LOD at the Ballpark: John Euliano Park (UCF)
The delay of MLB spring training put my plans on Sunday, March 6 in question. The Tigers and all MLB teams would delay the start of the season due to contract disputes. Despite my disappointment over the entire process, it did not curb my enthusiasm to see live baseball that day.
I mentioned to my six year old son on Friday, March 4 the possibility of going to the UCF v Ole Miss game on Sunday. His enthusiasm for college athletics really began last Fall. He developed nothing short of an obsession with College Football. And despite the fact we live in the Orlando area, he doesn’t like UCF. He claims it’s because they defeated Florida in the Gasperillla Bowl. Nonetheless, the selling point for him was Ole Miss. He developed some kind of affinity for their football team last football season.
So, I took my opinionated six year old, my ten year old daughter and my best man from my wedding, who happened to be in town for business, and we headed to John Euliano Park. The ballpark is situated near all the athletic facilities, in between the football stadium, Spectrum Field (aka The Bounce House), and Addition Financial Arena (basketball arena). UCF is often considered a Mid-Major, playing in the AAC, but their athletic facilities will make their coming entry to the Big 12 an easy transition.
John Euliano Park holds nearly 3,900 which puts UCF in the same size range of a premiere baseball school like Vanderbilt. Most of the seating area surrounding home plate were reserved for season ticket holders. They also have a premium club section with indoor / outdoor suites. General admission tickets allowed us in the upper deck bleachers, berms areas in right or left field and a variety of standing area around the concourse. We spent a few innings in the bleachers. They were roomy and offered a good view of the action. My only complaint is that they could have put a roof over top for shade. The temperature was perfect that day (sunny and 80), but a hotter day would have made it uncomfortable.
Much of the game we spent in the standing area along the third base line. The area was partially shaded. There were high top tables to allow you to set your food and drink on. And, there were also games for the kids to play. We watched the action from this area the majority of the game. I would also add that the food and drink options were decent. It was typical ballpark fare for the most part, hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches, etc. They did, however, have a good variety of beer on hand. And concessions were certainly below big league prices.
According to the box score, there were 2,331 fans in attendance that afternoon. Saturday’s game drew 2,921 and Friday’s game, 3,033. Those are good numbers for most programs. It was also much better numbers than many minor league games I’ve attended. The important part was that the ballpark felt full and alive.
Some of that attendance seemed to be driven be Ole Miss fans. I am not sure if Ole Miss just travels well or that there are quite a few Ole Miss alumni / native Mississippians living in the Orlando area. It helps being one of the best programs in the country. Whatever the reason, I am impressed by their showing. Oxford is 769 miles from Orlando, that’s no short drive. Not to mention, the Rebels wore their Sunday powder blues, which I’d argue are the best uniforms in College Baseball.
UCF fans have plenty to be proud of as well. While Ole Miss dominated this game, 9-1, UCF baseball is nothing to scoff at. The Knights handed the Rebels their first loss of the season the night before in a 1-0 walk-off. Currently, UCF is 13-10 with a few big wins over Ole Miss, Stetson and Miami.
UCF Baseball on the Move
UCF is building a great culture for baseball and more success on the field will help drive those attendance numbers. As the Knights make their move to the Big 12 in the near future, they will bring bigger programs in on a regular basis. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and TCU are all currently ranked in the Top 25. Central Florida remains a hotbed for baseball talent and as local players see the opportunity to stay near family, while at the same time play for a perennial contender, the UCF program should continue to rise in prominence. I’ll be happy to go back and watch that all happen.