College baseball: 5 must-visit baseball stadiums this season
The Road to Omaha begins with the first pitch of the 2016 college baseball season on Friday. Virginia looks to defend its championship while the Florida Gators are the preseason favorite to win it all.
Looking to make a road trip to escape the dead of winter or planning to hit the road this spring? Here's five great places to take in a college baseball game:
Alex Box Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The LSU baseball program played for nearly 70 years at the original Alex Box Stadium from 1938-2008. The stadium held less than 7,800 seats so the Tigers moved 200 yards to the new stadium, which officially opened during the 2009 season. In 2013, the program dedicated the field at Alex Box Stadium to legendary coach Skip Bertman.
"The Box" currently holds 10,326 fans and there is hardly ever an empty seat or room to stand. The Tigers have boasted the top attendance record in the NCAA almost every year since 1996. The postseason might as well go through Baton Rouge almost every year too. Since the new stadium opened, LSU has hosted five NCAA regional tournaments and four super regional tournaments including the Tigers' 2009 national championship season.
The feature that sticks out at the stadium is the giant billboard in right field known fondly by the fans as "The Intimidator." An added bonus for Tiger fans is they can also take a stroll through LSU history with the Wally Pontiff Jr. Hall of Fame.
PK Park, Eugene, Oregon
College baseball fans on the West Coast can look no further than the home of the Oregon Ducks, PK Park. For nearly 30 years, the University of Oregon didn't field a baseball team, which was eliminated in the 1980s. The athletic department announced in 2007 that the program would return and the construction began on PK Park a year later.
PK Park officially opened on Feb. 27, 2009, and the Ducks set the tone with their defeat over national champion Fresno State in the first game back. Over the past seven years, the Ducks have hosted a pair of NCAA regionals in 2012 and 2013. PK Park currently holds about 3,600 fans including 500 student seats in left field. The biggest feature is the high definition videoboards combined with the classic manual scoreboard as well as Fowl Territory picnic area. The home dugout also serves a cool reminder for the players with its 1,672 miles to Omaha sign.
Baum Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas
SEC schools are known for their impressive stadiums and the University of Arkansas' Baum Stadium is no exception. The Razorback faithful drive out in forces to catch a game at Baum Stadium, which replaced the old George Cole Field in 1996. The park succeeds with its look and feel of a MLB stadium and has the second largest seating capacity in the conference. Baum can hold up to 10,737 fans every game, so you can imagine how loud the crowd gets for the "Calling the Hogs" chant. The Razorbacks rarely lose in front of the home crowd and have a 424-168 (.716) record at the stadium.
In its 20-year history, Baum Stadium has hosted five NCAA regionals and an NCAA super regional last year, where the Razorbacks advanced to their eighth CWS. Arkansas will unveil a new addition this season with the largest video board in college baseball, which stands a massive 25 feet tall and 71 feet wide.
Dick Howser Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida
From the beautiful weather to the rowdy crowd, Florida State's Dick Howser Stadium has the perfect atmosphere for a college baseball game.
The Seminoles spent two years and almost $12 million on significant upgrades in 2004 to make Dick Howser Stadium one of the premiere ballparks. FSU dedicated the field in 2005 to current head coach Mike Martin, who enters his 37th season. More than 6,700 FSU fans pile into the stadium every game and there isn't a bad seat in the house.
Fans can also venture under the first base stands and check out the Mike Loynd Tradition Room, which houses FSU memoribilia from championships and former players.
There is perhaps no crazier fan section than the Animals of Section B, who have been devoted to the Seminoles program since 1977. When Dick Howser Stadium opened six years later, the Animals claimed their spots in Section B along the first-base side and have been there ever since. The Animals have plenty of traditions, including an odd one that involves singing the Canadian national anthem during the bottom of the fifth inning.
Dudy Noble Field, Starkville, Mississippi
A list of the top places to catch a college baseball game wouldn't be complete without Mississippi State's Dudy Noble Field at Polk-DeMent Stadium. The Bulldogs have played 1,476 games at the stadium and have won 72 percent of those games. Plenty of NCAA attendance records have been set by Mississippi State including the largest on-campus crowd with 15,586 in attendance for its game against Ole Miss in 2014.
The Bulldog fans set the bar high, thanks largely in part to the "Left Field Lounge". The Left Field Lounge started off in the 1960s as the area behind the outfield where fans parked and tailgated before games. Eventually, it turned into one of the largest tailgating parties in all of baseball and became so popular that fans have to reserve a spot or be put on a waiting list.
The 2016 season marks the field's 50th anniversary. So if college baseball fans haven't visited before, now is the perfect time to attend a game.