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LaGrave Field / Fort Worth Cats

It is one of the most unusual ballparks in minor-league baseball, as Fort Worth’s LaGrave Field is a new ballpark set on the grounds of a former affiliated classic. As such, it’s the best of both worlds.


Year Opened: Current incarnation, 2002
Capacity: 5,200
Dimensions: 320L, 370LC, 400C, 366RC, 330R
Playing Surface: Grass
Phone: 817/226-CATS (2287)
Address/Directions: 301 NE 6th St., Fort Worth, TX 76164. The ballpark is north of downtown Fort Worth and south of the Stockyards on North Main Street.

It is one of the most unusual ballparks in minor-league baseball, as Fort Worth’s LaGrave Field is a new ballpark set on the grounds of a former affiliated classic. As such, it’s the best of both worlds.

The story of LaGrave Field goes back to 1926, when the original ballpark opened in the midst of a working-class neighborhood. The original Fort Worth Cats played at the original iteration of LaGrave Field, owned most of that time by the Brooklyn Dodgers and run as a Dodgers farm team, with greats like Duke Snider and Maury Wills spending time there and Rogers Hornsby coaching there. Fort Worth was a mainstay in the Texas League and regularly led that circuit in attendance.

But over time the 10,000-seat ballpark deteriorated, and the beginning of the end came when the Dodgers swapped LaGrave Field and the Cats to the Cubs for the original Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League and the West Coast Wrigley Field, in anticipation of sewing up the Los Angeles market. The Cubs over time lost interest in Fort Worth and sold the team and the ballpark, and by 1964 the Cats were gone, moved to a new ballpark on the turnpike that eventually became home to the Texas Rangers. The ballpark, forgotten and unused, was torn down in 1967.

Meanwhile, the ballpark was torn down and the land undeveloped. Over time nature ran its course, as trees grew on the site. The person who bought the ballpark site sat on until 2001 when Carl Bell approached him with an offer to buy the 14 acres. He agreed and sold the land for what he originally paid for it, with two conditions: that Bell use the land for a ballpark, and that his wife’s alma mater, Texas Wesleyan, play there free of charge. Bell agreed, and set upon to build a new ballpark on the old LaGrave Field site.

As Bell and crew (which included former Cats president John Dittrich) set up to map out the old ballpark site, they got a little lucky. First, they could determine where the original foul poles stood so they could map the foul lines and match the original home-plate location. Though the original ballpark had been torn down, the job was done on the cheap, so the original dugouts and walkways were still there, buried under some rubble. (They were occupied mainly by snakes — a challenge to the crew digging them out.) Early on the decision was made to keep the original dugouts, but they were converted into unique seating areas with their own entrances. The Bobby Bragan Suite (shown at the top of the page) sits on the first-base side next to the home dugout, while the Paul LaGrave Suite sits down the third-base line.

Otherwise, the ballpark was constructed in a modern fashion, with a large canopy shading the grandstand. Outfield seating was erected in right field to mimic seating formerly installed there for a knothole gang, and over time clubhouses and offices were added to the mix. The ballpark is located on a bend of the Trinity River, and riverside trails running through the city attract walkers and horse riders; the Cats installed a hitching post and watering area next to a left-field berm to attract equestrians to their games.

It is not a fancy ballpark; there are no suites other than the dugout suites, and no restaurants or cigar bars. (It does have a few quirks: the foul poles are indeed in foul territory, not fair territory as they are in every other ballpark.) But it is a historic place, and the Cats ownership and management has done a great job in maintaining a sense of history while constructing a modern ballpark. In fact, we can’t think of a better weekend of baseball than a game at LaGrave Field and a game at nearby QuikTrip Park at Grand Prairie: baseball fans can indeed have the best of both worlds.

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