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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Shirley Povich Field - Bethesda Big Train


Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

Shirley Povich Field 10600 Westlake Dr Rockville, MD 20852

Year Opened: 2000 Capacity: 1,500

 

Train Time

Located in Bethesda, Maryland, in the D.C. suburbs, Shirley Povich Field is home to the Bethesda Big Train of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL). The CRCBL consists of seven teams from across the DC Metro area, and the Big Train is by far the most successful team in the league, winning or sharing every championship since 2016 as well as three in a row from 2009-2011. In fact, of the teams still in the league, the only one besides the Big Train to have won a championship is the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, and that was back in 2006. (The T-Bolts also shared the title with the Big Train in 2005).

Povich Field is named after longtime local sports columnist Shirley Povich, who covered baseball for over 50 years and was one of the last living reporters to have covered Babe Ruth. He began his career with the Washington Post in 1923, and although he officially retired in 1973, he never stopped covering the game. His last column was published in 1998, one day after his death.

Food & Beverage 5

There are several concession options at Shirley Povich Field, all from local vendors. A hot dog truck is located down the third baseline. Fans can buy hot dogs with just ketchup or mustard for $4 or can customize them with their choice of 12 toppings for $8. Hamburgers are available for $8 and cheeseburgers for $9 and can also be customized with your choice of toppings. Cold soda and water are available for $1 to $2 at the hot dog truck (more on that later).

The main stand behind home plate is run by Gregorio’s Trattoria. Pizza by the slice is available for $4 for cheese or $5 for pepperoni. Strombolis cost $13, a cold Italian sub costs $14, and a Caesar salad costs $11, with an extra dollar to add chicken. For a non-Italian option, chicken tenders and chips are $11. Snacks include chips for $3.50, candy for $3.75, popcorn for $6, a cannoli for $8, and a very large pretzel for $7.50. (While that pretzel seems expensive, let us stress that it is huge and could easily be shared by two or possibly even three people depending on how hungry they are.) Rather bizarrely, soda and water cost between $3 and $4.50 at this stand, while they are much cheaper at the hot dog truck.

The third and final option is Bruster’s ice cream down the third-base line. Cups range from $6 to $8 depending on the size and a waffle cone is a dollar more. Flavors vary by day, but you can expect the classics like vanilla and chocolate plus some more unusual flavors.

Although the selection here is very good, the food is extremely pricey for this level.

Atmosphere 5

While most CRCBL stadiums are very basic, Shirley Povich Field could easily be a minor league stadium if not for the small size. Other than a few bleachers down the right-field line, all seats are chairbacks and have an excellent view of the action. The stands only go about five rows up, so every seat will get you close to the action. A scoreboard in left-centerfield shows the linescore and count as well as the time and temperature. The only major downside of the stadium layout is that the sun sets in centerfield and will be in your eyes for the first few innings.

As for the gameday experience, that is also comparable to the minor leagues. There is often pregame music on the concourse and there will typically be multiple first pitches by special guests. Once the game starts, the experience is every bit what you would see at a higher level – between innings contests on the field, music over the PA system during breaks in the action, and the usual sound effects you would hear at a minor league game ranging from organ music (recorded, not from a real organ at the ballpark) to the sound of broken glass after foul balls. Uniquely, the sound of a train whistle (the “Big Train”) is played over the PA system after the Big Train makes a good play. There is a costumed mascot named Homer, who is a dog and can be seen roaming the crowd during the game.


Neighborhood 3

Shirley Povich Field is located in Cabin John Park, which is operated by Montgomery County. There is an ice rink and some recreational fields located in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, all part of the park. A shopping center is located across the street which includes a Five Guys, a taco place, and a number of other shops. There are several hotels on Democracy Boulevard a couple of miles from the stadium, and Cabin John Park also has a campground for those visitors to the area looking to stay in a more natural environment.

Washington, D.C. is a short Metro ride away and features various museums, monuments, and other sites. Whether it’s visiting the Smithsonian or taking a walk along the National Mall, there is something to do for everyone in or nation’s capital, and most of it is free. Just keep in mind if you want to visit the Capitol or White House, you will need to book those tours in advance.

Fans 5

The Big Train consistently ranks at the top of the Cal Ripken League in attendance, and it isn’t even close. The Big Train average over 500 fans per game, which may not seem like much, but the next-closest team averages only 327. Considering Shirley Povich Field is pretty small, it can get very full here, especially on a Saturday night. A Big Train game is something for the whole Bethesda community to enjoy.

Fans are knowledgeable about the Big Train and passionate. Most of them stay for the whole game even as the hour gets late and the score isn’t particularly close. A lot of them can be seen wearing their own Big Train gear. Games here are often family affairs with lots of small children in attendance, but you get some older people as well, many of whom have been following the team since its inception in 1999.

Access 4

Shirley Povich Field is located just off I-270 and I-495. Take the exit for Democracy Boulevard, follow it to Westlake drive, and the entrance to Cabin John Park will be up ahead on your left. From there, head past the ice rink, and the stadium will be up ahead. There are several other baseball fields in the complex used for recreational purposes, but Shirley Povich Field will be very clearly signed. Due to the large complex, there is more than enough parking available. However, the parking lot can be a tight fit and make exiting after the game difficult, especially if people are trying to enter the lot as well to go elsewhere in the park. Unfortunately, Shirley Povich Field is not easily accessible via the D.C. Metro. Restrooms are small but sufficient for the crowd. The men’s restroom can be hard to find as it is hidden off in the corner and not, as one would expect, across from the women’s restroom.


Return on Investment 4

Tickets are $10 for reserved chairbacks and $5 for bleachers. While this is the most expensive seat in the Ripken League (Olney is also $10 but that’s by car, not by the person, so most people will pay less) it is still not too expensive and the experience here is much better than other venues in the league so you get what you pay for. However, the high price of concessions does knock this score down a notch. Unlike the tickets, there is no need for the food and drink to be so expensive relative to the rest of the league.


Extras 4

Look for the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League Hall of Fame down the first-base line.

Free roster cards are available at the entrance and more extensive programs are available in the stadium.

There are also banners honoring Shirley Povich and Walter “Big Train” Johnson behind home plate.

Finally, be sure to check out the Shirley and Walter Plaza to the left of the main concession stand, featuring a statue of Shirley Povich interviewing Walter Johnson. It is a popular photo opportunity to take your picture with the statue.


Final Thoughts

By far, the best-known team in the DC area is the Washington Nationals. However, over the summer, seven other teams call the area home, playing in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. Although many of these stadiums are pretty simple, the experience at a Bethesda Big Train game is a cut above the rest of the league, and indeed a great experience on its own merits. For those who live in the DC area or are just visiting over the summer, a Bethesda Big Train game at Shirley Povich Field is a great way to spend your evening.




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