After losing most of this year’s college baseball season and enduring months of quarantine, we’ve had plenty of time to dream about our favorite experiences in the sport. So, we came up with a bucket list for college baseball fans.
There are far more than 25 experiences worthy of being included here, so some difficult cuts were made. There are more than 300 schools that play Division I baseball, after all. That makes for countless fierce rivalries, beautiful stadiums and great traditions. If you check all of these off, we can give you a few more to work on.
For now, however, it’s time to dream about what we want to do once college baseball resumes and we can get back to taking in everything it has to offer.
1. College World Series opening weekend
There’s a specific energy to opening weekend at the College World Series. The first wave of games are extremely important, to be sure, but those first couple of days of the event feel as much like a celebration of college baseball as anything else. All eight teams are in the running, all eight fan bases are there and you can feel the energy in and around TD Ameritrade Park.
2. College World Series Finals
The last few days of the College World Series have a very different feel than the first few days. By the time the best-of-three CWS Finals roll around, the crowds have shrunk and the feeling of excitement and optimism is filled with the unmistakable feeling of increased tension and stakes. The crowning of a new national champion is right around the corner at that point and you can feel it on every pitch.
3. Game 3 of a super regional
There are few more electric environments in college baseball than a well-played, hotly-contested decisive third game of a super regional. Not only is a trip to Omaha on the line, but it’s being played on campus in front of a partisan crowd that is ready to go crazy at any moment.
4. SEC Tournament
The SEC Tournament has it all for a college baseball fan. Some of the best teams in college baseball, elite draft prospects, very real stakes, the crowning of new cult heroes every year, and for the heartiest of fans, games that go well into the wee hours of the morning.
5. Cape Cod League
Whether it’s the idyllic settings, the long summer nights or the community-based approach to the way the league is run, the Cape Cod League has a way of taking you back to a simpler time in the game’s history, despite also serving as the premier showcase of college baseball talent. You can go to the beach, get a lobster roll and watch the best players in the country in a perfectly relaxed setting. There’s no better way to spend a day in July.
6. Dudy Noble Field
The new crown jewel of college baseball stadiums, Mississippi State’s Dudy Noble Field brings big league amenities and aesthetics to the college game while not straying too far from MSU baseball’s bustling grilling scene and all of the other things that made the old “Dude” such a hit to begin with. Make sure to check out the Left Field Lounge, which gives the whole outfield the vibe of a tailgate.
7. A low-major conference tournament championship game
There are no stakes greater during conference tournament week than in a low-major conference tournament championship game where the winning team knows it is going to regionals and the losing team knows its season is over. Bonus points for extra tension if one or both of the competing teams are extremely veteran-heavy and know the game is their best shot to get that group to the postseason.
8. Alex Box Stadium
The longtime standard bearer for college baseball stadiums, the newest version of Alex Box Stadium, which opened in 2009, continues to serve the passionate Louisiana State fan base extremely well. When you’re in Baton Rouge for a highly-anticipated SEC series, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in the center of the college baseball universe. Sing along with the crowd to “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” one of college baseball’s great traditions.
9. Baum-Walker Stadium
One of the first stadiums to usher in this new modern era of college baseball palaces in the SEC, Arkansas’ Baum-Walker Stadium is a befitting facility for one of the best teams in college baseball that also happens to have the ardent fan base to match. Calling the hogs from the Hog Pen in left field is as pure an Arkansas baseball experience as you can get.
10. Pepperdine’s ocean views
There is nothing quite like taking in a baseball game with a view of the Pacific Ocean beyond the left field wall, and that’s an experience that Pepperdine’s Eddy D. Field Stadium provides. And to top it off, Pepperdine is a national championship-winning program that competes at the top of its conference.
11. A beer shower at Swayze Field
Swayze isn’t the newest or flashiest ballpark in the SEC, but its atmosphere is as good as any. There are huge crowds, grilling in left field and an entire stadium singing “Love Is Gone.” But the best tradition in Oxford is the beer shower in the student section in right field. There’s nothing like it in the sport. Just make sure you don’t wear any of your nice polos.
12. Clemson vs. South Carolina series
This great college baseball rivalry series is helped by a couple of things. One is the format, which calls for one game to be played at each campus, with a third game set for a neutral site. The other is the fact that it gets played every year, which means a new chapter is added to the story of the rivalry each year, giving every set of players a chance to make their mark.
13. Army-Navy in a big league ballpark
The baseball rivalry between Army and Navy isn’t as high profile as it is on the football field, but it has turned into a spectacle in its own right in recent years. Not only have the two programs emerged as the best in the Patriot League, but games between the two have either been played or are scheduled to be played at Fenway Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Citizens Bank Ballpark.
14. Mark Light Field
The Miami Hurricanes are one of the most successful college baseball programs in history, so the baseball at Mark Light Field is really good. Beyond baseball, however, the Mark Light Shakes are worth the price of admission alone. A staple at UM games since 1986, there are enough shake combinations available to last just about all season. Apologies to the lactose intolerant college baseball fans.
15. Opening weekend in Arizona
The first weekend of the college season in Arizona is the platonic ideal of a weekend well spent for a baseball fan. Tournaments in recent years have popped up all over spring training facilities in the state, and Arizona, Arizona State and Grand Canyon are almost always playing at home as well. To top it off, if the schedule falls just right, it can be an extended trip to include some spring training games later in the month.
16. Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic
As far as regular-season tournaments go, there’s no better bang for your buck than the Shriners College Classic at Minute Maid Park, particularly in a year when the event brings SEC competition to the city. The atmosphere is better than one would expect for a nonconference tournament, and it’s not uncommon for more than half of the field to consist of ranked teams. Just bring a hoodie. It always seems like the coldest weekend of the year in Houston coincides with this tournament.
17. Rivalry weekends in the NCAA Tournament
One of the long-standing criticisms of regionals and super regionals is that they are too, for lack of a better way of putting it, regional, with teams from the same states having to beat up on each other to advance. However, that can also serve as a feature of the system and not a bug when rivals get placed in the same location. Leave it to postseason stakes to ramp up the energy in rivalry games that are electric to begin with. Fans may not much like it, but Florida and Florida State or Texas A&M and Texas Christian playing with a trip to Omaha on the line makes for compelling drama.
18. Cal State Fullerton vs. Long Beach State with the Big West on the line
The series between these two bitter rivals is the quintessential West Coast college baseball experience when both are competing for the Big West title. Stripped of some of the extravagances of the sport, like palatial stadiums, this series is all about the competition on the field and the rivalry between two schools that take their baseball very seriously.
19. Spring football/baseball doubleheader
For more casual fans or alumni who live further away from campus, taking in the spring football game and a baseball game on the same day can be a good way to make the trip more worth your while. Of course, given the situation surrounding football this fall, 2021 might present the opportunity to attend an actual football game on the same day as a baseball game.
20. Disch-Falk Field
A lot of history has taken place at Disch-Falk Field, and with Texas projected to put talented teams on the field well into the future, there are plenty of reasons to visit for baseball alone. It’s probably best enjoyed over the course of an entire weekend, however, when you can also take some time to get around the city of Austin to see live music, eat way too much or spend time being active outdoors.
21. Brigham Young’s mountain view
Pepperdine has the best coastal view in Division I baseball, but if mountain views are more your speed, BYU has you covered, as Miller Park gives fans a breathtaking view of the mountains beyond the outfield fence. To top it off, the Cougars have put a good product on the field in recent years under Mike Littlewood.
22. Alaska Baseball League’s Midnight Sun Game
It’s the most remote thing on this list, but if you can get there, the Midnight Sun game in the Alaska Baseball League, a collegiate summer league, is truly an event unlike any other. Hosted by the Alaska Goldpanners, the game takes place every summer solstice and begins at exactly midnight, taking advantage of the extreme geography of Fairbanks.
23. Dodger Stadium Classic
The floor of this tournament is relatively high, given that you know it will always be capped off by a rivalry game between Southern California and UCLA at Dodger Stadium, save for 2020, when Dodger Stadium was unavailable due to ongoing renovations. What raises the ceiling from year to year are the other two teams in the field. This past year, those two teams were Vanderbilt and Texas Christian, both clubs with real shots to make deep postseason runs.
24. Taking in a game in the East Carolina Jungle
East Carolina boasts one of the best atmospheres in college baseball outside of the SEC, and the group of fans lining up behind the left field wall, known as the “Jungle” are a big reason for that. Armed with megaphones to make sure the opposing left fielder can hear them loud and clear, these fans provide additional home-field advantage for the Pirates. Appreciative of how the group creates atmosphere in the stadium, it’s not uncommon for players from opposing teams to shake hands with the group after a big game.
25. A game at US Bank Stadium
A venue clearly not made with baseball in mind, cavernous US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of the Minnesota Vikings, serves as the part-time home field of the Minnesota Golden Gophers nonetheless. That helps the Gophers play home games at a time when the weather won’t allow it at Siebert Field, their on-campus home, and it makes for one of the most unique settings in college baseball.