The Mocs play their home games at historic Henley Field, a 1,000-seat lighted ball park located a few blocks north of downtown Lakeland. Its cozy atmosphere makes it fun to attend a game, but it is tough on opponents. Combined with nearby Joker Marchant Stadium (which served as the Mocs’ home park for several games in past seasons) FSC has a winning percentage at home of better than 80%.
Henley Field’s dimensions are 405 to straight-away center, 325 down the left field line, 330 down the right field line, 365 to left center and 385 to right center.
THE HISTORY OF HENLEY FIELD
Named for Clare “Doc” Henley, Henley Field, the home of Moccasins has been a Lakeland fixture since the 1920’s when it was known as Adair Field. In 1922, Clare Henley, president of the Lakeland Baseball Club, joined efforts with T.J. Appleyard and approached the Cleveland Indians about moving their Spring Training to Lakeland. In 1923 the Indians set up shop in Lakeland and played here for two seasons. Henley, owner of a series of Lakeland area pharmacies, would sell tickets at his stores and also charge for parking next to the park.
On March 17, 1925 the dedication of “Athletic Park” took place with Major League Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as guest speaker. With attendance twindling to just an average of just 110 fans in 1927, the Indians packed up their bags and left Lakeland without a professional team Athletic Field originally was an open field and in 1927 a wall encircled the 510’ by 440’ field.
In 1933 Henley joined with the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce and approached the Detroit Tigers about setting up camp at Athletic Field. In 1934, the Tigers began what today is the longest relationship between a major league team and a host spring training city.
The Lakeland Chamber decided to honor Henley by naming the park in his honor and on March 29, 1952, Athletic Field was renamed Clare “Doc” Henley Ball Park. A writer for the Detroit News said of Henley, “He is the man who has done the most for the national sport of baseball in Lakeland.” Futhermore, the writer called Henley, the “Virtual Father of Lakeland Baseball.”
During its spring training days Henley Field saw the likes of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb as well as Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, play here, in addition to Hall of Famer Al Kaline, whose grandson, Colin, is a current member of the Moccasin baseball team.
In 1987, Henley Field was the fictional home to the Tampico Stogies semi-professional team in the HBO
movie “Long Gone” starring William Peterson and Virginia Madsen. Former FSC athletics director Hal Smeltzly served as baseball advisor during the filming.
WHO WAS CLARE HENLEY?
Clare Henley was born in 1888 in Lakeland. After graduating from Lakeland High School, Henley attended Stetson University and later studied at Atlanta College of Pharmacy. While in Atlanta, Henley played baseball at Georgia Tech although not a student at the school. Henley later took over his father’s pharmacy business and eventually sold spring training tickets in his five stores.
His love for baseball inspired him to convince the City of Lakeland to purchase 70 acres of land from Dr. Pike Adair. Adair Park was the site of Athletic Field, a neighborhood pool and a football stadium. The stadium exists today as Bryant Stadium, the home of Lakeland High School football.
Having recruited the area’s first professional baseball team - the Louisville Colonels - to Lakeland in 1915, Henley started his own pro team - the Lakeland Highlanders - to compete in newly formed Florida State League. In seven seasons, Henley’s teams captured three penants and finished in the top three six teams. Ten of his players advanced to play in the Major Leagues.
Henley died in 1955 at the age of 69.
HENLEY FIELD IMPROVEMENTS
Originally Athletic Field was an open park. In 1927 a wall was erected to enclose the park. Original dimensions would have had dead center at over 500-feet. In 1940 a press box was added to the top of the grandstands, but was destroyed by a hurricane in 1945. A 24-foot press box was erected in 1946 and remained until it was declared unsafe in 1985. Originally, the dugouts were built as part of the main grandstands, but current dugouts were constructed for safety reasons and the old dugouts filled in.
The Detroit Tigers trained at Henley Field from 1934 until 1966 when the club moved to Joker Marchant Stadium. In 2002, the Tigers Class-A affiliate in the Florida State League used Henley Field while Joker Marchant Stadium underwent a renovation. The $250,000 upgrade to Henley Field brought metal stands and bleachers to replace the original wooden seats. New lights and a scoreboard were added along with an enhanced fan area behind the third base dugouts.