Last Tuesday I drove up to Boston for my first Sox game of the year. Unfortunately I missed David Price by one day, and was forced to sit through five innings of Clay Buchholz. Despite the pathetic 9-5 loss, strong winds and occasional rain, it was an incredible night. Though I have yet to complete my quest of visiting every Major League ballpark, I’m confident Fenway Park will always be number one. Putting aside my bias as a lifelong Sox fan, no other park has the historical ballpark feel like Fenway. As the oldest standing MLB park, Fenway is full of history but has been renovated enough to also be a beautiful park. There’s nothing better than Yawkey Way before a game; all of the red, white, and green (looking at you Wally) while in the heart of Boston. Though no other park can compete for my number one spot, there are a few others I enjoy visiting, and a few I think should be knocked to the ground.
Right behind Fenway on my list of high-ranking baseball parks falls Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Though not as physically old as Fenway, Camden Yards has that old school feel I look for at baseball games. When Baltimore rebuilt their stadium, they kept the timeless feel rather than going the Yankee route and modernizing to the extreme. The park is wide open, giving views of Baltimore from every angle. Similar to Yawkey Way in Boston, Baltimore has a street of merchandise, beer and food. Eutaw Street also has small plaque baseballs built into the ground, marking the landing spot of every homerun hit to the street since the park opened.
Moving onto my least favorite parks. I’ve had a lot of disagreements over this but Yankee Stadium falls towards the bottom of my list. The modern park replaced the 1923 Yankee Stadium when it opened in 2009. It’s new, it’s massive, and it’s expensive: it’s very New York Yankees. A ballpark should have an old school feel in my opinion, not like a tacky tourist attraction comprised of white marble walls and pillars. In terms of fitting the part, Yankee Stadium is perfect for its home team, which forbids facial hair and strives to look clean and professional. The stadium is too sterile and too fancy for me, another reason I’m thankful to be a Sox fan.
Continuing with the bottom of the barrel ballparks: Tropicana Field. What could be better than baseball down South? Sun shining, a warm breeze, and the view of palm trees everywhere you look. If that’s what you’re looking for, steer clear of Tropicana Field. All the benefits of Florida and you build a dome ballpark? Sure, the sun is hot for fans and players but guess what-you live in Florida, you should be used to it or even use it to your advantage. To be fair to Tropicana, I hate all domed ballparks, but theirs especially. I could forgive the creators of the stadium if they had built a retractable roof, open on decent game days and closed for extreme weather on others. Instead, they went full on permanent roof, the last team in the league to stand with the dome. Aside from the impracticality of the park, it is flat out ugly. The grass looks dead and dismal, begging like me for the roof to open for some sunlight. Players have also critiqued the design of the park, as the bullpen is far too close to the field alongside the foul lines. If you want baseball in Florida, head down in late February, early March for some good old outdoor spring training.
An honorable mention goes to Citi Field, the upgraded park for the New York Mets. If I had to choose a park in New York, I’d pick Citi Field over Yankee Stadium 10 out of 10 times. The park is a massive upgrade from Shea Stadium, and the constant flyovers from LaGuardia add to the city feel. There are far more parks that deserve mention, whether it be good or bad. However, I decided to only pick from parks I’ve visited, a number that’s small but growing. In late May I’ll continue my ballpark quest in Toronto at the Rogers Centre, and hopefully find my way to Wrigley Field and PNC Park by the end of the summer.