My first experience with New England’s collegiate baseball culture was in Newport, Rhode Island. Sat back off the water, blocks away from cultural landmarks like the Cliffwalk, the National Tennis Hall of Fame, and all the yacht racing any person could ever handle is Cardines Field. Cardines Field, now home of the NECBL’s Newport Gulls was built in 1908 as a wood, stone & concrete bandbox with all the charm of early 20th century baseball.
Sitting under the cover of the stone & concrete grandstand (built as part of a WPA project in the mid-30’s) you may get a sense memory of being a scout, beating the bushes for hidden gems playing in industrial leagues & sandlot games. This experience is enhanced by the wonderfully charming PA announcer who begins every announcement as a PA announcer should, “You’re attention please. Now pitching for the Gulls…” His warm and deep voice is very comforting and makes everyone (I would imagine) feel very much at home in the cozy little stadium.
While the Gulls are one of the top college summer programs in the country, the true appeal of the field is it’s history. black ball clubs that barnstormed through Cardines include the Baltimore Elite Giants and the New York Black Yankees. During the barnstorming era, Stachel Paige played at the field. Lore says he sat between the dugouts in a rocking chair. During World War 2, Major Leaguers who had joined the Navy were found playing at Cardines, including Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Bob Feller.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Gulls. But I remember they do have a small area up the left field line for a food truck. The seating is all in a small grandstand area, and sitelines are fine. No matter where you are, you’re right on top of the plate. The seating is stone, so, you know, a stadium cushion wouldn’t be a terrible idea.
The ideal Gulls experience would be as part of a day trip, or even a weekend to Newport. If you’re fortunate enough to find a hotel or AirBNB down near America’s Cup Blvd, don’t bother driving to the park. Parking is catch as catch can, with the only spots being in the surrounding neighborhood. But, there are plenty of other entertainment and food options besides the ballpark. There are some very nice boat tours and seafood which is (predictably) out of this world.
Depending on your level of aversion to crowds, pairing a game at Cardines with a weekend at the annual Newport Jazz Fest may offer a break from the chaos that is music festival attendance.
For baseball fans and road trippers, Cardines Field is a must-visit lister.