Published on: September 30, 2016
As noted yesterday in "FaceTime with the Content Guy," last weekend I had the opportunity to attend baseball games at two Florida major league ballparks - Marlins Park and Tropicana Field. Which completed for me a quest that has taken something like a quarter-century - I now have been to every one of the 30 major league ballparks.
Also as noted yesterday, I've been to more than just the 30. In fact, there are 18 ballparks (in Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Chicago, Milwaukee, and two in New York) that I've seen games in that have since been torn down and replaced; there also was a ballpark in Montreal, which doesn't have a team anymore.
Now comes the moment I've been waiting for - ranking the 30 existing ballparks. So here goes...
Because it is my list, and I can do whatever I want, I'm taking three ballparks off the table for discussion - Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. These are the three oldest stadiums in the country, and while they may not have all the modern amenities, they have the advantage of tradition on their side. They're classics. They'd dominate the top 10. I sit in any of those ballparks and I am supremely happy ... it isn't just the baseball, but the history.
Which leaves me with 27 ballparks to rate. To make my job a little easier, what I decided to do is start by breaking the list up into three groups of nine, and then rate the stadiums within the groupings. For me, this just was an organizational tool, but it helped a lot.
I'm also not going to get specific here about all the rationales behind each ranking. This will annoy some people who will disagree with my choices, but at some level I had to grade on a curve because the visits have taken place over a long period of time; it isn't like I visited all of them within a few months of each other and was comparing apples to apples. I'm ranking them on the totality of the experience. It is all about whether I had a good time.
What does this mean, precisely? Well, I have biases. I'm partial to craft beer and food that goes beyond the standard hot dogs and peanuts. (I'm big on fish tacos. And the Blue Smoke and Shake Shack stands at Citi Field are a major lure.) I like a little leg room, and I think high-definition displays and great scoreboards are really, really important. (A stadium without an out-of-town scoreboard that lists every game being played in the majors in real time loses points ... which is a problem both at Marlins Field and Tropicana Park, for example.) I dislike domes and artificial turf, and I like stadiums that one can walk to from downtown (eight of my top ten are walkable from downtown areas).
I've also tried to be fair about not over-ranking stadiums where I've been lucky enough to be taken as a guest and have enjoyed great - sometimes extraordinary - seats. But by coincidence or not, some of the parks where I've been lucky in this way also happen to be among the best of them. (Thanks, for example, to Larree Renda and Brian Dowling, who treated me to an amazing afternoon at San Francisco's gorgeous AT&T Park, and Phil Lombardo, who helped make Target Field in Minneapolis an exceptional experience.) At the same time, so many of the games I've seen have been shared with family and friends ... the quest has been a fun one, to say the least.
One last thing. Even though I've been doing this a long time, I have to say that pretty much every time I walk into a ballpark, I get a thrill when I get my first look at the field. There's just something about it. I can remember when I was a little kid and my dad took me to my first major league game at the old Yankee Stadium (which, by the way, was so much better than the new version, which resembles a mausoleum). We walked out to our seats, and I couldn't believe how big and green the field was. To that point, you see, I'd only ever seen a major league baseball field on a small black and white television. it never occurred to me that the real thing was in color. I remember that feeling - and that trip with my dad - every time I go to a game.
While these stadiums are ranked from favorite to not-so-much, let me be clear. I feel about baseball stadiums the same way that the late Robert B. Parker felt about beer, and he once said, "The worst beer I ever had was wonderful."
Here's my list.
1. AT&T Park, San Francisco
2. Safeco Field, Seattle
3. Petco Park, San Diego
4. Camden Yards, Baltimore
5. Citi Field, New York
6. PNC Park, Pittsburgh
7. Busch Stadium, St. Louis
8. Target Field, Minneapolis/St. Paul
9. Coors Field, Denver
10. Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City
11. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati
12. Miller Park, Milwaukee
13. Comerica Park, Detroit
14. Angel Stadium, Anaheim
15. Globe Life Park, Arlington
16. Nationals Park, Washington, DC
17. Rogers Centre, Toronto
18. Minute Maid Park, Houston
19. Progressive Field, Cleveland
20. Turner Field, Atlanta
21. Yankee Stadium, New York
22. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
23. Chase Field, Phoenix
24. Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg
25. Marlins Park, Miami
26. US Cellular Field, Chicago
27. Oakland Coliseum, Oakland
Of course, I realize that my quest really isn't over. Atlanta is scheduled to open a new stadium next spring - SunTrust Park. It replaces Turner Field, which only has been open since 1996, when it replaced Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (where I also attended a game).
Probably too early right now to get tickets, but I think I'll have to find my way to Atlanta in about six months or so...
That's it for this week.
Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.