Last Friday (the 13th), we ventured out to take in some college ball down at Tony Gwynn stadium on the campus of San Diego State. While we consider ourselves serious baseball fans, we may not have attended this particular game had it not been for all the hype surrounding SDSU’s starting pitcher, Stephen Strasburg.
Strassy – as Strasburg is affectionately known at the ballpark – was selected as a preseason All-American before this, his junior, season after being Mountain West pitcher of the year following his sophomore campaign. (Check out his bio page on the SDSU Athletics website for a complete list of his many impressive accomplishments and accolades). We had seen the reports of him striking out 18 batters in 8 innings against the University of San Diego the previous week so we felt inclined to make the trip south and catch a glimpse of this hard-throwing righty.
After settling into our seats (near the end of first inning, but more on that later), we quickly realized that Strasburg was the real deal. We did not have a radar gun but we heard rumors that he had hit 101 mph with one of his pitches during the early part of the game. Throughout his seven innings of work, Strasburg left several UNLV batters looking very foolish as they swung late at his high-90s fastball and were left with the bat on his shoulder when he dropped his curveball in for called strike 3. He ended up with 14 strikeouts before calling it a night, but not before putting on a show for the 2,000+ fans in attendance.
While Strasburg’s performance was worth the price of admission (only $7 for adults and $5 for seniors over 55), the overall ballpark experience left much to be desired. We arrived on campus (what we thought would be) early enough to park, buy some tickets, and find some seats in time to catch the first pitch at 6 pm. The waiting started with the 20-person deep line at the parking permit dispenser in the garage.
After twenty minutes of buying the permit, putting it in the car, and walking to the ballpark we were greeted with a box office line that literally stretched the width of a football field (the stadium borders a football practice field so this measurement is very accurate). While waiting in line, we could see the outfield scoreboard light up with a large “K” three times in the top of the first inning. After another twenty minutes we finally made it to the ticket window.
It was the bottom of the first inning when we finally found some seats down the third base line. Most of the seats at Tony Gwynn Stadium are general admission so we were able to find some seats at the rear of a section that allowed us to park Chiquita’s stroller nearby. This was probably the only high point as far as the stadium operations were concerned. The long lines for the parking garage and box office were supplemented by only two open concession stands and one BBQ booth (which ran out of tri-tip just as Nicole was at the front of the line).
We should have arrived earlier to the ballpark in anticipation of a larger crowd. Having never been to a game at SDSU, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. According to one of the security guards, the games are only this crowded when Strassy is on the mound. The bottom line is that the stadium operations personnel were totally understaffed and unprepared for a Friday night crowd with their star pitcher on the mound. Apparently we are not the only fans with these sentiments. Check out this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune to hear their take on how the evening went.
We ended up taking in a good baseball game and the atmosphere was definitely family-friendly. I suppose a combination of better planning on our part and theirs will make for an even better experience if we venture down to SDSU again.