Above photo courtesy BaseballStadiumReviews.com
Editors’ Note: This is the fifth feature in a series on the nine ballparks that make up the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. The series will feature each park and will conclude prior to the start of the 2012 PGCBL regular season in early June.
Part I: Veterans Memorial Park, Mohawk Valley
Part II: Colburn Park, Newark
Part III: Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, Watertown
Part IV: East Field, Glens Falls
Team: Cooperstown Hawkeyes
Location: 1 Doubleday Court, Cooperstown, N.Y.
Opened: 1920s (Grandstand built 1939)
Chronology of teams…
Cooperstown Hawkeyes (New York Collegiate Baseball League) 2010
Cooperstown Hawkeyes (PGCBL) 2011 – current
Cooperstown and baseball, the words are almost synonymous. When one thinks of Cooperstown, the first thing that comes to mind is baseball. Abner Doubleday, the birthplace of baseball on the grassy fields of a small village in Upstate New York, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Doubleday Field. The venerable Doubleday Field, whose roots can be traced back to the 19th century, is the current home of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s Cooperstown Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes hold the distinction of being the first baseball team to call Doubleday Field home on a permanent basis.
Over 170 years ago, the site of Doubleday Field was a breezy cow pasture owned by Cooperstown printer Elihu Phinney. As the legend of baseball goes, Phinney’s fields were the birthplace of baseball. That is where Abner Doubleday supposedly first invented the game in 1839. Eighty years later, the green pastures known as Phinney’s Lot gave way to baseball grounds. The grounds first featured a wooden grandstand in 1924. A century (1939) after the so-called birth of baseball in Cooperstown, a steel and concrete grandstand was completed as part of a Works Progress Administration project. That grandstand, built over 70 years ago, still resides at Doubleday Field and is one of few WPA projects still standing.
Upon arriving at Doubleday Field, you’re brought back to a simpler era, before the designated hitter, night games and the advent of computerized scorekeeping. A modest brick structure, Doubleday can hold 9,791 fans. The gate to the field almost glows with red brickwork, iron gates and the large “Doubleday Field” in white block letters carefully painted above the entrance. The outside of the grandstand, just past the entrance is awash in lightly-tanned bricks and concrete while the inside boasts rows and rows of steel. Modest ramps take one from the entrance gate quickly up into the grandstand which makes you feel right on top of the action. About seven rows of gray steel bleacher seats scoop around the home plate area. A slanted green roof looms high above protecting the entire grandstand from the elements.
Uncovered bleacher seating runs down both the first and third base side from the end of the grandstand and all the way to the outfield fence. In right field, the bleacher seating continues in the shadow of leafy green trees. The outfield bleacher seats begin at the right field foul pole, curl around center field and then terminate in left-center field. All around Doubleday Field, one can pick out local neighborhood houses and buildings painted in the light colors of gray and white; rising up in the left field corner are spires of a local church. Trees and a steel mesh fence line the top of the outfield wall in the left field. All alone in the left field corner, a simple scoreboard is posted above the fence featuring the runs, hits, errors, balls, strikes, outs and the current inning. The small green scoreboard has “Doubleday Field” written in white block letters across the top.
From a players’ perspective, Doubleday Field is unique. The outfield presents an interesting challenge with short porches in left field (296 feet) and right field (312 feet) of unequal distances. The right field alley (350 feet) is a slightly longer reach than the left-field alley (336 feet). The dugouts are carved into the brick grandstand with one on each side of the structure fairly close to home plate. The dugout is literally dug into the ground as one has to climb up the dugout steps to reach ground level and the field of play.
As mentioned above, no one team called Doubleday Field home until the Cooperstown Hawkeyes of the PGCBL took up residence in 2010. Games at played at the facility nearly non-stop between April and October and one can find a game at Doubleday Field almost every day during the summer months. From 1940, one year after the current grandstand was built through 2008, Doubleday Field hosted the Hall of Fame Game. It began as an old-timers’ event and then turned into an exhibition game between one National League and one American League team. The final Hall of Fame Game in 2008 between Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres was rained out. The exhibition contest was replaced in 2009 by the Hall of Fame Classic, an exhibition game between members of the Baseball Hall of Fame and other retired Major League players. The Hall of Fame Classic takes place on Father’s Day weekend .
The Cooperstown Hawkeyes have played two successful seasons at Doubleday Field. The team has posted back-to-back winning seasons and has made two-straight playoff appearances. The 2011 Hawkeyes won the PGCBL West regular season championship and manager Eric Coleman was named the PGCBL Coach of the Year. Infielder Bryan Aanderud shared the 2011 PGCBL batting championship with Elmira’s Ryan Normoyle and three Hawkeyes were named to the All-PGCBL team, Aanderud, Danny Nelson and Conor Kerins. Alex Todd, a member of the 2010 Hawkeyes, was drafted by the Houston Astros last June and he is currently playing for the South Atlantic League’s Lexington Legends. The Cooperstown nine also flourished at the gate in 2011 as over 10,000 fans watched the Hawkeyes play at home. The 2011 Hawkeyes set a franchise record for overall attendance and attendance average. The team saw its’ largest crowd at Doubleday Field on July 13, a throng of over one thousand.