C. O. Brown Stadium
I really miss having minor league baseball in town. The last two places I lived before Kalamazoo (Peoria, IL and Lansing) both had Midwest League teams. I spent a lot of time at the ballpark in Peoria and even more in Lansing (I worked for the team for a summer) and loved every minute of it. It’s low A ball, but I watched quite a few players who have moved up to the Majors.
Without driving to Grand Rapids, Lansing, or South Bend, the next best thing would be the Northwoods League teams. It’s not great baseball, but there have been some huge names come out of the college summer league. Max Scherzer and Chris Sale both played for the LaCrosse Loggers, Curtis Granderson played for the Mankato Mashers (now the MoonDogs) and Ben Zobrist played for the Wisconsin Woodchucks. It’s one of those things. You never know who you’re going to see.
We had just gotten home from our long vacation and wanted to do something with L. We hadn’t seen her for a week, so we were trying to find something fun to do out of the house. Our plan was to take in a Kalamazoo Growlers game, but the stadium was underwater and they had to cancel. We were still in the mood for baseball and I noticed the Battle Creek Bombers were at home, so we headed over there instead.
The Bombers play their home games in C. O. Brown Stadium in Bailey Park on the northeast side of Battle Creek. The entrance to the park is right at the intersection of Capital and Eaton Street near the Battle Creek River. The park is quite visible from the road and is surrounded by parking lots and smaller baseball and softball fields.
The park was built in 1990 and actually hosted Midwest League teams from 1995 to 2006. Minor league baseball left Battle Creek when the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays relocated to a new stadium in Midland and became the Great Lakes Loons.
It’s too bad there wasn’t enough interest in Battle Creek because C. O. Brown stadium is actually a fairly nice park. It’s not up there with the newer minor league parks that look like mini-stadiums as it actually has more of a throwback style to it.
We were a little late getting ourselves together and getting to Battle Creek for the game. We found a parking spot at about ten minutes to seven and then had to get tickets from the box office in front of the main gate. Not really a problem, but that night was Star Wars night and we were hoping that L would get one of the lightsaber giveaways. We were too late although she did get to see Darth Vader and she hasn’t stopped talking about that.
The stadium is one big section of grandstand bleachers built on top of a concourse area at street level. All of the concession stands, bathrooms and souvenir shop are underneath the main seating area. There are ramps on both the first base and third base side of the concourse to take you in to the grandstand seating section.
Most of the seating at C. O. Brown Stadium is General Admission. They do have some pricier seats in the first few rows of the grandstand. The Champions Club is two sections behind home plate and has wait service right to your seats. Around that they have Premium Reserved Box seats and Reserved Box Seats if you’d rather have individual seats and be a few rows closer to the action.
Out in left field is where the Kidz Zone is at. They have bounce houses and games for the kids to play. There are a number of picnic tables that are lined up along the left field fence so you can actually watch the game from out there if you choose.
Further down the line in left field are two adult areas. First is the “Longest Outdoor Bar in Michigan”. This multi level structure has an expanded tap list and seating. I walked up to this area briefly and thought about how cool it would be to actually watch the game from there, but I was supposed to be watching L in the bounce house, so I didn’t stay long.
Beyond that, is the Miller Lite Party Deck. This is reserved for larger group outings and is only open to those in the group.
The first thing we did when we got inside the park was go looking for food. There are three concession stands underneath the seating area and all three have something a little different. Like most minor league teams, the Bombers have their own unique food items including the Poptarko which is this year’s crazy food. I’m not going to try to explain this thing…here’s a snippet from the press release back in April.
The “Poptarko” is essentially a double-decker taco with a unique Battle Creek inspired twist. Beginning with a soft shell taco, the taco is coated in maple syrup sourced from Michigan, as well as cheese. The soft shell is then wrapped around a hard corn taco shell. The taco is then built with BBQ Pulled Pork – also sourced from Michigan – and even includes a full Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop-Tart, which is broken in half to better fit in the taco. For toppings, the Bombers suggest real crumbled bacon, a touch of maple syrup, additional cheese, and of course – crumbled up pieces of Pop-Tarts.
Yup. Sounds interesting, but I passed going for something much more simple. I ordered a 1/3 lb cheeseburger and fries while J went with mac ‘n; cheese bites and fries. We got L a soft pretzel because that’s what she said she wanted for dinner. We added on a bottle of water and a LaBatt Blue…because that was the best beer they had at this concession stand. All of it was stadium food. It was delicious and filling, but nothing out of the ordinary. Simple, delicious, and not heart-attack inducing like a Poptarko…..although that still sounds good.
We decided to sit behind home plate a few rows up. The stadium is big enough to hold about 4700, but there wasn’t nearly that many there that night. We had our choice of pretty much any spot in the house.
The grandstand is built like many older ballparks. The entire seating area is covered by a metal roof, but that roof is supported by steel pillars that will get in your way if you’re behind them. When we were sitting down low it wasn’t so bad, but when L wanted to go up to the top, the beams were pretty distracting. It’s not the end of the world and the shade provided by the roof is worth having to look through the pillars every now and then.
The baseball game was….alright. Obviously we’re not talking about professional baseball players here, but all of the kids on these teams are in good D-I programs. We really only watched about three innings at a time as L’s attention span is still a little short. We watched the beginning of the game then went and played in the Kidz Zone for a while then came back to watch the end of the game because it was fireworks night. Otherwise we probably would have left much sooner.
When we moved to Kalamazoo six years ago, I really wanted to get over to a baseball game in Battle Creek to check out their stadium. I really wished they still had a minor league team there (or in Kalamazoo for that matter), but baseball is baseball and the Bombers still put on a good show with the in-game entertainment and promotional give aways.