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November 29, 2017

A Ballpark Odyssey Pt. 2 (Parks 20-11)

I’m a guy who likes baseball.

I’ve been blessed with the time and the resources to see at least one game in all 30 stadiums currently used in Major League Baseball, as well as four that are no longer in use. These are some of the games that I’ve gone to and trips that I’ve been able to take.  I’m very grateful for all of these experiences. I went with a lot of different people, but primarily a core group of buddies. I’ve had a lot of laughs and burned a lot of gasoline. In order to finish this ballpark odyssey, I went to five parks alone. I wish I would have kept more pictures.

A few of my friends have asked me if I’ll feel like I need to go to new parks as they open. For example, I’ve heard that the Rangers might build a new one soon. The answer is no. I don’t think I will. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in town and there’s a stadium I’ve never seen, I certainly might go. But like a collector, I feel like I have a complete set, and I don’t want to feel compelled to chase new editions. That’s what I’m saying now, anyways.

Barry and Matt asked me to include some details from the parks and to provide pictures. The truth is that even after asking friends, I could only scrounge up pictures for about half of the ballparks. So, I compensated by writing (possibly too much) about my experiences. I don’t know if anyone will enjoy reading this account, but I enjoyed the heck out of writing it.

This is part 2 of my ballpark odyssey. Here are MLB ballpark’s #’s 20 – 11, as I have ranked them. Part 1 of the odyssey can be read here.

20. Nationals Park, Washington,

Thursday, August 25, 2011   Arizona 8, Washington 1

The Nationals use the four presidents from Mount Rushmore as mascots. I didn’t know that walking in, and as soon as we entered the park near centerfield, we were greeted by Teddy Roosevelt. My first thought was “why do they use the guy from the Pringles can as a mascot?” Then I saw Honest Abe and it clicked for me. The Diamondbacks had just traded for John McDonald and Aaron Hill from the Jays, and I had a chance to talk to McDonald very briefly before the game. My only request to the Nationals would be to show a little more love to the Expos.  Other than Gary Carter’s retired number, I don’t think that there was anything there to show that part of the franchise’s history.

19. Target Field, Minnesota,

Monday, August 19, 2013     Mets 6, Minnesota 1

This was a make-up game from earlier in the year. There weren’t a lot of people there, likely because it was a Monday afternoon, and it wasn’t the most intense game I’ve ever seen. But, I appreciate how they incorporated the city buildings into the right field skyline, as well as the fact that there are no cheap home runs at Target Field. You have to drive a ball to get it out of there. And, of course, any place with a statue of Rod Carew outside is fine by me.

18. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles,

Wednesday September 1, 1999 Milwaukee 5, LA 4

Saturday, August 26, 2017    Milwaukee 3, LA 0

The first time I went there, I loved that the park was so wide open.  You could be in the concourse and still see the game. I realize now that that is standard among all of the newer stadiums, but my first time to Dodger Stadium was my first exposure to that in an outdoor park.  Also, I loved that there was so much room in foul territory. I like when pitchers are given an advantage like that. I was disappointed to read in an LA paper the same week that the Dodgers decided to create more high priced seating and to bring in the seating near the dugouts closer to the foul lines.

Recently, I returned to Dodger Stadium during Players’ Weekend. They players were wearing their odd jerseys. The place had a really positive vibe, although that might have had something to do with the fact that the Dodgers were so far in first. The announcers introduced all of the players by nickname the first time up, which I thought was great. Unfortunately, the Dodgers lost that night and have been slumping ever since.

One of my bigger disappointments at any game was trying a Dodger Dog. Growing up, I had heard how good they were, but I think they must have changed the formula. It was boiled hot dog. Nothing special.

17. Citi Field, New York,

Sunday August 2, 2015    Mets 5, Washington 2

This was a Sunday Night Baseball game, and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. The Jays had just pulled off about five good trades. Of course I was wearing my Jays’ hat, and some Mets fans told me that they hoped to see us in October. There was some tailgating in the parking lot. Mr. and Mrs. Met entertained the fans, and the food was pretty good.  I had fun, and I’d be happy to go back.

16. Royals Stadium, Kansas City,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012    Kansas City 5, Oakland 0

This was before the Royals were really good, so the game itself was just OK. The park reminded me of Dodger Stadium a bit. I liked the fountains out in center and the open walkway out there.

15. Globe Life Park, Texas,

Thursday, August 25, 2016    Texas 9, Cleveland 0

Nice park, and right next to Jerry World, the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium. This park has a lot of charm. There’s the great brick work outside, and the great lattice work inside. Oddly, there are even a handful of obstructed view seats in the outfield, reminiscent of Tiger Stadium.

They say everything’s bigger in Texas. It’s true. I remember serving sizes at the Globe Life concession stand that I didn’t have the courage to order, and I’m not known for skipping meals.

This was the season after Jose Bautista’s epic bat flip. I take it as a point of pride that if I want to wear my Blue Jays hat to a game, I’m going to wear it. Well, this was about three months after Rougned Odor punched Joey Bats, and I knew that if I shied away from wearing that beautiful blue cap that I would feel guilty. The fans in Arlington were all friendly, but a few of them pointed out that I was in the wrong city. I just smiled and laughed politely and then gave thanks when I made it safely back to the hotel.

14. Coors Field, Colorado,

Sunday, April 20, 2014    Philadelphia 10, Colorado 9

Most people aren’t crazy enough to fly halfway across the continent just to see a ballgame. As a result, there were five games that I saw alone, six if you include my second game at Dodger Stadium.  This was the first one. I flew to Denver on Good Friday for two nights.

I’m a big Montreal Canadiens fan, and when I landed in Denver on Friday night, I learned that the Habs had defeated Tampa Bay in their first round playoff game. On Saturday night, I saw the Avalanche’s first round Game 2 matchup against the Wild. The Pepsi Center was hopping that night, and Nathan MacKInnon was a beast. I went to the ballpark on Sunday afternoon and really enjoyed Coors Field. It has a classic look from the outside. The purple dominated colour scheme works well inside as well. I’ve read that there is a row of seats in the upper deck painted a different colour to indicate one mile above sea level, but I confess that I didn’t notice it.

On the one hand, I was glad to see a slugfest consistent with Coors Field’s reputation. On the other hand, I had to leave in the seventh inning to make sure that I would catch my return flight. When I landed in Detroit on Sunday night, the Habs had won another game. I started to think that maybe I owed it to them to take more baseball trips.

13. Minute Maid Park, Houston,

Monday, August 29, 2015    Houston 6, Oakland 0

I saw two games in the state of Texas, and the visiting team never scored a run. I expected not to like Minute Maid Park, but I did. I enjoy walking around the outside of a stadium before a game, and I particularly enjoyed that in Houston. The statues and the walkways are great. Inside, the windows give the park a lot of character, and I really enjoyed the train that runs when an Astro hits a home run. I got to see it go off courtesy of Jose Altuve.

12. Turner Field, Atlanta,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014    Miami 6, Atlanta 5

Safeco Field in Seattle was my most pleasant surprise, but Turner Field was a close second. I assumed that since it was originally made to be the main Olympic Stadium for 1996 that it wouldn’t have much heart. But I was wrong. The parking lot is on the site of their former park, Fulton County Stadium. The Braves did a very smart thing by leaving the baselines intact on the parking lot, as well as markings where the pitchers mound and the bases were. It’s a little odd to see cars parked right over top, but I think it’s better than not remembering the past. Although I was the only Blue Jays’ fan in my group, a couple of my buddies helped me recreate Otis Nixon’s bunt back to Mike Timlin for the final out in the ’92 World Series. We got a few funny looks, but those twenty seconds of Youtube magic were worth it.

Better than the footprint of the diamond though was the fact that they kept a small portion of the left field fence, where Hammerin’ Hank Aaron hit home run number 715 on April 8, 1974. It was a privilege to stand next to the marker that they have commemorating it. Although the team moved to a new stadium, I really hope that the fence is still on that spot in that parking lot.

Some stadiums have quirky charm. Not Turner Field. Its charm was in its simplicity. It wasn’t trying to do too much. Everything was symmetrical, but it worked really well. And it was hot that night. I was glad that there was a machine pumping out cool mist next to the left field stands that I could settle under during my walk around the park.

11. Fenway Park, Boston,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007    Boston 2, Tampa Bay 1

This is a great park and a fun time. John Lester made his first Fenway park start since returning from cancer treatment, and he received a really nice ovation. Later in the ballgame, we all sang “Sweet Caroline”, and the Red Sox won on a walk-off single by Coco Crisp.

It’s possible that I had heard too much about the park ahead of time and expected too much, but to be truthful, I was underwhelmed. There’s a lot more positive to say about Fenway than negative, including the neighbourhood and the tradition and the way that the fans have fun. But I couldn’t shake the sense that it wasn’t Wrigley. Modern stadiums tend to have great sightlines and no obstructed view seating (including no overhang). That isn’t true of Fenway. I guess I like some of those more modern aspects of today’s ballparks.

 

About The Author

Jim Beland is a Math Teacher and sports fantatic from Windsor, ON. A devout HABS and Blue Jays fan, Jim uses sports as a metaphor to teach his students about mathematics.

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