30 Parks

American League: EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Boston: Fenway Park
New York: Yankee Stadium; Yankee Stadium (old)
Tampa Bay: Tropicana Field
Toronto: SkyDome
Chicago: U.S. Cellular Field
Cleveland: Progressive Field
Detroit: Comerica Park
Kansas City: Kauffman Stadium
Minnesota: Target Field
Anaheim: Angel Stadium
Houston: Minute Maid Park
Oakland: Oakland Coliseum
Seattle: Safeco Field; Kingdome
Texas: Globe Life Park in Arlington
National League: EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta: SunTrust Park; Turner Field
Miami: Marlins Park
New York: Citi Field
Philadelphia: Citizens Bank Park
Washington: Nationals Park
Chicago: Wrigley Field
Cincinnati: Great American Ball Park
Milwaukee: Miller Park
Pittsburgh: PNC Park; Three Rivers Stadium
St. Louis: Busch Stadium
Arizona: Chase Field
Colorado: Coors Field
Los Angeles: Dodger Stadium
San Diego: Petco Park
San Francisco: AT&T Park; Candlestick Park

If you've ever seen the movie Bull Durham, at one point Susan Sarandon's Annie declares "I believe in the church of baseball." If there is such a church, the ballpark has to be its cathedral. Over the past several years, visiting these cathedrals has become a minor obsession of mine - those thirty major league baseball stadiums are reflections of the city they inhabit, the communities they serve, the personality and history of their team and town, and of the history of baseball itself.

I grew up in the 1970s in small-town central Oregon, miles and miles and hours and hours from live major league baseball. My parents didn't even have TV, so I'd listen to the Giants on the radio each evening, and only got to see the stadiums in my mind's eye. My family was poor, so we never did expansive vacations - I think I was 34 before I traveled further east than Yellowstone Park. When I finally did get to travel, if there was a ballpark there I'd go, just one game, just to see how communities did their baseball. It wasn't until 2011, when on a work trip I managed to catch two games, one at each Chicago park, that I realized I'd now seen one third of the active parks, and that I could see the rest without too much work, and that it was fun to do these multi-game trips. Just as important for me, however, was that doing so would allow me to see parts of the country that I'd likely never visit, to explore America and see places I'd never otherwise see. I'm not done yet, and I'm glad of that - when I do hit 30 parks, I'll miss having that excuse to visit Milwaukee and, oh, as long as I'm there to go camping in the Upper Peninsula; to detour while halfway between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati over to see the Great Serpent Mound; to see some Broadway theatre in New York; or to go see the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

So, what you're going to find here is my thoughts on the various ballparks and the experience we (usually my wife and I) had there, as well as some notes on the game, the significance to me, and the community, and the trip. Mostly text, but some photos and ticket scans where I have them. You can see links over there at the upper right (and again at the bottom right), but otherwise, the parks are just listed in the order I've visited them.

If you're considering trips like these, I think I have only one piece of advice, and that's to keep in mind that it's a journey, not a race. I've read of people trying to do all 30 parks in the shortest time possible, and I just don't get it. If you're going to go to these wonderful places, why not take time to fully experience them? There are very few cities here that I don't wish I'd been able to spend more time in - take your time, and enjoy the ride, as for most of us many of these individual trips will be once in a lifetime journeys.


Candlestick Park, San Francisco

Candlestick Park. September 1, 1979. My first pro game. Somehow I talked my parents into taking us all the way down from our Oregon home to the Bay Area, so I could see my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates. I carefully picked over the schedule in the newspaper at the start of the season, and found a double-header (back in the days when they played double-headers), so I could get twice the baseball. Somehow, some way, I convinced them.

I was 14 then, and it's 30+ years since, so my memories are a bit colored by time, but man, was I awestruck. I don't remember much about the park itself, but seeing those larger than life players signing autographs early on was somehow awe-inspiring. I tried to go up and get something signed by someone, I didn't even know who it was, just that he was a Pirate, but I was told they were only signing for people wearing Pirate's gear, and I didn't own any. Kind of sucked, but I wasn't overly disappointed; I was happy just to be there.

We were lower deck, well behind the dugout on the third base side, and to tell the truth, I only have a few strong memories. I was a big Dave Parker fan (this was pre-coke, thank you very much), but he didn't play in either game. I think it was just a rest thing, a day off for him, though I've never known for sure. So, I kind of became a fan of someone else that day – Willie Stargell hit a couple of home runs during that first game, including one which was _incredibly_ powerful, halfway up the upper deck in right. I can still feel it landing. I have no clue what the actual distance was, or how common that was, but 14 year old me was awed, and I have a funny feeling that late 40-something year old me would be as well. I've been a Pops fan ever since that day.

My other big memory was the weird ending to the first game. With the Pirates up in the ninth, stick-thin reliever Kent Tekulve is in there and gets it to two out and a guy on. Out comes manager Chuck Tanner, and I can't figure why he's pulling Tekulve. Except he doesn't. He brings in someone else to pitch, and sends Tekulve out to play left field. I don't think I've ever heard of this happening before or since in the pros, but Tanner puts his usual closer out in left, thinking, I assume, that if the new pitcher doesn't get the out, he can bring Tekulve back in to pitch to the next guy. So, a pitch or two goes by, and then the batter lofts a huge long fly... to left field. Tekulve settles under it and catches the fly without incident, ending the game. Like the Stargell upper deck shot, I can still feel most of this over thirty years later– Tanner coming out, Tekulve heading out to left field, and the crowd reacting as they realize the ball is going out to him, and him coming in and making the catch. Wonderful wonderful first game for me.

The second game was unmemorable, to the point that I think I have no memories at all of it, save being part of a crowd of kids trying desperately to get a ball (and failing) as the players headed in to the dugout afterwards. I do remember "We Are Family" coming from the Pirates dugout after the second game ended. Yeah, that was the "Fam-a-lee" black and gold era, and that year the Pirates did go on and win the World Series against the Orioles, the last time they've done so. But those are my Pirates, still. I intend to review the parks, not the games, but for a 14 year old at his first games, the memory is the game, not the park. Candlestick itself seemed... unexceptional. I remember seeing no Giants history, no art, no interesting features, but I'm not sure 14 year old me would have noticed. It was just a big round stadium like any stadium. It wasn't bad, by any means, but it was just... there. Fans were polite, neither drunk nor rude, but not particularly excited for their team. But for me, at that age, it was all about the players, getting to see Bill Madlock, Phil Garner, Tekulve, Stargell, and many more that I knew only through the radio and sports pages (another favorite, John Candelaria, didn't pitch that day, unfortunately). I did get back to Candlestick in the late '90s for a couple of football games, but my Candlestick wasn't the stadium, it was that Pirates black and gold on the field.

ScoreDateSeats
Pittsburgh Pirates 5, San Francisco Giants 31979-09-01~ 4 / 3 / 3BoxscoreNews Scan
Pittsburgh Pirates 7, San Francisco Giants 21979-09-01~ 4 / 3 / 3BoxscoreNews Scan

Kingdome, Seattle

I sort of grew up, did college, and always stayed in the middle of nowhere, baseball-wise. Come 1992, Francisco Cabrera, and the dismantling of my Pirates due to free agency, closely followed by 1994 and the baseball strike, I pretty much stopped following baseball. Excepting a Triple-A game in Salt Lake City (the Buzz!) in 1994, I have next to no baseball memories between 1992 and 1998. The 1998-2000 seasons are the only times in my life that I've lived in a MLB city, Seattle, but again... "didn't care." Sportswise, I was all about NFL, with NBA a distant second and MLB not even on my radar. I saw two Mariner games in the Kingdome (spring '98 and spring '99), both with groups of my wife's friends. Neither made much of an impression – in the first one, I know Junior had hit grand slams in two consecutive games, and he came to bat bases loaded in the middle innings with a chance to hit a third, which would have been an MLB first. Didn't happen, though. The other memory is the Ms putting in Heathcliff Slocumb in relief in the 9th with the bases loaded, and the whole stadium immediately starting to boo, much to my laugh-out-loud surprise and amusement. Slocumb, in the perfect response to those boos, immediately gave up a grand slam, cementing the Ms loss. The second game, the following spring, I have no memories of. The Kingdome was just a big cement ball; like watching baseball in a big wide cave. The field was artificial and the color looked it, a not quite natural yellow-green. I can remember Junior floating around in center field, which seemed freakin' huge, and little more. I did catch a half dozen Seahawks (NFL) games in the ‘Dome, first in 1991 and then a bunch from 1997-2000, and it's actually very hard to realize that they were the same places – ‘Hawks games were crowded, rockin', and exciting. Mariners games really were, despite being well-attended, like watching baseball in a hollow empty cavern.

ScoreDateSeats
Minnesota Twins 8, Seattle Mariners 21998-04-25324 / 13 / 109-110Boxscore
Toronto Blue Jays 9, Seattle Mariners 31999-05-01202 / 6 / 1-2Boxscore

Safeco Field, Seattle

In summer 1999, the Ms opened Safeco Field. Still not a baseball guy, I didn't much care. In September, I got invited to see a game with some coworkers, and for some reason my wife and I decided we'd rather see the park together first. We ended up going down a couple of days before my work get-together, on our wedding anniversary, actually. Turns out the game was sold out, but we sprang for scalper cheap bleacher seats, usually $5 but we paid double, $10. And boom, just like that I fell in love with baseball again.

Safeco was (and is) amazing. Green, open air, beautiful brick, clear skies. It was a gorgeous day, with views of Rainier, of the Sound, of the city. Lots of ballpark art – the giant glove out front, the player cutouts over that entrance, the glass bat chandelier, and coolest of all for me was the license plate art representing all the MLB teams. It didn't hurt in the least that the game ended on a walk off home run, David Bell, in the 10th, just clearing center field and touching off an on-field and in the stands celebration. My wife and I were both hooked.

In those days, the Ms were okay, a little bit under .500, but about to get better. They'd made the playoffs during my "who cares" years, in '95 and '97, but slid back a bit since. There was every reason for the Ms to fall apart – they'd already lost Randy Johnson in the middle of ‘98, and were pretty much expecting to lose Junior after '99, as did happen, with A-Rod's exit upcoming for 2000. But there was a spirit and a life there, a joy in that new park. Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez may have been, and still may be, the soul of the Ms. 2000 brought in Mike Cameron (who was just a bundle of enthusiasm and spirit), Kasuhiro Sasaki, John Olerud, Rickey Henderson. I caught about nine games before we left Seattle for good – I remember being happy to see an A-Rod home run before he left town; I treasure the low chants of Ed-gaaaarrrr; I remember getting to sit in a luxury box (still the only time I've done so) and watching avidly for my first viewing of new closer Kaz. I remember sitting in left field during the Ms first ever (and still only) home rain delay – the new closable roof got stuck, and it took them 45 minutes to get it working again. And so strongly I remember the last game I saw before leaving town, high in the second deck in right field, watching as the Mariners beat the ChiSox to close out a three-game playoff series, followed by Cameron bringing the players back out for a celebratory victory lap, spraying champagne into the crowds at the center field deck. It always looked like these Ms loved the fans as much as the fans loved them; I've only seen that once more since, at the end of 2009.

Since moving out of Seattle we've been a five hour drive away, but I've always made it back for between one and five games a year, and the experience has never faded. In that time from 2001 to present, Mariners memories include first seeing Ichiro at the game which coincidentally gave away his first bobblehead (which I still have and treasure), and then just 16 years later standing up out in the Kings Court watching him hit a home run in his final Safeco at bat; loving the pageantry of Opening Day in 2007 (my first time seeing Felix pitch in person); enjoying the feeling of history when we saw someone's 3000th hit but being let down just as far less than a month later when the guy got busted for steroids (thank you Rafael Palmiero for crushing my wife's baseball appreciation for a number of years). I saw all three games in 2007 when my Pirates finally came to Seattle for the first time, and both their games again in each of 2013 and 2016. The near misses sting – tickets for early September 2001 had to go unused after 9/11 rescheduled the games to a time I couldn't make the drive over; I gave them to a friend and he watched the Mariners' record-tying 116th win with them. In 2012 we did a weekend trip over for theatre one night and Ms the other night, and the Ms threw a no-hitter on the theatre night - if only I'd scheduled it the other way around! But far and away the best trip was the end of 2009 – we had first row seats in centerfield on the next to the last day of the season, with an amazing Guti catch right in front of us, and what would prove to be the last home run of Junior's career hit well off to our left – it fell between the bleachers and the field, and the Ms locker room chef, who was sitting in groundskeeper seats just a seat or so away from us, sprinted down into the depths and came out with the ball. The next night we sprang for Diamond Club tickets, still the one-and-only time we've done that, from which we loved watching Felix pitch from as close as we'd ever been, and watched as the sub-.500 team carried both Junior and Ichiro around the field on their shoulders afterwards. It felt like they'd won the pennant, not yet another losing year. At some level, I wish Griffey had retired then, that that had been his last baseball moment, not the semi-fiasco season which followed. Still one of my best baseball moments, nonetheless.

ScoreDateSeats
Seattle Mariners 4, Minnesota Twins 31999-09-17392 / 9 / 9-10Boxscore
Kansas City Royals 10, Seattle Mariners 91999-09-20~ 117 / 33 / 10Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 4, Colorado Rockies 12000-06-06S59 / 1 / 11Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 13, Texas Rangers 52000-07-22 🌧381 / 5 / 12-13Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 6, Toronto Blue Jays 5 (13 innings)2000-07-29128 / 35 / 15Boxscore
Minnesota Twins 4, Seattle Mariners 22000-09-08116 / 8 / 1-2Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 7, Minnesota Twins 22000-09-09144 / 8 / 15-16Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 6, Texas Rangers 42000-09-27341 / 12 / 7-8Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 2, Chicago White Sox 1 (playoffs)2000-10-06211 / 6 / 2Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 5, Minnesota Twins 12001-07-28 🎁381 / 7 / 20-21Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 5, New York Yankees 22002-08-18310 / 25 / 1Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 6, Texas Rangers 5 (11 innings)2002-09-16380 / 5 / 1-2Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 3, Texas Rangers 2 (10 innings)2002-09-17104 / 33 / 5-6Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 13, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 22003-07-13141 / 17 / 11-12Boxscore
Texas Rangers 7, Seattle Mariners 32003-07-27107 / 25 / 13-14Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 3, Baltimore Orioles 22003-08-29331 / 21 /14-15Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 13, Baltimore Orioles 12003-08-30105 / 31 / 3-4Boxscore
Minnesota Twins 5, Seattle Mariners 12004-05-05114 / 3 / 5Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 7, Cleveland Indians 52004-07-18147 / 38 / 1-2Boxscore
Baltimore Orioles 6, Seattle Mariners 32005-07-15 🎈212 / 2 / 5-6Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 3, Baltimore Orioles 22005-07-16152 / 36 /9-10Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 4, Cleveland Indians 12006-05-06132 / 20 / 11Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 4, Oakland As 02007-04-02 🌅314 / 15 / 5-6Boxscore
Pittsburgh Pirates 5, Seattle Mariners 32007-06-19142 / 11 / 9Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 7, Pittsburgh Pirates 02007-06-20142 / 9 / 7Boxscore
    
ScoreDateSeats
Seattle Mariners 3, Pittsburgh Pirates 02007-06-21119 / 4 / 7Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 14, Oakland As 102007-07-29136 / 20 / 9-10Boxscore
Chicago White Sox 8, Seattle Mariners 42008-05-10127 / 20 / 5-6Boxscore
Washington Nationals 5, Seattle Mariners 22008-06-14133 / 40 / 15Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 2, Texas Rangers 12009-10-03104 / 23 / 3-4Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 4, Texas Rangers 32009-10-04 🏁33 / H / 10-11Boxscore
Texas Rangers 2, Seattle Mariners 0 (12 innings)2010-04-30 🎁108 / 30 / 23Boxscore
Oakland As 5, Seattle Mariners 32010-10-02227 / 1 / 7-8Boxscore
Oakland As 4, Seattle Mariners 32010-10-03 🏁151 / 28 / 11-12Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 5, Florida Marlins 12011-06-24143 / 1 / 6Boxscore
Detroit Tigers 6, Seattle Mariners 42012-05-08110 / 23 / 1 -> 109 / 41 / 14Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 2, Detroit Tigers 12012-05-09333 / 1 / 17Boxscore
Los Angeles Dodgers 8, Seattle Mariners 32012-06-09186 / 1 / 27-28Boxscore
Pittsburgh Pirates 9, Seattle Mariners 42013-06-25103 / 23 -> 29 / 13Boxscore
Pittsburgh Pirates 4, Seattle Mariners 22013-06-26141 / 1 / 9Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 4, Detroit Tigers 02014-06-01CafeLO / 1 / 1-2Boxscore
Boston Red Sox 4, Seattle Mariners 22015-05-16237/ 2 / 5-6Boxscore
Chicago White Sox 6, Seattle Mariners 32015-08-22 🎁106 / 32 / 23-24Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 6, Kansas City Royals 02016-04-30 🎁247 / 1 / 13-14Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 5, Pittsburgh Pirates 22016-06-28108 / 24 / 11Boxscore
Pittsburgh Pirates 8, Seattle Mariners 12016-06-29141 / 2 / 11Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 6, Miami Marlins 1 2017-04-17234 / 1 / 9Boxscore
Miami Marlins 5, Seattle Mariners 02017-04-18108 / 23 / 1Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 10, Miami Marlins 52017-04-19 🎁149 / 17 / 10Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 9, New York Mets 12017-07-30184 / 1 / 7-8Boxscore

Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh

I'd grown up a Pirates (and Steelers) fan, as previously noted, and the two teams finally looked to replace their shared stadium-style park, Three Rivers Stadium, after their respective 2000 seasons. In September 2000, my wife and I made a pilgrimage to Pittsburgh to see Three Rivers before it went away for good. We saw two games there, one baseball, one football. Our baseball experience was incredibly pleasant. Three Rivers Stadium had little going for it – a big circular stadium with little to no baseball flavor. There was an absolutely gorgeous Clemente statue outside, and lots of black and gold (as much Steelers as Pirates), but beyond that, little real flavor. Still, it was a beautiful day, and open air baseball has its charm no matter where. The crowd was light, but polite and enthusiastic, and the opponent had a player chasing .400 (Todd Helton of the Rockies; he did pull a couple of hits in the game), so it was a charming afternoon if an unexceptional setting. It was a much better park for a football game, though the crowds at that football game were so obnoxious and unruly that we actually kind of hated it. There's something to be said for watching games between losing teams – sure, there may be less fans and less excitement/tension, but the fans who are there are there because they love the game, not because their own self-image is tied up in how well their team does nor in putting down the other team. Still, Pittsburgh was a beautiful city, we had a great time, and I was happy when I got to go back again in 2008 and 2013. Which, being a new park by that time, is a story for a later post.

ScoreDateSeats
Colorado Rockies 9, Pittsburgh Pirates 22000-08-27232 / F / 1-2Boxscore

SkyDome, Toronto

Park number five for me came in 2003, when I went to Toronto for a conference and the Jays happened to have a home game there at SkyDome. I got to see the field from inside a night or two before the actual game, when a work party took place inside one of the luxury boxes, and the view from up there was pretty cool, I do confess, looking out on the domed field from high above. When the game rolled around, well, I was less impressed. Much like Candlestick, Kingdome, and Three Rivers, once again I was watching baseball in a big round stadium, lacking in any real flavor, spirit, or fun. We had great seats, mostly because almost no one was there, but the only thing which really sticks with me was the closeness of the outfield wall, looking up at the hotel rooms in centerfield and wanting to someday see the view from up there. That and being able to look up at the CN Tower was very cool. An enjoyable afternoon, but not at all memorable – it kind of reinforced my feeling that Seattle's Safeco was a baseball haven, the kind of place the rest of the world should be envious of.

ScoreDateSeats
Toronto Blue Jays 13, Baltimore Orioles 42003-06-23123 / 23 / 105-106Boxscore

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

In 2005, my wife interviewed for a job an hour outside of Kansas City, so we caught a Royals-Yankees game there. The Royals were kind of awful, as they usually seem to be; they had the worst record in MLB at the time, had lost six in a row, and had just hired a new manager. So, we saw new manager Buddy Bell's first game, and it was a fun and exciting one as they beat the powerful Yankees, and would actually go on to sweep the Yanks. Can't argue with that! The park itself is out in the middle of nowhere, at the intersection of a couple of freeways, with absolutely nothing nearby but parking lots and Arrowhead Stadium. There's also no lightrail, and with nothing nearby, well, if you're going, you're driving. Of the parks I've been to before and since, it remains both by far the least convenient to get to and has the least to do nearby. From outside, it looked like half a stadium, with the side behind the outfield being low and open, but once we got inside and were looking at that outfield, it was quite lovely. The area beyond the outfield was full of fountains (no seats whatsoever), and it was just a gorgeous setting looking out that way across the field. Behind the bases, well, maybe not so much - I remember this being the first park I visited that shared its players' history in displays and exhibits in the concourses, and I enjoy seeing that, but there's little to speak about beyond that. We were in lower level seats, and never went into the upper levels (after all, being in the middle of nowhere there didn't seem to be much to see), so I remember the whole thing as being a lovely low open park. Oh, yeah, the Royals pitcher that day went on to have a bit of a career - a guy named Zack Greinke, then in his second year and just 0-6 on the year before this win. Kauffman has been renovated since we were there, and is apparently significantly changed and modernized and made even more fun. I'd love to make a return visit and see what the park is like today.

And in late 2017, I got that chance. I ended up driving cross-country for work, so I lined up that trip to let me tour Busch Stadium one morning, and then catch a game at Kauffman that night (with a starter from my old alma mater to boot, first time that's happened for me!). My impressions are much the same - park still in the middle of nowhere, but still great! The outfield concourse is new, and a great space, and the fountains there are wonderful as always. I'm recommending the cheesy corn brisket nachos as, despite sounding seriously overkill, being really delicious. I usually hate tall scoreboards that out-rise the stadium, but somehow it works for the crowned KC scoreboard-tron here. I was in the upper decks here this time around, and that dates to the '80s and feels it. Crumbling concrete, clogged drains with molding food in them, just kind of yuck. But stay in the lower section and you'll have a great time!

As an aside, the best baseball part of any KC trip isn't actually the Royals/Kauffman, but a visit to the Negro Leagues Museum, somewhere way out in the suburbs of KC. There's some level at which it feels like it's done a bit on the cheap, but it has a wonderful vibe to it, and the stories and the way they are told is just fascinating. It's all built around moving around an indoor field, almost like visiting a teeny tiny park and touring your way around the concourse. If you're at all interested in MLB and the history of baseball (and if you're bothering to read this, I'd assume that you are), this is an essential part of any KC trip - don't miss it.

ScoreDateSeats
Kansas City Royals 5, New York Yankees 32005-05-31126 / D / 5-6Boxscore
Minnesota Twins 4, Kansas City Royals 22017-09-07427 / A / 1Boxscore

Coors Field, Denver

My seventh park came on a work trip (I went to Denver twice for work, in 2006 and 2007, and then returned a decade later with my wife): Coors Field. This was the first (outside Safeco) of the new post-Camden generation of ballparks I'd been to, and so I was quite curious as to what to expect. Truth to tell, I'm still not sure what I think of it. It has some lovely elements, but there's not a lot that stood out about it overly strongly. You'll want to be in the infield looking out, because from the outfield looking in its positively generic. Looking outwards, though - the rockpile/garden/waterfalls/fountains area in the outfield next to the bullpens is absolutely gorgeous, and is probably my favorite single space in any ballfield. The mile-high row of purple seats is very cool. I found in 2017 that they did a very cool thing at the main gate, giving that night's line-up via giant baseball cards over the main entryway. And then, well, it's a lovely brick ballpark. It looks like it is missing the sense of history that I love, but then it turns out that almost of all their history is in club-level cases, locked away from Joe Average baseball fan. It's still many steps above the circular arenas, but... to me, it's just several steps solidly above average as a ballpark. It may share what some people cite as Safeco's flaw - there's no one big thing there that says "this is Coors Field." Outside that outfield, it's a tad unremarkable. That said, it is a very good park, in a very charming setting, with a lovely old train station right there and old brick buildings (now commercialized, of course) across the way. It may suffer a bit from the other sides of the park being overdeveloped around it and ameliorating the flavor, a victim of its own success. All in all though it very much has an old west, or southwest, feel, as hard as that might be to imagine in a modern era ballpark; that feeling is actually one of the most charming things about it. If it were my park, I could fall in love with it. As a visitor, it's just a good place to catch a game.

ScoreDateSeats
Colorado Rockies 8, Toronto Blue Jays 32006-05-19141 / 5 / 9Boxscore
Colorado Rockies 10, Cincinnati Reds 9 (10 innings)2007-06-03153 / 3 / 2Boxscore
Cincinnati Reds 8, Colorado Rockies 12017-07-04 🎆321 / 1 / 18-19Boxscore

Yankee Stadium, New York

Park number eight. Much like I'd gone to see Three Rivers before they tore it down, I wanted to see Yankee Stadium before it went away. So, my first ever visit to NYC (2007) involved a Yankees game on my second night there. It's kind of a ways out, but easy to get to by subway, so it's very much a quintessential NY experience making the trip out. Kind of a fun neighborhood too, with lots of small and affordable ethnic restaurants nearby. But the park... ever been in an old abandoned building, where it kind of has that urine smell where kids or bums or someones have relieved themselves and there's been no one to clean it? That's what the Yankee Stadium main concourse smelled like. I don't know if it had been that way for years, or if it was because they were about to tear it down anyway, but... my first reaction was pretty much "yuck." The stadium and field itself were fun and pretty enough, and the fans were into the game in a rowdy but not rude sort of way. I'd certainly rank Yankee fans as some of the best out there. By the by, this game was the first time I've ever seen my Mariners on the road, but fans were respectful of my Ms loyalties; only on the subway back did I hit some rude drunk "fans" who felt a need to be unpleasant. In any case... missing was evidence of the team's rich history, and "Monument Park" was, to be blunt, boring. Simple plaques, nothing more. Having heard so much about the fabled Yankee Stadium I'd come hoping to be wowed (perhaps my expectations were much too high), but really, it felt like an aging oversized high school stadium to me.

ScoreDateSeats
New York Yankees 10, Seattle Mariners 22007-09-05505 / B / 3-4Boxscore

PNC Park, Pittsburgh

In 2008, I returned to Pittsburgh for a work conference, and took the chance to catch two games at PNC, and I later caught two more in 2013. Um... wow. Of the parks I've seen, PNC is one of two where the view is so impressive that you can find yourself paying more attention to that than to the game (the second is AT&T Park in San Francisco). If you ever go, sit on the third base side, just for that view. In any case... even before you get in, you find Pirate history on the outside, in the form of statues of Clemente (carried over from its old home at Three Rivers), Stargell, Honus Wagner, and Bill Mazeroski. I know the Yankees have more significant players, but the statues of those four are so much more engaging than the rows of plaques in Yankee Stadium. There's also a set of maybe eight statues in one back corner alley documenting Pittsburgh's Negro League experiences, players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell, plus in 2013 they were showing a great 20 minute film there on the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays. I love parks which embrace their city's baseball history. Backing up a bit... the riverwalk, and crossing the Clemente Bridge to get in... there's a feeling of coming to someplace, maybe not holy but certainly someplace beautiful. How many parks is it a great experience just going to the park? If on your first visit to PNC you end up parked on the Stadium lot, before the game walk across the bridge and back – you will not regret it! Inside, the white and yellow rock is beautiful, the whole place is scenic, and even the scoreboard animations seemed extra fun, with Pirates of the Caribbean themed intros in 2008. The uniqueness of the intros and animations stood out in 2013, as they apparently made a conscious choice not to steal from other MLB teams, and so there were none of the familiar tunes and animations you see in every other park. This is just a place where you want to go and soak in the atmosphere. The downside is the games are lightly attended, but at least the fans who are there are supportive. My favorite park, hands down.

Can I also recommend a run out to the University of Pittsburgh, to visit the site where Forbes Field used to stand? First find the original home plate location inside one of the buildings, then walk out and follow the old outfield line (bricked into the sidewalk – look for it and some significant-event plaques) until you find the remaining actual outfield wall, complete with the outfield distances still painted into it. With the trees having grown up around it, this has a very baseball-sacred feel. Finally, go over to the Cathedral of Learning and recreate the classic photo of fans watching the Mazeroski World Series game from 35 stories above the field. A great baseball-history side trip!

ScoreDateSeats
Pittsburgh Pirates 6, Toronto Blue Jays 32008-06-21 🎁29 / J / 8Boxscore
Toronto Blue Jays 8, Pittsburgh Pirates 52008-06-22116 / N / 5Boxscore
Pittsburgh Pirates 4, Seattle Mariners 12013-05-07 🐶316 / A / 27-28Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 2, Pittsburgh Pirates 12013-05-08123 / F/ 5-6Boxscore

AT&T Park, San Francisco

Parks numbers ten and eleven came about when I spent a couple of weeks in the Bay Area in 2009 for some work training, and managed to see a game in AT&T Park and a game in the Oakland Coliseum. I hit both again in 2015 when my wife, who hadn't seen either, had a work conference scheduled into SF. Each park is a very different experience...

AT&T Park was first of the two (both trips); before discussing the park I have to note that first game. I managed to miss the good Giants pitchers, and saw instead a guy named Jonathan Sanchez, who gave up seven runs on ten hits and didn't even get out of the fourth inning. Blowout, dull game. Sanchez was so bad that they sat him down after his next start, and his following start (ten days after I saw him) only came due to an injury to another pitcher. In that game (which needless to say, I wasn't at), he threw a no-hitter. Baseball. Go figure.

In any case, the park... hands down the most gorgeous setting in baseball. I think everyone knows about the view of the Bay Bridge, and about McCovey Cove beyond left field. This is a park that has to be seen to be believed. Even without the external views the field and inside is just lovely; that short wall in right is gorgeous. I love the hopeful anticipation of a splash hit as well, but it's unfortunately pretty rare, maybe a one-in-sixteen chance per game. No "signature" food (sorry, but the Safeco garlic fries are better), but the selections are very diverse and very good; the hot caramel corn is particular is amazing. My only real quibble: traffic and parking are horrible; don't drive here! The BART and the connecting trolley lines are nearby, so just plan on getting there by rail. Oh, and what's with programs that don't include rosters and/or news on the visiting teams? C'mon, Giants, there's two teams on the field! Anyway, that all said, go early, and spend a lot of time wandering the park (and do walk around this park first!). You won't regret it. But bring a coat – it gets cold, even on warm nights.

ScoreDateSeats
Los Angeles Angels 8, San Francisco Giants 12009-06-16121 / H / 5Boxscore
Colorado Rockies 8, San Francisco Giants 62015-06-26 🎆313 / 2 / 13-14Boxscore

Oakland Coliseum, Oakland

At the other end of the MLB spectrum is Oakland Coliseum (corporatized to O.co Coliseum by my second visit). Big round cookie cutter stadium, in a very unpleasant setting. However, where other cookie cutters have this nice circular "built for baseball" setting inside, in Oakland they've turned half of their cookie cutter into a big solid square block of football luxury boxes. As these are in the outfield they're also empty for baseball. There is no uglier outfield in the majors; the closest might be SkyDome, but in that case you've at least got the cool factor of the hotel rooms to break it up (and CN Tower to look up at, if the roof is open). Worse, the fans (and I use this term loosely) in Oakland are the only fans I've seen who didn't support their own team. I've seen lots of fans in lots of cities boo their own team or players when they're unhappy with their performance or playing, but only in Oakland have I watched the fans sit there in their home colors and heckle their own players non-stop throughout the game. However... on my second visit, things had changed. Though the game was pretty sparsely attended, there was a small but forceful almost soccer-level of fans in the outfield bleachers, drumming and chanting and flag-waving throughout. A drastic turnaround from 2009 to 2015; I only heard one heckle and it may have come from a visiting fan, for all I know. Further, I don't know if they've repainted or something has changed, but their A's green seemed ever so charming on this second time through. I once heard a comment somewhere that the nice thing about the A's experience is that it's all baseball - no views, no games, no art, no carnivality, just baseball. That felt very true - in AT&T, the view and park are so gorgeous that the game is secondary to everything else, that it almost doesn't matter compared to the view and the park. In Oakland, the game is all that matters. While after my first experience I really had no plans to ever go back, after my second visit I've now changed 180 degrees and I'd love to go back. Still an ugly setting with a bad stadium and an ugly view, but now a charming evening nonetheless. I'll also note - very divy seeming neighborhood, but like AT&T it too is right on the BART and so I'd recommend the train. But there's also tons of parking there to boot.

ScoreDateSeats
San Francisco Giants 4, Oakland As 12009-06-23117 / 20 / 9Boxscore
Oakland As 7, Colorado Rockies 12015-06-29114 / 8 / 3-4 Boxscore

Fenway Park, Boston

Park twelve: Fenway Park, in Spring 2010. This, with (old) Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, constitute for me the holy trinity of ballparks, the three I absolutely had to experience in person during my lifetime. Unfortunately, as with Yankee Stadium, I was disappointed. To be fair, I think a lot of my problem arose simply from bad seats. They weren't far out, but they were two rows behind an aisle (and right next to a walkway back into the concourse), and the stadium simply does not go up. Effectively, I spent the full game watching people walk in front of me, and think I saw less than one half of the actual plays. This is something no modern ballpark would ever let happen, but, well, this is no modern ballpark. We did do the ballpark tour in the morning before the game, and that was charming. When empty, this is a lovely park inside and out, with an aged but not decrepit feel. The neighborhood around it is fun (in an old-time brick warehousey way), and the staff there were cool and knowledgeable. We stayed a block or two away at the Buckminster Hotel, which was affordable, charming, and, we later learned, where the Black Sox scandal was born. But my god is the park itself badly designed. It's also cramped – what feels charming and inviting while empty becomes crowded and unpleasant when full. My advice to those who've asked me about Fenway has always been this: "Definitely go to the park, and whatever you do, do not miss the morning ballpark tour before the game. But... don't go to an actual game." For the true fans, I cadge that to say that you shouldn't go unless you know your seats will allow you to watch the game. It is a lovely park, it has great history, and the fans there are good. Maybe we just had bad seat luck. But I don't think I'll ever truly like Fenway, our viewing experience was so awful. Complete aside... since I couldn't really see the game itself, my one strong Fenway memory is watching a vendor wandering around in nonstop rain trying to sell plastic wrapped cotton candy. Who in god's name is ever going to buy cotton candy, which dissolves when wet, in the middle of moderate rainfall????

ScoreDateSeats
Boston Red Sox 3, Minnesota Twins 22010-05-1988 / FF / 1-2Boxscore

Wrigley Field, Chicago

Parks thirteen and fourteen: In summer of 2011, I visited Chicago for the first time, for a conference, and managed to schedule games at Wrigley before, and US Cellular after. I have to note... Chicago was a city I'd never really heard anything positive about, but it proved to be a beautiful city, with lots of incredible things to do, easy to get around, with charming people, and good food. Highly recommended! Both parks were good experiences as well.

As I just noted, (old) Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field were my holy trinity of ballparks, and after being disappointed with the first two, I was more than a little trepidatious about Wrigley. Happily, my fears were groundless. Wrigley is a gorgeous park, well maintained, with good food, good fans (mostly), and cool features galore. I'll get the one negative out of the way first – while most fans were okay, quite a few were drunk, loud, and completely ignored the game. My least favorite was the foursome who showed up about the fourth inning and spent the whole game loudly bitching (a couple rows behind us) about their work/office issues. While in the name of anything would you spend good money on baseball tickets and not bother watching the game? That aside- the ivy is beautiful. The park feels like an old-time experience, but completely modern; this is what Fenway should have been. We loved looking at the seats on the rooftops across the way from the outfield, we loved the roaming band in old-timey outfits, we loved the small traditions like the guest leading Take Me Out to the Ballgame (in our case: Chip Caray, Braves broadcaster and grandson of Cubs legend Harry Caray), or the W/L flag that goes up after the game. Wonderful wonderful wonderful experience. I would like to have seen a bit more Cubs history be evident, but maybe the whole "no Series since 1906" thing makes it feel like salt in their wounds, so we'll let that slide.

ScoreDateSeats
Chicago Cubs 3, Atlanta Braves 22011-08-2438 / 6 / 105-106Boxscore

U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago

Chicago fans are doubly blessed, as I found U.S. Cellular to also be a great baseball park. The only flaw I saw might be that it's got a little bit of the Kansas City disease, a park kind of out in the middle of nowhere, but the El does take you right there and then you only have a short hike through a chunk of empty parking lot to get there. That may be an unfair observation since we didn't really see what lies on the other sides of the park, but it did kind of feel that way. One of the things I absolutely loved was the way they embrace their history. This ballpark reminds me of Safeco in the way that art seems to be all over, but most of the Sox's deals with the team history. There's a fun and fascinating statue outside the main entrance honoring their recent Series win, and inside they have the best statue gallery I've seen so far, hands down. There is no second level seating beyond the outfield, and at the top of the first level is a wide open walkway or terrace that connects all the way around, and this may be my favorite baseball space in any of the parks. It's got great views, lots of sun, and a wonderful series of life-sized statues of the Sox "greats." There's something about this area that is just so welcoming, and makes you feel connected to the team. The fans here were great as well, supportive and good-natured. My wife will never forgive me if I don't mention the food; the "corn off the cob" here is absolutely delicious, not to mention cheap (as ballpark food goes). We also found a frozen margarita place out in the outfield courtyard which has us thirsty for margaritas every time we hit a ballpark in hot weather since. This park might have a not-great location, a semi-awful name, and absolutely nothing in the way of setting/scenery, but once we got there I found it to be one of our most charming and welcoming experiences.

ScoreDateSeats
Chicago White Sox 3, Minnesota Twins 02011-08-29150 / 31 / 7-8Boxscore

Coming off those two Chicago parks, I started to realize that I could conceivably eventually visit all the major league parks; I'd now seen 14 MLB parks, though four of those no longer were in play, so I'd actually seen one third of the active parks. I knew I wanted to go back to NYC, so I sat down with a 2012 schedule and did some planning. Lo and behold, a trip fell into place wherein during one eight-day stretch I could catch games in the following parks in order, all traveling by train and light rail without ever needing a car: (new) Yankee Stadium, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Field, Citi Field. Throw in four Broadway plays and another play in DC, and it's quite the trip. As that bald guy says, make it so...

Yankee Stadium, New York

(New) Yankee Stadium is, shall we say, a singular experience, as ballparks go. Honestly, it's a bit closer to palace than park. I'm pretty sure its white granite (or maybe plain old concrete), not marble, but it has that marble feel. Okay, let's just get this out of the way now, so we can move on to the details... Yankee Stadium feels like a park built as a big monument to the Yankees and to its own excess, but does not feel like it's a park built for (or with any concern for) the fans. There, I said it. It's monumental. It is, in a great many places, absolutely beautiful. But it's also not comfortable, friendly, or cozy. The message I got was "come and marvel" not "come and have a good time." What I did like... the field is beautiful, and there are great sight lines. The Yankee museum was a wonderful way of connecting fans to the history in a personal way (we didn't make it to Monument Park on this trip, but can I just say that in looking at it beyond the field and seeing George Steinbrenner's name on the wall there many times larger than I guess what they consider to be lesser figures like Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, and the other Yankee legends, well, it kind of reinforced the whole idea that the park is not about the players). The place sparkled; the fans were enthusiastic and great (through two trips I still haven't seen the negative image that Yankee fans have). I do have to note the incredibly slow (and expensive) food services - after standing in line for a full half-inning without moving up even one person in line, I opted out and went back to my seat and ended up buying no food while in Yankee Stadium. Plus... $10 programs? What's up with that? In short... the Yankees are kind of the high-class place that you might dress up and go to once so you can impress your friends by saying you went. But when you want a comfortable place where you can go to kick back, relax, and have a good time being yourself, well, you go someplace else.

ScoreDateSeats
New York Yankees 6, Seattle Mariners 32012-08-03209 / 1 / 1-2Boxscore

Nationals Park, Washington

Nationals Park in DC is a very... interesting place. Do take the subway there, but prepare for crowds coming back. The subway drops you a block away, outside the outfield, and you drop right in, never really seeing the outside of the park. And, that's kind of a good thing, sort of. Nationals Park is right on the Anacostia River, which is absolutely gorgeous. But... between you and the river is an ugly fenced off little construction area. I don't know if it's private property, or toxic, or what, but it certainly kills the feel. The exterior of the Park is pretty much ugly to boot – the same white granite that we hated at Yankee Stadium. By the time we'd done a lap around the park exterior, we were kind of regretting coming to this one. And then we got inside. Nationals Park is a party! It's energetic; the fans are fun; the people are friendly. Didn't like $10 programs at Yankee Stadium? No problem – here, they're free! The concourse gives great views as you walk it, and there's fun art in the walls and ceilings. If you go to the upper levels, the Anacostia becomes incredibly inviting to the south and you can get views of the Washington Monument in the distance to the north. The food was excellent, if spendy. The fans were into their team and supportive and positive. The racing Presidents are a great source of entertainment (Abe won on our trip). We had a ball inside Nationals Park, but the outside, well, it's not there yet. I wonder if in ten years' time, after some restaurants have come into being outside and after something has happened with that waterfront, if this won't be a great neighborhood and one of baseball's best experiences. But until then, accept that outside the park will be less than good, but inside, it'll be wonderful.
We returned to Nationals Park in 2015, and not much had changed. The area outside the park seems to be going high-rise apartments, and nothing baseball-friendly, unfortunately. They've added a great courtyard entrance at the southwest corner, with some lovely history and three statues done in the same weirdish "in-motion" style as the six or so in Tiger Stadium. But... still a party inside! Love the effort on the new entrance, and still a great great game experience!

ScoreDateSeats
Washington Nationals 10, Miami Marlins 72012-08-04131 / M / 8-9Boxscore
Washington Nationals 4, Philadelphia Phillies 12015-04-19135 / A / 4-5 Boxscore

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Camden Yards, Baltimore. Here's the way it seems to me like Camden should be: its common knowledge that Camden, built in 1992 (and so 20 years old as we visited) was the first of the new era of parks - baseball parks designed for baseball and nothing but baseball. As it was the first, all these later parks should have taken the best of Camden, dropped the worst, and continually improved on it, giving Camden a quaint, dated feel. Makes sense, right? Nope... not so. There are many ballparks in more beautiful settings. There are ballparks with cooler displays of history, better views, or more bells and whistles. But if you just want a relaxing place to sit down and enjoy a ballgame, you want Camden. The entrance to this park is about perfect, with a slew of statues in a lovely open treed patio area to the right, and a great public space to the left between the warehouse and the park. The ball markers by the warehouse are a fun chunk of park history (and of course an Ms fan like me took pride in the one-and-only-one ball actually on the warehouse, hit by Junior). Food, was, I confess, pretty meh – Boog's Barbeque is bland, though we did find a Bacon-On-A-Stick thing that my wife loved! On our 2015 return trip we tried some "best in the ballpark" foods with mixed results - Natty Bohs just tastes like Bud and the Chesapeake Waffle Fries were so limp and soggy as to be inedible irregardless of the crab sauce topping. But the hot dog topped with mac'n'cheese and crab was pretty delicious! One place the park excelled was both in the staff and in the fans; this place was friendly, courteous, and welcoming. The Baltimore game is the only game I've ever been to where I wish I could go back and sit in those same seats with those same fans around us and have more conversation. The view from the ballpark is pretty non-existent; some hotel chain took advantage of the beautiful downtown view they had when I toured the park in the offseason six years earlier, and so that view is now a hotel. But the park is about three blocks from the Baltimore waterfront, which between the Aquarium, the water taxis, and the various tours, may just be one of the country's best places to spend a family afternoon. All in all, Camden and Baltimore is the place to be for baseball.

ScoreDateSeats
Baltimore Orioles 3, Seattle Mariners 12012-08-0674 / 2 / 15-16Boxscore
New York Yankees 6, Baltimore Orioles 52015-04-13342 / 2 / 10-11Boxscore

Citizens Bank Field, Philadelphia

Stop four in our 2012 trip was Citizens Bank Field in Philadelphia. Yet another of the new breed of ubiquitous post-Camden parks. Let's start with the bad first... Philly has what they call a "sports park," with the baseball, football, and basketball facilities all located side-by-side. Seems like a good idea, but here they're out in the middle of nowhere, in a grand sea of parking lots. Yes, there's at least a subway which runs out there, but we ended up spending over 40 minutes on it waiting for them to get it working on our trip back in to town, which I was told actually wasn't unusual. So... assuming you can get there, Philly has its charms, but it's a little like Coors Field for me, in that it's a nice park but nothing horribly memorable. They have a seriously lovely food court (Ashburn's Alley), which includes a great Philadelphia baseball history exhibit, close views of the bullpen, and a very fun set of mounted baseballs which teach you grips for various types of pitches. The inner concourse was charming (I was particularly happy to see a statue of their long-time broadcaster). And, of course, they have the Phillie Phanatic, one of the better mascots out there. We found only one player statue, outside the entrance, though apparently there are three more outside the park; the sea-of-parking-lots location is so unpleasant that this is one of the few parks that we didn't walk around the outside before going in and so we missed them. We had a particularly lovely evening, with a gorgeous sunset going down behind the scoreboard; I also note that they have the particularly lovely feature of having no electronic signs behind the bases between first and third, which made the park exceptionally lovely as the sun set – the brick color there was bland in daylight, but achingly gorgeous in twilight. It's a good park, make no mistake, but it just isn't great - the location/neighborhood makes it someplace I'm not enticed to ever return to. Baseball should be something you enjoy going to, not something that's a grind to get to. With apologies to the Phillies fans and a good park, the location just makes it an experience less than pleasant.

ScoreDateSeats
Philadelphia Phillies 3, Atlanta Braves 02012-08-07201 / 3 / 21-22Boxscore

Citi Field, New York

Last 2012 stop was back to NYC - Citi Field, the home of the Mets. This is, like many others, a ways out from downtown; about a half hour ride by subway. Again, a big set of parking lots, but there are lovely seas of trees in all directions around the lots; the neighborhood just shy of the park on the subway line is a slightly dodgy-feeling neighborhood, but with good restaurants and a couple of hotels. We liked it anyway, and I think that by staying nearby we lost the "parking lots and highways" effect that Citi Field probably deserves (though unlike Philadelphia or the Angels, there's tons of greenery in all directions). I'm told that just the other side of the park is unpleasant (all chop shops), but we never made it over there (like Philly, the "sea of parking lots" impression, but in this case combined with the Mets' gorgeous and enticing rotunda, meant we went straight in). The ballpark itself was charming – great 95% walk-around concourse with good views; a lovely upper deck space. Too far out from NYC for real city views, sadly, and if planes passing semi-close over to the west (the airport is nearby) bother you, well, there's a lot of that. That said – great international food court, fun elements (notably Shea Bridge, and the Big Apples out front and in the batters' eye), that charming entry rotunda (modeled on old Ebbets Field), a nice team museum, and some excellent tributes to Jackie Robinson; we liked the way the stadium embraced the region's (notably the Brooklyn Dodgers) history and not just the Mets' history. We had a great time at Citi Field, and would be happy to go back any time, but could see it not being for the very nervous or easily annoyed. To which I'd say – get past it, and you'll have a great time!

ScoreDateSeats
New York Mets 6, Miami Marlins 12012-08-09110 / 6 / 5-6Boxscore

So, since that trip went well, in 2013 we tried another! Unlike last year's train-only trip, this would be a driving trip primarily through Ohio, with dodges into Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan. Last year we matched baseball and theatre; this year we combined baseball with, as my wife's a political junkie, trips through sites related to eight U.S. Presidents (in order: Garfield, McKinley, Grant, W.H. Harrison, B. Harrison, Taft, Harding, Hayes).

Progressive Field, Cleveland

First baseball stop, Progressive Field in Cleveland. The park has some great elements, most notably the open fencing beyond left field through which allows you to stand outside the park after hours and peer through. The field is set below ground level, so you get a great view, and it's just beautiful to look in at, very Field of Dreams. That said... the park itself is built of yellow and white rock which gives it a unique feel (at least unlike the many brick parks), but for some reason, which I can't put my finger on, it feels a bit dingy. This is the first post-Camden park I've seen that doesn't feel new, or at least well kept. It has one of the least impressive/interesting scoreboards I've seen (looks a bit ‘80s, with huge bland ads), and while their Heritage Park is kind of a two-level more in-depth and much much better done version of the Yankees Monument Park with a huge amount of nice history and many great stories, it's just one section that is so well hidden that I would have missed it if I hadn't asked an usher if Cleveland had anything in there about their history. They have _great_ history there - they tell wonderful stories, and the sunken area is gorgeous and charming. This is so much what Monument Park should be, but so needs to be in a more visible and better-accessed place as they seem to do a poor job of making it findable. Their only obvious and easily findable history might be a great Bob Feller statue just outside the park, and I also loved the "Who's On First" benches near him. If you go to Cleveland, hunt down that hidden history grotto, though! Finally, well, maybe I'm more sensitive as a northwesterner, but that grinning red-faced Indian logo everywhere feels just... wrong. I've never had more than a mild problem with the names of the Redskins, Indians, or Braves, but that logo just made me completely uncomfortable. In the end, I don't think I really have much interest in ever returning to Progressive, though downtown Cleveland itself was an unexpectedly fun, funky, and lovely city, completely undeserving of the butt-of-the-joke image it sometimes has. We'd love to go back and explore downtown Cleveland further!

ScoreDateSeats
Minnesota Twins 4, Cleveland Indians 22013-05-05138 / C / 9-10Boxscore

Great America Ballpark, Cincinnati

After Progressive we made a two-game stop in Pittsburgh to acquaint my wife with that park (already reviewed here), and then on to Cincinnati's Great America Ballpark. The big flaw with Great America is the exterior. It has _one_ good point of access, through the Crosley Terrace, but coming to it from any other direction it looks like a big industrial mess. Crosley Terrace itself is charming, with some great statues from early Cinci baseball, and it also has what is hands down the best ballpark museum I've found. Like most of the northeast cities, Cincinnati has some great history, but unlike most they do a wonderful job of sharing it. I'll also here recommend (though probably only for the true fans) a trip 10 to 15 miles north to the Blue Ash Sports Complex, which has a replica of the Reds old Crosley Field, complete with old scoreboard, seats, terrace, and outfield walls. A fun quick stop for any baseball history buff. Great America Ballpark itself is on the better side, as MLB parks go, although from most points it lacks any sort of interesting view (despite being within easy distance of the Ohio River). Mr. Red seems a charming mascot (something about the "Mr. Red can't hear you" animation in the two small circular windows on the park "smokestacks" was really endearing), and there's even a Miss Red for the girls, which I don't think I'd seen before. Fans here were enthusiastic and into the game; despite some miserable rain beforehand we had a great experience here. Good food too; at least the chili hot dogs seemed excellent. Can I strongly recommend staying across the river in Bellevue, Kentucky, just for the experiences of walking across the pedestrian bridge to go to the game and then taking the river shuttle/ferry back after?

ScoreDateSeats
Cincinnati Reds 4, Milwaukee Brewers 3 🎆2013-05-10419 / A / 9-10Boxscore

Comerica Park, Detroit

Fourth and final stop in 2013 was Detroit's Comerica Park. This is undoubtedly the best ballpark exterior I've yet to see. The tiger statues are wonderfully fun, as are the tiger-head lights, the doors to the Tiger Club, and even the small ceramic tiger plaques. Take the time to walk around the park before you go in, and you won't regret it (though the Ford Field side is uninteresting). Inside the park, they've got great statues on about six of their all-time greats, and then the rest of their history is communicated through about six small wheeled kiosks which cover about 20 years each; I appreciate the effort but the wheeled stands make it feel a bit... disposable, almost an afterthought. Better than nothing, but not by a lot. On the other hand, the tiger carousel and the baseball Ferris Wheel are pretty damn unique, and the latter is worth a ride. This is a great park to bring kids to! Fans in Detroit seemed less motivated/interested than the others on this trip; there were tons more there than at the other three games, but they were certainly the quietest. We also expected something cool from the fountains in the outfield, but they were pretty minor and pretty dull; KC did this many times better. We were also unable to find _any_ interesting food. But still, the outside makes this park a must-see!

I do have to note that all the involved driving made this particular trip a little too exhausting and took away from our enjoyment of the parks. We're definitely going to scale back future trips a bit, with that in mind.

ScoreDateSeats
Cleveland Indians 4, Detroit Tigers 3 (10 innings)2013-05-12118 / 12 / 7-8Boxscore

Chase Field, Arizona

2014: An Arizona family trip to Tucson allowed us to stop at Phoenix's Chase Field. This is the first time I've seen one of the modern fully enclosed stadiums (Toronto is fully enclosed but not modern; Safeco is modern but not fully enclosed), and have to confess that I didn't like it. In order to have a roof which opens and completely covers things, the stadium goes up instead of out, forming something of a small steep jewel box (square, not rounded). I _like_ an open outfield, I like horizons and skies. I understand the need, but it makes the surroundings odd (the diagonal roof behind home just seems weirdly out of place). There are some positives that come out of this, however: the weirdly shaped field (semi-octagonal, it seems, which I assume is to help it fit in its jewel box), the odd jump of the home run line in outfield, and the swimming pool in right are all fun. There's some great southwest regional art in the upper levels of the circular entrance atrium, and I like the kids section being upper deck with great views. The main concourse is open to the field all the way around, so you can walk around and check the view. Tucked into the entrance to the administrative area are some MLB season-end awards and replicas of others – nice to get to see all those up close! Really odd note – as the evening went on and the luxury box lights came on, those boxes all have this solid ceiling light, just a big glowing white block, and all of them in a row, as seen from the lower levels, made them look like parking garages. Odd how something as minor as luxury box ceiling lighting can change a place's flavor! In any case... this goes into the "parks I wouldn't go out of my way to return to" category, and now I'm really curious to see Miller, Marlins, and Minute Maid, and see how those deal with the "full roof" situation. Toronto had a full roof, and though that park has its own issues, it felt far from jewel box compressed!

ScoreDateSeats
Philadelphia Phillies 6, Arizona Diamondbacks 52014-04-26 🎁114 / 17 / 16-17Boxscore

Petco Park, San Diego

Our main 2014 trip was a quick three day SoCal sweep, through San Diego, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. Despite LA's reputation as a car-only town, we did this as a mass-transit trip, flying into San Diego, then taking a train to LA, and flying out from there. It required some planning, but worked smoothly. I'd note that this is quicker than we usually like to do these trips, but we've visited both cities before and expect to do so again in the future, plus this trip piggybacked on a business trip that'd already put us in Vegas for five days. So, we did this swing very quickly!

San Diego's Petco was my 20th active park (24th park overall), and one I'd previously visited/toured during an off-season trip. One of its most charming features is the "Park at the Park" beyond the outfield, which is open to the public on non-game days, allowing people to come in, see the field, and get the ballpark atmosphere. Our trip happened to coincide with a US World Cup soccer match, and they had that outfield park open and were showing the match on a seventeen foot high screen to an audience of several thousand people. A great community experience! Also in that outer park is a wonderful Tony Gwynn statue; he'd passed away only about two weeks before our game. After dusk, looking from our seats towards downtown we could see where someone had erected a giant "19" in lights on their building in his honor, which was very touching.
The ballpark itself is in a great location, right off the lightrail, with lots of good restaurants and a great downtown neighborhood nearby – it may have the best location within its city of any MLB park. It also does a very Camden-like thing of incorporating an old warehouse into its design, which gives it a signature element and a great deal of charm. The concourses are open air, with lovely unique southwestern adobe vine-overgrown ziggurat style buildings to the outside, which give it a feeling unlike any other MLB park. The interior concourses are not as lovely; if you walk those, only occasionally do you have a view of the field as you go. Negative for us was the park's scoreboard, which lacks any interesting elements (even the park's name appears small and dark, almost as if they expect to be changing it at any moment). Also, this is the first park I've seen which lacks an informative program – they had free roster cards, but no real program – odd! They do have some nice history exhibits, both from the team and from the ballpark, but they're kind of hidden away on different levels of the warehouse, and do hard to find unless you're carefully touring the full park. There weren't any unique or even interesting "entertainments" during the game (the mascot ambled past once, and looked cool but really did nothing). There were quite a few Padres signing autographs past the baselines before the game, which was nice. I think "nice" may sum up the park – it's a good, solid ballpark, and a nice place to catch a game, but it seems a few small notes from being an A-level park. One odd note- our game ended on a challenged call, which is exactly the opposite in excitement of a walk-off- the umps get together, chat for a bit, then tell everyone to go home. I think baseball may have invented the single dullest and most anticlimactic way to end a ballgame excepting, of course, the NBA's infinite foul-and-free-throw endings.

ScoreDateSeats
San Diego Padres 8, Cincinnati Reds 22014-07-01115 / 4 / 3-4Boxscore

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

Dodger Stadium. By this point, the oldest existing park I hadn't seen. I noted earlier we had no car on this trip, so we stayed near Union Station and took the "Dodger Stadium Express" (a big bus), from there up a couple miles to the ballpark. A relatively quick and easy trip, and free if you have game tickets. Dodger Stadium is kind of up atop a local hill, which is unusual for stadiums, and from the upper levels you can get lovely views of downtown and the surrounding areas, well, lovely if you don't mind the smog. The park itself has very much a 1960s/1970s vibe, with our yellow plastic seats somehow managing to feel like elementary school playground materials. Nothing wrong with them, just an oddly dated feel. On the other hand, the hexagonal scoreboards have an old futuristic feel, like something from Star Trek, and we loved them. There's a similar oddly angled thing going on with the roofing in the outfield and stadium tops, which really does give a lovely Mad Men era feel to the park. We didn't actually find much Dodger history, however – some giant ring replicas, and that was about it. If there were museums or exhibits, we missed them. There were nice giant-sized old fashioned bobbleheads in one of the food courts. A real negative is that they're very strict about wandering – if you have upper-level seats, you can't go into the lower levels. So far as I've noticed, this is only true of the Dodgers and the White Sox, and it's a big negative for me. The stadium seems both high and deep, with lots of levels to it – I'd be curious to watch from the upper decks and see how far back it feels in-game. From our lower level seats, it was a great experience, and I love the low outfield which gives a very open feeling and great views of the palms and other trees beyond. There are definitely seas of parking lots in all directions (I think maybe even more than Philadelphia), but from the lower levels at least they're not noticeable. To tell the truth, we had a less-than-great experience simply because of the weather – it was only in the 80s, but our afternoon game felt blindingly hot, and we had to move way back into the final five or six rows in our section, the only ones with shade. Even there, we broiled. Still – a unique feeling park, the only one I've been in which felt like the 1960s. They had good food (the Dodger Dog seemed generic, but a bacon-wrapped hotdog with the works was amazing!), they had the best programs I've ever read, and they had the best and most enthused crowd we've seen in a long while. We definitely would like to come back and try an evening game (or maybe early spring or late fall), to see if that makes all the difference for us pasty-skinned northwesterners.

ScoreDateSeats
Cleveland Indians 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 42014-07-0213 / M / 1-2Boxscore

Angel Stadium, Anaheim

The third and final SoCal stop was Angel Stadium. As we were car-less, we took the $7 round trip "Angels Express" train down from LA's Union Station, which was a great comfortable ride and which dropped us off an easy walk across the stadium lot to the park. They don't run these for every game (and if your game runs extra innings they'll only delay until about 11:30 or so), but the train is great! I have to say, the Angels may have my favorite front entrance of any park now, with the two giant helmets and the lovely giant bats awning. I kind of wish it were facing our train station, but it's just gorgeous and inviting. Inside the park it's lovely as well. I know the park was once a joint baseball/football facility, but unlike the others like that which I've seen (Oakland, Candlestick, Three Rivers), their subsequent remodels have been good enough that if you didn't know, you wouldn't guess. The various levels are easy to navigate (though like San Diego, you can't view the park from the concourses, usually), and all the seats seemed close and good. Worst used space is the outfield concourse, which is close to barren and has no interesting foods on it – they need to look at what the White Sox did with a similar post-outfield space. Their rocks/water feature looks better on TV than it does live (at least from our lower level seats), but it's nice to be able to walk close to it from the back – I love a ballpark with water, even in as artificial looking a setting as this one is. Best used space is that front gate and the internal concourses near it, which have some nice displays from their 2002 title year. The saddest element was the fan level of interest – they seemed decently into it, but the constant sadly plaintive cries of various signages to "make some noise" made the fans seem less interested than they actually were. And both the Dodgers and the Angels did seem to love the Wave a little too much, we thought. In short... this place is slightly corporate, but its biggest flaw is that it seems to be a freeways and parking lots park, and that no matter where you look from within the park, there's not going to be anything you want to see outside it. Following up after San Diego (and even Dodger Stadium), Angel Stadium felt like an excellent park but still somehow seemed a little... sad. Maybe unloved. In a better location, it could be great!

ScoreDateSeats
Los Angeles Angels 5, Houston Astros 22014-07-03106 / A / 9-10Boxscore

Miller Park, Milwaukee

Our visit to Miller Park came about in fall of 2014 as I started to realize it just didn't fit with any other planned trips, and needed to happen on its own. So, we did a Miller Park / Lambeau Field / Upper Peninsula trip. We saw Miller on a lovely fall evening, with temperature at 67 degrees at game time, expected to fall into the high 40s by game's end. I mention this because they have a retractable roof, and for reasons I don't understand, on this lovely evening it was closed. Indoor baseball is always less than charming, and this was sadly no exception. We did return a few days later to peer through the windows on an away day, and I have to say, its a much better looking field with real light on it. If you're going, I think I have to strongly suggest a mid-summer afternoon, or whatever it takes to get that roof open!
Miller Park was a very mixed bag. My wife went for food at the end of the first, and made it back at the end of the third. Turns out Miller had run out of their signature food (the Pulled Pork Parfait, which we'd really been looking forward to trying) during the first inning; the person behind her in line said they usually don't run out of foods until the third (!) inning. Also... no functioning wireless. It almost kind of felt like the park's first year, not their 14th, and they were still figuring things out. And what's with using your souvenir cups to promote Ryan Braun, who is pretty clearly MLB's "Person You Most Don't Want Your Kids To Grow Up Like?" I know he's on the team, but why not promote the many honorable and high-quality players who deserve our respect? It's also a parking lots and freeways stadium - only a mile or two out from town's center, but no lightrail, no real way to get there without driving. That said, they have an amazing tailgating crowd in the parking lots before the game; they (and Green Bay as well) did this to an amazing level we'd never seem before. You have to love Brewer fans!
The park itself is, as noted, roofed, with a unique fan-shaped roof that I'd love to watch open or close. It's got some fun fan-friendly elements, including a goofily fun mascot (who slides down a slide after a home run), and Hank the Ballpark Dog, who'd been adopted earlier this year. Nice set of statues out front, including Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, Bob Uecker, and (boo!) Bud Selig. Things only I care about - the Seattle Pilots (the team Selig stole in 1970) do at least have a minimal presence, in a main floor logo and in a Gorman Thomas themed foodstand on the second level. There's also a for-kids mini-ballpark in the parking lot, and a pavement plaque elsewhere in the lot (probaby unfindable when the park is full) at the spot Hank Aaron's last home run landed, which is a lovely touch. There's arguably less concourse views than almost any other park we've been to, and it also seemed more cramped and crowded than any we'd seen - moving around on the floor was just unpleasant, though there were a lot of fan-friendly things to see and do down there.
Overall... I kind of expected to dislike the park as much as I did Chase, and there are similarities, but the field here, while in a big box, somehow feels more open, and the fanbase is way more into it. Even with the roof closed, a couple nice high semi-circular panels do bring in a little bit of light and help dilute the roofness of it all a little bit. We wobbled back and forth as the day went on, but in the end we really felt Miller was a good park, but just very poorly managed/run. My strong suggestions would be to go when the roof is open if at all possible, and never never never try to buy ballpark food!

ScoreDateSeats
Cincinnati Reds 5, Milwaukee Brewers 12014-09-13 🎁220 / 2 / 3-4Boxscore

Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas

We came very close to no new park visits in 2015, after an east coast trip for a friend's wedding and a couple-day Bay Area visit put us in those parks this year. However, when in early June the Astros announced they'd be removing Tal's Hill at season's end, well, that was enough to get me moving (on the off chance this timing confuses anyone - months after, they made a late-season decision to keep the Hill for 2016 as well). We'd loved the Crosley Terrace in the Crosley Field mock-up north of Cincinnati, and if we were going to Houston in the next few years, I wanted to do it before the hill went. We combined the parks with some serious tourism - Presidential visits in Dallas (two), Hope, Little Rock, College Station, and Austin, plus space stuff in Houston and swamp touring in New Orleans. A decently major trip.
We doubled up on the Rangers this trip - I planned a game the day we flew in, and since our Mariners were coming into town as we were about to fly out, we tightened up the trip and caught a second game on our last day before flying home. I'm... not entirely sure what to say about the Rangers' stadium. From outside, it's beautiful. Surrounded by lovely lawns and ponds, with an ornate square brick structure, it's one of the more gorgeous settings you'll find a ballpark in. Sure, its nearly KC-level out of town (18 miles from Dallas, with no light-rail - if you're coming, you'll have to rent a car) although it's definitely a far-from-rural location, but given the setting, you can so easily forgive the distance. But as you get closer, the shine comes off. That ornate brick square structure is completely built around, neither on nor connected to the stadium/field, and bears no real relation to the park inside - it's just a shell, a disguise, kind of a layer around the park where you can be sealed in with the concession stands. Off beyond the outfield is, as I understand it, office buildings built into the park a la the Camden Yards warehouse, but they just look like over-ornamented luxury boxes (and these "office buildings" are invisible from the outside, so I really can't see a point to them). Rangers fans behind us at one point termed that office complex as "the monstrosity," which seems a bit strong, but it really is a gaudy backdrop for a game. The bandbox seating in left field is very charming, but they've stuck their jumbo video screen on the roof, mounted against the sky so that it kind of dominates everything else - instead of being part of the park, it draws your focus instead of being there when you need to look at it, if that makes sense. The best way to experience the park might well be to sit out in the outfields - looking in towards home plate you lose the "monstrosity" and the jumbo screen either hides itself or is out of the way, and you're back to looking in at a basic simple baseball park, with no "extras."
Another real negative for us was that there's no Rangers history in the park - one player statue, Nolan Ryan, in the outfield, and apparently there is a Rangers Hall of Fame of some sort, but it's only for people to rent for events - casual fans can't go in. Even with all the apparent negatives, I have to note, somehow our second game turned out to be one of the most pleasant baseball games we've ever attended, just a nice lazy glorious afternoon baseball day, incredibly unforgettably relaxing. Focusing on that plus side, the Racing Dots were goofy fun; my wife loved the "bull pen" animation of cattle joyfully receiving the call to go in; and the Ranger Tater, a huge loaded baked potato with brisket, might go onto our list as our best ballpark food ever. And again, it's an absolutely gorgeous park, from the outside.

ScoreDateSeats
Oakland As 5, Texas Rangers 32015-09-1215 / 7 / 9-10Boxscore
Seattle Mariners 9, Texas Rangers 22015-09-2025 / 2 / 10-11Boxscore

Minute Maid Park, Houston

Houston is another odd one... it's kind of a joint facility, the ballpark itself and the old Union Station attached as a vestibule, but they're blended together in a kind of awkward oblong to the point that this is the first park where I'm not sure that, if you didn't know, you would realize it's a ballpark as you walked past it. They do have lightrail right there, but unfortunately it's not out to the airport yet, so it's not quite a fly-in park, but it's closer. The park is right on the edge of downtown, in an under-development neighborhood, tons of parking, and seems walkable (we drove in / drove out on this trip, and there's certainly as many lots here than I've seen anywhere else!). They have an open-air smaller brick-basepath field outside, but it's a little odd in that it's missing third base! They kind of cut off the left half of the field to make it fit - what's up with that? What is even nicer still about that field are the statues of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell completing a DP out on that field - great setting, lovely statues.
Minute Maid is a retractable roof stadium, and once again, I hit one of those on a closed-roof night, and I tend to dislike closed-roof parks. Minute Maid is no exception. The focus in Minute Maid seems to be this interesting set of cream-colored arches all along-the left-field side with huge sliding glass windows above them, and a larger-than-life train that runs, slowly and very occasionally, in front of those windows. I suspect in open air, with those windows open, it might seem less claustrophobic. But the wall at those arches is just plastered with huge and unpleasant ads for oil companies and things like Halliburton (seriously!), and it's just awful-looking. That flat wall of arches and advertising is both the major focus of the park and its worst feature; not a good combo. That said, we were there on a fireworks night, so they did open the roof at the end, and it very definitely seemed to change the feel of the park. If you're going to Houston, maybe aim for an April game when they might have the roof open.
I loved Tal's Hill, but wish it had come into play in our game. Maybe the flagpole in the field of play is indeed a step too much, but Tal's Hill is clearly the funnest and best part of the park's interior. If you want the worst seat in the park, go up into the top levels and sit behind a foul pole - they use the foul poles for mounting advertisements here (a chicken chain - they're fowl poles, get it?), and those suckers are huge! We wandered into third level seating while roaming, and those few seats may well be the most obstructed seats in any park, anywhere. Another negative was, once again, the lack of any sort of team-history featured anywhere.
One thing we did love - one hour before the park opens, they offer a ballpark tour. This is the first park where I've seen this (most tours are morning / early afternoon only, and most of us travelers can't/won't come in for a tour six to eight hours before a game - we're seeing other things!). This is a genius move, and I hope hope hope other parks adopt it. Also, by the way, the first place where I found that you could buy, after the 4th inning, game-used balls from the game you're watching! Kind of cool, if you're into that.
In short... some interesting nice features, and I do admire their chutzpah in trying to stay away from the Camden Yards "classic" vibe, and maybe those stucco arches are a Houston architectural style that resonates with the locals. For me, though, nothing clicked - it seemed unthemed (or maybe failing in their attempts to theme) and plastic, and if not for the fact that I'd like to see a game there with the roof open and see if that redeems it, this park would fall into my "no interest in ever returning" list.

ScoreDateSeats
Oakland As 4, Houston Astros 32015-09-18 🎆120 / 13 / 12-13Boxscore

Turner Field, Atlanta

With a 2016 work conference in Atlanta at the same time my childhood team, the Pirates, were visiting, we hit the park on back-to-back nights in early August, actually with only 20-something games remaining before the park is to be replaced with a new one. It did look like they were no longer investing in the upkeep, with water stains galore on the exterior. But it still had some serious charm!
Turner Field was built originally as the main venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics, and you can kind of see it if you look. They basically cut the Olympic track in half, and the south two-thirds of it is now the ballpark, while the north bit is now a lovely open plaza with myriad baseball tributes. That plaza has statues of Hank Aaron and other Braves greats, plus baseballs bearing number of their all-timers - it's a really lovely/charming entrance, one of the better ones in baseball. Not too much further off to the north is the actual Olympic torch. They also have still more history in a lovely museum space, taking them all the way back into their Milwaukee and Boston days. I could do without the Francisco Cabrera flashbacks, but it is a quality museum. We particularly enjoyed the railcar, and were touched by Warren Spahn's Purple Heart. The other really great space is an upper level deck where their giant lit Coke bottle sits, with a "kids run the bases" area, and giant Adirondack chairs with a gorgeous view of downtown.
Personally, I thought it a lovely middle-of-the-road park, though better outside than in. Old style charm, with external brick and high arches; nothing blocking the views inside. The concourses aren't open to the field, which is a big minus, and are kind of cement seas at that. They do liven it up with occasional artwork; the best is the tied-rope art depicting their three cities on pennants. The scoreboard was a little overwhelming in the outfield, and yeah, the Tomahawk Chop is a bit un-PC. Free (if small) programs; you can buy a great "yearbook" here for the $5 you'd pay for a program elsewhere. Their mascot race was funner than most, with Home Depot corporate shill tools (literally tools - Hammer, Drill, Bucket, Brush), but the clumsiness of the Drill sold it for me - people had to literally carry him off the field when he couldn't get back to his feet after being knocked down by a rival. All things considered, though - if I lived in Atlanta I'd be here many times a year.

ScoreDateSeats
Pittsburgh Pirates 5, Atlanta Braves 32016-08-02112 / 9 / 5-6Boxscore
Atlanta Braves 8, Pittsburgh Pirates 42016-08-03411L / 1 / 111-112Boxscore

Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay

Since we were in the deep south anyway, after my Atlanta conference we hopped a plane down to Tampa Bay for a Rays game, and then drove to Miami to see the Marlins before flying home...

Given that my renewed love of baseball comes from the Mariners moving from the Kingdome to Safeco, I was not really looking forward to seeing the Rays' dome. I'm happy to be wrong on this one. The first thing we notice driving towards the park is that the dome isn't symmetrical! It's slanted, apparently highest on the home plate side, and lowest at centerfield. From the elevated freeway it almost looks like it's sinking; just that makes it look much better, more intriguing, than expected. Once inside, we discovered that the dome is actually semi-opaque fiberglass (from inside it kind of looks like canvas), not cement. Light trickles through it, and we could hear the rain pounding on it. In short, it's unique enough that it doesn't feel as bad as I feared. I'd still prefer to be outside (and the grass was a really badly worn artificial carpet that just looked inappropriate for baseball), but as far as inside baseball goes I'd rather be here than Chase or Minute Maid. One other roof note - in the first inning, a Twin named Miguel Sano hits a towering fly, skying so high that I watch it clonk into and bounce off the roof. I thought it was very cool to see, but didn't find out until later that night that it was the first time in the 26 years the park had been open that anyone had actually hit the roof, something like 210 feet above the field, during a game. Minor history, there!
Best thing about Tropicana Field - feeding the Rays! Not the players; the park has an aquarium of live rays in left field, and for $5 you can get a bowl of cut fish to hand-feed to them. If you have kids, or a relatively non-squeamish wife like mine, it's something they'll not soon forget! There's also a small museum ("The Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame"), but it's mostly just a succession of player lockers with ephemera in each. Honestly one of the least interesting or inspiring baseball history exhibits I've seen. When we asked one of the Trop's hospitality people what else we should see besides the rays and the museum, she answered "Well, that's really about it." Not exactly the answer you want. There is a kind of fun "statue" of a giant player coming out of a wall to make a catch, and there is a lovely stream running past the outside of the park, with some baseball and history and some environmental info out there. But she was right - not much else here. I will note that the park appears to be in a lovely kind of old-style neighborhood, and we wish we'd had time to spend a few hours walking through it before or after.
Once again, free programs (much much better than the Atlanta ones), and again, a corporate-branded mascot race. This one, however, was just three soda bottles (I'm not even going to name the brand - actually, I don't remember the brand!), pretty much identical save for their labels. Okay, baseball - no more corporate mascot races, please! I also give the Rays points for good branding - the star logo on the west coast of Florida looks great on the jumbotron, the mascots are fun (particularly the internet-ish DJ Kitty), and I love the "Rays Up" catchphrase and really want to see them pay to use "Rise Up" from Hamilton and set it to that. So, yeah, it's baseball in a dome. But it's still baseball, and we had a good time. I wouldn't want this as my regular park, but if in St. Petersburg again, I'll be back for a second go-round.

ScoreDateSeats
Minnesota Twins 6, Tampa Bay Rays 32016-08-07204 / A / 3-4Boxscore

Marlins Park, Miami

Miami's Marlins Park is certainly unique among MLB parks. But before I go there, let me touch on the game. I returned to baseball when Safeco opened, but it was also the Mariners of that era who made me stay with the game again. Mike Cameron, Edgar Martinez, others, but certainly Ichiro. Knowing this Miami trip was coming, I'd been scoreboard watching for months, debating how unlikely it would be that he could get his 3000th hit while we were there. It got more and more possible that he might actually be looking at it come our August 8th game, and then he finally got the 3000th... the night before, on August 7th, in Colorado. Still, I'd sprung for very nice seats for this game (Marlins side, literally first row behind the dugout, something I'd always wanted to do), and got to be there for a nice standing ovation when he came out in the 6th inning to pitch hit, his only appearance. A few innings later he's standing at the end of the dugout and I decide to take a picture; he sees me in my Mariners hat and jersey and gives a nice wave/salute my way. Yeah, fanboyish of me, but I feel I got to stand-in for the state of Washington in honoring him. Lovely moments. By the by, the game went 14 innings, and lasted 5¾ hours. Counting arriving outside the park 120 minutes early to look around, we put in almost 8 hours here. Long day! Oh, yeah, the Giants' Brandon Crawford did something which hadn't been done since 1975, as he got 7(!) hits in the game. After 8 hours there, well, we didn't even realize this until the next day's sports page.
Okay, the park. The exterior of Marlins Park does not look like a baseball park. It's glass and metal, and more than anything else, it looks like a modern high-tech basketball stadium. The only thing that makes you think it's not might be two elegant protrusions which are supports for their openable roof. Inside, the park's feel is just as unique; Miami has embraced its Latin culture, and its art deco, well not styles but art deco colors. I've seen blues, greens, and oranges all in other parks, but somehow here there really is an open tropical feel from those colors. Beyond the outfield are towering (apparently they can slide open) glass windows which give an amazing view of Miami. I know it's a roofed park (usually - apparently they open the roof for a few games in April, and I'd love to see what that's like), but for a closed-roof park, it feels... open. I do so prefer open-air ball, but if you force me to watch baseball in any roofed park, this is my pick for the best.
Continuing the apparent deep south trend... free programs. Mascot races again, this time four bizarre sea creatures, with no corporate branding (yay Miami!). However, there wasn't anything innately interesting about the race. Another oddity - since very few people go to games, they close off the third level entirely. Second level is club level, and you have to have club level tickets to go there. So, for the baseball tourist like me, there's no way to get an upper level view of the field. It's kind of odd - we've noted the Dodgers and White Sox not letting upper level fans into the lower levels; this is the only park where the lower level fans are barred from the upper levels! We do have to note the food here as well - after finding no interesting food in either Tropicana or Turner, we found more regional (in this case, mostly Cuban) food in the Miami park than I've noted in any other. There's a huge variety of Cuban food available, though of the couple items we tried neither jumped out as amazing, so no recommendations here. Still, lovely to see!
Some truly great elements, though I suspect purists might be horrified. Let's just get this out of the way - the statue in the outfield. It's large, it's bright, it's colorful, it's convoluted. When a home run is hit, waterjets sprays, metallic Marlins leap, and dayglow lights shine from fish, birds, and plants. It may not sound baseball, but it really suits the park and the city, in my opinion. I loved it. I'm not as in love with the fish tanks behind home plate, but they certainly don't distract, and again, they have a unique flavor. The truly great ballpark element is the Bobblehead Museum. Not really a museum, just a large (permanently bobbling!) display of about 600 bobbleheads from all across the MLB. You can't help hunting down your teams and your players, and they're just so fun. Every park should have a "Bobblehead Museum" of some sort.
Marlins Park would be out of place in Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York. But the elements are fun, the park is gorgeous, and you know you're in Miami while you're here. Again, maybe the purists might hate it, but I had a great time here. Nice job, Marlins!

ScoreDateSeats
San Francisco Giants 8, Miami Marlins 7 (14 innings)2016-08-0820 / A / 9-10Boxscore

Target Field, Minneapolis

As my alma mater (go Beavs!) was playing football in Minneapolis on September 1st in 2016, that seemed like a good enough reason to make the Minnesota Twins trip...
There's a lot to love about Target Field, but there's a lot of awkward to it as well. The park is kind of shoehorned into the west edge of the city, built over a downtown transit station and a number of roads and highways. It's probably as cramped a space as any in MLB excepting maybe Phoenix's Chase Field. They do a decent job of disguising it, but the park is definitely small feeling, with steep interior walls, five seating decks, and parking garages rising in the outfield. On the bright side, the light rail stops right out front, so this can be a car-free trip for those so inclined.
There are a lot of great elements to the park. The yellow limestone, inside and out both (even the roofs of the dugout are made out of it) give it a unique feel among parks - I think Pittsburgh and maybe Cleveland had the same style of stone, but those two limited it to the outside, not the interiors. They do a lovely thing with red flower baskets at the bottom of the outfield seating, which are absolutely gorgeous. And I fell in love instantly with the old-style Minnie and Paul in the outfield, who come complete with various minor lighting effects for various home team successes. They also have some lovely statues, most notably the set of Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett beyond right field, and the whole Peanuts crew outside the park on the third base line. And though I don't understand it, there's a theme with extended decorative architectural wings among Minneapolis area buildings (look at the leftmost pic below to see what I mean) - Target has one, the new Vikings park has it, and so did a number of downtown buildings. It does give a lovely coherent architectural feel to the city, which I haven't felt anywhere else.
Fundamentally, though - too cramped, and dominated by really overly bright scoreboards (it also shares Globe Life's flaw of placing a huge scoreboard against the sky where it dominates, instead of supports, the game below). It tries to steal the PNC concept of a gorgeous city skyline as a centerpiece, and that view is indeed one of the best features here, but where Pittsburgh gives you the Clemente Bridge and the river in addition to its skyline, the only cool additional element here might be a huge wagging dog on the Target Center next door. We did fall in love with the city itself (go walk the Stone Arch Bridge and waterfront!), but Target narrowly slides onto our list of least favorite parks.

ScoreDateSeats
Chicago White Sox 11, Minnesota Twins 42016-09-02219 / 1 / 6-7Boxscore

SunTrust Park, Atlanta

Well, we’d had this trip planned for over a year… Great Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, multiple Presidents, the Louisville Slugger factory, and concluding with the new ballpark in Atlanta (on a Star Wars night, it turns out, even buying a third ticket just to get a special bobblehead for my wife). However, both my wife and I end up ill as the trip starts, and then just a few days in we get a phone call with a family emergency - I drop my wife at the nearest airport but the rental car has to go back to where we got it, so I drive 420 miles back to Atlanta, ill and alone. The next flight I can get on is 6AM, so with nothing to do that night and the Braves early in their homestand, I do manage to catch one game. Alone, tired, sick, and looking forward to what turns out to be ninety minutes of sleep between the game and getting up to head for the airport. Not the best way to explore a ballpark.

I think the best word for SunTrust is “commercial.” Basically, a whole new commercial/residential neighborhood is being built solely for this park (I say “is being” built because it’s not even close to done as I’m there) – it kind of feels like the 2010s equivalent of building your 1980s park inside a shopping mall. I was also shocked at how poorly attended the game was. I was at the 10th game ever played there; official attendance was 22656 (55% full), but I’d put actual attendance between 10 and 12 thousand. How do you open a brand new park and then not have people coming just ten games in? Seriously, shocked!
There certainly are lovely elements. The exterior commercial court has a charming overhead walkway, a great hanging baseball, and a lovely artificial grass space people were playing catch on. If you walk around the park, there are a series of nice exterior statues, Bobby Cox’s being one of my favorites anywhere. Inside, there are large bobbleheads of all the retired-number players scattered around the park, which are great fun. And seriously beautifully done is their historical area, “Braves Monument Garden,” this long yellow stone & brick corridor which centers around a great fountain and a Hank Aaron statue and film. It still feels slightly light on history, but in terms of gorgeousness this might top anything else out there – aesthetically, the park’s worth visiting just for this space. The field itself is lovely, with some nice pale brick behind home and in right which puts me in mind of AT&T. There’s a lovely waterfall in center, but it’s sadly pointless as they turn it off during the game. But everything is overwhelmed by the monster scoreboard in center and all the hotels, condos, and stores to the right of that. Some nice elements, but it's just so busy and commercial; there's no way this park ages well. So much potential here - I kind of just want them to bulldoze the entire section from dead center to the right foul pole and what's beyond that and try again, and then I think they could have a seriously great park.

ScoreDateSeats
New York Mets 16, Atlanta Braves 5 2017-05-03118 / 1 / 5Boxscore
New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves 2018-04-20???TBDBoxscore

Busch Stadium, St. Louis

Hopefully I'll finally make it to Busch, current stadium 30 for me, in 2018. But, in 2017 a cross-country drive allowed me to stop and do a 9:30 AM tour of Busch, so a few notes there… The stadium is literally a stone's throw from the freeway, but the park hides it well. It's got a lovely exterior, particularly left field where you can get a great view of the interior from outside, that just makes you want to come in and watch a game. They do a great job with their history, notably in the brick tiles telling stories on three stadium sides, the Stan Musial third base entrance, all the statues at the main gate, and the museum located across the street in their Ballpark Village. Love the Wrigleyesque rooftop seating at the Ballpark Village too. The park interior is beautiful as well, though really steep seeming, and the Arch makes for a wonderful backdrop. I'm looking forward to someday getting the real game experience here; I think this could be one of my favorites.

ScoreDateSeats
New York Mets @ St. Louis Cardinals 2018-04-24???TBDBoxscore

In the future...

Further plans are: Mariners at least once a year, always. Back in Atlanta in early for a 2018 driving vacation loop over to St. Louis (park 30!) and back. After that, we'll see... maybe a return to Toronto some day, combined with a visit out to the Expos old grounds in Montreal? Spring of 2019 may put me back in the L.A. area, so hopefully a return to one or both of those parks? And certainly a return visit to Arlington and the new Rangers ballpark circa 2022 or so will be in order.

American League: EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Boston: Fenway Park
New York: Yankee Stadium; Yankee Stadium (old)
Tampa Bay: Tropicana Field
Toronto: SkyDome
Chicago: U.S. Cellular Field
Cleveland: Progressive Field
Detroit: Comerica Park
Kansas City: Kauffman Stadium
Minnesota: Target Field
Anaheim: Angel Stadium
Houston: Minute Maid Park
Oakland: Oakland Coliseum
Seattle: Safeco Field; Kingdome
Texas: Globe Life Park in Arlington
National League: EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta: SunTrust Park; Turner Field
Miami: Marlins Park
New York: Citi Field
Philadelphia: Citizens Bank Park
Washington: Nationals Park
Chicago: Wrigley Field
Cincinnati: Great American Ball Park
Milwaukee: Miller Park
Pittsburgh: PNC Park; Three Rivers Stadium
St. Louis: Busch Stadium
Arizona: Chase Field
Colorado: Coors Field
Los Angeles: Dodger Stadium
San Diego: Petco Park
San Francisco: AT&T Park; Candlestick Park

Mark's Parks: Rating the 30

I will love to return to: AT&T, Camden, Kauffman, PNC, Safeco, Wrigley
I'd go out of my way to revisit: Citi, Comerica, Dodger*, Nationals, Petco, U.S. Cellular
I'll almost certainly go if I'm in town and have a free night: Angel, Citizens Bank, Coors, Globe Life, Great America, Marlins, Miller, Oakland, SkyDome*, Target, Tropicana
I'm not exactly enthused about ever going back to: Chase, Fenway*, Minute Maid, Progressive, SunTrust, Yankee
Asterisked (*) parks are those I think may not have gotten a fair shake in my one visit: Toronto because it predates our thinking of parks as more than just the game, and Boston and the Dodgers because unpleasant seats or weather probably colored our game experience unfairly. I'm also not including the parks which no longer exist.