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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Valley Strong Ballpark - Visalia Rawhide

Photos by Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.57

Valley Strong Ballpark

300 N Giddings St

Visalia, CA 93291

Year Opened: 1946 Capacity: 2,468


Gateway to Sequoia

The Visalia Rawhide are the Single-A baseball team of the Arizona Diamondbacks playing in the California League. The team was known as the Visalia Oaks (and even the Visalia Mets, Redlegs, and Stars) for many years until a rebranding in 2009 when they became the Rawhide.

Their home stadium is Recreation Ballpark, a funky little ballpark that some may or may not like. The baseball team has played their entire time at Recreation Ballpark since its construction in 1946. Valley Strong Credit Union obtained the naming rights for Recreation Ballpark, on April 27, 2021. The venue is now known as Valley Strong Ballpark.

Visalia is known as the Gateway to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (both about a 45-minute drive) and is located in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley of California.

Food & Beverage 4

Recreation Field offers a decent amount of food choices and an excellent variety of beer options at relatively acceptable prices. It gets crowded and lines can be long.

Concession stands on both the third and first base concourses offer unhealthy $15 combo food choices (hot dog, bacon loaded nachos, cheeseburgers, loaded carne asada nachos or burrito, with tater tots and a drink). Smaller side portions of pretzels, burritos, tater tots, etc. are offered for $5 at the same stands. A decent selection of beer (domestic, imported, and craft) is sold in cans and on draft and runs $8 – $12 (for a tall boy).

A better recommendation – head to the Barrel House Brewery beyond right field and get a freshly made street taco or two and one of their delicious beers. Picnic tables with umbrellas are offered there as well to enjoy the refreshments.

Atmosphere 3

The most unique aspect of Recreation Ballpark is its grandstand built into a decorated stone structure. The stone itself is painted with pennants on one side and cartoon characters representing all past MLB affiliations on the other.

Seven sections (eight or so rows) of standard green fold down seats are behind home. Handrails are not available to assist with walking up those eight or so rows. “Suites” are at the top of the seating area with each owner’s corporate name displayed on a banner above the suite or box seat area.

Three lower level rows are just below the main grandstand with a small walkway between the two levels. Avoid sitting in row E as that has the walkway right in front and passersby travel throughout the game disrupting the view of the game. A lower section of seats is also available on the first base side below the walkway.

A party area is on the third base side and some berm seating is available down the first baseline and in right field. Nets span the entire seating area except for the right field berm. The right field wall turns into a barn at one point with a section for viewing from ground level through a chain link fence.

A Hall of Fame Club is located on the first base side concourse. It is air conditioned, it blocks movement from the first baseline main entrance to other parts of the stadium, and only members or ticket holders are allowed in the club. Loud music and extraneous noises are thankfully absent. A Kid’s Zone is behind the barn in the right field which costs $5 for your kids or grandkids to expend some of their delightful energy.

Neighborhood 2

The neighborhood right around the stadium is a high volume vandalism area. Be aware of where you park your vehicle, even in public parking spots. Townsfolk tell me it is getting bad in this area of town.

A little over a mile or so away is Main St of Visalia which appears safe (at least during the day). Many restaurants and breweries are along this strip. Sequoia Brewery, Brewbakers Brewing, and Barrel House Brewery are all within a few blocks of each other (walking distance). Of the three, Sequoia Brewery is recommended for its good service, beer, and food. Other restaurants along Main Street include Fuggazzis and Crawdaddy’s (New Orleans Cajun fare). Plenty of other dining choices are along and around Main St.

Nearby hotels that look safe include the Comfort Suites Convention Center and the Marriott at the Convention Center. Be cautious of staying at hotels on the outskirts of town as they can be hit or miss (not so much the hotel but the crime area it may be located).

For other things to do in the area, Visalia is known as the gateway to Sequoia National Park (45 min drive) so plan a hiking or outdoor adventure trip there when visiting the area. If kids or grandkids are in tow, check out the ImagineU Children’s Museum right in downtown Visalia.

Other sports in the area (an hour or so drive) include Fresno Grizzlies (Triple-A Pacific Coast League) and the Bakersfield Train Robbers or Wasco Reserve of the Pecos League (independent baseball league).

Fans 3

Fans are quite friendly and helpful. Most are there for an evening out and not so much for the game. Because the stadium only seats 2,468 – including the berm area (it’s the smallest MLB affiliated ballpark), it doesn’t take too many fans to make it feel full. And, although they have had the lowest average attendance of the California League the last few seasons, the stadium is usually 70 percent plus full.

Access 2

The stadium is awful for accessibility for those in wheelchairs or needing assistance with steps or mobility. The concourse is narrow and crowded, steps are everywhere, and the elevator takes a fan down to the kitchen – it’s just bad.

Bathrooms are clean but check to make sure the stall has toilet paper before using. GPS will take a visitor to the back parking lot (behind the grandstand). The ticket office and main entry are at W Oak Ave and N Giddings St just a block away. A bus system is available in Visalia but service ends too early for leaving a ball game. The closest airport is Fresno about 45 miles north.

Return on Investment 2

Ticket prices are extremely affordable with a seat a few rows behind home plate only $11 – not bad. In all, ticket prices range from $7 (pasture seating – berm) to $30 (Hall of Fame Club). Food and beverage prices are below other California League stadiums. The gift shop only accepts credit cards for purchases over $10. Hatpins are not available for purchase. Hopefully, the town can address the crime and vandalism issues around the stadium for future seasons.

Extras 2

America’s largest cowbell stands in front of the Barrel House Brewery concession in the right field. Many a fan walk by and strike the object to hear the tone it makes. Fans also get a ‘My First Rawhide Game’ sticker if they indicate it’s their first game (a suitable replacement for not having hat pins).

Final Thoughts

Valley Strong Ballpark is a stadium one will like because of its quirkiness and affordable prices or not like because of its accessibility and an unsafe neighborhood. It is in the ‘Gateway of Sequoia’ so if in town during the summer, consider checking out a game and let us know your thoughts.

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