- Stephen Schmidt
Hammons Field – Missouri State Bears
Photos by Stephen Schmidt, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
955 East Trafficway
Springfield, MO 65802
Year Opened: 2005
More than the Bear Necessities
At first glance at one of the gates at Hammons Field, the relationship between the Springfield Cardinals (the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals) and the Missouri State University Bears seems to be one of a symbiotic nature. Consider the following: The man who helped bring MLB-associated minor league baseball back to the area and the namesake of the stadium, John Q. Hammons, is an MSU alumnus. Both teams logos are shown in unity on the signs leading into the park. One of the Bears outfielders, Tate Matheny, is even the son of St. Louis manager, Mike.
Once inside the gates, though, that aesthetic balance ends as most all other related signage is emblazoned with the Cardinals logo and colors. It becomes clear that the Bears of the Missouri Valley Conference play second fiddle to the minor league club. That being said, they do so in one of the nicest baseball venues in America’s heartland. Word is that the only park that the MSU players have been equally impressed with in the region is the University of Arkansas Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
The result is an affordable evening or afternoon — tickets are $5 to sit anywhere in the park — to watch Division I baseball in a venue with less of the bells and whistles of a Cardinal game (no radar gun readings in the right field or a mascot), but still many amenities not found in a typical college venue, such as a large playground area on the first base side and a large video board in left field.
Food & Beverage 3
When the likes of Missouri, Kansas or another big-draw team comes to town, those in charge will open much more of the park’s many concession areas. On this night, with Oral Roberts in town for a midweek series, there was only one concession stand open with the standard fare. Unfortunately, the prices remain the same for both Cardinals and Bears games, so prepare to hand over $6.25 for that chicken strip basket or $3.75 for a hot dog. On the plus side, thirsty fans who are not interested in Coke products can pay $7.25 for a 20-ounce Budweiser or Bud Light. For whatever reason, one of the workers said that a considerable amount of peanuts are sold at MSU games than when the Cardinals are playing. It should also be noted that not food or drink items are allowed in the stadium except for a sealed bottle of water.
The seats look out to a less-than-spectacular vista consisting of traffic from the East Chestnut Parkway in left field and a gathering of industrial buildings beyond the right field wall. The most scenic view can be found in straight away center where a collection of trees complements the grass berms on either side and alludes to the surrounding Ozarks. There is only one gate to enter the stadium (behind home plate), but MSU cheerleaders greet fans, which is a nice touch. The cheerleaders also dance at the top of the concourse and on the dugouts during various stoppages of play.
Every seat has a cup holder — even those in the unused upper deck along the third base side. This theme extended into the bathrooms, where, yes, the urinals are also equipped with cup holders to help propel the vicious cycle. The first base side gets more sun, but on an evening game, such as this one, a majority of the seats are shaded in the first inning.
The surrounding area certainly is not lacking in amenities. The stadium is located west of Jordan Valley Park, which features The Creamery Arts Center and the Mediacom Ice Park. The heart of downtown is a 15-minute walk away. Locals tend to head to South Avenue, where there are lots of culinary options. One place in particular to check out is Maria’s Mexican Restaurant, 406 South Ave., where a popular order is the fried tacos.
Fans can also head due south down the John Q. Hammons Parkway toward the MSU campus and hit up Ebbets Field at 1027 E. Walnut St., a baseball-themed restaurant that pays tribute to the famed home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Another spot to check out is the Dugout, located just minutes down the street from the park at 1218 E. Trafficway.
Given the city’s passion for baseball, the fans are certainly knowledgeable of the game. It was a bit difficult to judge their enthusiasm because of the sparse crowd on a weekday game that started out with overcast skies. Most were probably just happy that they had the option to wear T-shirts and shorts — and not having to sit through the less than ideal weather that has confronted fans for most of the 2013 season. After all, the team had to cancel a game the previous Friday night due to snow. “The weather has absolutely killed both teams,” local resident and longtime Bears fan Michael Zima said of the park’s tenants. “I’ve gone to multiple games this year in long johns.”
There are plenty of nearby parking options. There is a large lot directly across the street, but at $5 a pop there were not many takers. Most fans park in spots near the Jordan Valley Park attractions. In addition, there is a large parking garage directly across from the ice park. It seems as if the parking rules are relaxed for Bears games, which equates to a greater opportunity of finding free parking closer to the stadium compared to when the Cardinals are in town. The park’s concourses are wide, as one would expect from such a venue. The restrooms are large, clean and feature cup holders.
Return on Investment 4
A Bears game may not have all of the pageantry that comes with a Cardinals game, but it’s a very good family entertainment value at $5 for any seat in the house and lots of options for free parking. The only downside is that the food prices do not change; so budget-conscious fans should grab something before — or after — the game.
One point is awarded for the perks of being in a quality minor league park, such as the playground in right field, and the collection of great signs. For instance, above one of the gates, the following can be found: “Thank You. We hope you enjoyed your visit.” It’s a simple touch, but it still helps induce that classic baseball nostalgia.
An additional point is given out for the concession stand perks of having the hamburger and cheeseburger cost the same ($5.50) and being able to get a baggy with onions, tomatoes and lettuce for no extra cost. Very tasty.