What a month

After turning in expenses, tying up some loose ends and working on our newest magazine this week, I’ve thought a lot about the final few weeks of the baseball season. It seems like a long time ago when I walked up to the stadium in Stillwater, even though it wasn’t. All the travel, the teams to follow and the games make this feel like the longest month of the year, even if the days are flying by.

I have the opportunity to cover a lot of sports, but to me there is nothing as fun as the baseball postseason because of the ups and downs. I like it because it punishes a team for an off night, but doesn’t disqualify like most other sports. Oklahoma lost a regional and super regional game and was still able to play for a national championship. Arkansas had lost a couple of times and was still one victory short of doing the same.

I got to experience a lot of new this month. I was glad I got to see O’Brate Stadium. I’ve had thoughts the past couple of years of driving over for a regular season game just to see what the fuss was about. It did not disappoint. It is a great college baseball park. I also had a chance to visit Chapel Hill for the first time. It is a neat, unique town. I enjoyed being around the UNC program for a few days. You get a sense for why the Tar Heels are always so good. That was also my first time to be away from any of my children for longer than a day, so that was an experience, too.

Getting back to Omaha is always fun. Other than getting to a practice site that was used for the first time, I never had to use GPS because I’ve learned the town so well. I told Tom Murphy while we were there that it feels like the Southwest Classic in Arlington — something we’ve covered so much that it feels routine. There are a lot of people in my line of work who might never cover the CWS or do it only once. This was my sixth time. Thanks to all of you for your support and interest that makes it possible and rewarding.

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Nice post, Matt.

How would you compare O’Brate to Baum-Walker?

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Thanks Matt. You do a great job and are very much appreciated.

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I went to Stillwater for the Grand Canyon game. O’Brate really is a nice ballpark. Smaller than Baum-Walker, but it has some amenities that we don’t have.

I like being able to walk around the entire ballpark on the concourse. I know that was considered for an update in some of the future vision for Baum-Walker at one time, but I guess that won’t happen now with the Hunt Center. Pretty sure the Hunt Center will more than make up for it in value.

I thought the outfield boxes they have at O’Brate were nice. I don’t know what they call them, but the measured off areas for groups to gather and watch and grill. It is a little more personal touch than the Hog Pen, and you don’t have to fight for positioning, I guess. I wonder if they rent those out by game or if it’s a season pass. Do you know, Matt?

Cup-holders in the backs of seats is a nice touch. I know a lot of our fans have been wanting those for years.

I liked their scoreboard/video board, though its placement wasn’t great from where I was sitting on the third base side. I felt like I was watching tennis looking from that to the field so much.

We appreciate all your coverage, Matt. I know you enjoy it, but it’s still a sacrifice to be away from your family so much.

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It reminds me a little bit of Baum before the 2007 renovation. Baum is bigger because it has the seats and suites that go all the way down the lines. I think O’Brate has a more modern feel to it. And I was really surprised at how loud it got inside the stadium for that seating capacity.

I like the “corral” premium seating areas in Stillwater. They are essentially outdoor boxes that begin about halfway down the right-field line and wrap around to a building that houses a training area in left field. They have grills and other features, and from what I was told by one of the OSU admins are some of the most popular seats at the park. There are are also 11 suites (Baum has at least 34, but I think more) and about 400 outdoor club seats on the second level. There is also table-top seating that wraps around the concourse where it appears tickets are sold.

From a ticket buyer’s perspective, you aren’t going to notice a lot of differences between Baum and O’Brate. Sight lines and video boards are fine at both, and the concourses are wider than a lot of college ballparks. I thought O’Brate could have had more concession areas, but I did like the concept on the first-base side where the concessions were behind a brick barrier that separated concession lines from the rest of the concourse. It made for better freedom of movement.

O’Brate’s press box is better equipped than the one at Baum, which was built in 1996 when baseball was not nearly as popular and did not receive near the coverage. It has been modified to be accommodating as possible, but in in terms of spaciousness, it struggles to meet demands. O’Brate has at least three radio booths, a TV booth and other booths that I’m sure could be converted as necessary, plus three rows of seats for other working media.

I didn’t see all of the player development and day-to-day areas for players at O’Brate, but from what I saw, I thought it was comparable to what Arkansas has added with the Hunt Center. Oklahoma State does not have the indoor infield like Arkansas has in the Fowler Center, but there is a turf infield next to the player development areas that the team uses before it goes on a lot of Big 12 road trips because of the high number of turf fields in that league.

I thought Dave Van Horn said it best after he walked through the stadium his first day there, “Recruiting just got harder.” Oklahoma State is going to be more of a player for big names in the areas where Arkansas recruits a lot.

Those are the corrals. I think I was told they are sold on a season basis. Some of them are bought by Greek organizations at OSU, which I thought was interesting.

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I had an idea a brand new stadium might have some things Baum wouldn’t have. Hate that, though. BWS has been perhaps the premiere stadium in college baseball for 25 years. There’s only some much updating that can be done, but fortunately BWS is still pretty up to date. The Hunt Center & Fowler Center make it state of the art for players.

I can’t decide if we should consider re-doing the hog pen area or not. I suppose we could add high dollar box seats out there, extend the concourse, etc, but the Hog Pen itself has some charm and tradition I’d hate to lose. Not sure we could expand BWS very easily. It seats about as many people as it can be made to seat without spending millions to build above the concourse & add seats or a second level of luxury suites.

Of course, now the big draw for recruits is going to be NIL money. The other things are important, but we have to meet or beat other programs in NIL to stay an elite program.

Baum has aged well. Boshamer Stadium at UNC was torn down and rebuilt in 2009 and it already has a much older feel than Baum.

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Baum has certainly aged well, but I hope they will do some upgrades as far as fan amenities soon.

I know they can’t spend millions but maybe just a few things here and there to add to the overall fan experience and maybe some more seating options.

At Baum, if you don’t own a suite, for the regular fan it’s either a basic chair back seat or the berm.

The new tabletop seats in right field landing are nice, but since there are only about 50, it’s hard to count those as much of an extra option. Plus, you have no view of the video board from there. I still maintain there could have been more seating like that built into the Hunt Center above the bullpen area and they could have made great use of the rooftop for a party deck for large groups. It would have paid for itself.

Bar top seating could be added at the top of the sections down each foul line past first and third, even if you have to remove a row or two of regular seats. It would still give an upgraded option. The sightlines are pretty poor anyway once you get to the last couple of sections because it just isn’t angled much toward the plate like the newer parks. A few rows of bar top seating with swivel stools at the top would be popular.

The Hog Pen is fun for the atmosphere, but from much of the space there you can’t even see the whole field. It could definitely use a little more incline. But I realize these are the cheap seats anyway, so I doubt they do much to it…thus, the cheap metal bleachers in the very back for those who didn’t bring their own chairs.

And the batter’s eye could be moved back about 20 feet to allow for viewing of the entire field, at least. That would be a pretty simple fix. Just flip it. It doubles as a storage shed anyway. Move the inclined part to the front with it gradually rising to the tall part in the back.

Concessions are lacking, so maybe add another food truck or two, possibly in the grass courtyard down the right field side behind the restrooms.

A ribbon board below the suites would be cool and enhance the atmosphere. Or maybe even a second, smaller video board in the LF corner.

These are improvements that could be made over the next few years that would be relatively inexpensive and help keep Baum from becoming too stale, as we know in the SEC bigger and better ballparks are going to be coming from the competition.

I think if HY ever decided we needed more seats, the big scoreboard could be moved back or even built on top of the Hunt Center, and maybe use the existing structure to incorporate multiple levels of seating from maybe a level of chair backs, to one of bar tops, to a couple levels of really premium suites, etc.

Baum is still great, but we better be continually planning to make some upgrades to keep up.

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The farthest South concession stand in RF was not open during the season, at least not before the Vandy series. And it was NOT open during the Regional nor the Super Regional in 2021. What a waste.

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That concession was definitely open for Vandy. And I thought it was for Ole Miss.

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