Review by Mike
Dunn Field is the home of the Elmira Pioneers of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. When I visited in 2001, they were a professional minor league team in the independent Northern League. The Elmira Pioneers have been the local baseball team in Elmira since 1888, in one league or another. Dunn Field has been their home since 1939. Thankfully, some smart-aleck PR man didn't insist on renaming them the Elmira Galloping Gators or some such nonsense. The concourse under the stands celebrates the team's past wonderfully with large photographs of Elmira baseball history, going all the way back to that first factory team in 1888. The images themselves are worth the price of admission.
As I approached Dunn Field and parked for free on the grass, I saw a series of wonderful sights. The first was the ballpark itself, a simple, yet sturdy WPA-era covered grandstand with a large brick entranceway proclaiming the name of the stadium. Next were the people of Elmira, many of whom were simply walking to the park from the surrounding neighborhood. They all chatted and greeted each other and wore Pioneers caps from this and earlier eras. Walking around the stadium, I saw kids playing stickball up against the back of the outfield fence.
Inside, the park is a nice mix of old and new. The original grandstand is impeccably maintained. It is clean and every seat is freshly painted. There are no signs of rust or rot in the old place. Row and section numbers were also freshly painted and there were plenty of staff to smile and simply say "Hi!" In the old photographs, you can see Dunn Field of the past, which had large bleacher sections extending down both foul lines. Those have been removed and replaced with new clubhouses and dugouts and a picnic area down the left field line. The new structures are very nicely done, with roofs painted the same blue as the seats and a light stone exterior that is in keeping with the feel of the ballpark. It is intelligent upgrades like this that allow the players to enjoy modern amenities, as they should, while us fans can enjoy a classic old park.
For the kids, the Pioneers have foregone the usual bouncing castle in favor of a carousel. I liked this a lot. It added to the festive atmosphere without distracting from the game in any way. The crowd proved this point by being totally into the game, actually cheering without being prompted by the PA or scoreboard. The view from the seats is marvelous, with tree covered rolling hills that lit up in golden hues as the sun set.
And here's the thing that best defines the feeling I experienced at Dunn Field; outside the 3rd base side of the stadium is a long, high embankment, used for flood control. A half dozen people brought lawn chairs and coolers and sat there watching the game for free. You might think that management would resent these people, essentially freeloaders, and build a high fence along that line to block the view, as was once done at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Instead, around the 7th inning, the PA announcer said, "...and we'd like to welcome those of you watching from the embankment tonight. Thanks for coming out to the game!" To which the people on the embankment all waved. And that, my friends, is baseball in Elmira.