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December 3, 2017

A Ballpark Odyssey Pt. 3 (Parks 10-1)

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 3 of my ballpark odyssey. Here are MLB ballpark’s #’s 10 – 1, as I have ranked them. Part 1 of the odyssey can be read here. Part 2 can be read at this link.

10. Safeco Field, Seattle,

Friday, August 9, 2013    Milwaukee 10, Seattle 5

Safeco Field was likely my most pleasant surprise. I was expecting a sterile environment, but it was jumping. Before the game we got some food along the water and had to fight off the seagulls. Then, we strolled to the game down an outdoor corridor that was jumping with performers and people having fun. When we got into the park, I was struck by the festive atmosphere in the building. It could just be that it was a Friday afternoon and people were in a good mood, but I left with a really positive view of the park. Also, if you sit in the nosebleeds, in foul territory along the first base line, you get a really nice view of the city.

9. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore,

Friday, August 26, 2011   Baltimore 12, Yankees 5

This was a great park for me, in part because it was the stadium that really spawned the new age of ballparks, being single-use facilities that incorporate the skyline or local buildings. In a word, respect. The park is located right near the Harbour, and the area nearby has great restaurants and bars. Also, you can walk to Babe Ruth’s childhood home nearby. And of course, that long orange brick building beyond right field makes this place a classic.

8. “New” Busch Stadium, St. Louis,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012   St. Louis 5, Arizona 2

There’s nothing to put you in the mood for a ballgame quite like listening to someone throw a perfect game.  While driving from Kansas City to St. Louis during the day, we became aware that Felix Hernandez had a perfecto going in the late innings. While we weren’t able to hear the actual play by play, we were all rooting for him as we got inning by inning updates on satellite radio. As we were nearing St. Louis, they played the audio of his clinching out. It was pretty cool.

The stadium itself is awesome, and I really appreciated Cardinals fans. Then, I REALLY appreciated seeing that St. Louis Arch in the skyline out in centerfield. The fans in St. Louis are renowned for knowing their stuff, but I didn’t realize that the beer vendors would get into the spirit of the competition so much as well. They were selling “the King of Beers”, so I thought it was clever when they asked “who wants to drink with the King?” Then, I realized that these guys might be competing with each other. We chuckled when one of the vendors called me Slim Jim and said I looked like I could use one.

7. Jacobs Field, Cleveland, Wednesday, August 9, 2006 Cleveland 4, Angels 0

Progressive Field, Cleveland, Sunday, August 21, 2016 Cleveland 3, Toronto 2

My first trip to Cleveland was probably the game that got the ball rolling in terms of seeing how many parks I could get to. It’s a great stadium, but I have to confess that on my first trip there I thought “this is no Comerica”. Both times that I went there, we drove up and back on the same day, which is about a three hour drive each way. I like the wide open outdoor concourse in centerfield and the high walls in the outfield.  I ranked this as the seventh best park in the major leagues largely because of the energy that was in the stadium on my second trip there.  The place was packed, and the Cleveland fans and Toronto fans were giving it to each other the whole time.  Although the Jays lost I had to admit that it had been one heck of a fun game to be at.

6. Comerica Park, Detroit,

Saturday, September 2, 2000   Detroit 5, Texas 3

I love Comerica Park. It’s wide open, meaning that even when you go to the concessions, you can still see the game.  The surrounding neighbourhood is friendly and great, with lots of restaurants and bars and music. Fans can see the action from the street if they’re standing in the right spot, and for as many times as I’ve gone there, it seems I usually see a triple. If you’re an outfielder playing in Comerica, you better have legs. This park doesn’t have a single weakness. Being from Windsor, I can get to the park from my house in a half hour if there is no line at customs. It’s great to be able to pick up and go to a game so often in the summer.

5. Citizen One Bank Park, Philadelphia,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010   LA Dodgers 15, Philadelphia 9

This park has the best food in the majors. The difficult part is choosing what to eat. Prior to the game, I settled on Greg Luzinski’s Barbecue out in centerfield. As I was paying, I asked the cashier if Luzinski ever showed up, and she pointed at him about five or ten feet away. I went over and introduced myself, and told him that the food was pretty good.

If you remember, those were the days of some pretty good Phillies’ teams. They had won the World Series two years prior and had won the NL pennant the previous year. They had a record of 62-49 at the time of the game. However, that didn’t stop the fans from booing their team’s lackluster performance on this particular night. It was pretty funny to watch the Phillies’ fans get upset at a first place club, but they did. I have to say, I respected them for it.I also respected the Phillies’, playing every game in front of such demanding people.

4. Wrigley Field, Chicago,

Monday, August 21, 2006   Philadelphia 6, Chicago 5

The neighbourhood around Wrigley is the best in the majors. If you go, give yourself time before and/or after to hang out in a restaurant or bar nearby. They do it right. When I went there, they had not yet installed a video scoreboard. Someone made a great catch in the outfield, and I instinctively turned to watch the replay. At first I was disappointed to see no video up there, but then I realized that it just meant that I would need to pay attention to the field for the rest of the evening. We were in the left field bleachers, and the Wrigley fans struck me as truly knowledgeable.  Now that I’ve done the circuit, I intend to get back to Wrigley every couple of years. On a personal note, four of us decided to drive there and back for a night game, largely at my urging. That was a mistake. Due to construction, it took us about three hours to get out of Chicago, and we returned to Windsor at about 7:00 a.m. Next time, I’ll find accommodations in Chicago.

3. Petco Park, San Diego,

Wednesday, August 30, 2017   San Diego 5, San Francisco 0

This was one of my favourite parks and one of my favourite games to attend. My brothers Michael and Dennis, my sister Renee, and my sister-in-law Cathy took the opportunity to come out to San Diego and join me at the zoo and the ballgame. Michael sprung for my ticket, and I uncharacteristically picked up the bill for dinner.

The Padres did it right when they built this facility. The whole stadium has a great openness to it. They did a great job of incorporating a historic building into the park itself, and of course the weather was great.

The most charming thing I saw in any park, was the grass hill in center field. For $20 you can watch the game from a hill out past the centerfield fence. During the game, kids were out running around on the hill while their parents tried to watch the game. I don’t know if there’s a family rate, but it seems a great way to inspire young people to become Padres fans.

On a personal note, two interesting things happened for me in this game. First, I caught a ball in the stands. It wasn’t a home run or foul ball, but rather, was thrown into the stands between innings by Giants outfielder Gorkys Hernandez. I gave it to a young fan behind me and she thanked me. Second, my family sprung for a sign to be posted on the scoreboard in right field that said “Congratulations Jim (Lugnut) Beland on reaching 30 out of 30 Major League Ballparks!”. Although I was at the concession stand the first time it appeared, I saw it the second time.

That was a great way to end the ballpark odyssey.

2. AT & T Park San Francisco,

Tuesday, August 6, 2013   Milwaukee 3, San Francisco 1

Gorgeous setting for a ballpark. We rode the subway in. After we got inside the stadium, we stood at the spot of Barry Bonds’ asterisked 756th home run, and then walked the cement concourse just along the shore of the Bay.  There were a few kayakers out there, even though Bonds was no longer on the team. By the time it was over, I felt that it had overtaken Pittsburgh as the nicest park in the majors. And I still think it’s close. But over the years, my memory of the Pittsburgh skyline has stayed with me a bit more than my memory of the Bay.

1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh,

Thursday, August 14, 2008   Cincinnati 3, Pittsburgh 1

This park has it all. It’s the best. We parked on the other side of the river and walked along the beautiful yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge to get to the stadium. When we got there we were greeted by statutes of some of the Pirate greats. Once inside, the stadium itself is quite small, and its concourses are wide open, so even at the concessions you can feel the game. But what sets this park apart from the rest in my opinion is the view of the city that you have while the game is on. We had seats along the first base line, and just having that view in the background made the rest of the evening more enjoyable. We sat next to an older couple that were Reds’ fans.  They explained that even when the teams aren’t playing well, that there is a pretty healthy rivalry between their fan bases. Even the people that worked the scoreboard entertainment in between innings seemed to bring their A game.

Another enjoyable aspect of this game was the fact that anyone there got to attend the subsequent REO Speedwagon concert. That put a bit more of a fun vibe in the air. Unfortunately, we had to drive five hours back to Windsor later that night, so we didn’t stick around for it.

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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