What is your idea of a perfect summer?
Summer means baseball, so my perfect summer would be catching a ballgame at every MLB stadium over the course of the season. Add to that a trip to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and I would call that the dream. Checking off every stadium is a shared dream of many baseball fans, if not all. Checking off every stadium in one season is kind of the ‘Holy Grail’ of road trips for baseball fans.
For the sake of getting some writing in tonight, here is a list of the few stadiums I have visited (some of which are no longer in existence) and some of my favorite memories.
Jack Murphy Stadium
The Murph was my home stadium growing up. My dad chose our first house in San Diego after drawing a circle around the stadium on a map. He had season tickets for most of the time we lived in San Diego, and I went to a ton of games. My favorite part of the stdium itself was the walkway all around the plaza level that allowed you to walk around the whole field while keeping an eye on the game. Currently it is in the process of demolition after being home to the Padres, Chargers, Aztecs and many more events for about 50 years.
My uncle was the bullpen catcher for the Astros for several decades, and my extended family lived in Houston for almost 60 years, so I had many visits to the Astrodome as a kid. I remember loving walking into the dome after working with my Grandad all day in the Houston heat and humidity, and thinking the 72 degree controlled domw felt like a freezer. I also remember baseballs bouncing off of the Astroturf like it was a trampoline.
Minute Maid Park
The Juicebox has to have the closest seats to the game in all of baseball. The field feels small and you get the sense that any foul ball is gong to come your way. The food is great, no suprises they stick to standard Texas cuisine which is phenomenal. The air conditioned games during the summer are great because the giant windows in left field let in enough natural light that you almost forget that you are indoors. On the rare occasions where I’ve been to a game with the roof open, it feels like a completely different ballpark, which is a great change of pace in the Houston heat. Bonus points for one of the first fields with an intentionallly odd shape that creates unique angles for baseballs to rochochet. And props to them for removing the hill in center field that haunted OF for several years.
I still enjoy going to Angel Stadium. The parking there is $10, and by far the easiest stadium to get in and out of. The fans are great, and despite limited options the food is great too. It’s by far the better overall baseball experience in Los Angeles. Me and a group of friends from across SoCal try to catch at least one game there every year. My favorite game was one of Mike Trout’s first home games bac in 2011 or 2012. I’ve never been that immediately impressed with a ballplayer, and am glad that he’s lived up tot he hype. If they would drop the Los Angeles from their name I would definitely be a much bigger supporter of the team. Bonus points for lighting up the halo on the ‘Big A’ after every win.
My first experience at Dodger Stadium was having beer poured on me from the upper decks for sitting in the visiting family section. I was three. So you’ll understand if I’m pretty jaded on this one. I moved to the LA area after college and went to quite a few games there. The positives: the view is a mazing around sunset, easily my favorite place to be in LA at that time of day. Dodger dogs are great. And the field is probably the most immaculately kept grass in all of baseball. The negatives: The traffic getting in and out of the stadium is a nightmare, plan on over an hour coming and going just to get to and from the freeway, then you get to regular LA traffic. Unless you plan on sitting in the high price seats behind home plan on getting harrased and threatened with violence if you’re not a fan of the home team. If you want anyhting besides a Dodger Dog… good luck.
I was fortunate to move to Seattle in time to see the concrete monstrosity that was the Kingdome. It was a pretty run of the mill multi-use desing from the mid 60’s when concrete was a standard design element. Fortuantely, I got to watch Griffey in his prime, along with a young A-Rod, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, and other local faves like Jay Buhner and John Olerud. I was also fortunate enought to attend some of the 1995 playoff games between the M’s and the Yankees featuring a young Derek Jeter and the rest of their great dynasty.
Safeco Field/T-Mobile Park
On a sunny day, Safeco is probably the most underrated stadium in baseball. The views of Puget Sound are great, the feel of the ballpark is perfect, and the food there is second only to my home stadium. When the weather isn’t great and the roof is closed you feel like you are in giant hangar. It takes a second to get used to, but it is definitely one of the most unique expereinces in baseball. Even when the roof is closed the stadium is open to the elements so you get that genuine Seattle experience. My last game there started out sunny and 72 and ended with enough rain to force the roof closed and me into a northface jacket. Throw in some Ivar’s clam chowder in a breadbowl and I was a happy camper.
The Ballpark At Arlington
Most of my enjoyment of my time there was getting to watch a game with family and friends. I remember the food being over the top and very Texas, which is a good thing. The stadium itself was relatively nondescript, which I ejoyed because it made focusingon the game that much easier. The big question though, is who thought it would be a good idea to put an open-air stadium in the middle of Texas?
Fenway gets the historical nod because it is, and feels a hundred years old. Fortuantely, it was easy for even this Boston sports antagonist to enjoy a game there. The Green Monster is iconic, and the energy around the stadium is phenomenal. And with there only being two levels, every game is packed with a rabid fanbase. I dare you to not sing along to ‘Sweet Caroline’ while sitting the the centerfield seats a mile away from home plate surrounded by a bunch of construction workers who have dropped their ‘Rs’ at the end of words for generations. I didn’t bother with food there because the pubs around town are the real winners, but there is plenty of beer sold on site to make sure the stadium is turning a healthy profit. Minus point for cramped seats and walkways, huge bonus points for cheap standing-room-only tickets for military.
Old Yankee Stadium
My first trip to Old Yankee Stadium was perfect. By the time the train dropped us off across the street we were lost in a sea of pinstripe jerseys. If there was a Mecca for baseball, this was the place. Monument Park boasted the legacy of the team, and the fans there did the same. I was fortunate enought to catch a Yankees/ Red Sox game there in 07 while that rivalry was still in it’s prime and I’m still looking up some of the words I learned that day. I don’t remember much about the food or concessions, that’s not why you go there. Yankee Stadium was a sacred place with a tough reputation and that is exactly what we saw. And at some point walking around I got hit with who had graced that field. Ruth. Mantle. Maris. Dimaggio. Berra. And the guys that we got to see… Jeter, Posada, Pettite, Rivera. Absolutely unreal.
New Yankee Stadium
New Yankee Stadium is definitely the ‘House that Jeter Built’. Take everything that was great about Old Yankee Stadium, update it, make it a little more grand, and viola, you still have one of the best homes in baseball.
Hands down my favorite experience at a classic ballpark. I had one day to spend in Chicago, and knew exactly where I would spend that day, so I purchased a ticket in the ‘Steve Bartman’ row and took the L up to the North Side. Wrigleyville surrounding the stadium is electric, even on a Tuesday at lunchtime before a day game. The lower part of the stadium seems to go up for miles. If there’s a hundred rows below the grandstand I wouldn’t be suprised. The field is immaculate, and the lack of ads around the stadium transport you back into time. The beer vendors there only work one aisle, and they never slow down. The term ‘pure baseball’ comes to mind whenever i think of that stadium.
I sat next to a guy in his 60s and his dad in his 90’s who had season tickets in their family for over 75 years. They knew every single player that had played for the both the Padres and the Cubs. It was just after the time that Tony Gwynn had passed, so we chatted about him, Maddux, and other greats for the whole game. Fortunately, they didn’t harbor much of a grudge for the 84 playoffs where the Padres upset the Cubs, even though they were there for those games. Full disclosure. They bought me a beer for spending my only day in Chicago at Wrigley. And another beer for the story about how I arranged for our trip to Chicago (we were going to a conference in Indianapolis). And another beer as an apology for calling me ‘Mr. Padre’, a hallowed name reserved for Tony Gwynn himself. There was another beer for not moving to cover when it started to rain. After the game they found me coming out of the team store with a Wrigley shirt and invited me to celebrate the Cubs win with another beer at their favorite watering hole in Wrigleyville.
Free beers aside, Wrigley Field is an absolute masterpiece of a stadium, second only to my home field…
Petco Park is the perfect stadium for San Diego. Even when the team is terrible (see the 2010’s) the stadium draws great numbers over the course of the season. The food choices are second to none. The row of local craft brewery options are seeimingly endless. the concourses are open and wide, with amazing views of downtown San Diego and the Coronado Bay. There’s a park in the park where you can sit on the grassy hill and watch a game with a cheaper ticket. The park features a mini diamond for kids to play on, and it all sits under the presence of the statue to San Diego’s hometown hero, Tony Gwynn. The left field foul pole is the hundred year old Western Metal Supply Building, which was renovated and included as part of the park design. I’ve sat in almost every area of the park and there simply is no bad seat. The Stadium was part of a downtown renovation project so heading out to the Gaslamp District before or after a game is a must. Bonus point for riding the trolley to the stadium picking up fans decked out in brown and gold as you go.