Sam Lynn Ballpark is best known for the fact it was built facing west, so that the sun sets directly in center field, creating a hazard for the batters. The team erected a 120 foot high wall in center and planted large trees behind the entire outfield fence. In the past, games were halted when the sun was setting. At the request of MLB, the team gradually moves the starting time from 7:15 to 7:50 from April to late June so that the game starts right after the sun goes below the fence, then moves the time back toward 7:15 over the summer. (This gives rise to a good promotion idea — why not reinstate the 15-minute delay and announce a “Blaze Sunset Ice Cream Break”?)
Year Opened: 3,500
Dimensions: 328L, 354C, 328R
League: California League (High Class A)
Parent: Texas Rangers
Text and Photos By: John Moist
Directions/Parking: 4009 Chester Av., Bakersfield, CA. The ballpark is just north of downtown Bakersfield. From CA 99, go E on Business 99/Golden State Ave, then N on Chester for about 6 blocks, just past the Kern County Museum and the Icehouse. Go left at the “Blaze” sign, into the parking lot. Parking is free.
Fans walking through the gate behind home plate are treated to a nice set of murals painted on the back of the grandstand, depicting the many major leaguers who began their careers in Bakersfield.
Seating consists of several separate rectangular grandstands, as opposed to continuous seating curving around the field. Most seats are blue plastic, except for the metal bench grandstand down the third-base line. A large grandstand is directly behind home plate, with the blue press box sitting at the top. Several rows of box seats extend from home past first and third, with the other separate grandstands behind them. A covered BBQ/picnic area, known as the Hard Ball Cafe, is at the far end of the right-field line. The visitors’ dugout, past third, is on flat ground and very small, with the roof held up by posts. The home dugout is recessed, but also very small. As a result, the majority of the players sit in plastic chairs in foul territory. Both dugouts are brick, painted green.
Bullpens are in the the far left-field and right-field corners. A basic scoreboard is above the fence in right field. The entire seating area from beyond first to beyond third is protected by metal cyclone fencing, and fans are relatively far from the bases, which results in a diminished view of the game.
The Blaze has a large number of friendly, helpful concessions employees, who are identified by “Blaze Staff” shirts. Concessions include a good choice of dogs. The all-beef super dog is way better than a Dodger Dog, and you can get sauerkraut. There’s a good selection of brews too (about 8 taps), including Sierra Nevada.
A small team store, located behind the grandstand, is stocked with hats, shirts, balls and jerseys. Other attractions include a pitching cage and a large inflated castle for the younger kids. Several large batting cages are located outside the park, at the entrance to the parking lot. They were very busy before game time. The team has a promotion for most every day of the week, including Micro Monday ($2 drafts), Taco Tuesday, Must-Win Wednesday (free tickets if the team loses), Thirsty Thursday ($1 domestic drafts), and the Friday Family Fun Pack (4 tickets, dogs and sodas, a program and an autographed ball for $36). Lucky fans are also chosen to spend the game sitting in comfy recliners behind home plate.
Overall, the combination of low prices, good concessions and promotions, family atmosphere and team history provide a good baseball experience. The only drawback is the cylcone fence surrounding the field, diminishing the view of the game.
BAKERSFIELD BASEBALL HISTORY
The Bakersfield team is affiliated with the Texas Rangers has been known as the Blaze since 1995. Former team names include the Indians, Bears, Outlaws, Mariners and Dodgers. Formerly a Dodger farm team, the franchise has been the home to many future stars, including Johnny Callison and Don Drysdale, and boasted six future NL Rookies of the Year: Rick Sutcliffe, Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo, and Todd Hollandsworth. Bakersfield won California League pennants in 1989 and 1970.
Bakersfield is a charter city of the California League, which was formed in 1941 with WPA funds. Team and league co-founder Sam Lynn died shortly before the park opened. According to the team website, former Indian and Tiger pitcher Don Mossi was married at home plate.
BEFORE/AFTER THE GAME
The Ice House (an old warehouse with restaurants and shops) is on Chester, just south of the ballpark. Just south of that is the Kern County Museum and historic tower. The old downtown, about 5 min. further down Chester, includes restaurants, shops, and the historic Fox Theatre. Most of the shopping and dining activity is on the west side of CA 99, and the shopping malls are south on CA 99, then west on Ming Ave. In addition to the normal franchise dining, there are several traditional Basque restaurants in town, as well as two brewpubs: Lengthwise Brewing Co. and BJ’s Brewhouse. Cal State Bakersfield is located in the SW part of the city.
Bakersfield (pop. 250,000) is located on CA 99, about halfway between Fresno and Los Angeles. The city is a center for oil, gas, cotton and country music (as the former home bases of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.)
If you are looking to visit other ballparks, Los Angeles and Anaheim are only about 120 miles south, and the Southern California area has California League teams in Lancaster, Adelanto, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga and Lake Elsinore. California’s central valley has California League teams in Visalia, Modesto, Stockton. Pacific Coast League teams are located in Fresno and Sacramento.