It’s Elite Eight time in the 2022 Summer Collegiate Best of the Ballparks fan vote, with ballparks representing the Northwoods League, New England Collegiate Baseball League, Prospect League and Coastal Plain League.
This is an impressive show of diversity in one of the most interesting brackets in our annual fan vote, covering ballparks old enough to be considered one of the oldest in the country to WPA-funded facilities to brand-new or newly renovated facilities. We’ll be covering them all in the next few days.
With the explosion of the summer-collegiate industry in the last decade and the contraction of the professional baseball world, we’re seeing many, many ballparks worthy of recognition. The last time we ran this competition–2020, in the midst of the COVID pandemic–we limited it to 32 ballparks, and passed on a 2021 vote with so many ballparks shut down for the season. After compiling a list of 115 worthy candidates, we trimmed that list to 64 and began the vote without seeds. (Yes, 115 contenders makes for a large list, but it could have been larger: We run a separate competition for the 16 ballparks in the two leagues with direct MLB ties, the Appalachian League and MLB Draft League.) If your favorite summer-collegiate ballpark did not make the cut, our apologies in advance: given how many fine facilities are out there, inevitably tough decisions need to be made, but rest assured we agonized over a 64-ballpark final list.) In the end, we think we made the right decision; many of our underrated ballparks ended up moving to the next round, and we expect the competitiveness of the contest to continue. Receiving the most votes in the third round: Alumni Field (Keene Swamp Bats), Robin Roberts Stadium (Springfield Lucky Horseshoes), NelsonCorp Field (Clinton LumberKings), Kokomo Municipal Stadium (Kokomo Jackrabbits), Carolina Bank Field (Florence Flamingos) and ISG Field (Mankato Moondogs).
Our list is based on a number of criteria: our personal evals of the ballparks; histories; performance in prior fan votes; and geographical/league balance. Plus, we tried to introduce a few hidden gems to pique your imagination. We inevitably receive complaints that forgot to include Ballpark X; no, usually we didn’t overlook it but decided not to include it. On this list is a number of historic ballparks once hosting professional baseball at levels ranging from Triple-A (Edmonton, Springfield), Double-A (Norwich, Nashua) and spring training (Leesburg, Sanford) to rookie/short season (Vermont, Batavia) and independent (O’Fallon) facilities. Some of our omissions were determined by circumstances–no Spartanburg’s Duncan Park in 2022, for instance. We agree it’s a fine summer-collegiate ballpark, but the Spartanburg Spartanburgers suspended operations for 2022.
We know from marketing stats that a third of our readers work in the baseball industry, so we’re tapping into that collective expertise. And we know from our research that a third of our readers sell to the baseball industry, so that expertise will be valuable as well. The remaining third–fans, media, government–will certainly have a different view on things as well. We can’t wait to see what our readers–whom we consider to be the smartest folks in baseball–say about the best of the ballparks.
Some things to note. First, you are allowed to vote multiple times, but you can only vote once per day. Second, you don’t need to fill out a full slate: partially filled lineups will count. A running tally of the vote will be presented at the bottom of this page in the form of brackets. Vote below:
So now we move on to the next round: