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Playing Football at a Ballpark: the Guaranteed Rate Bowl

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Chase Field, the home of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, will turn its diamond into a rectangle for the night as it plays host to the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

This season, the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field, the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, the Holiday Bowl at PetCo Park and the Wasabi Fenway Bowl at Fenway Park will all feature historic MLB ballparks as backdrops. The Fenway Bowl, though, was canceled on Sunday night due to heightened COVID-19 cases on Virginia’s roster and staff.

Despite the relative obscurity of the ask, the West Virginia football program has actually played more than a handful of bowl games inside the confines of MLB ballparks.

The 1972, 1975 and 1981 Peach Bowls all featured Atlanta Stadium, and in 1981 the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, as the venue. At the time, the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons shared the space, so it wasn’t unusual to see the field outfitted with hashmarks.

WVU’s appearance in the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl set its eyes on the Astrodome, aptly named for its multi-purpose space. It served as the home field of the Houston Astros and the NFL’s Houston Oilers during that time, so it was well-equipped to handle a football crowd.

In 1997, the Mountaineers traveled to Pro Player Stadium, which would eventually become Hard Rock Stadium, to play Georgia Tech in the Carquest Bowl. Between 1993 and 2010, Pro Player Stadium helped the Florida Marlins expansion club hold home games until the team got its own arena in Marlins Park.

The early 2010’s continued the unique bowl venues. WVU’s trip to the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl turned iconic Yankee Stadium into a football field in order to host West Virginia’s 38-14 loss to Syracuse.

Most recently, the Mountaineers were back in a ballpark, and more specifically Chase Field, for the 2016 Cactus Bowl. Although it became more of a home game for the Arizona State Sun Devils, West Virginia didn’t let that deter, winning the game 43-42.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said of playing in an unconventional location. “First of all, because the owner of the Diamondbacks, Ken Kendrick, he’s a West Virginia grad. That’s something we’ve talked to our players about. We’re really excited about that opportunity to play in a place that means something to West Virginia, so it has some unique challenges. We’ve shown them the layout. I’m looking forward to getting over there so they can see it for themselves.”

The layout of the field is expected to look like this, as it did in 2016:

Kendrick, a 1965 graduate of West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, has been an owner of the Diamondbacks since 1995, when he latched onto the expansion team. He is also a part owner of the Phoenix Suns.

“He just said he has the keys if we need to get any extra practices in,” Brown said with a laugh when asked about conversation between he and Kendrick.

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