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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium - Jacksonville State Gamecocks



Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium 700 Pelham Road Jacksonville, AL 36265

Year Opened: 1995 Capacity: 2,020

 

Fear the Beak

Baseball has been played at Jacksonville State University since the program’s founding in 1948 as members of the NCAA’s Division II, playing out of the Gulf South Conference. During their stint in Division II, the Gamecocks would claim back-to-back National Championships in the 1990 and 1991 seasons.


Jacksonville State would jump to Division I in the 1995-96 academic year, where they would play as members of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Their first stay in the A-Sun would be short-lived, as the Gamecocks moved to the Ohio Valley Conference in 2003, only to return to the A-Sun from 2021 to 2023. The Gamecocks would leave the A-Sun for good after just two years, joining Conference USA to start the 2023-24 athletic season, when their football program transitioned from FCS to FBS. 


The Gamecocks would move from their original baseball field on the east side of campus, to their new baseball facility across campus, just in time for their move to Division I. The facility initially consisted of just three sections of bleachers and a press box tower, but a practically complete rebuild in 2019 transformed the field into a true baseball stadium.

 

Food & Beverage   4

A lone concession stand is located on the concourse, directly behind home plate. The menu gives fans a wide number of options, from the classic ballpark hot dog (with the option to add chili) to cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, BBQ sandwiches, and stadium nachos round out the entrées. Combo meals of an entrée, fries, and a drink are offered, but cost the same amount as it would if all three were to be purchased separately; there is no discounted rate for purchasing a combo meal.


Sides and snacks include fries, chips, and candy, along with the stadium favorites peanuts and popcorn. Frozen sweet treats include frozen lemonade, but it is the Kona Ice truck that draws much of the attention.


Beverages include Coca-Cola products, Powerade, sweet tea, and Dasani bottled water. In addition, a full-service bar on the third base side of the concourse serves hand-mixed cocktails, several domestic beers, hard seltzer, and a selection of craft beers from Back Forty Beer Co.

 

Atmosphere   4

At first glance, the exterior of Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium does not appear to be overly inviting. Situated on the corner of passing streets, what would seem to be the front entrance does not appear to be an accessible entry point. The large brick exterior with windows running along the top also seems a bit drab – if the exterior was more functional and part of a grand entry into the stadium, it would certainly add a lot to the initial impression.


What the grandstand's exterior seems to lack is made up for by the interior – the interior of the stadium is a nice mix of classic stadium design, with a touch of modern luxurious accommodations. A shingled roof runs along the home plate edge of the visiting team’s dugout on the third base side of the stadium, around to the Gamecocks indoor hitting facility down the right field line.


The press box is built directly into the roof behind home plate, giving the stadium a bit of a historic feel; a chain link fence backed with tall evergreens makes up the outfield wall. This setup allows fans to watch the game from behind the outfield fence, while those looking for a more traditional outfield seating option might head for Cocky’s Korner in right field.



The stadium scoreboard just beyond right-center field consists of a standard, inning-by-inning scoreboard topped with an LED video board, which gives fans real-time statistical information, pitch count, and team lineups. The inclusion of pitch speed and exit velocities is a nice extra not found at many stadiums.


As is the trend with many collegiate fields, the playing surface is comprised of field turf in a striped pattern, in addition to the university’s “JSU” emblem filling the area around center field. The sun sets just to the first base side of home plate, so day games can create a bit of an issue for fans seated on the third base side of the field, as they are contending with the sun for a good portion of the game – if available, purchase seats as far down the line toward home plate as possible to avoid having to contend with its rays. A good option might be trying to sit at one of the few high-top tables on the concourse, or standing at one of the drink rails under the covered portion of the concourse.


The game presentation is rather straightforward, mostly with ad reads between innings and some occasional contests. There does seem to be some overuse of the in-game sound effects, which are not all that original, most notably the sound of breaking glass when foul balls are hit out of the stadium; these sound effects do seem to fade away in frequency as the game progresses, however.

 

Neighborhood   3

Backdropped by Choccolocco Mountain, Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium sits on the westernmost reaches of Jacksonville State’s campus, neighbored by the JSU soccer facility and Pete Mathews Coliseum.

 

About a mile south of campus is Jacksonville’s town center; this has a handful of restaurants and the Apothecary Draft House, which fans can visit. The most convenient stop for a bite to eat before the game though would be Cooter Brown’s Rib Shack, less than a half mile west on SR-204 (Nesbit Road).

 

Jacksonville’s rural setting does provide fans making a multi-day visit to Jacksonville with miles of hiking trails to explore the northern reaches of the Talladega National Forest, which runs just east of Jacksonville.

 

Fans   4

Jacksonville State baseball has a rather supportive fan base – the Gamecocks are in a group of schools averaging 800 to 900 fans per game. On top of the support fans show, they show a knowledge of the finer points of the game, applauding good baseball plays that might be lost on the casual fan; a hit to the right side with a runner on second, or a strong throw from an outfielder to hold a tagging runner, are applauded just as much as a single.

 

Access   3

Jacksonville, Alabama is a bit off the beaten path. Fans coming from the west through Birmingham or from Atlanta to the east most likely will use I-20. This will leave just under a thirty-minute drive through Oxford and Anniston, Alabama. State Road 21 leads from I-20 right to the JSU campus, while the northern and southern approaches come mostly via state roads and highways.


In a break from typical stadium designs, fans enter through the left field side and are led to the sloping concourse of seating that runs from the visitor dugout to the Gamecocks dugout. This open concourse gives fans the ability to leave their seats to run to the restroom or concession stand while keeping an eye on the game the entire way there.



Suites, a lounge area, and a party deck make up additional seating down the first baseline toward the Gamecocks indoor hitting facility, so there isn’t much fans can access past the Gamecocks dugout.

 

Return on Investment   5

Pre-purchased ticket prices run $6 for general admission seating on the grassy berm to $8 for reserved seating; a $1 fee is added to online purchases. While ticket fees can put a damper on well-priced tickets, a dollar is a welcome relief compared to what other venues charge. Ticket prices when buying at the gate run a bit higher, with general admission going for $8 and reserved seats for $10. Even the game day rates are more than reasonable, however, especially considering the free parking.


Concession prices are as would be expected, but the combo meals not offering any discount is a bit of a letdown.

 

Extras   3

Banners showing the namesakes of the stadium, Rudy Abbott (18) and Jim Case (26), hang from the left-center field fence. A display within the concourse also tells the story of Rudy Abbott’s 31-year tenure as Gamecocks head coach – Abbott and Case led Jacksonville State baseball for a combined 53 years, and only one win shy of 1,650.


Another display recognizes Jacksonville State’s all-Americans and players who have gone on to play professional baseball. The most notable Gamecock to grace the field in Jacksonville quite possibly has been Todd Jones; Jones would have a 16-year MLB career where he would tally over 300 saves, and is still the Detroit Tigers all-time saves leader with 235.


Sunday afternoon games are followed by “Kids Run the Bases”, along with the opportunity to get autographs from their favorite Gamecock players.

 

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the home field they were playing on, Jacksonville State baseball has long established itself as a highly competitive, championship-level college baseball program. It wasn’t until recently, however, that the university was able to invest in upgrading the facilities to give the players and fans the baseball stadium they deserve.

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