It dawned on me as I woke up in San Francisco this morning, that this 9-game trip we start tonight against the Giants will take me to 3 of my personal favorite ballparks around the major leagues.
With all the praise many, including me, have been heaping on Marlins Park, I’ve gotten the question a lot of late: “What’s YOUR favorite ballpark?”
While I’ve seen regular season major league games in 48 different ballparks over the years (including every current park with the exception of Target Field in Minneapolis) that’s a VERY complicated question to answer. For one thing, I think it’s hard to compare a Fenway Park or a Wrigley Field—old historic parks—to a Marlins Park or any of the other new-wave parks that in many cases have amenities and conveniences you just didn’t have 100 years ago when Fenway was built. Having those amenities adds to the experience. And while many of the new parks have done a remarkable job simulating the charm and the intimacy of a Fenway or a Wrigley, at the end of the day, you just can’t simulate the histories of those 2 parks or an old Yankee Stadium. So they have inherent advantages as well as disadvantages when being compared to other ballparks. It’s like comparing players from different eras. Unfair to even try to do.
I also have a tough time separating the ballpark from the city itself and the area where it’s located, because—in my opinion—the best ballparks are the ones that mesh perfectly with their city, ballparks like Marlins Park for example, that are designed in such a way that they could ONLY have been built in the city where they are. To me, Marlins Park LOOKS and FEELS and SMELLS and TASTES like Miami. It is a hip, contemporary, fun, colorful park in a hip, contemporary, fun, colorful city. It works perfectly in Miami and ONLY in Miami.
To that point, red brick and green steel works magnificently at Camden Yards in Baltimore because Baltimore is a red brick and green steel city. Red brick and green steel may be beautiful, but it wouldn’t have made any sense in Miami.
There are some parks—yes, even some of the new ones–that feel like they could have been plopped down in any city in America. Whether the architecture doesn’t blend in with the surroundings or the parks themselves simply have a generic feel to them, that detracts from the experience for me.
I want to be able to sit in a park—or see a camera shot or two on television—and know EXACTLY where I am. Again, that speaks to the magnificence of Marlins Park. Whether it’s the aquariums behind home plate, the color of the outfield walls, the Home Run Sculpture or the views of the Miami skyline, if you sit in Marlins Park and think “This may be Kansas City,” we’ve got to get you some help.
With the original question of what my favorite ballpark is in mind, and considering some of the criteria I’ve just laid out, what I’ve tried to do is put together my personal ranking of the major league parks.
You may agree with all or some of what I have to say. You may disagree with everything I have to say. I’m not trying to be right. You may say, “Well you’re biased in your opinions.” Well, yes, that’s actually what opinions are. They take into account personal biases, good and bad. I’m not telling you my list has to be your list. I’m just offering my personal opinions based on my travels over the course of my career in baseball.
These opinions are based on how I judge ballparks AND the individual experiences I’ve encountered at each one. You may judge a ballpark differently, and that’s great.
I’ll offer my thoughts over the course of the next few days, working my way up from the bottom of the list to the top.
Note that, I will not include Target Field on my list because I’ve not yet been there (although I’ve heard great things about and don’t miss the Metrodome). I will not include Marlins Park because I think my passion for the ballpark speaks for itself, and I‘d imagine most of you have seen it by now. And I WILL include Kansas City despite the fact I have not been to the renovated ballpark there. I absolutely loved Kauffman Stadium before the renovation, and I can only imagine it’s even better now.
I’ll roll out my rankings in 3 parts over the next few days, with part 1 coming up a little bit later today. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, what’s YOUR favorite ballpark? Feel free to chime in in the comments section below.
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