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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

Sewell-Thomas Stadium - Alabama Crimson Tide



Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

Sewell-Thomas Stadium

241 Paul W Bryant Dr

Tuscaloosa, AL 35401

Year Opened: 1948

Capacity: 5,867

Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the SEC is probably the championship level of football in the conference, and with good reason, as SEC teams have won 15 of the last 30 College Football National Championships. Over that same time frame, SEC baseball has been nearly as impressive, winning college baseball’s ultimate prize 14 times.


While the Alabama Crimson Tide have not been one of the six different SEC programs to claim a national championship in that time, they have established themselves as one of the teams to contend with in arguably the deepest college baseball conference in the nation.


Alabama has called the now Sewell-Thomas Stadium home since 1948, when the then Thomas Field opened on the corner of the current day Paul “Bear” Bryant Drive and 2nd Street. Sewell was added to the stadium’s name in 1978 in honor of former Crimson Tide player, coach, and National Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Sewell. 2015 would see major renovations that would send Alabama to Hoover to play their home schedule, and give “The Joe”, as it is lovingly known, a face lift that might make many minor league teams jealous.

 

Food & Beverage   4

Concessions at Sewell-Thomas Stadium offer fans a rather wide variety of options, including combo plates of burgers or chicken tenders with fries, chicken nachos, cheese fries, or the traditional ballpark hot dog. Snacks and candy are also plentiful. Much like concessions in the neighboring Coleman Coliseum, one of the concession stands is also dedicated to sweet treats and the ever popular Dippin’ Dots.


Beverages come from the Coca-Cola family of soft drinks, along with Powerade and Dasani bottled water. In addition, Sewell-Thomas Stadium sells various alcoholic beverages, from domestic and premium beers, hard seltzers, pre-mixed cocktails, and individual servings of wine.


While there is a decent selection of concessions, prices do seem to be a bit high even for sports stadiums.

 

Atmosphere   4

The exterior of Swell-Thomas Stadium uses a great deal of brick, accented with concrete and arches to create a rather impressive exterior.


Field level seating, though just a few rows deep, runs nearly foul pole-to-foul pole, with upper-level seating of the grandstand a bit lopsided, running from even with third base to nearly the entire length of the right field foul line.


Suites and the press box top the grandstand behind home plate, while right field seating is made up of multiple levels of grassy berms – the first two levels, below the outfield concourse, are reserved for students, with the sections above the right field concourse for general admission seating.


The field does play a bit small with both lines going 320’, power alleys 360’, and deep center at 390’. Left-handed batters do have a slight advantage, as the outfield wall to right is a lower 8-foot height compared to the 12-foot chain link that makes up the rest of the outfield wall. The lone scoreboard sits just beyond the right field fence and includes the typical line score, sitting just below a large LED screen with batter statistics, previous at bat results, lineup, pitch count and pitch speed, and the next inning’s lineup.



The game presentation at Sewell-Thomas Stadium is rather similar to that of a minor league game, with mid-inning contests and games on the scoreboard, conducted by an in-game host.


When considering seating options, the sun sets behind the first base stands, so seats along that side of the field, or the right field pavilion, should eliminate contending with its rays. A roof also runs over the upper level of seating from dugout-to-dugout, which provides plenty of protection from the elements.

 

Neighborhood   5

Sewell-Thomas Stadium is located toward the southeastern corner of Alabama’s campus, so it is a bit separated from the main concentration of extracurricular activities in Tuscaloosa. The surrounding area is heavily populated with off campus student housing, along with chain and international restaurants; the Druid City Brewing Company Tasting Room is also just a short distance from the backside of Coleman Coliseum.


The primary entertainment district of Tuscaloosa, “The Strip”, is just over a mile from the southeast athletics neighborhood – this area is full of shops, restaurants, bars, and nightlife. But for those in search of a bit more toned-down experience, that might not have as much of the college life excitement, further up The Strip across Queen City Avenue, in Tuscaloosa’s downtown, is a bit more of a mature vibe with watering holes, restaurants, more boutique shops, and several hotels. In addition, just off the I-20/I-359 interchange, about a 5-minute drive from downtown, is another cluster of hotels and several chain restaurants.


Tuscaloosa is a classic college town where the university drives much of the heartbeat of the community. Visitors would be hard pressed to find locals who are not either somehow tied to the school, or who are not ardent supporters of at least one of the Alabama athletic programs. These ties go a long way in developing a sense of pride that permeates throughout the Tuscaloosa community.

 

Fans   4

SEC baseball fans might be just as diehard as their football counterparts, just in smaller numbers. Of the top 25 NCAA teams in terms of attendance, SEC teams claim 11 of those positions. Nevertheless, despite falling in the bottom half of the conference in attendance, the Crimson Tide is still in the top 25 nationally at roughly 3,500 fans per game.



It is not just that fans show up, either – they are active participants in creating a fun college baseball atmosphere. They might not be as raucous as other fan bases in the conference, but Alabama fans show up and are supportive; much of that credit needs to go to the student section that inhabits the first couple of sections of tiered berm seating in right field.

 

Access   4

Interstate 20 and two US highways feed into Tuscaloosa, making Sewell-Thomas Stadium conveniently accessible for fans traveling from any direction.


Free parking is available in the Capstone parking garage across Paul Bryant Drive from the left field entry point. Two other access points, a cluster of three gates at the home plate entry, and a third in the right field corner, help ease crowds both as gates open and for fans leaving.


An outer concourse also runs behind the grandstand housing concessions, restrooms, and the Babe Ruth McAfee Hall of Fame. In addition, the field concourse runs completely around the seating area, allowing fans to navigate the stadium while still being able to keep up with the game.


Thought was obviously given to fans having unobstructed views of the game, as seating is elevated above walkways to keep those walking around the concourse from blocking the view of those in the upper sections. The sections are also kept reasonably open, which helps keep fans from having to get up for those trying to get to their seats in the middle of a row.

 

Return on Investment   4

Pricing is different for non-conference and conference matchups; for mid-week games and early season non-conference series tickets start at $10, with conference series starting at $15. These rates are a bargain when considering SEC baseball as the country's best collegiate baseball conference. Even with such decent ticket prices, tickets on the secondary market can go for as low as $1 before fees.


One great perk is that parking in the Capstone garage is conveniently located and free of charge! However, concessions are a bit inflated, but eating at the game is not a necessity, and the most expensive items are avoidable – the snacks and other ballpark mainstays at Sewell-Thomas Stadium are much more reasonably priced.

 

Extras   5

The Babe Ruth McAbee Hall of Fame gives fans a look at Alabama Crimson Tide baseball history – from players who have played professionally to displays about some of Alabama’s most successful teams, as well as stories of Crimson Tide record holders and artifacts from major moments in program history.



Stories of the stadium’s namesakes, Joe Sewell and Frank Thomas, are posted along the concourse on each side of the field. Sewell was an Alabama baseball player, coach, two-time World Series Champion with the Cleveland Indians (1920) and New York Yankees (1932), and National Baseball Hall of Famer, while Thomas led the Crimson Tide to two of the eighteen college football national championships they claim, in 1934 and 1941.


Alabama does a lot in recognizing the history of athletic successes. Outside the stadium beyond the right field line, the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza recognizes the founding coaches of each team, along with conference and national titles won by each program.


More in line with extras from a stadium and game experience standpoint, for parents looking to give their children a bit of an opportunity to get out of their seat and expel some pent-up energy, a decent sized playground also sits just by one of the left field fences, and there are no concerns of bombardment from potential home run balls, as this area is covered by netting.


Finally, in a top-notch, classy move, following wins and the team handshake line, Alabama baseball players make a beeline to the student section to thank them for their support, as the players make the rounds with high-fives for fans leaning over the right field wall.

 

Final Thoughts

Baseball at the University of Alabama has quietly blossomed into one of the high-level baseball programs not just in the SEC, but nationally. While the team on the field fills the stadium with plenty of excitement, the positives do not stop there. Considering the in-game fan engagement, fan support, and additional perks enhancing a day at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, Alabama offers one of the top-tier college baseball experiences in the country.


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