Like many of you it is my goal to one day venture out to all 30 MLB ballparks. Right now, I have been to 17 of the current 30 stadiums, however, I may be slowed down right now as reality has set in, you know, job lay off, time to look for work. It's all good, while there are those who we're able to accomplish all 30 in an entire summer, and I commend you on this, and there are those who did all 30 over a period of time, some day, I will be joining that list as well.
I, like many of you, often get asked who has the best stadium, who has the best fans, who has the best food, and so on. While I probably will not cover all the bases, pun intended, I decided to break down my parks visited based on certain categories, because in reality, it would not be fair to compare certain parks to other parks, ie, comparing Networks Coliseum in Oakland to PNC Park just wouldnt be right would it.
So I've broken it down to this, the first two categories, THE 2 CLASSICS, and A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN, I couldnt really rank because well, they just either there is so much history behind these yards ( Fenway, Wrigley, and Dodger ) or that yard was the one that started the "retro" craze ( Camden Yards ). The categories after the previous 2 I've listed in order of preferrence
THE 2 CLASSICS
Wrigley and Fenway, the 2 oldest MLB Parks still in operation
1. Wrigley Field
Date Visited- June 2004 Cardinals vs. Cubs, May 2006 Padres vs. Cubs
The 2nd oldest MLB Park in operation today, I gave Wrigley a slight edge over Fenway for it's neighborhood charm, and by that, I mean the views you get of the local housing and the kids young and old, and when I say old, I mean 21 and over, chasing after home run balls in the street. It takes me back to days playing ball at the local park or in the street and chasing after those baseballs and running for dear life when your long ball set off a car alarm or broke your neighbors window.
I've been to Wrigley on 2 occassions the first time to see the Cub-Cardinal rivlary and the 2nd time to sit in the famed bleachers. The atmosphere in the bleachers wasnt what I expected, however there was a reason for that. It was a game in the middle of May of '06, the Cubs we're mirred on a long losing streak, and the weather was rainy and in the mid 30s, from what locals told me, the coldest May in Chi-Town in over 100 years. It was quite an experience for me because, well, being from Los Angeles, I had never seen a sporting event in sub 40 degree weather, and that includes a couple of UW games in Seattle on November '98 and '00, so on this day, I would find myself wearing 4 layers of clothing to a baseball game, something I thought I'd be doing at Soldier Field someday.
2. Fenway Park
Date Visited 5/7/2006 Orioles vs. Red Sox
The oldest active MLB Park, Fenway is definately a must on your 30 MLB Parks to do list. Arrive early and be a part of the festival outside Fenway, as the streets outside are closed to vehicular traffic and become part of the parks atmosphere, grab a sausage from one of the local vendors, venture out toward that green wall out in left field and look closely at all the dents from years and years of line drives smashing toward this Green Monster. You may want to get your tickets as early as possible, especially if you dont want to pay $45 for this view
A LEAGUE OF IT'S OWN
Dodger Stadium, my home park, the 3rd oldest in the bigs, doesnt look a bit her age, and Camden Yards, the one that started the retro craze.
1. Dodger Stadium
My hometown park. I've been coming here since 1982 and through good and bad, been calling it my summer home ever since. The 3rd oldest park by a wide margin behind Fenway and Wrigley and approaching 50 come 2012, Dodger Stadium doesnt look a bit it's age, which is why you hardly ever hear anyone talk of Dodger Stadium in the " Classic " sense. Dodger Stadium is the real thing, it doesnt pretend to be retro, the seating color scheme goes against the traditional ballpark green or navy blue with it's muted pastel colors of the 60s, and though you've probably seen Dodger Stadium on TV many times and easily recognized it, you still have to see it for yourself. Since I have been coming here for most of my life, this would be the one ballpark I would have the most to say about both good and bad. And that's where any questions you have for me would come in handy. Now, as for some game day advice, you may want to take in a couple of games here for the full experience. The reason, seating restrictions....It's the one thing many Dodger fans dont like, and that's supposed to change with the 2012 renovations ( If it even happens....FRANK !!!) Dodger Stadium has always been very restrictive when it comes to wandering around the park and if you're like me and you want to venture the park and take pics from all different viewpoints and soak in the different atmosphere, get a field level ticket for one game as you can wander most of the park sans the pavillion, and for a true Dodger experience sit out in the LF Pavillion for the other game. The fans out there are really passionate, however, if you enter the LF Pavillion wearing halloween colors, the passion of these blue blooded fans can show in more ways than one.
2. Camden Yards
Date Visited 9/16, 9/18/2003 Yankees vs. Orioles
The yard that started it all. If only I had my pic. Tickets to see the O's these days are a lot easier to come by. When you arrive to the park, enter through the Eutaw St. entrance out in CF and you'll see Boog Powell greeting fans by his bbq stand. Feature that most stands out of course, the B&O Warehouse out in RF, housing team offices and stores, it really does give Camden Yards that intimate old time feel.
OK, here are the rest, in order of preference according to the following categories...
YARDS WITH MOVABLE ROOFS
For the most part I remain a traditionalists and prefer to watch in the great outdoors, but I've softened my stance on yards with roofs over the years, especially after having watched games in Phoenix and Houston
1. Safeco Field
Dates visited 6/18/2008 and 9/1/2009
My favorite of the 4 parks I've seen with movable roofs because of the fact that it's rarely ever needed . Of course summers up in the Emerald City are hardly scorching. The thing that really caught my eye here is that even with the roof in use, you are not really indoors because the sliding roof acts really as an umbrella for inclement weather, giving the fans the feel of still being outdoors.
Fortunately in my two visits here the roof was not needed. Also home to some of the nicest fans, though every now and then there may be a " Moose " crossing
2. Minute Maid Park
Dates visited 5/13/2005 ( Roof open ) and 7/1-7/3/2008 ( Roof closed )
Dubbed by some as The Juice Box you really do get the feeling you are inside a box especially when the roof is closed. MMP has a nice mix of retro along with the bell and whistles you may expect from todays yard, including the replica locomotive beyond the left field wall near the building that once housed old Union Station
If you're on the cheap on dont mind standing for 9 innings for a unique experience you can watch the game from the Conoco Porch in left center, where you'll not only find a replica gas pump that tracks the number of all Astros home runs but you're viewing is right on top of the warning track next to Tal's Hill, the grassy hill in CF reminding many of old Crosley Field in Cincinatti
3. Chase Field
Dates visited 9/27-9/28/1999 ( Roof Open) and 7/26-7/27/2003 ( Roof Closed )
Known as Bank One Ballpark, or simply, The BOB, during the time I visited, It was the first time I would experience baseball under a roof. Though I still prefer to watch baseball in the great outdoors, after visiting here I have a somewhat better appreciation as to why a climate controlled environment is a necessity here and in Houston as well. My only real beef , ok, 2 beef of this yard, are the cheesy looking advertising panels above the outfield, and that pool in the outfield that's only accessable to private parties, as a way to say to snout their noses away from the real fans.
4. Miller Park
Date visited 9/24/2007 ( Roof Closed )
When the Brewers are in contention, like they we're on this evening there is quite a buzz in this yard. Did I forget to mention that people love their bratwurst here ?
The ones I've been too that came before Camden started the retro craze, Angel Stadium, and US Cellular Field
1. Angel Stadium
That " other " park down I-5 where I frequently go, this yard has had a couple of facelifts since it's original opening in 1966. It's most recent facelift, after the 1996 season one year after the Rams left giving the Angels prime tenancy once again, gives it an almost authentic feel ( Yes, there's some Dodger bias in this ) complete with fake rocks and water geysers in the outfield and a wonderful view of the 57 freeway and the Honda Center from the upper reaches.
2. US Cellular Field
Date visited 6/9/2004
I had the great joy of taking the " El " here after a Cubs game earlier in the day and because of that got a good taste of the differences between the Cubs and SouthSiders fans. And though on this night there would be a crowd of just over 17,000 this was a boisterous 17,000 that does not subscribe to the " Lovable Loser " tag. To me, that's passion. As for the yard, I didn't care for the fact that fans in the upper levels we're denied movement to the lower concourses ( Like Dodger Stadium ) and the seats in the upper levels just seemed a great distance from the action. Opened in 1991 one year before Camden Yards, you could say that US Cell was born a year prematurely.
The ones that followed after Camden, again, in my preferrential order
1. PNC Park
Dates visited 9/7-9/8/2005
The smallest of the new yards I got to visit, and aruguably the best. Even in the last row of the upper reaches you are not far from the action. If only the Bucs can ever field a team that's worth watching, the parrot would have a lot of company aboard his ship.
2. AT&T Park
Recently visited 8/12/2009, 7/30-31/2010
Contrary to popular belief, my reasons for this Dodger fan here ranking AT&T Park behind PNC Park have nothing to do with my dislike for the Giants and I will admit the order between these two parks are subject to debate, and to be honest, not much really seperates PNC from AT&T Park, however, when it comes to hospitality, well, Bucs fans we're more hospitable ( Of course I dont expect royal treatment from our neighbors up north. P.S., for the most part, it's been in good fun )
Just another Dodgers-Giants game
3. Coors Field
Dates Visited 8/29-8/30/2006
Saw some kid named Troy Tulowitzki make his debut here. If you love high scoring games Coors is the place. Surprisingly intimate considering this parks seats close to 50,000. Oh yeah, who says that dinosaurs no longer exist...
My new buddy, Dinger ( Sorry Dinger, I couldnt bring you that Seal from SF you so wanted to devour...)
4. Busch Stadium
Date Visited 8/27/2006
Wasnt quite impressed . Perhaps visiting previous retro-themed parks may have dulled my experience. Cards fans are always amongst the best. And when it comes to watching the Cubs and Cardinals, there's always the good-natured ribbing.
My buddy Josh and I with Marty the Sign Man
5. PETCO Park
Visited anually since 2004 for Dodgers/Padres games
Wouldnt quite call this a retro-park except for the old Western Metal Supply building in left field. Nice yard, but steer clear of the hotdogs here. And should you ever forget to attend mass on Sunday, no need to worry....
6. Turner Field
Actually went beyond my expectations. Experiencing the " Chop " at the yard is definately different from seeing it on TV. Very laid back crowds here, saw my Dodgers here and was not heckled once. Not much to do outside the stadium but should you arrive here early you can see the remants of old Fulton-County Stadium outlined in the parking lot, with the old marker commemorating Hank Aarons 715th HR.
THESE FANS DESERVE BETTER
1. McAfee Coliseum
Dates Visited 4/26-4/27/2005
Oakland Coliseum really wasnt a bad yard before the Mount Davis days. It's too bad the A's are having a hard time trying to get themselves a baseball only park. These fans, though few in numbers these days, are some of the most vocal in baseball.
And Finally, the ones from the past....
1. Old Busch
Dates Visited 5/9-5/12/2005
Of the old multi-purpose circular yards of the 60's, Old Busch turned into a baseball only yard in the 90's really did it's best to scream baseball. Home to also some of baseball's best fans
2. Old Yankee
Dates Visited 5/9-5/10/2006
Was glad to experience the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry before Yankee Stadiums final days. To bad Yankees stadium couldnt retain any of it's original look during it's 70's remodel.
3. Qualcomm Stadium
Before the expansion in 1997, was an ok stadium with nice views of Mission Valley
4. Candlestick Park
The first yard I would ever visit on a road trip, Giants fans back them we're definately more blue-collar. As for the yard, calling it a dump may be putting it mildly.
5. Veterans Stadium
Nothing but one round hunk of concrete . Heck, it was so bad I even put it below Candlestick.
6. The Metrodome
Great fans, and I'm glad they have an outdoor yard to finally call their home.
So there you have my list. How does your's compare to mine. Anyting else you want to know about my travels ? Shoot me a line, and I'll be more than glad to share more details about my travels throughout the MLB Parks.