KUSA -I made it a goal to go to a game at every major league ballpark during an overnight layover in St. Louis in 1999.
I realized that the Cardinals happened to be in town that night and decided to head down to the stadium. From the cheap seats in the upper deck of the (now-imploded) old Busch Stadium, I had such a different experience from the ones I'd had at Coors Field in Denver that I then was committed to finding out about the other idiosyncrasies and nuances of all the other Major League ballparks.
From 2000 to 2007, I would get to roughly four ballparks each year. I finished the journey at the Metrodome in June 2007, and could say that I had been to every Major League ballpark. That only lasted until Opening Day 2009, when Citi Field opened in Queens, followed by a few others. As of June 2014 with a visit to Target Field in Minneapolis, I can once again say that I have been to them all. Invariably, the first question I am asked when someone learns about this is "which one did you like best?" followed soon after by "which one is the worst?"
So what follows are my personal rankings of all 30 major league ballparks currently in operation:
30. Tropicana Field- St. Petersburg
This is as bad as it gets.
From the catwalks hanging down everywhere (many in the field of play!) to the oddly angled roof that does not open to the location in St. Petersburg far away from basically everything -- not to mention the terrible acoustics -- it does not get any worse than this.
I will give them credit: the small pool in the outfield full of rays is a nice touch, even during those rare occasions when a home run ball is screaming into it and they have to scramble for survival.
29. Coliseum- Oakland
I was lucky enough to go to a game there before sewage backing up into the dugouts became a frequent occurrence. The only multi-use stadium left in MLB is in dire need of replacement. Seats are way too far from the diamond, and walking down the dark and narrow closed concourse really does seem like a trip back to the bad old days of baseball.
28. Angel Stadium- Anaheim
The fake boulders added in the outfield when Disney owned the team certainly look like they came straight from the amusement park, which is not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it is a bit jarring.
For a stadium that has suffered from past earthquake damage and was for many years a multi-use venue that also hosted football games, they have done an admirable job trying to make it a baseball only ballpark, but there are still plenty of places in this facility where you just feel like you're in an aging football stadium.
27. US Cellular Field- Chicago
An instantly forgettable ballpark on the south side of Chicago. Absolutely nothing about this ballpark made me want to come back for any particular reason. It was a clean, well-maintained place, but it seemed to have no personality or character whatsoever.
26. Progressive Field- Cleveland
There are lots of places to go before or after the game in the neighborhood on the edge of downtown: the ballpark is in a great spot. Sadly, the very steep upper deck and lack of an open concourse keep this decent ballpark from being better. I didn't dislike it, there's just nothing very memorable about it.
25. Rogers Centre- Toronto
A place that was revolutionary as the first retractable roof domed stadium has unfortunately, aged in dog years. The lack of any windows to the outside world makes this place very dank and hollow when the roof is closed.
It very much looks like something from the late 1980's when it was built, right down to the artificial turf on the field. It's obviously better with the roof open, and I recommend getting seats on the 3rd base side, so you have a view of the imposing CN Tower looming over the field.
The hotel in the outfield upper deck is an odd, but interesting feature as well, but this place has been far surpassed by many of the other retractable roof ballparks.
24. Globe Life Park- Arlington
Being in Arlington, it is in the fact one of the most 'suburban' locations of any ballpark. I quickly learned that it gets quite hot and miserable in Texas in the summer, and this place could use a roof. No concourse goes all the way around the ballpark either.
It's an okay place, just not somewhere I had a great ballpark experience.
23. Nationals Park- Washington
I didn't hate this ballpark, but there was nothing really memorable about it. Again, not a lot around it to do or go before or after the game unless you count the District of Columbia's sewage treatment facility located across the street as entertainment.
22. Chase Field- Phoenix
I have never seen a game here with the roof open, but with it closed, it is a dark, somewhat dank big barn with HVAC conduits going everywhere.
The seemingly thousands of rows of seats in the upper deck that basically go all the way to the roof make it seem like no one is ever there-- even when attendance is pretty good. Decent location in downtown Phoenix, but not one of the better retractable roof ballparks.
One good thing? Concession prices are some of the cheapest around.
21. Turner Field- Atlanta
Full disclosure, my favorite team is the Braves and I have been to Turner Field more times than any other major league park other than Coors Field. Turner Field is, without a doubt, a 'stadium' (built for the '96 Olympics) that was then converted into a ballpark.
Don't get me wrong, they did a decent job, but the closed concourses leave no doubt as to the fact that this was never the original intent of this venue. The location, with virtually nothing to do outside the ballpark before or after the game, is not ideal either.
The recent addition of the Waffle House concession inside the park has been a nice touch, and the Chop House does have its charms, but overall, Turner Field is mediocre at best.
20. Citizens Bank Park- Philadelphia
I really like how close you can get to the bullpens, certainly a plus. Love him or hate him, the Phanatic is not just on a huge mural outside the ballpark, he is a huge unavoidable presence in the ballpark as well.
I happen to think he's a great mascot, so this is not necessarily a bad thing, but I can see how a little goes a long way. Although the view of Center City Philadelphia from behind the plate is nice, the ballpark is too far away from there to be great.
There is not a lot within walking distance outside the ballpark.
19. Great American Ballpark- Cincinnati
Although this is a relatively small ballpark, I was struck by the fact that it seemed even smaller in person. Certainly the many unique food options of Cincinnati make the concessions here top notch. That said, the fact that the ballpark faces away from downtown -- towards the Ohio River which is difficult to see from most of the ballpark -- does it no favors. I had higher hopes, and while it was nice, I was a bit disappointed.
18. Marlins Park- Miami
Unique is an understatement. There is nothing, I mean NOTHING like Marlins Park. From the bright green padding on the outfield walls to the bright tile colors along the walls of the seating bowl, this isn't your daddy's ballpark.
There are things I loved about this place, from the bobblehead museum for all to see on the main concourse (with the gyrating base to actually give a 'bobble' effect) to the insanely good food choices that were available, to the spectacular views of downtown Miami (I was there early in the season and the roof and windows were open) beyond left field.
On the other side of the ledger was the seemingly total indifference of the small crowds there, the Marlins cheerleaders -- which have no business at a baseball game -- and the monstrosity in center field that is known as a 'kinetic sculpture' which still haunts me in my dreams to this very day.
17. Yankee Stadium- Bronx, New York City
The new Yankee Stadium is one of the most pristine venues I've ever been to. As odd as it sounds, that's part of the problem.
The ballpark is nice and in fact might have been the cleanest I've ever been to, but it has no character whatsoever.
It truly is the Death Star of ballparks: insanely clean and orderly, but do you really want to spend a lot of time there? The expensive ticket and concession prices don't help the cause.
16. Citi Field- Queens, New York City
The change the Mets went through when they went from Shea Stadium to Citi Field had to be one of the more drastic in ballpark history. Shea was most certainly a multi-use 'stadium'.
Citi Field could not have a more different impact when you enter the ballpark through the center field entrance known as the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. The problem is the entrance is so spectacular that you're somewhat underwhelmed once you pass through and enter the actual ballpark.
The Shea Bridge along the concourse is a nice touch, but when the door is better than the rest of the house, that's not a good thing.
15. Wrigley Field- Chicago
The 'friendly confines' are of course a venue where every baseball fan, no matter how casual, must see a game before they die. Sadly, after seeing the spectacular job that the Red Sox did with the refurbishment of Fenway Park a few year back, the bar has been set incredibly high for the Cubs, who are discussing plans to undergo the same process on the north side of Chicago.
Still a great place to see a game regardless of the ballpark showing its advanced age. Of course, the whole Wrigleyville neighborhood surrounding the ballpark is great for pre and post-game festivities.
14. Busch Stadium- St. Louis
No doubt, St. Louis is one of the best baseball towns in America, and the newest Busch Stadium is a fine place to see a game. There's always a big crowd to see the beloved Cardinals. It has a good location downtown and great access to transit. There are many great statues outside the ballpark honoring great Cardinal players of the past.
So much to like, but really, not a lot to make this ballpark memorable to me, except for the actual high caliber baseball being played on the diamond.
13. Kauffman Stadium- Kansas City
A ballpark that was way ahead of its time. Add to that the completion of a concourse all the way around the ballpark a few years back that was part of numerous ballpark enhancements, and you have a solid place to see baseball. Unfortunately, the closed concourse keeps you from seeing the game while getting concessions. While it's very much of its era, it's still disappointing.
The fountains in the outfield that have always been there are a great unique touch, but the fact that the ballpark is so far from downtown, and more or less only accessible by car, moves it down on the list.
12. Petco Park- San Diego
Perfectly located in the Gaslamp District, Petco Park is a ballpark that, like Coors Field in Denver, seems to be getting better with time. The greenery dangling from planters over the main concourse, the lawn beyond the outfield and the integration of the old Western Metal Supply building in the left field corner all make this place feel very intimate. The sandpit beyond the center field fence for the kids to play in is a nice touch as well. Ticket and concession prices are a little steep, but all in all a great ballpark.
11. Dodger Stadium- Los Angeles
This is one of the only ballparks that blew me away by its sheer size. It's big. It's so well placed in the natural bowl that is Chavez Ravine that it does not seem like it when you're approaching from the outside, but then you get inside, you realize that it would certainly be an intimidating venue for a minor leaguer who was just called up to the bigs for the first time.
It's another park that is standing the test of time with flying colors. It's also in a beautiful natural location near downtown LA. Yes, a Dodger Dog is a must-have when here, and yes, they are good.
10. Minute Maid Park- Houston
One of the more polarizing ballparks in the league, you either love Tal's hill in deep centerfield with the base of the flagpoles in play or you hate it. I happen to love it. I also am a big fan of the old steam engine that moves along the track above left field after an Astros home run.
What I liked most about this ballpark was its roof, which was thankfully closed on the ridiculously hot and humid evening I attended a game there. Not a lot around the ballpark for pre or post game festivities, which is a bit of a shame.
9. Miller Park- Milwaukee
Without a doubt one of a kind, which makes it great. From the unmatched bratwursts (seriously, the best one I've ever had at a ballpark, if not my life, I had at Miller Park) to the totally unique retractable roof that opens like a fan, to the slide that Bernie the mascot heads down after a home run, I have such an affection for this place.
The often copied but NEVER matched sausage race around the warning track is just the cherry on top for this great ballpark.
8. Safeco Field- Seattle
The best of the retractable roof ballparks, mainly because when the roof is open, it actually feels like you are outside.
The fact that the roof is parked over the neighboring railroad tracks when open is an added bonus, as when the trains go under it and blow their horns it creates a loud echo effect that adds to the ambiance of this great park.
The Ivar Dog (fried cod instead of pork or beef) hot dog is a tasty and appropriate option in the Pacific Northwest.
7. AT&T Park- San Francisco
First of all, what you've heard is true: the Garlic Cheese Fries are a must-have at this ballpark! Oh, and the spectacular views of San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge aren't bad either.
Be sure to walk all the way around the concourse and take a good hard look at the kayakers that are omnipresent in McCovey's Cove waiting for a home run to splash down.
6. Comerica Park- Detroit
When your team's name is the Tigers, you would imagine that there would be many opportunities in a ballpark to take advantage of that fact.
Comerica Park does, and in every case they are so well done.
One of my personal favorites are the tigers head light sconces surrounding the exterior of the ballpark with a baseball being held in its mouth by its fangs.
5. Fenway Park- Boston
The restoration they did on this ballpark a few years ago was so perfect, I can hardly imagine what I would have done differently. Still seems exactly like the Fenway I was at once before there were seats on top of the Green Monster, only much much better. Obviously an old school gem, complete with many 21st century amenities, which will now (thankfully) be around for many more years to come.
4. Target Field- Minneapolis
To go from the horrible baseball viewing experience that was the Metrodome to this palace perfectly placed in downtown Minneapolis was something to behold. What a marvelous facility.
The modern design, the light colored limestone facade, the spectacular view of the skyscrapers. Add to that the fact that you can go right up and watch the ballpark organist do her thing in a bar located on the upper deck, what more can you ask for?
3. Coors Field- Denver
Okay, I'm biased. As a Colorado resident since 1996, I've been to this ballpark scores more times than any other and for every year since it was constructed in 1995. That said, it's not only standing the test of time...it's improving. A brewery within the ballpark, a purple row of seats to indicate exactly one mile above sea level and now a new 'rooftop' party deck replacing upper deck seats that were empty for the vast majority of games.
Watching the sun set behind the Rocky Mountains on a warm summer night from the upper deck on the first base side with baseball being played just below it is an experience that never gets old no matter how many times you've seen it.
2. Camden Yards- Baltimore
It's the ballpark that revolutionized Major League Baseball and started the 'retro' craze. The old B&O warehouse that is incorporated seeming so organically into the ballpark looms over right field, making this ballpark so distinct. Top that all off with a location in a neighborhood that is perfect for pre or post-game festivities in addition to being within walking distance to the Inner Harbor. Bonus points for the unique foul poles.
1. PNC Park- Pittsburgh
Absolute perfection. The view of the downtown skyline with the river in the foreground and the bright yellow paint on the Clemente Bridge is unmatched. Sight lines are incredible, and the "Pirates" carved into the batter's eye hedge is top notch as well. If you go to this ballpark and are not blown away the first time you see a game there, you might be missing the whole point.
Lawrence Gibbs is a director at 9NEWS. He apparently uses all of his vacation to visit ballparks...which is fine.
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