Sunday, June 1, 2008

Stadium Review: Mark Light Field

Right off of US 1 and Ponce De Leon Blvd. is the tradition filled Mark Light Field or Alex Rodriguez Stadium at Mark Light Field if you prefer. You can just feel the greatness of 'Cane baseball, Ron Fraser, and 4 national championships. Baseball is alive and well in the front corner of the University campus and in the diverse mish-moshy Coral Gables neighborhood. The only thing holding back the grandeur of this baseball hotbed is the current construction and remodeling of the facility. While this may make the exterior and the walkways a bit cluttered or not as aesthetically pleasing for the time being, it is worth it to enjoy the jewel that is Mark Light Field.


There are three different seating areas around the field: the main grandstand, standing room/lawn chair seating down the left field line, bleacher seating down the right field line. This allows for a capacity of 5,000 and probably more with standing room which is plenty for even an elite college baseball program. The main grandstand has 3-4 rows of chairback seating behind the backstop and then the rest of the main grandstand seating is a combination of chairback and cement benches. I would recommend getting tickets in advance when the crowd is expected to be large, as the chairback seating is much preferred to the bench seating. A view from anywhere in the grandstand is good. There is also a suite area in between the main grandstand and the bleachers. The bleacher view and the views down the left field line aren't great but that is to be expected and they are at least very close to the action.


I realize I visited the complex at a peak time, seeing that is was a NCAA regional matchup where Miami is the #1 team in the nation featuring another top 25, but the fan environment was electric. Whether it be a little "C-A-N-E-S" or the fans coreographing some dance moves with the players in the dugout, UM fans are on top of it. I was not a big fan of the PA announcer, but I am told he is a Hurricanes sporting legend. If feel like you need to blend in with the Orange and Green there is a nice fan shop steps away from the entrance to the field. I think one of the coolest traditions of the Miami baseball team is that they have their own mascot, the Miami Maniac. I think I like the Maniac better than the Ibis and he kind of remindes me of the Philly Phanatic. The only negative is that the fanbase may not be the most knowledgable, however this is to be expected from larger crowds. Large crowds make it harder for the hard core, baseball junkie group to stand out. Regardless, I was pleasantly pleased that baseball fandom and atmosphere could actually feel genuine in South Florida.


This is where "the U" separates itself from the pack. There are an unprecendented number of dining options available for a college baseball environment. Personally I went to the left field line where the more specialized food items were being sold. The Chicken Bourbon over rice with plantains was a great cultural sampling. Coupled with the traditional frozen lemonade, it simply can't be beat. Under the grandstand is where they sell the more traditional park fare. Everything I saw that came out of there looked great and they have anything you could ask for at a ballgame. The unique feature of the grandstand area concessions is that they have a separate window which is a great ice cream/milkshake spot. A wide variety of ice cream along with a long list of fixins to throw into either ice cream or milkshakes make it a favorite for young and old. Also, to combat the intense summer heat, they had set in place water coolers with cups to combine with the water fountains as a way to keep hydrated for free.

In conclusion, I cannot wait to see what this place looks like come next spring when Phase 3 of renovations are done. If you were to be dropped down out of the sky onto Ponce De Leon Blvd., you would know exactly where you are and that aids to the atmosphere. There is nothing like being among the sun, the palm trees, and wrapped closely into the fabric of an urban landscape. I don't know what it is, but this ballpark just makes you feel good abou the game of baseball. I know I will make it a point to go down next weekend and enjoy some exciting Super Regional action.

Final Grade: B+/A- after final renovations

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