Baseball Stadium Review

Steve O Speak

By Rob Yunich:

It’s always fun to review baseball stadiums, so here’s my latest take. (It’s categorized by active and inactive parks.)

Still In Use:

1. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore: Excusing the hometown bias for a second, this is the best of the ones I’ve ever seen in person. The warehouse, Boog’s Barbecue, and its charm set it apart from the others. We’re lucky to have it nearby. Next season will be the 20th year of baseball there and it continues to be the best of the lot.

1b. Fenway Park, Boston: A really close second, Fenway provides a true baseball experience. It’s sold out every game, nearly every fan is into every pitch, and the atmosphere in and around the ballpark is electric. It may not have the features of a modern stadium, but it is impossible not to look around and remember history. The retired numbers, the pennants from the franchise’s long history, the Green Monster, and the unique configuration all provide chills.

2. AT&T Park, San Francisco: An absolute gem that sits on McCovey Cove and has great views. I was there in August 2002, right after Barry Bonds hit his 600th career home run and before any steroid or BALCO allegations were being thrown around. The Montreal Expos were in town and it was a Hall of Fame ceremony — with Frank Robinson (then-Expos manager), Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron all present. Simply awesome — and very windy.

3. Minute Maid Park, Houston: It may have the most changed name around, but it’s really a gem to visit. We got lucky and sat about 10 rows from the field and even got on the big screen a few times. The atmosphere was great (the roof was closed that night), the fans really get into it, the sound system is fantastic, and the train above the left field wall (filled with oranges) really takes the cake.

4. PNC Park, Pittsburgh: Even though the Pirates are consistently horrible (although they’re better this season), their ballpark is amazing. The view of the Pittsburgh skyline is awesome and good tickets are relatively inexpensive and easy to get. I’ve actually been there twice, and both times were thoroughly enjoyable. Next time you’re in the mood for a baseball adventure, make the four-hour drive (from the D.C. area) to the Steel City. It’s worth the trip.

5. Nationals Park, D.C.: Although it’s a marked improvement over RFK Stadium, the Nats’ current home is a bit of a letdown. The sightlines at the park are very good — but the view of the U.S. Capitol is obstructed. The seats aren’t that comfortable, which is surprising. Overall, there isn’t that charm that you want from a ballpark.

6. Jacobs Field, Cleveland: The park built a year after Oriole Park does not compare. Although it’s very nice, it doesn’t quite have the atmosphere of other parks. The upper deck seems a lot higher than the others and the sightlines are not as good. That being said, it’s worth the trip to see it and there are some very nice features, including its proximity to downtown and Quicken Loans Arena.

7. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland: I was there in 1989 (six weeks before the earthquake) and it was an afternoon matinee against the Cleveland Indians. I believe the final score was 2-0 with Dennis Eckersley getting the save. A very nice park but there clearly is a need for a new home for the hometown Athletics.

Not in Use:

1. Memorial Stadium, Baltimore: Full of fond memories, but not amenities.

2. Busch Stadium, St. Louis (the original): A really nice ballpark — and I understand the new one is awesome.

3. Shea Stadium, New York: My friend called the former home of the Mets “our dump” and, although I think more highly of it than that, the time was long overdue for a new ballpark when CitiField was finally built. It wasn’t a bad place to visit. We were there in June 2006 and the only downside was the direct sunlight we faced for the first five innings. The seats are comfortable, but their layout is extremely confusing. (I also was there in 1986.)

4. Yankee Stadium, New York (the quasi-original): It’s fitting that the Evil Empire used to play in a dump. The stadium was old and decrepit and its only saving grace was the history. Enough said.

5. RFK Stadium, Washington: They did a nice job to fix up RFK for baseball, but it still showed its age. I saw a Redskins game there back in the day, and a few Nats games during their inaugural season.

6. Veterans Stadium: A dump that needed to be closed. But it was a fun game against the Braves in 1993 — with fans in center field getting on Deion Sanders’ case by doing their own form of the chop. (Use your imagination.)

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