BY LYNN HOUSER
Ah, springtime in Bloomington: Bryan Park bursting with activity, the bustling Farmers’ Market coming out of hibernation, the frenzy surrounding the Little 500, the roar of the crowd at Bart Kaufman Field.
Hold on. Bart Kaufman Field?
Indiana University’s year-old baseball park has brought baseball to Bloomington in a way not seen before. With seats close to the field, good sight lines, a family atmosphere, and a highly ranked home team, Kaufman Field has become a great place to spend a spring afternoon or evening since its opening game in 2013.
Returning the nucleus from the team that last year took IU to the College World Series for the first time in history, the 2014 Hoosiers entered the season ranked No. 3 nationally, with five players receiving preseason all-America recognition.
Right next door to Kaufman Field is an equally attractive new softball facility, Andy Mohr Field, the home of the IU women’s softball team. Both exude family appeal, with Kaufman Field sporting a picnic area. And there are regular promotions, such as reducing the price of popcorn to 50 cents a box following a Hoosier home run.
“One of our priorities is to have the university integrate with the broader community,” says IU Athletic Director Fred Glass. “I love going there and seeing not only the students and faculty members, but kids and people from the community.”
Even though baseball in the early spring can sometimes be a wet and chilly proposition, Kaufman’s brick façade helps shelter fans from the wind, and its artificial turf reduces the number of rainouts.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children age 3-18 and are usually available at the gate or online. Kaufman Field reached its 2,500 seating capacity five times last year with an average attendance of 1,700.
As the team’s head coach, Tracy Smith, points out, “You are going to a highly interactive place, a place where people feel comfortable and welcomed. You are close to the action, just 40, 50 feet away from some of the best players in the country. If you like baseball, it’s close, cheap, and offers a great product.”
With a capacity of 500, Mohr Field is an even more intimate ballpark experience. “I encourage people to take in softball, too,” Glass says. “It is a fast, fun game.”
Lynn Houser is a former sports reporter for The Herald-Times.