Mountain Dale, NY
Review by Mike
Baxter Stadium was the home of the Catskill Cougars of the independent Northeast League. The best way to get to Baxter Stadium was to drive to the middle of nowhere... and go a little farther. The ballpark was perched on a mountaintop in the Catskill Mountains of New York, about 25 minutes north of Middletown. There is nothing around this park and, to be truthful, it's not much of a baseball stadium, but it does have... something.
The Cougars played in the independent Northeast League and then the Northern League East. They were a family run operation and Baxter Stadium was a family built ballpark. It really wasn't much more than a high school field with wood and metal bleachers running down each foul line and a small section of molded plastic "box seats" behind home plate. The scoreboard was manually operated by a kid on top of the left field fence who had trouble keeping track of what was going on. His biggest problem was when a run was scored; he'd run behind the scoreboard to change the inning score, the total score, and the hit count. This took him so long that he'd usually missed the next two pitches. It was fun watching him call to the left fielder who obligingly told him the count.
And what an interesting crowd it was. There a good crowd in the park on the night of my visit; about 1/3 were campers, 1/3 were orthodox Jews stopping in on their way home from the Catskill resorts, and 1/3 were assorted other folks. An interesting group and not your usual ballpark crowd, but it was a lively bunch who enjoyed the game and the fireworks that followed.
The food and souvenirs were okay, but also housed in hand-hewn shacks. Despite the rawness of the place, I liked it a lot. It was a fine example of baseball entrepreneurism at work. Here was a family that wanted a baseball team and they were going to have it if they had to do it all with their own hands. The team owner was very involved, walking around tossing little treats to the kids, and getting the crowd going.
The Cougars are history and Baxter Stadium faded slowly away until it was gone completely. It is now a housing development, but in my book it is affectionately classified as "not a great ballpark, but a great place to see a ballgame... if you can find it". And it is still the only ballpark I have ever been to where they played "Hava Nagila" to fire up the crowd. That's worth half a kosher hot dog right there.