MLB Ballpark Review: At least those I've been to...

- wadE

While I've been talking about doing a stadium review for the past few months, ESPN's page 2 decided to beat me to it. So far they haven't reviewed too many of the parks I've visited (although the Metrodome did better than expected), but even though they appear to be eminently more qualified, I'm pushing forward.

I'm not going to stick to a rigid list of categories, but give you my overall impressions of the parks I've visited...in chronological order.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome - Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis MN
I won't lie to myself. As much as the Metrodome has been an asset to the Twins over the years (the rumors of fan manipulation notwithstanding), and now that Veterans Stadium is closing up, the Metrodome is arguably the worst baseball venue in baseball. However, the Dome has excellent food for a decent price, better than most stadiums.


Stunning, isn't it?

Coors Field - Colorado Rockies, Denver CO
I can't say enough good things about Coors field. It's in a great location (the lower downtown of Denver, affectionately referred to as LoDo), good restaurants, clubs, bars. Most of the stadium has a tremendous view of the Rocky Mountains (when the smog and haze aren't too bad), and those that don't have that view get a view of the downtown skyline. What sells this park for me is that you can get about 500 different kinds of sausage here. From the usual hot dog (Rocky Dog) to footlongs, polish sausage, Italian sausage, bratwurst, buffalo brats (yes, buffalo meat!), and honestly about 12 more different types. Even the Coors beer tastes good at Coors Field.


The purple row is exactly one mile high.

Wrigley Field - Chicago Cubs, Chicago IL
What can I say that hasn't been said about Wrigley. There isn't a better place to be on a warm summer afternoon than Wrigley Field. There just isn't. But, I'm not a fan of stadiums that don't allow you to move from section to section...and with the bleacher seats going for a league high of 35 dollars, and the fact that the Cubs have their own scalping service to inflate their ticket prices so you end up paying 40 bucks for 15 dollar seats that are 2 rows from the top of the upper deck...that makes it a bit more of a pain in the ass. But it's all worth it to see Sammy hit a home run and to imagine a drunken Harry Carey screaming out "Cubs Win! Cubs Win!"


Cubs Win! Cubs Win!

Camden Yards - Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore MD
What is kind of disturbing is that once you've been to a few of the newer parks, they all start to blend together. While Camden Yards is in a great area (the revamped Inner Harbor), and has a great view of downtown Baltimore (although they don't have the greatest skyline), and you can get some ribs from the legendary Boog Powell...something about it just leaves me empty inside. Probably the fact that you have to watch the Orioles. The one bad thing I can say about this stadium that makes me prefer other ones is when you walk around, you can't see the field. In other stadiums (like Coors Field) if you get up to get a beer or just to walk around, you can see the field from the concourses, in Baltimore you are behind the seating in huge caverns of cement and steel girders. Seems like a strange complaint, but when you are getting a beer or a hot dog and you hear a roar from the crowd it's so much better to be able to turn around and see what's going on than scan the concourse for a TV.


No View...and most of them aren't
open on the other side like this one!

Yankee Stadium - New York Yankees, Bronx NY
Big... when you see it on TV you get a sense that it's a good sized stadium, but when you are there in the upper upper deck down the right field line and you look across to the end of the seating down the left field line, it's enough to give anyone vertigo. Yankee Stadium is great because of the history of who played on the field, and the passion of its fans, and their recent (and on-going) success. But even though it went through renovations in the 70's, it's still an old old park, and the area around the stadium reminds me of a prison. Tall fences with razor wire on top. Not a place you want your car to break down at night. With enough money and work, they could probably turn the neighborhood and the stadium around. However, it's still a great place to watch a game because of the quality of the team (and it hurts me to say that) and the intense fans. My very first trip to Yankee Stadium I sat in the right field bleachers. And let me tell you from experience, it's as tough out there as you've ever heard. Several years ago they made those bleacher an alcohol free zone...it hasn't helped. The Yanks were playing the White Sox that day and I can still hear the incessant chant of "Faaaaag-lio" in my ears. Oh, one more thing about Yankee Stadium which moves it up a few notches. At the beginning of the game the fans will chant each players name until he acknowledges the crowd...in that classic Der-EK Je-TER *clap* *clap* *clap clap clap* beat. Just fantastic...


Friggin' 'Uge!

Skydome - Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto ON
Ok, so bad things have been said about Skydome in recent years. Think about it though...at the time, how revolutionary was it to have a hotel and a restaurant in your stadium? Skydome has an open concourse, although it is pretty sterile, and it does have the CN Tower right next to it which is kind of cool, yet scary at the same time. Think about it, the world–s tallest freestanding structure is hovering right over the stadium...kind of creepy. Anyway, while Skydome isn't the most aesthetically pleasing of the new stadiums, at least it isn't new Comiskey.


I wasn't kidding, CN Tower is scary!

Minute Maid (nee Enron) Park - Houston Astros, Houston TX
Quite possibly my favorite park. Just a great place to watch a game. Small, cozy, air conditioned on those hot Houston afternoons, but can open up to enjoy a cool night. Supportive fans, right on the edge of downtown (one side of the stadium has cool clubs and bars, the other side has rundown warehouses and vacant lots next to the freeway), an open concourse, and the best part is that the site used to be a railroad station, so they've incorporated that into the stadium (yes, that's why there is a train that goes across above left field when the Astros hit a home run). There is tons of stuff to look at in the concourses, they have a museum in the stadium, they have good food (the garlic fries are fantastic...btw, when did garlic fries become a big ballpark food?). Anyway, there isn't a bad seat in the house and the place has character. Whether it's the short porch down the line in left, or the arches and gates for the bullpen next to it, or the hill in dead center field with the flag pole that's in play; I love it.

Dodger Stadium - Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles CA
I'm not sure there is another ballpark in the country that has as much mystique around it that so hugely disappoints upon visiting. First, Chavez Ravine is in the middle of a big park in LA, and getting the stadium involves a lot of side-street driving. Parking is on site, is expensive, so you end up parking three miles away, then walking through another mile of parking lots to get to the stadium. The stadium is built into the side of a hill, so you then need to figure out where your tickets are and climb millions of stairs outside up the side of this hill to get to where you need to be. Each section or tier of seats has their own entrances, so there is no moving around...none. While the view is pleasant outside the of stadium (as long as you look up at the hills and not down at the vast expanse of parking lots) it's boring. The beer is way overpriced, and what's worse is the famous Dodger Dog. I purchased mine and opened up the foil to find a hot dog that was dry, shriveled, cold, and must have been cooked at least 3 days prior to when I bought it. Ok, maybe not 3 days, but 6-7 hours isn't out of the question! The garlic fries were redeeming, and I didn't try any of the Mexican food, but seriously, unless you are a die-hard baseball fan, don't even bother visiting.

The Ballpark at Arlington - Texas Rangers, Arlington TX I'm trying to think of one good thing to say about this stadium...ummm, it's clean! Ok, picture this: "The Ballpark" is set in the middle of what feels and looks like a giant office park. Lots of grassy hills, some trees, a small creek running through it connecting small ponds with standard fountains in the middle to keep the water moving and to keep weeds and lily pads from growing. There is nothing around this park...nothing...except for the nicest damn little league park I've ever seen. Anyway you get to pay 10 bucks to park over a mile away (no joke) from the stadium, and then walk over several grassy knolls (they sure like those grassy knolls down there in Dallas) to get to the damn ballpark, if you are a season ticket holder you get to park closer, but the rest of us need to pack canteens to get to the damn place. To make a long story short, the fans aren't the best, all they know is that A-Rod is good and they cheer for him, and really nobody else. The park itself looks great from the outside, a big red brick structure, but it's all borrowed from other places. The concourses are eerily like those of Camden Yards, the right field section is blatantly ripped off from old Tiger Stadium (it didn't look good there, it doesn't look good here). The worst part is that it's 100 freakin' degrees in TX all summer long, no rain, and what little wind there is that could cool you off is blocked because out in right and left center past the obligatory play area for little kids is an office building. That's right, your view past the outfield wall is an eight story tall wall of windows. I assume this is the offices of the Rangers, and it's a nice idea to put your offices on site, but could you possibly do it in a more ghastly, ugly, and unoriginal way?

Miller Park - Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee WI
Miller Park has its ups and downs. Like "The Ballpark" it sort sits in the middle of nowhere with big parking lots and not much around it. On the walk to the stadium though there is some odd looking sausage restaurant, which I'm assuming since it is Wisconsin also served beer. Also, up against the stadium was a fenced off plaza which served beer and brats, you could get in with your ticket, hang out outside, and then head right into the stadium when ready. Nice feature. Inside the stadium is a little dark and gloomy. Some concourses are dungeon like, and others have views of the field. The food was pretty good, and of course the beer is about as fresh as possible with the Miller plant within view from the parking lot. The stadium is nice, except that you have to watch the Brewers play. Ha ha ha...seriously though; while there were some minor things I didn't like, if that stadium was in the Twin Cities, I wouldn't complain.


Cool lookin', but louder than a 747 when it closes.

Fenway Park - Boston Red Sox, Boston MA
I know I'm going to get a lot of hate mail for this... but what a shithole! The place is literally falling apart. The space out in center field, where the Green Monster stops but there is a wall...you can't tell on TV but it's a cement wall that is just crumbling. The stadium is only 2 years older than Wrigley, but it is in far worse shape. I think my favorite part is how they've just put seating wherever they could...like on the roof! The seating high up on the right field line is actually on the roof of the stadium. You go up this old rickety winding staircase that is actually outside the fence that marks the boundaries of the stadium and when you get up there you walk across the tar paper roof of the luxury boxes beneath you. I know people would really miss this stadium if it were gone, but what makes a game at Fenway great is not the hideous park, it's the fans. There are no fans in baseball more passionate than Red Sox fans. There is no Jumbotron at the park telling the fans when they should cheer, or to cheer louder...cheering just spontaneously erupts from the crowd, at the right moments. They know when their team needs a little boost from the crowd, they know when there is a key at bat and it's time to make some noise. If and when they get a new stadium, as long as the fans show up, it'll be a great experience, with much more comfortable seats!!!


Yeah, just hack off those support girders and
we'll put more seats right there!

So that's it...those are the few parks I've been to. Here would be my overall rankings.

11. Dodger Stadium - Biggest disappointment out there. From the disgusting and disappointing Dodger Dog to the lackadaisical LA fans, to the out-dated and unfriendly stadium. Just dreadful.

10. Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome - While a favorite because of the memories, this place just doesn't compare with some of the other parks out there. The narrow concourses, the men's room trough, even the luxury boxes suck.

9. The Ballpark at Arlington - Terrible name, terrible design. Could have stolen much better ideas from other ballparks. The office building in center field just caps it off...even while wandering around out there, I didn't see one person sitting in their cube or up against the window watching the game...at least that would be one cool thing about working for the Rangers.

8. Miller Park - While the stadium itself is really nice...it's got no soul. When Bud Selig sold his to the devil, he must have sold the ballpark's soul too.

7. Skydome - Revolutionary at the time, set the stage for the great ballparks we have today. Tickets and food aren't so bad when you factor in the exchange rate...but overall the stadium comes off as a little sterile.

6. (tie) Camden Yards - Pluses: great location, lots of stuff to do, great views from seats. Minuses: have to watch the Orioles play.

6. (tie) Yankee Stadium - Minuses: terrible location, not much to do, view of Bronx from seats. Pluses: get to watch the Yankees play.

4. Fenway Park - Seriously, the place is a dump...but the fans and the atmosphere they create more than make up for it.

3. Wrigley Field - No better place to watch a game on a sunny summer afternoon, assuming you can afford the 80 dollar bleacher seats from the scalper and don't need to use the bathroom. Big minus points on having to search all the way into the dungeons to find a genuine Chicago Dog vender. Booo Hiss!

2. Minute Maid Park - Just beautiful. And all around fantastic place for everyone. Stuff for annoying children who can't sit still, bars, restaurants, wide open concourses, standing room with great views. A roof that opens and closes without waking the dead (hear that Miller Park! You don't? Exactly!), passionate fans, and the hilarious 7th inning stretch tradition of singing "Deep In The Heart Of Texas". No, I'm not kidding...the whole place gets up and sings this louder than "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and the national anthem combined!

1. Coors Field - It's a tough call...some of the other parks are a bit nicer... but to me a ballpark should be open...while the roof retracts at Minute Maid, it's still there obstructing a lot of view of the city and the sky. Plus you have to factor in the Rocky dog, the footlong, the bratwurst, the footlong brat, the Chicago dog, the New York dog, the Tucson dog, the Italian sausage, the Polish sausage, the buffalo brat, etc.; you can't beat 20 different types of sausage!

- 09/04/2003


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