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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Sam Lynn Stadium, Bakersfield, California


Sam Lynn Stadium is just north of downtown Bakersfield on Chester Avenue, halfway between downtown and Oildale, next to the Kern County Museum.  It is the home of the single A Bakersfield Blaze, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. If it was in the major leagues, it would be the third oldest stadium, between Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium.  As it is, it's pretty ancient even by minor league standards.  It's now 70 years old.  It shows its age but the club has started renovations including new seats, paint, and grass.

Players that have spent time here on the way to the show include Pedro Martinez, Don Drysdale, Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, and many more.

Here are the stats:

Opened: 1941
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: ?
Capacity: 3,500
Field dimensions: Left field: 328 ft., Center field 354 ft., Right Field 328 ft.
Home Team: Bakersfield Badgers (1941-42); Bakersfield Indians (1946-55); Bakersfield Boosters (1956);  Bakersfield Bears (1957-67); Bakersfield Dodgers (1968-75); Bakersfield Outlaws (1978-79); Bakersfield Mariners (1982-83); Bakersfield Dodgers (1984-94); Bakersfield Blaze (1994-present)

Games Attended: 6

The ball park is finally getting some rehabilitation.  The last major rehab was in 1993 when the wooden grandstand was replaced with the current concrete structure behind home plate.  The playing field was upgraded last year.  Still, it's a fun place to watch a game with dedicated fans, easy access, low prices, and low-budget down-home goodness.

Wheelchair access is superb.  Although there are accessible seats in the cheap seats down the foul lines, the best seats are not expensive or hard to get.  There are six platforms behind home plate that will easily accomodate a wheelchair and a couple of companions.  They are in the front row, the only stadium I know that has so many wheelchair seats in the first row right behind home plate...the best of any seats in the house.  Ticket prices range from $7 to $10.

Parking is free and plentiful with handicapped parking in the front two rows.  This is also foul ball territory, so park your car facing away from the stadium.  Public transit is very limited.  Routes 1 and 2 of GET transit bus service serve the stadium but only on weekday nights.  On weekends, the routes shut down around 7pm.

The fans here are pretty dedicated to the team and they actually have a pretty good number of season ticket holders.  They are very knowledgeable about the team and players.  They are also very friendly and are easy to strike up a conversation with.

Food here, consisting mainly of ballpark staples such as hot dogs, burgers, nachos, etc., is pretty good.  Great beer selection of low priced standards such as Pabst, Bud, and Coors plus a nice selection of assorted craft brews on tap.  

Promotions include $23 Tuesdays with four tickets, four hot dogs, and a bag of popcorn, which makes a night at the ball park cheaper than going to the movies. Thirsty Thursdays features a 2-hour happy hour (one hour before game through 1 hour after first pitch) with $1 Heinekens in the shade tent.

Unique features of this ball park are it's orientation.  Depending on what source you believe, it's either the only one, or one of two, ball parks in the world that face due west.  This means that the batter is facing the setting sun so a huge batter's eye was built to block it and games start as late as 7:58 pm to compensate.  The park was built this way because at the time, it was in the middle of a horse racetrack and that was the only way to fit it in.

Another feature is the distance to center field.  At 354 feet, it is the shortest distance in all of professional baseball.




The mascot is a dragon called Heater.  Whoever is in the costume is a step above the last one, who had no enthusiasm at all. This one's pretty good.

All-in-all, it's a stadium long overdue for a makeover and you squint into the sun but it is still a great, fun, comfortable, and historic place to watch a ball game.  I'll come see a game here anytime.

(You can see more of Sam Lynn Stadium, along with some video, on our Bakersfield trip report here.)



-Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

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