New England Collegiate Baseball League ballparks offer history, community spirit
Aug 10, 2011
Courtesy of Society for American Baseball Research
By Paul Edwards
Unlike any other sport, the history of baseball is intertwined with the American psyche. The game’s development reflects the joyous — and sometimes tumultuous — nature of America’s rich cultural tapestry. Ardent baseball fans are often drawn to the game because of its history, while casual fans enjoy a pleasant sense of nostalgia that only baseball can provide. Baseball fields and ballparks provide a tangible place where history was made, offering visitors a timeless sense of place and identity.
This connection with our collective past can be found at the ballparks around the New England Collegiate Baseball League. These intimate venues provide baseball fans with a gratifying experience. Here is a look at three of the NECBL’s finest parks: Cardines Field in Newport, Rhode Island; Fraser Field in Lynn, Massachusetts; and The Ball Park in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
Bernardo Cardines Memorial Field in Rhode Island is home to the Newport Gulls. It was built in 1936 through the Works Progress Administration. Since then, some of baseball’s greatest stars — including major leaguers such as Jimmie Foxx and Satchel Paige, and many players on barnstorming Negro League teams — have played in the ballpark’s cozy confines.
Upon entering downtown Newport, on America’s Cup Way, Cardines Field presents a curious feature of the landscape. From the street, Cardines Field looks like a small wooden building with a short stone fence separating the sidewalk from an inner walkway around the stadium. Once inside the ballpark, there are wooden bleachers (some covered) that range from five to 10 rows deep, wrapping around the field between first base and third base.
Down the first-base line, beyond the stadium’s concession stand, is a patio where a local bar’s back door abuts the foul territory in right field. Just past the pub patio is a low-slung, two-story storage building that acts as the end of the right-field foul line. In the outfield, a 30-foot-high chain-link fence, with dimensions ranging from 285 feet down the right-field line to 395 in center field, encases the field of play. Finally, on the first-base side are both the home and visiting team's dugouts, situated side-by-side like at a hockey rink. The atmosphere at Cardines Field is family-friendly and festive, and a ballgame there captures the essence of baseball’s magic.
Another ballpark with its own unique characteristics is the home field of the North Shore Navigators, Fraser Field in Lynn, Massachusetts. Another WPA project, this one built in 1940, Fraser Field is nestled neatly in a bustling working-class neighborhood north of Boston. The ballpark serves as a refuge from the snarling traffic plodding along Western Avenue. Since the ballpark was built, it has been the home field for several minor league franchises, and has seen players such as Roy Campanella and Roger Clemens take the field.
The infield surface is FieldTurf, while the outfield is natural grass. An impressive cantilevered roof covers many of the seats and sightlines along the concourse level provide an exceptional view of the action on the field.
Another fine NECBL ballpark is The Ball Park at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. A relative newcomer, the stadium was home to a couple of Triple-A franchises from 1984 to 1988. This summer, the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide brought life back to the ballpark. Still, at first glance, the stadium appears to be a ghost town of some bygone baseball era, with few of the bells and whistles that one might associate with today’s state-of-the-art ballparks.
Here, the people of Old Orchard Beach have brought back more than baseball; they have brought back service with a smile. Visitors are greeted warmly by the team’s staff and are made to feel right at home. The concession stand features traditional grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, but also Maine favorites as homemade whoopee, blueberry, and apple pies. There is not a bad seat in the stadium, as all the seats have chair-backs and are right on top of the action on the field.
All of the ballparks across the NECBL provide a high quality of entertainment for fans of all ages. If you are a fan of baseball the way it is meant to be enjoyed, take in an NECBL game; you will be glad that you did.
Paul Edwards is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Learn more by visiting http://SABR.org.
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