terms of attendance, consistently finishing in the top 20 nationally every season.
The 2009 Golden Eagles reached the College World Series helping to elevate the program to a level of play like never experienced before. In addition to participating in the 2009 CWS, the Golden Eagles have competed in 18 NCAA Regionals and won 5 C-USA regular-season titles and 5 C-USA Tournament Championships as well. The Southern Miss Baseball program’s inaugural season was 1913, and since then the Golden Eagles have competed as an Independent (1913-1982), in the Metro Athletic Conference (1983-1995), and as a founding member of C-USA since 1996.
2009 CWS Banner on Concourse, Photo by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Baseball has climbed the ladder in Hattiesburg, as support from fans is exceptional for any institution competing outside the Power-5 umbrella. Often, when Southern Miss Baseball is brought up, people make mention of Clint King, Jeff Cook, Brian Dozier, and Todd McInnis, or younger fans remember names like Matt Wallner or Nick Sandlin. A very proud program in Hattiesburg is coming off one of its most successful runs in program history – the Golden Eagles boast five consecutive 40-win seasons while beating the likes of Arizona State, Florida State, and Ole Miss in postseason play.
Food & Beverage 3
The food and beverage items at Pete Taylor Park are comparable to other college baseball venues. There are three main stands on the concourse featuring Coca-Cola as the main provider with drinks available for $4 from the fountain variety or $3 for a 20oz bottle. Food includes the usual ballpark fare and prices are cheap for hot dogs ($2), hamburgers ($3), pretzels ($3), nachos ($3), large popcorn ($3), and funnel cake ($5). There is also a Chick-fil-A stand along the first baseline, as well as a Dippin’ Dotsits, stand.
Southern Miss also became the first college in the state to allow alcohol to be sold at their sporting events and Pete Taylor Park is no exception; throughout the concourse are various stands and tables selling a wide assortment of different beers and wine. Everything from the usual light beers to domestic beers is sold here.
Pete Taylor Park is a beautiful ballpark situated on the north side of campus. The ballpark sits nicely tucked away next to some apartments and St. Thomas Catholic Church, with the first base grandstand the only thing visible from the street entrance. The facade’s grey and brick exterior blends in nicely with the surrounding apartments and the Welch Baseball Center, which looks like a giant gray house in front of the stadium.
The 6,000-square-foot facility opened in 2002 and is an indoor practice facility for the baseball team. Because of the way the park is built it looks quite small from the outside, but once inside the park you can see how they fit everything in such a small area and it’s not crammed as you would expect.
The intimidating three-story press box also stands out from the road and is one of the first things you notice when walking through the park. There are two main entrances; the main one behind home plate and the entrance to The Roost, which is down the first baseline.
As soon as you enter the gate you walk up into a spacious and open concourse underneath the bleachers, which is completely covered for the most part – the only areas not covered are down the first baseline to the area extending to the Right Field Roost. The stands themselves are four sections of metal bleachers down the first and third baselines, with the seats behind home plate and the dugouts being black and gold chairbacks. You would have a hard time believing this ballpark is over 35 years old; the concourse remains very clean and there’s no sign of aging anywhere on the facade.
Before the 2020 season, they installed new synthetic turf on the field – the new field makes Pete Taylor Park look refreshed and new. The scoreboard in left field is a little outdated, however, and only shows the line score with a small dot matrix video board. The Golden the biggest accomplishment was making it to Omaha in 2009, and there’s a huge banner in the Eagles'left field of the team celebrating after winning the 2009 Super Regional to advance.
There’s also a banner of the 2009 team on the concourse as well. The field dimensions are 340, 400, and 340, and there are 25 sponsorship signs on the outfield wall. As far as the view goes it’s mostly wooded, except for the large Catholic Church beyond right field. Also in the right field is the popular Roost section, the tailgating and party area of the ballpark.
Hattiesburg (a.k.a. The Burg) is a decent-sized city of about 50,000, so it has everything you could want in the city and still retains that college town feels with a mix of local shops and restaurants. The Southern Miss campus is one of the smallest D1 colleges in the country, only one square block, and it is located in the center of the town. The Burg has a wide selection of college bars and restaurants, but unlike most college towns they are not located near each other – instead they are spread out all over town.
Closer to campus Mahogany, Brass Hat, and 4th Street Bar are popular spots for college students and people of all ages, while Keg & Barrell, Porter, and Nostalgia Lounge are popular spots located downtown. For live music check out Brewsky’s right next to the ballpark – this popular bar stays open late and features local and sometimes big-name acts.
The scene where may be a little too rowdy for some though. The popular country-themed bar Roper’s is just up the road as well. As a southern city, Hattiesburg has its fair share of restaurants centered on the local fare; popular spots include Crescent City Grill, Patio 44, Midtowner, Ed’s Burger Joint, and the Drew Brees-owned Walk On’s. As one of the largest cities in Mississippi, there’s plenty to do here for people of all ages.
For families, there’s the Hattiesburg Zoo, while for shopping there is the Turtle Creek Mall, and if you’re into the outdoors, the popular Long Leaf Trace runs right through campus, while Paul B. Johnson State Park is just south of Hattiesburg. For places to stay there are plenty of hotels of all price ranges right on Highway 49 near campus, and there is plenty of lodging at the three main interstate exits from I-55 into Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss boasts one of the most loyal fanbases in all of college baseball. Year in and year out attendance is amongst the best in the nation. On weekends at The Pete can see 3,500-plus fans pass through the turnstiles, and this dedication is rewarded with a top 20 national attendance ranking annually. Fans in The Burg are staunch supporters of their head coach. As a program, the Southern Miss head coaching job has not experienced a lot of turnovers, with only over 4 different head coaches over the past 60 years.
However, as the landscape of college sports has changed over the past two decades, the Golden Eagles fanbase has had to adapt to it. With national title aspirations in football out of reach, the Southern Miss fanbase has seized the opportunity to support their Golden Eagles on the national stage in baseball. Fans throughout Pete Taylor Park and the Right Field Roost are truly knowledgeable about both the history of the program and how the landscape of college baseball pertains to them.
Located behind the right field wall and down the right field line are reserved parking spaces for 40 vehicles, several grills, and numerous props readied at a moment’s notice to highlight the follies from the opposing team; this area is known as the Right Field Roost.
The Roost is a true compliment to how the State of Mississippi does baseball. In Oxford or Starkville, you can find plenty to do in both outfields, and the same holds in Hattiesburg. Alumni, students, families, friends, children playing catch, players in the bullpens being heckled, home runs tossed back, and Southern Miss legends Ray Guy and Brett Favre making appearances are just a few things you may encounter in the Right Field Roost at Pete Taylor Park.
The Roost, as it is more affectionately known, is where the diehard fans take in the action. Fans commanding props, train horns, and offering up wisecracks while enjoying a cold beverage make for an exciting and intimidating atmosphere, and a great day at the ballpark.
Hattiesburg may be one of the more accessible towns in the state. Nicknamed the Hub City, it used to be a prominent railroad hub back in the day for the people wanting to get from the coast to Hattiesburg.
Conveniently located about an hour and a half from the coast, New Orleans, Jackson, Meridian, and Mobile, Hattiesburg sits right in the middle of it all. This proximity makes the weekend series very doable for the many alumni who live along the coast and in Jackson, and the roads to the Burg aren’t rural either like the ones you would take to the schools up north in Starkville and Oxford.
You will not miss the USM campus when coming to town, as the campus is located right on the corner of Highway 49 and Hardy Street, two of the main roads through the city. Interstate 55 runs to the west of the city, and you could take that as well, but you may run into considerable traffic on Hardy Street.
The ballpark is on 4th Street just across from campus to the north. If coming for a weekend game, you can find plenty of parking on campus, and the USM campus is quite small for a D1 school (only one block), so no matter where you park you won’t have to walk far. There is also free parking located in the lot right outside Pete Taylor Park, so it’s possible to pull in and park and be in the grandstand in less than 5 minutes.
This lot is also full most of the time, but you may get lucky and find a spot. Once in the ballpark, the concourses are navigable and clean, though they are a little dark since they’re under the grandstand. You should have no problem getting around, though, as you are free to roam the park.
Return on Investment 4
For the 2021 season tickets were priced as follows: Chairback and box seats $15, and General Admission $12. There are about 1,000 gold chairback seats behind home plate, with the general admission section taking up the rest of the park, but you can walk anywhere in the park you want to with a General Admission ticket.
I definitely would recommend a trip to the Burg to watch Southern Miss baseball – almost any weekend, expect to see a full house and a top matchup with a team that has a good chance at going to a Regional, not to mention Hattiesburg is a wonderful college town and Pete Taylor Park has one of the best atmospheres in the whole country.
One extra point for the Longleaf Trace that runs right beyond the outfield at Pete Taylor Park; this 45-mile bike trail is Mississippi’s premier running, biking, and hiking trail, which starts in downtown Hattiesburg and goes west along a portion of an abandoned railroad line. The Trace is known for its scenic beauty and makes for a great stroll before a game. It’s also possible to access all Southern Miss’ athletic venues from the Long Leaf Trace, as it runs right by the softball and soccer facilities and across the street from the basketball and football stadiums.
Another point because Pete Taylor Park has hosted its fair share of postseason baseball; Hattiesburg has been selected as an NCAA regional host site twice, in 2003 and 2017 respectively, and in addition, The Pete has seen a Metro Athletic Conference Tournament and six C-USA Tournaments, with a seventh on the horizon in 2022. Over the years The Pete has welcomed opponents the likes of LSU, Alabama, Mississippi State, Florida State, Ohio State, Cal State-Fullerton, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Baylor, Missouri, Ole Miss, TCU, Tulane, Rice, and East Carolina.
Also in 2021, C-USA sent four teams to the regionals, so for any given weekend series at Pete Taylor, you are getting to see a potential postseason team play. Another extra for The Roost provides one of the best atmospheres in all of college baseball. In Mississippi, college baseball season is almost as revered as college football season, and the atmosphere and experience in The Roost prove why Southern Miss is such a big baseball school, and why college baseball is so big in Mississippi.
Note: Special Thanks to Eagle Club member and Southern Miss alum Jon Clancy for assisting me with the article.