We're not exactly breaking new ground when we say Shea Field isn't on par with the rest of the ACC in terms of baseball venues. It's something readily admitted, and it's something everyone is well aware of. While it's sufficient in terms of baselines, dugouts, batting cages, grass, an infield, and a fence, it's not anywhere remotely close to Dick Howser Stadium at Florida State, Frank Eck Stadium at Notre Dame, Mark Light Field at Miami, or even English Field at Virginia Tech.
BC, in its 2007 10-year plan, publicly acknowledged plans for a new athletic complex on its Brighton campus, signaling its recognition of a new stadium. But with time winding down to 2017, construction hasn't yet begun, and it seems more and more like a pressing need for a new facility isn't being addressed. While not wholly the entire problem with the Birdball program, there is no questioning that the team needs a new place to play, even if it's in the interim while they await a new permanent home.
Shea Field has usefulness in that its a functioning facility. It provides BC with "what they need to compete," as Mike Gambino said in an interview last week. He understands that the team needs a permanent edifice to play in, one that doesn't double as a tailgate for football season. He understands that while it's not the reason why BC struggles, it provides an obstacle to overcome, one the team has accepted.
But since we're in the media and not in the clubhouse, we can have some fun with it. So let's look at places BC baseball could inhabit to get out of Shea and into a brighter day. For argument's sake, let's leave the on-campus stadium off the table for a discussion for another day:
Fenway Park, Boston
Why It Works: It's pretty obvious why Fenway Park presents a juicy opportunity. BC has a unique relationship with the Boston Red Sox; they play the Sox in Spring Training every year, and the Eagles host their annual Baseball Night in Boston at the State Street Pavilion, mingling with people like Ben Cherington. Boston has a great baseball tradition, and associating with that tradition would be key to building the BC program. Playing at Fenway would give the players a unique experience on the fabled lawn, and it would provide a necessary recruiting tool nobody else can offer. The crowds wouldn't be there, but who needs them? Just playing on Fenway is enough to fulfill any kid's dream. And it occasionally hosts the Beanpot, meaning college baseball has a link to the stadium. College football teams share NFL stadiums, and baseball teams aren't even trying to fill the stands. Plus the majority of college baseball runs through a time when Fenway would be unused.
Why It Doesn't Work: The Boston Red Sox do not allow anyone to use Fenway Park unless there's a profit to be made. And realistically, BC baseball will not turn any kind of profit. Frozen Fenway, Notre Dame football, European soccer clubs - they all bring money to the Red Sox. There's a reason why high schools don't play at Fenway where they do at TD Garden and Gillette Stadium, and a big reason is because of the way the Red Sox do business. It's unlikely the marketing and business end of the Red Sox would ever want to do business with an unprofitable margin like college baseball; the Beanpot isn't held there every year mostly because it's not profitable. And on a secondary level, the scheduling at the end of the year would be tough. As the Red Sox start playing home games, BC baseball would run into batting practice times or the open door policy many players have with their home club. Needing to play three games around a weekend at home becomes an issue if the Red Sox are playing a 1 PM game on a Saturday in April.
Should BC move (scale of 1-10)? 0. The Red Sox will never do this.
LeLacheur Park, Lowell
Why It Works: Where the Boston Red Sox protect Fenway Park, the Lowell Spinners welcome pretty much everyone. It's the current home of the Lowell Spinners, who don't start play until June. And the only other team BC would have to share the stadium with is UMass-Lowell, who starts play in the America East this year. UML only has 11 games at the stadium this year.
Why It Doesn't Work: Lowell isn't exactly remotely close to Chestnut Hill, and it's not really close to anything. In theory, this would work out great, but the idea of busing players almost a full hour off-campus for home games isn't something BC could ever get behind. It's no secret that Mike Gambino wants his games on campus. Forcing him to move off campus better have a solid incentive behind it. Moving him to a single A ballpark when he's already playing individual games at Dodd Stadium and Hadlock Field in Connecticut and Maine, respectively, isn't exactly the way he probably envisioned his status. If on a temporary, one-year basis, maybe LeLacheur becomes an equitable option. But moving there for multiple seasons would actually hurt recruiting a lot more than playing on campus on a parking lot.
Should BC move? 2. It makes some sense to move into a ready-built stadium for at least a little while. But unless there's a permanent solution within two years, there's no way the team moves that far outside Boston.
Boston Field of Dreams, Malden
Why It Works: Because it hasn't been built yet. The city of Malden is very strongly behind building a baseball stadium near the MBTA's orange line stop at Malden Center as part of an urban renewal project in the city. They're slating an opening in either 2015 or 2016, which means construction will begin very soon and probably finish before ground is broken on the Brighton baseball stadium. Additionally, the city is looking to populate the stadium with some type of minor league team. Rumors flew for a while of trying to entice a Double-A level team to come, but instead they settled on expansion in the independent Atlantic League. Instead of the Atlantic League, BC could come in and offer them the Eagles on the condition that they get to help design parts of the ballpark. BC then gets a home stadium with public funds in a hometown that's already willing to commit $20 million. And it's unlikely they'd have to share it with anyone other than Malden High School.
This puts BC in a position where they could profit from a city willing to get behind a stadium. It would also allow BC the flexible scheduling to put games under the lights in a stadium that would be built for televised purposes. While Malden is the opposite end of Boston, it presents a juicy opportunity for BC to have their stadium built at a fraction of the cost with easy access to public transportation. And the ACC is much better baseball than the Atlantic League, so financially, this makes sense as long as BC can tap into profits that could be somehow guaranteed to the school.
Why It Doesn't Work: Financially, it makes total sense for the college. But urban renewal stadiums are doomed to fail unless they hit it rich. Campanelli Stadium in Brockton is a prime, perfect example of this; the city owes money on the stadium and the team intended to play there already folded once. Unless BC would get the right deal to move there, it wouldn't make a ton of sense to spend money on a stadium they wouldn't own, and it's unlikely the city would give up funds to a school in a profit share when they're building it to make money in the first place.
And Malden isn't really near Chestnut Hill. Not only that, but Malden isn't Chestnut Hill. I grew up in Malden, and I love the idea of a baseball stadium, but let's face it - Malden isn't the nicest city. And the idea of having to go across the city for home games doesn't make a ton of sense, especially when the team really wants to stay put on campus.
Should BC move? 5. The stadium idea makes sense if BC can maneuver their way into getting some of the gate, making baseball a revenue sport where it currently isn't. But the location isn't desirable, especially where the team really wants to stay put in Chestnut Hill.