ALPINE -- Kokernot Field in Alpine is a West Texas baseball cathedral. Built in 1947, the ballpark is older than every major league stadium except Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
The 71-year old diamond was the passion project of Big Bend rancher Herbert Lee Kokernot, and is an integral part of Alpine’s history.
“This field is a historic landmark first off,” Bob Ward, a senior advisor for Big Bend Community Baseball and Softball Incorporated, said. “It is Alpine. And people from all over the country know about Kokernot Field.”
Sports Illustrated labeled Kokernot “the best little ballpark anywhere in the world” and Texas Monthly called it “the Yankee Stadium of Texas”
The longtime home of the Alpine Cowboys and Sul Ross State Lobos, the park holds special meaning for those that play there.
“There’s so much history here, and so much great baseball that’s been played here,” Cowboys manager Austin Prott said. “And when the players, who come in from all over the world, are able to learn about that, it makes them that much more appreciative of what we have.”
Kokernot wasted no expense when building his stadium. Red clay was brought in from Georgia for the infield, and intricate iron work decorates the facility. Its location on land that was part of Kokernot’s O6 ranch makes for a picturesque setting to watch a game.
“I’m from Florida,” Cowboys pitcher James Williams said. “We don’t have mountains in Florida you know. This is great. The stadium is historic. It’s beautiful. The crowd is awesome. The town is great. It’s a great environment. I’d rather play here than anywhere else in the league.”
As Williams said, it’s not just the stadium itself that is special. The community of Alpine fills Kokernot’s seats and passionately supports the Cowboys in a way only West Texans could.
“I kind of feel like we’re the Permian Panthers in Friday Night Lights” Cowboys shortstop Tommy Ziegen said. “The community just gets behind us so much and it’s awesome to play in front of all these fans and just have all their support.”
Because of that love, don’t expect the Alpine landmark to change much.
“Kokernot Field is just like it was in 1947,” Ward said. “If anything was ever to come along, and someone wanted to change the stadium, I think we’d have a fight on our hands.”