|Starting a brand new independent league is never easy. But if you want to have any chance of success, you need first class facilities. So when Andy Appleby decided to launch a new league, he started by building a new ballpark in the metro Detroit suburb of Utica. Jimmy John’s Field, which opened in 2016, doesn’t follow the traditional ballpark template, which makes it fun and different. In the inaugural season, all three teams of the United Shore League called Jimmy John’s Field home. Supposedly the league has plans to expand to other cities in the midwest and based on their initial success in Utica, it would seem they may onto a new model for upstart independent leagues.
- There are numerous different seating areas, especially for those who don’t mind splurging a bit. Besides the normal luxury suites, there are Cabana suites located along each baseline, Dugout suites behind home plate, and Diamond tables situated at field level under the main grandstand.
- For the common fan, there are picnic areas, outfield berms, a pavilion, and rail seating.
- Fans can completely circle the field along a walkway that is directly adjacent to the outfield fence. This allows for some unique viewing angles.
- There is large kids area located in the right field corner. It features a rather elaborate playground area as well as a whiffle ball field.
- Sightlines are excellent from the main grandstand, which is nicely elevated as well as having a steep pitch.
- The bullpens are only separated from the field by a small chain-link fence allowing fans close-up access to all the sight sounds of the relief pitchers. Pretty cool!
- The exterior is adorned with classic baseball photos of some of the greats of the game like Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Ty Cobb. A very neat touch.
- A free program/yearbook is available (though there are no scorecards to be found).
- No matter what teams are playing there on a given night, all three mascots (Ribbi, Lancelot, and Buzz) are on hand. They are very accessible and friendly.
- The location of the ballpark is right off of the Utica downtown area. This allows fans to go to a restaurant before the game and then simply walk to the game.
- While parking is plentiful and free, the lots are a bit of a hike from the ballpark. This is partly because a river separates the ballpark from the parking areas, which are located beyond the outfield.
- Strangely, there are no permanent food stands and no real team store. Not sure if this was a design flaw or if this was the intent. There is a trailer that souvenirs are sold out of.
- There are no restrooms behind the main seating bowl. Instead, fans must go down to the main concourse where the only restrooms in the ballpark are located.
- A restaurant / bar is located directly behind home plate, though has no view of the field. Surprisingly the place seemed mobbed, so I guess a lot of people don’t mind paying for a ticket to not even watch the game!
- Prices are a bit high for this level of play. Though I suppose a brand new ballpark like this does somewhat justify the prices. While a berm seat is only $6, the cheapest real seat at Jimmy John’s Field will run you $12.
Jimmy John’s Field definitely represents a very promising start for the United Shore Professional Baseball League. The ballpark is clean, fun, and has something for everyone. Here’s hoping the league can build similar ballparks in other cities to help the league expand. Surely, more small cities like Utica would love to have an asset like Jimmy John’s Field.
- Food is only available at free-standing carts located along the concourse. Lines seemed to be quite long as these carts are simply not equipped to handle large crowds.
- The cheapest hot dog here is $4. Making it a “combo” (with a drink and chips) adds another $5 to the price. Again, a bit pricey for this level of professional baseball.
- The Big Bone BBQ stand on the third base side offers up BBQ Chicken sandwiches ($5), turkey legs ($7), and pulled pork sandwiches ($6.50).
- The Curveball Kitchen stand has hamburgers, cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, and polish sausages available.
- Other food items available include cheesesteaks, nachos, popcorn, and ice cream. Strangely, no Jimmy John’s sandwiches can be found anywhere.