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A Decade in the Big Ten: Ranking League Baseball Stadiums

Jon Johnston

It has been a decade in the Big Ten for the Nebraska Cornhuskers as of Thursday, July 1 last week. With that in mind, we thought we would continue our tour of all things Big Ten “nostalgia” with a look around the Big Ten’s baseball stadiums/ballparks.

I have not been to a single one, mind you. I also have little knowledge or opinion about particular nuances that make a baseball stadium exceptionally great being a person who knows little about baseball and cares even less. I would have rather done hockey arenas, but, well, the Cornhuskers don’t have a hockey team at the varsity level, so what is the point?

My Criteria:

  • Which ones look the best
  • Capacity

14. Wisconsin

A photo taken on January 22, 2016 shows wild Przewalski’s horses on a snow covered field in the Chernobyl exclusions zone.
Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers were getting ready for COVID-19 athletic department budget cuts all the way back in 1991. The schools that turn a profit in baseball are few and far between (estimated well under 10-percent of all programs), so the Badgers decided to just pack it up early for one of the most expensive sports (in terms of annual operating loss) in athletic departments.

13. Bainton Field

  • Rutgers
  • Opened: 1953
  • Capacity: 1,500
  • Last Renovated: 2007
St. John’s v Rutgers

There will not be many great photos available for me to legally use in this rankings piece, but you can google image search it for better ones if you want to actually see how sad and pathetic this place looks.

12. Shipley Field at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium

  • Maryland
  • Opened: 1952
  • Capacity: 2,500
  • Last received “enhancements” in 2015

It was a close race with Illinois, but in the end I gave the edge to the Fighting Illini, not to be mean to the newcomers, but because they don’t even have a press box they have a smaller press box as confirmed by a Twitter search after initially not seeing one on Google. The columns along the back are a nice touch for the campus tie-in, but the overall effect is still a fairly blasé stadium.

11. Illinois Field

  • Illinois (you couldn’t guess?)
  • Opened: 1988
  • Capacity: 1,500 seats, 3,000 total
  • Lasted Renovated: 1999

Padded seats are nice. Permanent bucket seating is even nicer? Discuss.

10. Siebert Field

  • Minnesota
  • Opened: 1971
  • Capacity: 1,420
  • Last Renovated: 2013, which was basically a complete demolition and rebuild

Finally a decent view of a baseball stadium’s stands. What it is not is an impressive baseball stadium.

9. Duane Banks Field

  • Iowa
  • Opened: 1974
  • Capacity: 3,000
  • Last Renovated: 2015, with unscheduled “Phase III” renovations in the master plan still pending

Bucket seats. A decent capacity. Not a whole lot beyond that as far as I can tell. Points off for being in Iowa.

8. Rocky Miller Park

  • Northwestern
  • Opened: 193
  • Capacity: 600
  • Last Renovated: 2016

That is quite the imposing press box for such a small ballpark. Props for going big, or going home in that regard Wildcats. Also will give a boost in the rankings I guess for being the closest to Boystown out of all of the Big Ten baseball stadiums, so sure, let’s use that as a good enough of a reason for ranking in at No. 8 as any if I am the one doing the rankings.

7. Alexander Field

  • Purdue
  • Opened: 2013
  • Capacity: 2,000

Man, what is lacks in size, it makes up for with an impressive structure behind the seats. Also, the façade is quite nice as well. Probably need well-regarded super-critic Jim Harbaugh to let us know how the visiting team locker rooms are before we consider moving it up any further in the rankings, however.

6. Drayton McLane Baseball Stadium at John H. Kobs Field

  • Michigan State
  • Opened: 1902
  • Capacity: 4,000
  • Last renovated: 2009 (lights added in 2019, however)

The setting of McLane Stadium is quite picturesque when it isn’t flooded in the spring. The façade of the stadium outside home plate is also quite nice from Kalamazoo Street. The stadium also has a first of its kind in the United States heating system under the field installed. Finally, it is tied for the second largest capacity of true university owned stadiums (sorry Nebraska and Penn State, but you both sort of “cheat” in this category by sharing your stadium with professional minors so you both get an * next to your capacity).

5. Ray Fisher Stadium

  • Michigan
  • Opened: 1923 (a 5-0 loss to Western Michigan)
  • Capacity: 2,500 seats, 4,000 total
  • Last renovated: 2014

The capacity is the exact same as their in-state rival and Indiana. Beyond that, the façade is far, far superior (probably the best in the Big Ten) and the setting is far, far inferior. This ballpark is truly crammed into where it is located in such a way that they need a gigantic and ugly outfield wall to protect cars in an adjacent parking lot. Plus you have to look at that ugly football stadium in the distance. On a serious note, this is an impressive stadium aesthetically, but it is so damn jammed into its location that is where I fault it compared to those ahead of it.

4. Bart Kaufman Field

  • Indiana
  • Opened: 2013
  • Capacity: 4,000

Google this one and you will likely be quite impressed. Indiana built a great looking baseball stadium for themselves here, though the façade is lacking a bit if we want to try and find something to nitpick over. Capacity is right there with Michigan and Michigan State, but behind the next one on this list.

3. Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium

  • Ohio State
  • Opened: 1996
  • Capacity: 4,450
  • Last Renovated: Turf installation in 2011

The biggest capacity outright college stadium on this list, and it even has a party deck area to boot (I confirmed that it exists in other photos, but you can make it out in the one above in the bottom left there with the space that includes a porto-potty)! The façade is also quite nice. That wrap-around canopy is what really sells me the most on it in the end, though.

That wraps up what I am considering the “college” ballparks on this list. The top two have an unfair advantage in that they are technically built in conjunction with minor league teams, which gives them an unfair advantage to a degree over the other 12 on this list. It doesn’t detract from how nice of stadiums they are, but it does give them an unfair advantage when ranking the venues using the criteria I employed.

2. Medlar Field

  • Penn State
  • Opened: 2007
  • Capacity: 5,406

The view. The minor league stadium. From what little I can tell of them, the amenities and bucket seating. Penn State does it right, here. This ballpark was also as far as I can tell actually funded almost entirely, or entirely, by Penn State. The outright seating capacity is the biggest in the Big Ten, but the stadium capacity is second largest.

1. Hawks Field at Haymarket Park

  • Nebraska (which, obviously, you all knew)
  • Opened: 2001
  • Capacity: 4,419 seated, 8,419 total

Obviously it is the nicest of the Big Ten. When you include grass seating, it is the biggest of the league, too. If you don’t include the grass berm areas, it is a mere 31 seats fewer than Ohio State. Regardless, it is a fantastic college baseball venue and consistently rated highly nationally for game-experience as well. Then again, when a good chunk was financed by the city of Lincoln and you share it with the Salt Dogs, you should expect a superior product.

There you have it, the ballparks of the Big Ten ranked from No. 14 all the way to No. 1. How do you rank them, which have you been to, and which are highest on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments!