Top Menu

Summer-collegiate season opens tonight

It seems too soon, but the summer-collegiate season is already upon us, as the Coastal Plain League launches tonight.

It seems too soon, but the summer-collegiate season is already upon us, as the Coastal Plain League launches tonight.

The college season is far from over — most of the major college tourneys are this week, including the Big Ten tournament at Ohio State's Bill Davis Stadium — but that's not stopping the summer-collegiate teams from beginning play. As noted, the Coastal Plain League begins with a full slate of games, including the debut of the Morehead City Marlins, visiting Outer Banks. Regular readers of this site knows we are huge fans of the summer-collegiate game: many teams have set up shop in historic ballparks across the nation. Anyone who loves baseball would do well to check out a game at one of these great facilities. And, usually, the baseball is pretty decent as well.

Here are some of our favorite summer-collegiate venues. There are surely great venues in other leagues — like the Cape Cod League, the Alaska Baseball League and the West Coast League — but we've not been.

Coastal Plain League

Capital City Stadium: Barney Dreyfuss, the Hall-of-Fame owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, built this Columbia facility in 1945 to host a Pirates farm team. For decades it was home to Sally League baseball before the Capital City Bombers moved to Greenville for the 2005 season. Today it's home to the Columbia Blowfish.

Finch Field, Thomasville: This ballpark opened in 1937 as the home of the Thomasville Chairmakers and served as home to various North Carolina State League and the Carolina League teams. It was rebuilt in 2006 with a new grandstand and concessions building; it's now one of the finest facilities in summer-collegiate ball.

Fleming Stadium, Wilson: The home of the Wilson Tobs opened in 1939 as a WPA project. Various Carolina League teams played there over the years, as well as the Carolina Mudcats in that team's inaugural season. The historic ballpark has been renovated in recent years, and the CPL's Tobs have been there since 1997.

J.P. Riddle Stadium, Fayetteville: As a pro venue, this place was a dump. Given some TLC by the Coastal Plain League and team owners Lew and Darrell Handelsman, "The Swamp" just oozes fun. 

Florida Collegiate Summer League

Pat Thomas Stadium, Leesburg: Opening in 1937 as a Philadelphia Phillies farm-team training facility and minor-league ballpark (yes, another WPA ballpark), Pat Thomas Stadium sits on the shores of Lake Harris and is home to the Leesburg Lightning. Frank Viola returns this season as manager.

Sanford Stadium, Sanford: Another former spring-training venue, this historic venue has been renovated in recent years. If you're in the Orlando area, this is definitely worth the drive.

New England Collegiate Baseball League

Cardines Field: One of the oldest ballparks still in use, with baseball played at the site since 1908. The Newport Gulls draw decent crowds and put on a good show.

Fraser Field: Easily accessible if you're in the Boston area (Lynn is a northern suburb), Fraser Field is a WPA project opening in 1940 and serving as home to Eastern League and indy teams over the years.

New York Collegiate Baseball League

Damaschke Field. Many baseball purists were saddened when the Oneonta Tigers (short season; NY-Penn League) left this charming little ballpark for the more lucrative Norwich, CT market. That opened the way for summer ball to be played at this charming field, which opened in 1940. 

Doubleday Field: It always seemed a shame that there was very little baseball (aside from youth ball, of course) played at Cooperstown, N.Y., the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Now there's summer-collegiate ball at Doubleday Field, a charming venue with All-American charm. Plus, Ommegang is the official brew of the Cooperstown Hawkeyes. Can't go wrong there.

Northwoods League

Athletic Park, Wausau: Another WPA ballpark, the home of the Wisconsin Woodchucks has been upgraded in recent years. Baseball has been played at this site since the turn of the century.

Wade Stadium, Duluth: Our favorite summer-collegiate venue. This WPA venue was home to Northern League baseball for decades. Sit at the top of the grandstand on the first-base side and you can see Lake Superior and the ore trains rumbling toward the docks. Bring a sweatshirt, even on an August night.

Warner Park, Madison: The Madison Mallards rewrote the rules of summer-collegiate ball by drawing more than 6,000 fans a game consistently in recent years. A Mallards ballgame is not just a ballgame: it's an event.

This article originally appeared in the Ballpark Digest weekly newsletter. Are you a subscriber? You can sign up for a free subscription at the Newsletter Signup Page.

Join Ballpark Digest on Facebook and on Twitter!