Vagabond Joe: Ballpark Tour

In 1999, I went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field with my father. At some point during that game, it occurred to me that I was simply going to have to go to every ballpark in Major League Baseball. I knew it would take a while. And it’s a goal I have yet to complete. But, I have made a decent dent over the past 12 years.

Below are my reactions to the ballparks – both active and no longer with us – that I have had the privilege to visit…with a few of my worthless ratings thrown in for good measure.

Not in the mood to peruse? Jump ahead:

* – Denotes multiple visits.


NATIONALS PARK – Washington D.C.

May 30, 2011 – Phillies 5, Nationals 4 – Despite the 92° heat, the 4 to 1 Phillies’ fan to Nats’ fan ratio and the very first thing I heard over the loudspeakers upon arriving being an organ version of “Hey, Soul Sister”…my experience at Nationals Park was nothing but positive. Shaded seats tucked into the 2nd deck provided a comfortable view of a pretty decent game. Roy Halladay vs. what’s left of Livan Hernandez. Jayson Werth facing his former team (and fans). Lots of homeruns. The Rushmores running wild both in the stands and on the field.  There was a lot to enjoy. Perhaps if the open outfield didn’t look onto a pair of parking garages, or if the surrounding neighborhood was more developed, or if there seemed to be more local fan support, it could be something truly special. There is red, white and blue (tastefully) everywhere. It’s easy to wander to different vantage points. It really is a lovely stadium.  And, since it was Memorial Day, I will even forgive them for playing schlocky country anthems to stir up the patriotism in the crowd just a few too many times. Besides, I’m fairly certain I sat next to this lady – in town for the Rolling Thunder event, no doubt. Good times.

Atmosphere: 7

Viewability: 8.5

Architecture: 7

Peanuts: 6


CITI FIELD – Flushing, NY

April 25, 2009 – Nationals 2, Mets 8 – I may have been the only person in America that was sad to see Shea Stadium go. But, that sorrow only lasted a day or two. Now, the Mets have a fantastic new home and Shea is rightfully a parking lot. Citi Field is cozy and comfortable and it is a very nice place to enjoy a game. The seats are all close (if not blocked by railings that are just a little too high) to the field and there is something to do or see seemingly everywhere you look. The outfield is huge, which makes the new, much larger, apple a bit of a rarer beast. Maybe it was the fact that this is the first Mets game I’ve been to that wasn’t brain-meltingly hot or subjected to freezing rain, but I had a great time.

Atmosphere: 7.5

Viewability: 9

Architecture: 8

Peanuts: 8


TROPICANA FIELD – St. Petersburg, FL

July 12, 2007 – Yankees 7, Rays 3 – Ah, summertime in the Bronx…er…I mean, Florida. That means it’s time for indoor baseball at its finest. Despite any misgivings I had going into this stadium, I have to say that, from a ballpark standpoint, it wasn’t nearly as bad as expected. From the velvety, shiny turf, to the multitude of midway-like activities around the stadi
um, to the DJ spinning tunes between innings…it is genuinely a fun place to watch baseball. Besides, it’s air conditioned! Fake baseball? Maybe. Awesome? Certainly not. Nice and cool? Absolutely. The only major negatives were the very uncomfortable seats and, of course, the fact that there were FOUR Yankee fans for every ONE Devil Ray fan might have also hampered the experience. Poor D-Rays.

Atmosphere: 6

Viewability: 7

Architecture: 5

Peanuts: 7


GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK- Cincinnati, OH

April 06, 2007 – Pirates 1, Reds 6 - Game time temperature: 32° F. By far the coldest game I have ever attended. This cozy, white and red gem on the Ohio river is far more quaint than its 42,000 capacity would suggest. It’s unabashedly river-themed – to the point that you expect the steamboat to actually launch at any moment – and unique enough to stand up to any of the other chic parks built over the last decade. Despite the cold, the small crowd was rowdy and energetic. There were mascots running amok and some dude won a year’s worth of pizza thanks to a Brandon Phillips homerun. Now, if someone would just tell the sound guy to stop playing lame, canned sound effects after EVERY foul ball…this place would be a great park to call home.

Atmosphere: 8

Viewability: 8

Architecture: 7

Peanuts: 5


BUSCH STADIUM (III)* – St Louis, MO

July 13, 2006 – Dodgers 2, Cardinals 3 – Upon arrival to the new ballpark ridiculously dubbed “Baseball Heaven,” one gets the feeling that it was kind of thrown together. Sort of “rushed” to completion. Well, any concern for the fake-looking bricks on the exterior quickly disappears once inside. The view of the skyline, the close-set seating and the ample vantage points make this brand new park a true rival of any in baseball. The Cards are beloved and the fans deserve this lovely stadium. And if they can just work on venting some of the overwhelming smoke from the countless grills in the concourses away from the spectators, they may have something really special. It’s not quite heaven, but it’s still pretty damn good.

Atmosphere: 8

Viewability: 9

Architecture: 7

Peanuts: 6


PETCO PARK – San Diego, CA

June 21, 2005 – Dodgers 1, Padres 2 – Despite the unforgivable name, the Padres new home was a source of great anticipation for me. “Let down” might be too strong a term…but not by much. While it is stunning on the exterior, inside was a little TOO retro. It reminded me of all the oldness and character of Yankee Stadium…which isn’t necessarily a good thing. There were some nice bits to it – the open park outside right-center, the unique light towers – but they were outnumbered greatly by the “not-so-nice.” My seat was upper deck, directly behind home plate. But, the deck is so steep and “close to the field” that if anyone in front of me leaned forward, I couldn’t see the plate. The park views open to a neighborhood that had better be revitalized, stat. The fans were rude (something i DON’T attribute to San Diego) and I felt very unwelcome overall. I’m willing to give it another shot.

Atmosphere: 6

Viewability: 6

Architecture: 8

Peanuts: 7


JACOBS FIELD – Cleveland, OH

June 14, 2005 – Rockies 2, Indians 11 – After a long stay atop my wish list, I finally made it to “the Jake.” I was not disappointed. It is a unique and spectacular place. A truly beautiful venue. I can only imagine what it was like to see a game there in the mid-90′s when every game was sold-out. As it is now, seats are quite easy to come by and I had a good one. Jacobs Field says bye-bye to things like symmetry and nose bleeds for a truly intimate and fantastic experience. Basically, I loved this park. My only complaint was that there were no good baseball fans around me. I would expect there to be a large number of knowledgeable and exciting fans in Cleveland. I’m sure there are…they just weren’t sitting near me this night.

Atmosphere: 8

Viewability: 9

Architecture: 9

Peanuts: 5


U.S. CELLULAR FIELD – Chicago, IL

June 13, 2005 – Diamondbacks 8, White Sox 1 – And the award for Greatest Over-Use of the Midi Music File Format goes to…THE BALLPARK FORMERLY KNOWN AS NEW COMISKEY PARK! That’s right, they played everything from AC/DC to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (not making that one up) in that oh-so-annoying Midi format; with an occasional organ ditty thrown in for good measure. It was horrible. As for the park itself, despite a recent, almost criminal name change, it’s very nice. Too nice, maybe, in that it has no real personality. At least that I could see. The 32,000 fans were into it and it is a beautiful park, but there is just nothing special about it. Sorry guys. But they do also get the award for Hottest Stadium Activities Girl. So…that’s a plus.

Atmosphere: 6

Viewability: 7

Architecture: 7

Peanuts: 8


CITIZENS BANK PARK- Philadelphia, PA

July 23, 2004 – Cubs 5, Phillies 1 – Having never before been to Philadelphia, I can say that my only impression of Veterans Stadium is the giant mud pit that remains where it stood until earlier this year. So, I have no reason to be nostalgic, or happy, or anything about it being gone. All I can do is praise the new home of the Phillies. As spacious and beautiful as any of the new parks. Not a truly bad seat in the entire place. Food that will delight your palette, clog your arteries and kick you in the stomach all at the same time. A great place. The baseball gods were smiling for sure when a day full of rain cleared just at game time. A flawless venue, a great game, and a still-unopened Phillies rain poncho: all things that make for a lovely, if extremely humid night.

Atmosphere: 7

Viewability: 9

Architecture: 8

Peanuts: 0 (unsalted = unacceptable)


PRO PLAYER STADIUM- Miami, FL

May 20, 2004 – Astros 2, Marlins 6 – I’ll be the first to admit that I had no particular “excitement” about going to this dual-purpose facility in southern Florida. Apparently I’m not the only one. But, despite very little character inside (though the exterior was surprisingly fresh) and the fact that maybe 5,000 people showed up to cheer on the defending World Champions, it was one of the better experiences I’ve had. Culminating with the fact that a policeman gave us free Club Level tickets when we walked up to the box office. And this much I know, the Club Level was a very nice indoor thoroughfare with access to some pretty great seats and all the niceties you need. All in all, you have to give it up for a baseball team with cheerleaders that follow the 7th inning stretch with an annoying, yet somehow catchy…”Everybody Do the Fish.” Whatever the hell that means.

Atmosphere: 5

Viewability: 8

Architecture: 6

Peanuts: 5


BANK ONE BALLPARK – Phoenix, AZ

June 20, 2003 – Reds 5, Diamondbacks 6 – On a day when it reached 108° outside, I was not surprised that the roof was closed at Bank One Ballpark upon my arrival. Just before the game began, the roof opened to powerful classical music, the pool in right field began to fill with people and we were in business. This oasis in the desert is incredibly family friendly…from the arcade to the caramel apples covered in M&M’s. A spacious, beautiful and surprisingly comfortable place to experience a game, for sure. Plus, I sat in the 3rd row AND got a Bob Brenly mouse pad! And did i mention the pool?

Atmosphere: 8

Viewability: 7

Architecture: 7

Peanuts: 7


FENWAY PARK* – Boston, MA

April 20 2003 – Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 6 - If you want an intimate, storied, great baseball experience, there is only one place. Fenway Park is so unassuming from the outside but, despite it’s antiquity, it offers a truly rare view of our nation’s past time. Sure, the seats are uncomfortable. Sure, the concourses are uneven, but it’s Fenway. It might be cursed, but that doesn’t affect an afternoon of watching baseball as it was in a time gone by. NOTE: Since moving to Boston, I have attended a dozen or so more games at Fenway. My initial reaction still stands. I will only add that, love them or hate them, the Fenway Faithful are truly a sight to behold.

Atmosphere: 8

Viewability: 9

Architecture: 6

Peanuts: 7


EDISON INTERNATIONAL FIELD – Anaheim, CA

August 14, 2002 – Tigers 4, Angels 5 – Two words: Rally Monkey. In their 2002 World Championship campaign, the Angels relied heavily on this little guy. To see the spirit of the Rally Monkey at work…live…well, it’s something. Edison is another huge place. Thousands and thousands of empty seats – and there was a good crowd – as far as the eye can see. But, even though we all seemed spread apart, there is one, unifying force that shakes the entire place and brings everyone together in the 7th inning…”Rally Time!”

Atmosphere: 6 (8 when the monkey shows)

Viewability: 7

Architecture: 5

Peanuts: 6


PACIFIC BELL PARK – San Francisco, CA

August 06, 2002 - Cubs 10, Giants 11 – Finally, a worthy park for such an amazing city. There’s nothing quite like Pac Bell. Views of the Bay Bridge are fantastic. The cool air off the bay is exhilarating. And McCovey Cove is a great spectacle if you happen to get bored with the game. Simply, a gorgeous park in a gorgeous city. Definitely worth a ferry ride from the piers. Factor in the added bonus of seeing Barry Bonds hit home run number 599 in an absolute slug-fest…and it’s just electric.

Atmosphere: 8.5

Viewability: 7

Architecture: 9

Peanuts: 8


DODGER STADIUM – Los Angeles, CA

July 19, 2002 - Giants 3, Dodgers 2 – Quite possibly the most fun I’ve had at a game outside of KC. The Dodgers. The Giants. A race for the post-season. Insane fans. Close game. Cal-Tech students fashioning hovercrafts out of napkins. The Ravine is a great place. The seats were borderline uncomfortable and way too close together, but it’s all family in L.A. and everyone is there to root on the Dodgers. Except, of course, for the Giants fans interspersed in the crowd. Conflict, and baseball, at its best.

Atmosphere: 9

Viewability: 7

Architecture: 7

Peanuts: 7


NETWORK ASSOCIATES COLISEUM* – Oakland, CA

June 11, 2002 – Brewers 2, Athletics 11 – I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the coliseum. It’s big. It’s concrete. And it has all the character of a big, concrete coliseum. But, given the fact that I could wander and sit just about anywhere and enjoy the game from many different vantage points, you gotta have respect. And I loved the constant drumming from the left field bleachers, the A’s flags waved throughout like some sort of revolutionary celebration…and a simple, elephant mascot named Stomper – who spent most of the game all by himself in the upper reaches of the 5th deck of “Mt. Davis.” It’s an enjoyable place. Just make sure you bring a coat.

Atmosphere: 5

Viewability: 8

Architecture: 3

Peanuts: 7


ASTROS FIELD/MINUTE MAID PARK – Houston, TX

April 19, 2002 - Giants 3, Astros 2 – Enron Field. Minute Maid Park. Astros Field. Whatever you want to call it (it was the latter when I was there) it’s an anomaly. Maybe it’s the flag pole – in play – in center field. Maybe it’s the Valley of the Shadow of Death in left field. Or, perhaps, the train that rides the left-center field wall. It is a sight. Make fun all you want, but I really enjoyed it. These were hands-down some of the best outfield seats I’ve ever sat in. Very close to the field. Plus, while I was in Houston, I went to the Astrodome as well. “The Juice” is a much better place to see anything. Little quirks and all.

Atmosphere: 7

Viewability: 8

Architecture: 8

Peanuts: 6


PNC PARK – Pittsburgh, PA

August 11, 2001 – Padres 6, Pirates 2 – Inaugural year for a great, new park. Yellow stone, as opposed to red brick, gives PNC a unique look over it’s “retro” siblings. Excitement for the new park gave way to standing room only tickets. Which was okay, because the standing room offered a great view from the outfield. Lots of energy, the possibility of someone hitting one into the Allegheny, and bonus of all bonuses….Rickey Henderson…as oblivious and entertaining as ever. All things considered…a fantastic outing.

Atmosphere: 8

Viewability: 8

Architecture: 9

Peanuts: 7


SHEA STADIUM* – Flushing Queens, NY

August 08, 2001 – Brewers 4, Mets 5 – I am a Mets fan. There, I said it. They are my National League team. I was foolishly pumped to go to a game at Shea. Despite warnings from friends about it’s lack of comfort, for me, the experience was worth getting to see the boys play live. The seats weren’t bad. The heat (101°) was a little more cumbersome. I got to see the apple rise when Edgardo Alfonso hit a homer. And, I got to see Armando Benitez almost blow yet another save. As for Shea itself, or the “Big Blue Bowl” as it were, there are some bad seats, of course. Some good. And you can always walk over to Flushing Meadows Corona Park if you really get uncomfortable or bored.

Atmosphere: 6

Viewability: 6

Architecture: 4

Peanuts: too hot for peanuts


YANKEE STADIUM* – Bronx, NY

August 06, 2001 – Angels 3, Yankees 1 – The Mecca of baseball. The house that Ruth built. The cavernous enormity. The most evil place on earth. Growing up in Kansas City in the late 70′s and as a small market fan in general, I have to hate the Yankees. But, I don’t have to hate Yankee Stadium, right? True, it’s rich in all that is historical in baseball. True, I sat in the bleachers in right field and couldn’t see a thing. The experience was worth it, though, just to watch the angry, judgmental Yankees’ fans that sat around me as the pinstripes lost. To really appreciate a game there, I would have to sit somewhere closer*, but who can afford that? NOTE: I actually DID get back to Yankee stadium and sat in the upper deck on first base side in ’04. Despite feeling as if I was going to tumble to my death every time I stood up…it was a much better baseball experience.

Atmosphere: 8

Viewability: 4*

Architecture: 5

Peanuts: 7


SAFECO FIELD* – Seattle, WA

April 16, 2001 - Rangers 7, Mariners 9 – Seattle in April. Cold. Rainy. Gray. Yet, none of that matters when you’re tucked away inside Safeco Field. When the wind, unbearably, comes in off of Elliot Bay, they simply close the roof and all is well with the game and the world. It’s a beautiful park. I happened to be there for Alex Rodriguez’s first game as a Ranger after leaving Seattle, so the air was a little extra charged. It made for a great evening. You can eat fish, drink seemingly-unlimited amounts of coffee and they fresh roast their peanuts right there in front of you. So really, how can you go wrong?

Atmosphere: 8

Viewability: 8

Architecture: 8

Peanuts: 10


ORIOLE PARK at CAMDEN YARDS – Baltimore, MD

June 14, 2000 - Rangers 10, Orioles 11 – Easily one of my favorite ballparks. The original “retro style” park is truly unique. It’s beautiful. It’s active. And it has an iconic warehouse just over the left field fence that makes it instantly recognizable. Truly there is no other place like it. Great seats, and, more importantly, a variety of ways to view the game. To my great shame, this is one of the few games I have ever left early. It was raining and cold, and 2 1/2 hours in…it was still the 5th inning. The Orioles ended up winning in walk-off fashion. I still haven’t forgiven myself.

Atmosphere: 8

Viewabilty: 8

Architecture: 9

Peanuts: 6 (they were wet, after all)


BUSCH STADIUM (II)* – St. Louis, MO

June 07, 2000 – Royals 2, Cardinals 4 – Ah, the ’60s. Is there anything better than the “cookie cutter/multipurpose” stadium made famous in cities like Philadelphia, Cincinnati and St. Louis? The answer, obviously… is ‘yes.’ A LOT of things are better. Fortunately, they are all going by the wayside. Even more fortunately, is the fact that Busch Stadium is not like the others. for some reason, in St. Louis, it works. Maybe it’s the fact that the Cardinals don’t share it with a football team. All i know, is that Busch Stadium is a fun place to watch a game. Granted, I’ve never sat in the upper deck, but there’s a reason for that now isn’t there. It’s unique amongst it’s brethren. It’s thriving. And if you catch it at the right time of day, there are lovely sun spots all over the outfield.

Atmosphere: 7

Viewability: 7.5

Architecture: 5

Peanuts: 7


COORS FIELD – Denver, CO

August 19, 1999 – Braves 9, Rockies 7 – Coors Field is a very well-made “retro style” stadium – the first of the new style stadiums that I visited. It’s a very nice ballpark and it has a ton going for it. Snuggled downtown, it’s a contemporary, brick and steel, beauty of a park that, for whatever reason, left no real impression on me for good or for bad. It was not the best experience I’ve had at a baseball game…nor the worst. It just simply…was. Beautiful stadium? Absolutely. Great place to watch a ball game? Jury’s out. I’ll have to go back and see.

Atmosphere: 6

Viewability : 6.5

Architecture: 8

Peanuts: 6


WRIGLEY FIELD – Chicago, IL

June 25, 1999 – Phillies 3, Cubs 2 – What’s not to love? The history. The tradition. The friendly confines. Wrigley is as deserving of praise as any park in the majors. It’s quaint, surrounded by everyday city life, and, if you can’t get in…and you know someone, you can watch the game from a nearby rooftop. A gorgeous day, a great game…again I ask, what’s not to love? Even from “way up top” the views are great – unless you find yourself behind a post. And Cubs fans, for better or worse – and mostly worse, love their Cubbies. So, the experience is worth every cent.

Atmosphere: 9

Viewability: 9

Architecture: 6

Peanuts: 10


3COM (CANDLESTICK) PARK – San Francisco, CA

August 14, 1997 - Cubs 3, Giants 7 – I have to say that I love San Francisco. It is, quite possibly, my favorite city in the U.S. So, it was natural that my first foray outside of Kansas City was to see the Giants. That said, it was a happy, happy day when the city voted to build a new downtown stadium…and move the Giants out of 3com park. Don’t get me wrong, for a football game, there’s (allegedly) no place quirkier or better than the ‘Stick. But, for baseball, it was the dumps. Weird angles, Distant views. If not for the group of overly-excited Cubs fans I sat with, the experience would probably have been lost altogether.

Atmosphere: 5

Viewablity: 4

Architecture: 4

Peanuts: 5


KAUFFMAN STADIUM* – Kansas City, MO

Countless times from 1982-2004 – Royals – I grew up in Kansas City, so Kauffman Stadium (aka Royals Stadium or “The K”) has long been the stadium of note for me. I would say I am a little biased, but it is simply one of the best, most beautiful places to watch a baseball game in the country. There are few bad seats and an open outfield complete with the largest fountains in major league baseball. The fact that it is 30 years old and still in incredible shape and rivals any newer park out there, is more than impressive. NOTE: I got the chance to go back in June of 2010 after the massive renovations. The Old Girl looks great. Kauffman is still a Top-5 park for me. Now, even moreso than ever.

Atmosphere: 7

Viewablity: 8

Architecture: 6

Peanuts: 8

4 thoughts on “Vagabond Joe: Ballpark Tour

  1. Pingback: Ballpark Review: Washington Nationals | The Elitist Jerks' Sports Information Collective

  2. Pingback: My Wife Needs A New NFL Team | The Elitist Jerks' Sports Information Collective

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