Gray-Minor Stadium – VMI Keydets
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K is for Keydets
Gray-Minor Stadium is located on the site of the former VMI baseball field, Patchin field, which was dedicated in 1988 (the prior field, also called Patchin, was only a few hundred feet away). The venue is named after the late, long-time Virginia senator Elmon T. Gray, as well as the current chairman of the board for Owens & Minor, a Fortune 500 company – both are VMI graduates.
In addition to many other upgrades, such as rebuilt dugouts, a video scoreboard, and a brand-new press box, the facility now sports on-field lighting, allowing the program to finally play night games. The baseball team recently rejoined the Southern Conference after an 11-year stint in the Big South; the recent move was made in an effort to help the program become more competitive by playing teams that are a closer fit to VMI in terms of size, resources, and academic standards.
Food & Beverage 2
Early in the season the concessions stand may not be open as they wait for the snow to melt and more fans to show up. However, a couple of weeks in you should be okay – hot dogs, sodas, cracker jacks, and the like can be had for a few dollars each. They also sometimes bring in Papa John’s pizza, which is slightly more expensive.
The stadium is fairly new, with chair-back seats in all areas and cup holders for many. There are three different seating areas, including an upper and lower deck on the first base side and a single (lower) deck on the third base side – the upper deck offers bench-style seating with chair-back rails, while the lower decks have bucket-style seats with built-in cup holders.
You cannot get quite as close to the action as you can at other baseball venues, since the dugouts here are actually at ground level with the seats built on top, but since the stadium is fairly small it is okay, and the view might be slightly better this way since you are higher off the ground. There is not much in the way of school spirit – the seats are red but there are no school flags or banners to be seen, and only a couple mementos around commemorating past accomplishments or former players.
There are not any really great pre or post game options near Gray-Minor Stadium. The field is located on a weird side street near campus, so you have to go all the way back into town to find anything to eat, where there are some fast food restaurants, a Mexican place, a couple of barbecue joints, a few coffee shops, and one or two small local hangouts, but nothing in the way of your typical bar & grill where you can sit and watch TV – the closest thing to that is the nearby Applebee’s. If you want some really good beer you can try the Blue Lab Brewing Company a couple miles from the field, but it is not so much a restaurant as a bar – they don’t really serve food.
On a cold day in February you will find about three or four hundred fans in attendance, and on a much warmer day in April or May you will find about twice that many in a good year. The baseball fans at VMI are actually pretty solid – a lot of them wear Keydet gear, and they are pretty knowledgeable about their team.
The staunchest fans though are of course the cadets, who show up in uniform and chant in unison, either cheering on their team or heckling the opposing players and umpire. In an effort to further boost attendance, cadets actually earn privileges if they come to baseball games, including getting to sleep in the following day, and not having to form up for dinner (which in layman’s terms means they don’t have to march in, but can just show up and check in at the desk).
VMI is located in the small (historic) town of Lexington, Virginia, and is a little annoying to get to since there aren’t any major roads (read interstates) that go here. The stadium itself is also a little hard to find since it is located on a weird side street, and there aren’t really any signs around that point the way – I couldn’t even find a complete physical address to put into my GPS, I only know the road name and city.
All of that said, once you get to the stadium parking is ridiculously easy to find, as are the bathrooms inside. Parking is free, and the venue is very handicap accessible – there is a new section for handicap seating, a ramp that leads from the parking lot to the stands, and even an elevator. If you do need handicap seating, be sure to park in the lower parking lot since that is where the ramp is (see the video below for more details on parking and getting inside).
Return on Investment 3
VMI recently gave up on ticketing in order to boost attendance, so anyone can get in for free, and parking is also free, so the only thing you have to pay for potentially is concessions – there are no programs for sale and no Keydets gear to buy. That said I can’t knock it too much. However, even though the venue is relatively new, it feels a little run-down, and the crowd isn’t big enough to provide much energy, plus the stadium is a little bit of a hassle to get to. So all in all, probably not the best venue for a diehard baseball fan, but perfectly fine for an afternoon with family or friends.
Two words – Joe DiMaggio. This great hall of famer actually dedicated the VMI baseball diamond back in 1988, and a bronze plaque commemorating this historic event stands proudly on the wall opposite the elevator. Definitely have to give a point for that.
The second point is for Rockbridge County and the many historic sites within easy driving distance of Gray-Minor Stadium. This includes the natural rock bridge located on Route 11, with George Washington’s carved initials still visible, the George C. Marshall Museum, and the Stonewall Jackson House & Museum. There is also a zoo and a foam re-creation of Stonehenge, appropriately named Foamhenge.
This is an average stadium in an odd part of a small town – it has some nice features due to recent renovations, but is home to a small-time program, so you won’t see many high-caliber teams play here, and the team is only somewhat competitive in a minor conference. However, it is practically free, and the cadets definitely have some school spirit, so could be a decent way to spend an afternoon or an evening. You are probably better off to visit in April or May once it warms up.
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Food and Drink Recommendations
Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
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