Prasco Park partnership key for baseball community

Mitchell McMillen | The Chronicle

For Mason baseball and other local teams, a field of dreams is just down the street at Prasco Park.

This year, Prasco hosted two Mason baseball games, the annual Mason vs Kings game on April 13 and a matchup with the Moller Crusaders on April 20. 

The Mason-Kings game has become a staple of both communities, with its proximity to both schools, professional facilities and space for additional spectators. For the first time in its partnership with Prasco Park, Comet fans were treated to high-profile games on consecutive weekends at the venue. Mason won this year’s matchup 6-2.

The Comets and Crusaders battled in a top-two matchup in the state with nearly 5,000 fans in attendance. The Comets jumped to a 3-0 in the first two innings but eventually fell short 7-5 in 10 innings.

The back and forths, lead changes, and playoff implications of the game were amplified by the playing experience of Prasco Park. The emotions felt by the players and fans aligned with Prasco’s reputation for bringing an electric atmosphere.

Senior Mark Rutherford noticed the high-energy atmosphere during the Moeller game. Even with the added pressure of playing at a stadium like Prasco, Rutherford felt the team was focused on winning. He said the team couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities late in the game but hopes to play Moeller in the playoffs on another big stage.

“[The game had] really high energy,” Rutherford said. “Everyone was locked in on how we were getting the next three outs. As we got later [in the game], we were just fighting for a run. We had many opportunities, but couldn’t get that one.”

Prasco Park hosted its first game on June 19, 2008. It was built to serve as the home field for the Cincinnati Spikes, an amateur baseball team, and for local collegiate teams. Prasco is home to many major events including the face-off between the Comets and the Crusaders and the annual Mason vs Kings game. On May 8, Prasco hosted the NCAA Division II Great Midwest Conference Showdown and will host the Big East Championship on May 22 for the sixth year. Prasco has also served as a venue for Major League Baseball, hosting the Cincinnati Reds spring training practices in 2020.

Prasco’s ability to host major events stems from its state-of-the-art facilities. The field boasts a surface similar to a major league field, two high-definition video boards, a press box, and seating for approximately 1200 spectators.

Senior Michael Bilo said playing at Prasco adds a new dimension to the typical gameday experience. He said the opportunity to play there is something he hopes to not take for granted.

“The experience is just different playing on a professionally graded field,” Bilo said. “[I was] taking it in because you only get that opportunity in life once or twice.”

Playing on a field like Prasco can be an opportunity of a lifetime for players. During the Mason vs. Kings game, the teams invite youth players to join them pregame, giving athletes the opportunity to honor and inspire the next generation of Comets.

Rutherford said he felt an extra layer of nerves when playing at Prasco, especially during the Moeller game. He appreciates the competitive and fan-filled environment that encourages him to play loose and enjoy the moment.

“For Moeller, I felt a little jittery, a little nervous going into it,” Rutherford said. “Then after you get the first inning and first at-bat out of the way you can just play. But it’s fun sitting there, looking around, and seeing everyone yelling at you or for you.”

Prasco is also home to many family-friendly activities. Prasco hosts special “theme nights” during Spikes games that can draw crowds of thousands. The next scheduled theme night is July 6 called the “Carniball Night.”

The mix of family-friendly activities and a thrilling atmosphere for watching baseball is what many believe in the Mason community as to why Prasco is such a special place. Families are also very enticed by the free admission and free food that Prasco offers.

Prasco is not only special to the Mason community as a whole, but it is distinctly significant to Mason baseball. Having a field like Prasco right in your backyard to play big games in is not something most programs can boast.

Rutherford moved to Mason as a freshman, so he did not grow up attending summer games at Prasco Park like many of his teammates. However, Rutherford said the game has a special connection to the players and is a tradition the team cherishes.

“Michael Murphy (Class of 2023) told me how special [Prasco] was for him because as a kid he would go there and watch people play,” Rutherford said. “After every game, he’d go to the train tracks behind the place and pick up foul balls. I didn’t experience that but for him and homegrown players, [Prasco is] even more special.”