I’ve seen all 30 Major League Baseball teams play at their home stadiums.
Like many from the Charlotte area, my first big-league baseball stadium visit was to Atlanta – Fulton County Stadium as a kid, then Turner Field.
In the early ’90s I got to visit the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field and Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
I got serious about this in 2002, when I was in Los Angeles for a game show audition, and arranged to see the Dodgers, Angels and Padres.
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Creating travel packages has been a fun part of seeing all the parks. The best trip was to San Francisco with my mom and a friend to see the Giants and As, and then taking Amtrak’s Coast Starlight to Seattle for a Mariners game.
Highlights from around Major League Baseball’s venues:
Best capturing of old and new: Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. It opened in 2000, but parts of the upper deck look like they are straight out of the ’60s. There are tigers everywhere, of designs from several eras.
Best riverboat in center field: Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, where the Reds play. This is one of the few fields named for a corporation that sounds like a park name you might choose anyway.
Favorite park: Wrigley Field, with Camden Yards a close second. The Green Monster at the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park was impressive, but the seats there were designed for rear ends a hundred years ago, at least the one I had in right center field behind a pole. It wasn’t the game experience I’d hoped for.
Best short hot dog: Cincinnati’s Cheesy Coney, which is about a 4-inch dog covered in Skyline Chili and mounds of shredded cheese.
Best long hot dog: The Denver Rockies’ Denver Dog – all-beef topped with shredded cheese and green chili sauce. And recently picked jalapenos. If you use your finger to slide the peppers off the dog, you should not then stick that finger in your eye half an hour later. Just sayin’.
Most overrated hot dog: Dodger Dog, in Los Angeles. It is nothing special. You can do better from any street cart in your own hometown. Or even the frozen store brand.
Best standing-room only experience: Wrigley Field during a series between Chicago’s Cubs and White Sox.
Closest I sat to home plate: The original Yankee Stadium, on a ticket bought from a businessperson just before the game started – his associate had not shown up. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper sat three rows in front of me in row A.
Stadium that looks most like a UFO crashing diagonally into Earth: Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field.
Best play I saw: Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba put out two runners at third base on one play on Aug. 14, 2013, one on a rundown between third and home and the other a baserunner who should’ve stayed at second during that rundown.
Best inning I saw: Jose Bautista was a great relief pitcher for the Cubs in 1993 (10-3, 2 saves in 111 2/3 innings). In the best inning I ever saw, he loaded the bases with Braves with none out on Aug. 22. Mark Lemke grounded to the pitcher, who threw home to get David Justice for out No. 1. The next batter was legendarily slow Sid Bream, pinch-hitting for John Smoltz. Bream also grounded to Bautista, who threw home for out No. 2 (Terry Pendleton), and catcher Rick Wilkins had plenty of time to throw out Bream at first.
Most disturbing use of eminent domain to relocate several neighborhoods for a baseball stadium: Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chavez Ravine. A friend from L.A. tells me that it took a few generations for many area Hispanics to support the team because of the thousands of people who were forced to sell their homes and move – to houses they could not afford on the pittances they were paid.
Outfield where you most want to run under the fountains: Kansas City Royals’ Kauffman Stadium.
Best brats: Several contenders, but the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park won for me.
Most family-friendly team: Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field. Golden Glovers (seniors) pick up foul balls instead of teenagers; you can get value menu items such as hot dogs and 8-oz. drinks for $1.50; and there is a lady in the upper deck with a unique flag she waves for each player – the team gave her a couple of lockers so she doesn’t have to tote the flags to the stadium every day.
Best rotunda: Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, honors Jackie Robinson as a contributor to their history: Without the Brooklyn Dodgers there would be no Mets. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda has a quote from Robinson around the top: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
Best baseball fans: St. Louis Cardinals’. They are fans of the game, not just of their team.