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More than in any other major American professional sport, the where matters in baseball nearly as much as the who and how. Ballparks aren’t just settings for the game. They’re unique temples that evoke a feeling from fans of the home team and beyond.
Capacity: 41,915 | Opened: 2000
The first thing you notice, even before you’ve emerged from the concourse, is the welcoming smell. Follow your nose to the garlic fries stand. Strolling behind the right field fence, you can look left and see Hunter Pence or look right and see San Francisco Bay, stretching beyond the kayaks and assorted water vessels in McCovey Cove. It’s cozy but not cramped. It feels both modern and ancient, the way any great ballpark should.
– A bite to eat nearby: Marlowe is much more than a burger place, but locals call their on-the-bun offering the best in the city. Across the street from the ballpark, the best spot to pregame is MoMo’s.
– While you’re at the park: Crush a crab sandwich while walking along the arcade that separates the right field wall and McCovey Cove.
– While you’re in town: Plan your visit to Alcatraz well ahead of time, as tickets go fast to check out “The Rock.” Take a trip out into San Francisco Bay for a full tour of one of the most famous prisons in the world, and catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge on your way.
– Player insight: “You know, it’s different. I think they did a good job with the stadium, but it’s always, always, always very, very windy there. It’s almost not baseball weather because you’re right on the water on the bay. That was the only difference there.” – Nationals infielder Stephen Drew
Capacity: 38,496 | Opened: 2001
The lone drawback might be how difficult it is to keep your eyes on the game. PNC offers the greatest view in baseball: The Allegheny River, flowing under yellow bridges, with the gothic architecture of downtown providing a backdrop. But the view to the field isn’t much worse. Because there’s no third deck, it’s intimate. The concessions are solid, too. You just won’t want to leave your seat to fetch them.
– A bite to eat nearby: Pittsburgh is a Meat & Potatoes kind of city, so it makes sense that the restaurant of the same name serves both an $11 burger and a $38 Wagyu Flat Iron. Along with Täkō (Mexican street food) and Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, you’ll have an excuse to cross that yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge you can see from the ballpark.
– While you’re at the park: A Primanti Bros. sandwich goes well with the beautiful views of the Pittsburgh skyline and bridges over the Allegheny River.
– While you’re in town: Just a five-minute walk up the North Shore from PNC Park, the Andy Warhol Museum is a unique glimpse into the great art and architecture of Pittsburgh. Immersive, interactive and downright cool.
– Player insight: “I like PNC, the looks of it. It’s not a place I get in the box and feel super confident. But yeah, we talk about it. A lot of guys say it’s their favorite park just for the aesthetics.” – Nationals outfielder Chris Heisey
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Capacity: 45,971 | Opened: 1992
Still the crown jewel of baseball’s neo-traditionalist ballpark spree of the 1990s, Camden Yards is as pure a baseball experience as exists, with perfect sightlines, an urban backdrop dominated by the colossal B&O Warehouse and the atmosphere enhanced by the pungent smell of smoked meat from Boog’s Barbecue. Walk here from the Inner Harbor and stop for a beer or three along the way.
– A bite to eat nearby: Authentic Italian is the main course at LaScala, but there are vegetarian-friendly and Seafood dishes worth trying as well. The restaurant is tiny, but the flavors are large.
– While you’re at the park: Try a sandwich from Boog’s or the crab-dip-covered waffle fries from Flying Dog Grill and watch batting practice from the flag court overlooking right field. Don’t miss the baseball-shaped plaques that mark home runs along Eutaw Street.
While you’re in town: The ballpark is a few blocks from Baltimore’s iconic Inner Harbor, and its famous aquarium. After you see the fish, you can order some or drink like one; a few blocks further are Little Italy and Fells Point.
Player insight: “I think Camden Yards, it’s a great mix of being able to be a newer-feeling stadium, but also has kind of the charm and the old feel. I love the brick, you love the ways they worked the warehouse into the field. I feel like it was really well put together where they still gave a lot of character to it. And at the same time, you still get most of the new frills of stadiums built after 1990.” – Nationals catcher Matt Wieters
4. Red Sox
Capacity: 37,673 | Opened: 1912
While the Henry/Lucchino/Epstein regime is rightly celebrated for leading the Red Sox back to glory in the 2000s, an equally significant achievement was transforming this historic “lyric little bandbox” – in John Updike’s words – with revenue-generating features without losing its charm and coziness. And no park better utilizes music, from the Dropkick Murphys to the nightly singalong of “Sweet Caroline.”
– A bite to eat nearby: Go to Eastern Standard. It’s a bustling brasserie with a menu to please just about anyone, including a beloved burger, expertly shucked oysters, pastas, steaks – plus well-made cocktails, an accessible and fun wine list and an up-to-the-minute craft-beer menu.
– While you’re at the park: Grab a Fenway Frank and make your way to the only red seat in the otherwise green stands in right field. The seat, in Section 42, Row 37, marks the landing spot of the longest home run in Fenway Park history – a 502-foot blast by Ted Williams in 1946 – and offers an excellent vantage point of the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole.
– While you’re in town: Boston Common and the Public Garden are a few stops from the ballpark on the Green Line. While you’re there, check out the Massachusetts State House and the Frog Pond, then ride the swan boats.
– Player insight: “I like the old ones, Wrigley. Fenway. New Yankee Stadium because it’s kind of like the old ones. … The new stadiums are all nice and obviously the facilities and locker rooms are all state of the art … Although some of [the old ones] are a little tighter and more of a headache as far the kitchens and stuff, I think when you’re out there on the field it’s pretty cool just because those were the stadiums that for the most of the history of baseball, everybody else that came before us played in those stadiums, too. For me, that means something.” – Nationals relief pitcher Shawn Kelley
Capacity: 41,160 | Opened: 1914
The experience begins before you set foot inside, maybe the moment you order your first Old Style at Murphy’s or attack a gargantuan sandwich at Lucky’s. The ivy on the brick outfield walls remains one of the most identifiable, and gorgeous, features in baseball. Recent updates made it more comfortable without robbing it of its inherent charm. It’s cramped in the concourse, but you’ll be having too much fun to care.
– A bite to eat nearby: If you’re catching a day game, and looking for a change of pace from a pub, Angelina Ristorante offers brunch with bottomless mimosas. There are heartier Italian meals later in the day as well.
– While you’re at the park: Drink an Old Style (or two) in the bleachers, and don’t forget the sunscreen.
– While you’re in town: If you’ve got 90 minutes to spare during the day, since the Cubs now play about 30 night games per season, the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat cruise explains how fabulous architecture weaves into the history of the city, including how the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 forced much to be rebuilt from scratch. Public transportation can get you to the ballpark by game time.
– Player insight: “I like the classic [ballparks] the best. … It’s nice sometimes to sit around in the dugout or the bullpen and look around and think of the history of it.” – Nationals relief pitcher Shawn Kelley
Capacity: 56,000 | Opened: 1962
It seems timeless, even after recent upgrades to modernize it and make the outfield sections safer. You know where you are the second you see the pastel-yellow seats. Beyond the outfield walls sit the San Gabriel mountains. The upper concourse behind home plate provides an incredible view of downtown L.A. In an era of newer ballparks attempting to mimic the old ones, it still feels classic and unique.
– A bite to eat nearby: In a city that offers the best of so many cuisines, only at Grand Central Market can you sample so many at once. The gigantic market in downtown is a melting pot with some of the best tacos, Thai, pasta, egg sandwiches, meats and cheeses you can find in L.A. Two recommendations: G&B for espresso and Sarita’s for pupusas and rich Salvadoran stews.
– While you’re at the park: Soak up the sun while chowing down on a Super Dodger Dog with all the fixins.
– While you’re in town: There are a million sights to see, but off the stereotypical path is the Japanese American National Museum, located in funky Little Tokyo. It’s small enough to take in between lunch at a nearby ramen shop and a night game, and the exhibits range from entertaining to haunting.
– Player insight: “That is probably one of my favorite places to pitch. I feel like home plate is kind of close to me. Some feel really far away, and I’m like, ‘Can I crowhop before I throw today?’ But here, the mound – whether it’s the height or what it is – it’s a better place to pitch. And at night, when the cool air comes in, it’s a better place to pitch.” – Nationals relief pitcher Joe Blanton
Capacity: 41,164 | Opened: 2004
It might be the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in left field, jutting out from the corner, its outer edge serving as the foul pole. It might be the pints of Alesmith. It might be the views of the Gaslamp Quarter. This park grows on you. It has one of baseball’s best locations, in the middle of San Diego, always shorts-and-hoodie weather. It has the best beer selection and ideal sightlines. It’s impossible not to enjoy yourself.
– A bite to eat nearby: Eat brunch at The Mission, and you’ll still be full by first pitch. It’s not just the portions – the Latin-inspired mounds of eggs, potatoes and chorizo, washed down with a full selection of coffee drinks, that make the wait worth it. After the game, Neighborhood pours one of the most well-curated lists of local beers in the city’s sensational craft scene.
– While you’re at the park: Fish tacos from Miguel’s Cocina + craft beer = a match made in heaven, also known as San Diego.
– While you’re in town: About a mile from the ballpark and the Gaslamp Quarter, along the bay, lies the USS Midway Museum, a rare opportunity to tour a naval aircraft carrier. And if the chance to see planes, officer’s quarters and floating city is too static for you, see the city by land and water on a SEAL Tour.
– Player insight: “I see the ball better there. People don’t talk about it as a hitters’ park, but I’ve had a lot of success. Sometimes you don’t really know why, you just take it, and that’s one of them.” – Nationals outfielder Chris Heisey
Capacity: 47,943 | Opened: 1999
On a perfect Seattle summer day, the massive retractable roof is opened, and you have as pleasant a baseball-watching experience as there is. Sit in the third level, with views of Mount Rainier. Get some sushi and a Pike Brewing Space Needle IPA. Nevermind (a Nirvana reference!) the fact the M’s haven’t made the playoffs since 2001. Just be glad you’re not in the Kingdome, which Safeco replaced in 1999.
– A bite to eat nearby: Ivar’s fish bar on Pier 54 is a Seattle classic and in walking distance. But Safeco itself has The ‘Pen, which opens before the regular gates and has a collection of offerings that measure up. Have a Great State Burger, or carne asada at Edgar’s Cantina and Tacos, Funghi pizza at Ballard Pizza Co., or buttermilk-fried pieces at Dynamite Chicken.
– While you’re at the park: Buy me some peanuts and … toasted grasshoppers? Sure. Fans can’t get enough of the edible bugs, which are tossed in chili-lime salt.
– While you’re in town: If Pike Place Market is too far and the Space Needle too “been there, done that,” Chihuly Garden & Glass is an unforgettable, knock-your-eyes-out visit. The Museum of Pop Culture, an IMAX theater and the iconic Needle are all nearby.
– Player insight: “Awesome. Best batter’s eye. Huge black batter’s eye. It’s great. Good ballpark.” – Nationals first baseman Adam Lind
Capacity: 42,000 | Opened: 2010
When you build an open-air stadium in Minnesota, you are asking for trouble. But after being cooped up in the sterile Metrodome for 28 years, it was understandable that the Twins would gamble on the weather. So far, so great, as the AL’s newest stadium has drawn raves since opening – with a well-connected mass-transit system, plentiful bars and restaurants nearby and, so far, few weather-related catastrophes.
– A bite to eat nearby: Between the Mississippi River and the ballpark lies 112 Eatery, a place where you can try stringozzi, frog legs or octopus and clam brodetto, and still have money to get a Twins souvenir.
– While you’re at the park: Catch part of the game from the standing-room-only section beneath the iconic neon sign of Minnie and Paul shaking hands in center field.
– While you’re in town: The exterior of First Avenue is impossible to miss, a low-slung black structure adorned with more than 500 stars, each one containing the name of a band that had played inside, from Against Me! to Ziggy Marley. Those who like D.C.’s 9:30 Club would do well to check out a show at this legendary “danceteria,” as it dubs itself.
– Player insight: “It’s one of the more beautiful parks in the big leagues. The playing surface was really nice, the clubhouses were really nice, and it might sound weird, but in that part of Minnesota, I feel like you breathe a little easier up there. It’s really crisp, low humidity. In late fall and early spring, there are really some beautiful days up there.” – Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton
Capacity: 50,398 | Opened: 1995
This underrated stadium sits in an outstanding location in lower downtown, or LoDo in the local vernacular, near an overflow of bars and restaurants. The concourses are spacious, and it’s worth touring the park to check out the new roof-deck seats and the Purple Row – a line of seats among a sea of green ones exactly one mile above sea level. The technicolor sunsets over the Rockies might be the best in baseball.
– A bite to eat nearby: Calling itself a “gastrobrothel,” Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox offers a unique setting, solid food, great beer and live music near the ballpark.
– While you’re at the park: Order a local craft beer or some Rocky Mountain oysters and venture to the 20th row of the upper deck, where the row of purple seats sit.
– While you’re in town: Historic Lower Downtown covers nearly 30 blocks and is filled with shops and places to eat and drink, as well as historic buildings. Tour it by bike, scooter, Segway, pedal hopper or “patio ride.”
– Player insight: “The first couple games there I could kind of tell a difference, just getting acclimated to breathing and stuff, but that was it. The more I played there, I got used to it. The thing about that park is, for hitters, you’ve got a really big gap. Guys have to cover a lot of ground. You’re going to get your bloop hits.” – Nationals infielder Stephen Drew
Capacity: 38,177 | Opened: 1973
You don’t get modern comforts here. You don’t get an urban setting, or a fancy retro construction. But you still get a fabulous baseball-watching experience, with a dazzling fountain/waterfall in right field and some of the best barbecue in the world along the concourses. One consequential bonus: Thanks to plentiful parking, because the NFL’s Chiefs are next door, it may be the easiest stadium in baseball to reach by car.
– A bite to eat nearby: A trip to Kansas City is not complete without barbecue, and as famous as Arthur Bryant’s is, for as long as it has been, it’s still top notch. For a taste closer to the ballpark, try LC’s on Blue Parkway.
– While you’re at the park: Belfonte ice cream is the perfect accompaniment for a walk among the fountains in the outfield.
– While you’re in town: The ballpark is along I-70, not centrally located, so you’ll need to drive. But that gives you options – the College Basketball Experience, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the Harley-Davidson factory tour and City Market are all within a half-hour’s drive. Take your pick.
– Player insight: “Another stadium that catches my attention is Kansas City. It’s an older stadium, but they’ve rebuilt it and made it prettier.” – Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton
Citizens Bank Park
Capacity: 43,651 | Opened: 2004
It hovers on the outskirts of the city, which makes parking and getting there a hassle. But the location is salvaged by the view of downtown, visible from nearly every seat. Many parks have imitated the concourse setup, which allows fans to see the field as they cruise for concessions, but none have nailed it as well. In the stands, the sightlines are as good as it gets. It’s a comfortable, beautiful place to catch a game.
– A bite to eat nearby: Xfinity Live! and Chickie and Pete’s are the obvious attractions, but ask someone from Philly, and they’ll direct you toward Talk of the Town, for hoagies and such fare, or Celebre’s Pizzeria.
– While you’re at the park: A cheesesteak (Whiz wit, please) from Tony Luke’s in Ashburn Alley can’t be beaten.
– While you’re in town: Hold off on the cheesesteaks. Philly’s true food smorgasbord is Reading Terminal Market, where you’ll have a tough time deciding whether to sample Amish, Italian or Soul food, while you browse the seafood and uniquely shaped chocolates on display. It’s as much a place to see as a place to taste. And if you insist, cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches are there, too.
– Player insight: “I get heckled most in Philly for sure. It was cold for one of our games there last year, and I had on my peacoat. They started heckling me, calling me ‘Wall Street.’ Like ‘All right, Wall Street!’ ” – MASN sideline reporter Dan Kolko
Capacity: 37,630| Opened: 1994
The stadium born as “The Jake” in 1994 is an example of the time limit on the drawing power of retro ballparks. Between the novelty of the new yard and a string of great Indians teams in the 1990s, the team sold out 455 straight games between 1995 and 2001. But now, even with another great Indians team seeking a second straight AL pennant, they are averaging roughly half the attendance they did at their 1990s peak.
– A bite to eat nearby: Great options line East 4th Street, about a Jason Kipnis homer away from Progressive Field. We couldn’t blame you if you slurped Vietnamese soup, especially the seafood in chicken broth, at Saigon. But the best spot is Greenhouse Tavern, one of James Beard winner Jonathon Sawyer’s hometown spots. The fried chicken and power ketchup is Cleveland’s best duo since Taylor and Vaughn.
– While you’re at the park: Carve out some time for a trip to the Corner Bar, which features nearly 40 beers on tap and a wall of pour-your-own “Hometown Brews” on the second floor.
– While you’re in town: It’s about a mile walk from the ballpark to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the banks of Lake Erie. Among the 2017 inductees are Journey, Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur.
– Player insight: “I went there as a kid. So it was pretty surreal to play there and experience that. But the wall in left is pretty cool. The field is shaped a little differently. And the drum when guys get on second base, all that stuff when I was growing up I thought was cool, [as a player is] not as cool because all of a sudden there’s runners in scoring position. But the clubhouse is pretty cool. They’ve got some cool video games in the clubhouse. I think it’s one of the sneakier nice parks that people don’t realize.” – Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton
Capacity: 52,355 | Opened: 2009
At a price tag of $2.3 billion, the third iteration of Yankee Stadium is the most expensive sports venue ever built. The construction mission seemed to be: replicate the old Yankee Stadium in look, but inject the whole thing full of steroids, and of course, jack up the prices. The result is a palatial and opulent fantasyland, but one that lacks all the gritty charm of the old park that once stood across the street.
– A bite to eat nearby: Most people split as soon as a Yankees game is over, but there are lots of spots to stop within walking distance of the stadium. Our pick is the Bronx Drafthouse, which offers 21 beers on tap, two by bottle and 27 by can.
– While you’re at the park: Arrive early to see Monument Park, which closes 45 minutes prior to the scheduled first pitch.
– While you’re in town: The Bronx Zoo is a traditional suggestion, but since you’re seeing a game in the birthplace of hip-hop, you might as well take the guided tour. With HushTours, rap celebrities guide you by bus or by foot through the places that helped beats, rhymes and breakdancing go worldwide.
– Player insight: “I had the opportunity to play in old Yankee Stadium, in Philadelphia and St. Louis. It’s something that when I retire, I’m going to tell my kids I got to play in those stadiums. The first impression of Yankee Stadium, the first time I stepped on to the field, it felt like ants were crawling on me because you know that a lot of the greatest players used to play there and now that you’re stepping on that field, it’s like, ‘Whoa! What’s happening?’ ” – Nationals relief pitcher Oliver Perez
Capacity: 41,546 | Opened: 2008
The sightlines are great, the concourses are navigable and the areas outside have improved immensely. It’s highly functional, just not memorable. It also features one of the biggest missed opportunities in the majors: Aside from a couple sections way up near the press box, there are no views that would make anyone realize they’re in the nation’s capital, one of America’s most recognizable cities.
– A bite to eat nearby: You’ve heard of farm to table. The Salt Line considers itself a dock-to-dish restaurant, using Chesapeake Bay catch to fuel New England recipes. Enjoy ale, cocktails and a raw bar along the Anacostia River. Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is an investor, to boot.
– While you’re at the park: You can’t go wrong with a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl and one of the many craft beer options available at the District Drafts stands located throughout the park.
– While you’re in town: Many of the sights and museums in the nation’s capital do not carry an admission charge. Just four stops on Metro from the ballpark is the National Mall, which is surrounded by Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.
– Player insight: “It plays pretty true. There’s some nuances; when you play here enough, you know what part of the park’s in play. The triangle out there in right, the tall wall. In center field, balls can sneak over there that aren’t blasted. Line drives can get over that wall. The left field bullpen is pretty fair out there. Then it’s pretty short in left there. It needs another five feet.” – Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer
Capacity: 46,861 | Opened: 2006
Before a game, you see hordes wearing red, with jerseys ranging from Musial to Pujols to Molina, from small towns across the Midwest. They are on a pilgrimage. It’s too bad they couldn’t come to a better park. Entrances are underneath overpasses. The color scheme makes it feel dark and lifeless. The upper decks are towering. The view of the Arch is fabulous, but the stadium does not live up to the fan base’s fervency.
– A bite to eat nearby: Memphis-style barbecue made its way up I-55 to Pappy’s Smokehouse, where dry-rubbed ribs slow-smoked over apple and cherry wood are the house specialty.
– While you’re at the park: Keep score so that you at least appear as knowledgeable about and into the game as the Best Fans In Baseball surrounding you.
– While you’re in town: If the Gateway Arch is too obvious, or if its lines are not your thing, try walking around the Citygarden instead. The two-block sculpture garden is on the Gateway Mall in a revived downtown area.
– Player insight: “St. Louis is really good. It’s not all boos. Like, say you do something good, it’s not just all raining boos like if we were playing a rival. I wouldn’t say I feel comfortable. It’s not your average weekday game. It’s always pretty high intensity playing down there.” – Nationals pitcher Joe Ross
Capacity: 41,574 | Opened: 2000
When they left venerable Tiger Stadium in 1999, the Tigers bet big on the resurgence of Detroit’s downtown, building their new park right in its heart. And while they didn’t hit big, they also didn’t crap out. Suburbanites are still making their way in, and city residents are riding the People Mover. Attendance has fallen, but that’s as much a function of the team’s fortunes as a remark on the merits of the stadium.
– A bite to eat nearby: A few blocks from the ballpark, tucked away on the second floor, is Wright & Company. Share plates such as tuna tartare and Szechuan sirloin, and finish with the butterscotch pudding.
– While you’re at the park: Take a selfie with the 15-foot tiger sculpture in front of the main gate.
– While you’re in town: The famed Fox Theatre is across the street. But if the shows on game day aren’t of interest, see whether you can catch a Motown lunch or dinner cruise on the Detroit Princess Riverboat. You’ll hear the soulful sounds of the 1960s and catch a glimpse of Windsor, Ontario.
– Player insight: “The biggest thing is how deep it is in center field. There’s a ton of room out there. [Does it change how you pitch?] No, you still have to try to bury [the hitters], but if you do make a mistake, it’s easier to get away with it there than in most places.” – Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer
Capacity: 45,000 | Opened: 2009
The stadium is serviceable and convenient, with above-average concessions, including the Shake Shack with an interminable line. It’s enormous, but not grand. The opulent entryway that pays tribute to Jackie Robinson is a cool touch, but the constant odes to Ebbets Field, including the footprint of the structure itself, are tacky and strange, considering the Mets didn’t play there. It feels to be trying too hard to be better than it is.
– A bite to eat nearby: Park Side Restaurant is an old-school Italian spot about a 10-minute drive from Citi Field that will have you feeling like you’re in the 1950s. With huge portions and a friendly staff, it’s a must for anyone with a pasta craving.
– While you’re at the park: Give Mr. Met a hug. He’s had a rough season.
– While you’re in town: For a Queens-flavored experience within a mile of the ballpark, one could see the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, visit the New York Hall of Science and show love to the home of the U.S. Open, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
– Player insight: “You kind of know you’ll have fans talking crap to you because the bullpen’s underneath. I love it. They sit there and think they’re talking trash and that somehow helps, but they don’t realize it only makes it better. You just have a big center field, but it’s fair everywhere else.” – Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer
Minute Maid Park
Capacity: 41,574 | Opened: 2000
It began as Enron Field, after the now-bankrupt energy company that became synonymous with early-2000s corporate corruption. But the stadium itself, the successor to the cavernous Astrodome, was an immediate hit, drawing more than 30,000 fans per game for its first 10 years. Its most notable feature is a replica train high above left field, chugging and tooting when the Astros hit a home run, which is often these days.
– A bite to eat nearby: At Irma’s Southwest Grill, there’s Mexican food like you’ve rarely seen: Axis deer tacos, antelope tamales and Chilean sea bass are on the menu, and it’s a two-block walk to the ballpark.
– While you’re at the park: Stop by the Torchy’s Tacos stand and reminisce about the days when Minute Maid Park featured a hill and a flag pole in center field.
– While you’re in town: Johnson Space Center is well outside of the city. Closer to the ballpark, try Houston from Below, a guided tour of the city’s underground tunnel system, and the history behind it.
– Player insight: “That’s where I’m from, so I like being there, but it’s also like a dungeon in the bullpen. There’s no one who can see you. So it feels like you’re throwing hard because it echoes around there. You feel really good about yourself before going in the game.” – Nationals relief pitcher Matt Albers
Angel Stadium of Anaheim
Capacity: 45,493 | Opened: 1966
Make your way here through a tangle of car-choked Southern California freeways and, after a pit stop at In-N-Out Burger, step into the Big A, which has held up remarkably well for being 51 years old. Don’t worry about an umbrella – there has been one rainout in the past 22 years. You’ll want to root for the visitors to hold a late lead, because then you’ll get a peek at the Angels’ famed simian demagogue: the Rally Monkey.
– A bite to eat nearby: The kabobs and other Mediterranean offerings at Zov’s are a welcome departure from the more standard fare at popular places closer to the ballpark.
– While you’re at the park: Snap a photo in front of the ‘Big A’ sign in the parking lot before making your way into the stadium and trying a poke bowl from Oke Poke.
– While you’re in town: Disneyland is three miles away, although with tickets surpassing $90, you might not want to do it on the same day as an Angels game.
– Player insight: “It’s sneaky old. They renovated it in, what, the ’90s? The playing temperature is perfect. Night time, it’s 60s or 70s, very comfortable, refreshing for pitchers who get the marine layer that comes in. The playing surface there is nice.” – Nationals relief pitcher Joe Blanton
Capacity: 41,900 | Opened: 2001
Outside the visitors’ clubhouse, a sign offers opposing players a warning: Do not attempt a ride down Bernie Brewer’s slide. Miller Park is that kind of place, irreverence and pure fun. The Sausage Race is a tribute to the concession stands, which offer an encyclopedic selection of encased meats, many of which are slathered in some kind of cheese and should come with a complimentary angioplasty.
– A bite to eat nearby: Story Hill BKC says its dishes are inspired by the Upper Midwest but cooked with global technique. The selection of wines, beers and cocktails make it worth your while as well.
– While you’re at the park: Make a friendly wager on the Sausage Race before the seventh inning while eating the weenie you think will win. Your options: Brat, Polish Sausage, Italian Sausage, Hot Dog and Chorizo. Better yet, try all five.
– While you’re in town: If you’re not into beer or brats, start along the riverwalk and visit the public market. And if you are into beer, you’re in luck. The Miller Brewery Tour serves some, and the Pabst Mansion shows you how profitable the business is.
– Player insight: “Maybe it’s the stadium’s architecture. I feel like you see the ball well, there’s no intrusion in center field that doesn’t let you see the ball. It’s pretty. And at night you see the ball well.” – Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton
Great American Ball Park
Capacity: 42,271 | Opened: 2003
The coolest thing is outside: The Reds museum is thorough and enormous. Inside, it leaves much to be desired. The flourishes, like the faux steamboat and smokestacks in center field, lean more corny than classic, although the Longines analog clock near the gigantic scoreboard, a nod to old Crosley Field, is a nice touch. The view out into the Ohio River and the shores of Kentucky ain’t exactly the Riviera. Or Pittsburgh.
– A bite to eat nearby: On Elm Street, there’s an Izzy’s, which claims to serve the world’s greatest Reubens but also draws raves for its potato pancakes. Even closer to the ballpark is Moerlein Lager House, which features locally brewed beer, American fare and a view of the Ohio River.
– While you’re at the park: Devour a Skyline Chili Coney Dog at one of the five Skyline Chili stands located throughout the park.
– While you’re in town: Go visit baby hippopotamus Fiona at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Then, make your way south to historic Findlay Market and take the streetcar to the ballpark.
– Player insight: “I’d have to say it was in the middle for me. Yes, it’s a good place to hit home runs, but it’s not a very good park to get every other kind of hit. There’s not as much room in the outfield, so you don’t get as many bloops. The gaps seem smaller there.” – Nationals outfielder Chris Heisey
Capacity: 37,442 | Opened: 2012
Anywhere else, and this oddball wonderland would be ranked lower. In Miami, it works. There’s a fish tank behind home plate, a bobblehead museum in a concourse, a dance club behind the visitors’ bullpen and, of course, the monstrosity in center field that enlivens when a Marlins player hits a home run. It’s cavernous and located in a neighborhood void of entertainment options, but nobody could argue against its uniqueness.
– A bite to eat nearby: You’ll eat well here, particularly if you’re into seafood (La Camaronera), Nicaraguan cuisine (Yambo) or Cuban dishes (Versailles).
– While you’re at the park: The Bobblehead Museum on the promenade level behind home plate features 600 bobbleheads at any given time.
– While you’re in town: The ballpark is quite a ways from the art deco and people watching on South Beach. But within a mile, you’ll find a taste of Cuban culture – food, music, shopping, cigars and coffee – along Calle Ocho in Little Havana. While you’re nearby, check out the gamesmanship at Domino Park.
– Player insight: “Indoor baseball is just so weird. There’s definitely times I’m glad it’s indoor baseball, plus day games in Miami can be just brutal. It’s nice that it’s indoors. You never have to deal with the rain delay, thank God. I’m old enough. I played at the old place. I know.” – Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer
Capacity: 41,149 | Opened: 2017
The first thing you’ll notice, probably during the 13-mile drive from downtown, is this superfluous $622 million investment isn’t really in Atlanta. The Braves ditched Turner Field after just 20 seasons to build a pop-up baseball village. Once inside, however, the brick-lined ballpark features amenities you’d expect in a modern venue, such as cup holders, a huge LED video board, a Chick-fil-A and a Waffle House. – Jorge Castillo
– A bite to eat nearby: Instead of the taste of Atlanta you might have sought out near Turner Field, you’ll get a taste of your home town, because the area beyond the village is lacking. There are a couple plazas, some fast-food places (Waffle House, McDonald’s, Taco Bell) and chain restaurants (Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Olive Garden).
– While you’re at the park: Baseball’s newest ballpark has already drawn rave reviews for its Monument Garden located on the concourse behind home plate. It’s like a mini Cooperstown for Braves memorabilia, and it’s not to be missed.
– While you’re in town: The city of Atlanta is bustling; there’s Centennial Olympic Park, an aquarium, a botanical garden, and it’s home to Coca-Cola and CNN. But the new ballpark is on the outskirts, so your best bet is probably the amusement park Six Flags Over Georgia.
– Player insight: “I thought it was really cool. I’m big on the backdrop. It’s pretty cool with the buildings behind. I like the restaurants and stuff that play into the stadium. I thought that was great.” – Nationals shortstop Trea Turner
Globe Life Park in Arlington
Capacity: 48,114 | Opened: 1994
The best thing that can be said for this park, which opened in 1994 as The Ballpark in Arlington – roughly halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth – is that it isn’t Tropicana Field. Though on those lovely, hot Texas nights, when it’s been known to reach 110 degrees on the field, you might be wishing it was. There’s talk of a new, retractable-roof stadium in the coming years. To which we say: by all means.
– A bite to eat nearby: Fill up before first pitch on fried chicken, chicken fried steak or biscuits at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, the newest in a local chain of rustic, family-owned restaurants.
– While you’re at the park: They won’t keep you cool in the heat, but give the Texas Snowballs a chance. The state fair fare is brisket dipped in funnel cake batter, deep fried and topped with powdered sugar.
– While you’re in town: The ballpark is situated between the Cowboys’ home stadium and Six Flags Over Texas, but for more low-key amusement, knock down a few pins at the International Bowling Hall of Fame.
– Player insight: “It’s really hot. The joke is that it’s hot and the wind billows, so it’s like standing in front of a blow dryer. But I always thought the park was beautiful, very aesthetically pleasing from the field. It’s got the little things up top. Not everywhere has those. And in the guts of it, I don’t know how old it is, but it doesn’t seem old.” – Nationals relief pitcher Joe Blanton
Capacity: 48,519 | Opened: 1998
What would baseball played in a warehouse be like? This place comes close to providing an answer. The speakers are cranked to a setting between “obnoxious” and “ear-splitting.” The swimming pool remains cheesy. It’s hard to create a ballpark for the desert in summer, and the retractable roof and enormous window beyond the outfield seats make it a comfortable place to watch a game. There’s not much else going for it.
– A bite to eat nearby: Meatloaf, crab legs and filet mignon are all on the Arrogant Butcher’s varied menu, as are vegetarian options, lest the name mislead you. Since you’re headed to a game, beer, cocktails and the pretzel bites and cheese fondue might work too. Tough to decide if this or Alice Cooper’stown is the most cleverly named place by the ballpark.
– While you’re at the park: Watch batting practice from the stands next to the swimming pool in right field.
– While you’re in town: About 15 blocks from the field is the highly visual experience at Phoenix Art Museum. Between there and the ballpark, you could stop at the Arizona Science Center, take in the exhibits and walk to the game.
– Player insight: “Awesome. Great to hit in. Big outfield. The grass was so short that the ball just runs, so groundballs work there for sure. The pool’s really neat. But I like that the roof could open and close. I think it was 76 degrees or 77 that they set the game to when it’s 120 out. But on nice fall nights, it’s just beautiful. It’s basically pick-your-own weather. But the clubhouse is super nice. I really liked it there.” – Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton
27. Blue Jays
Capacity: 50,516 | Opened: 1989
For a time in the early 1990s, Blue Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar lived in the hotel attached to the stadium then known as SkyDome, so that he could walk to work through corridors and, if the retractable roof was closed, never see the sky. If you visit, try to do better – walk around the city, hope for a nice night and an open roof, and get up for the decidedly Canadian seventh-inning stretch song, “OK Blue Jays.”
– A bite to eat nearby: Canadians prefer the terms “cultural mosaic” to “melting pot,” and while in Toronto, you’ll notice a variety of influences. But if we may be generic for a moment, 360, the restaurant at the top of the CN Tower, makes a full revolution in about the time it takes to finish your meal.
– While you’re at the park: The buffalo cauliflower poutine is delicious and you don’t want to miss the singing during the seventh-inning stretch.
– While you’re in town: If you’re going to see what CN Tower looks like from inside Rogers Centre, you might as well look at Rogers Centre from CN Tower. It’s almost 50 bucks to see it from the tippy top, and much more if you’re crazy enough to try to EdgeWalk: strap yourself into a harness to walk around a five-foot ledge 116 stories up. But the view is harder to beat than the 1992 Jays.
– Player insight: “It’s definitely weird. When I was there, it was all carpet except for the five dirt patches. But they tried to figure it out year-to-year. Sometimes it was fast, sometimes it was obnoxiously slow. You couldn’t even hit a groundball to the wall. Sometimes it played to our advantage at home – bloopers bounced over fielders’ heads, turned into triples. It was just carpet, then cement. The Rogers family is a business-oriented group, so every road trip, the field is gone for concerts. It was a lot of seams, just square patches. There were some guys who got some black eyes from bad hops.” – Nationals first baseman Adam Lind
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Capacity: 34,077 | Opened: 1966
The last multipurpose stadium still in use by an MLB team has a certain contrarian charm if you can look past the concrete wasteland of the structure and the tarped-off seats in the upper deck and outfield. For one thing, there is the easy ride in from San Francisco on the BART train. For another, the A’s are always fun to watch, even when they stink. And finally, the Raiders will soon depart for Las Vegas.
– A bite to eat nearby: La Penca Azul is about 15 minutes away, but it’s open until 3 a.m. – making it the perfect relaxed late-night spot to go in the East Bay after an extra-inning game. It doesn’t hurt that the Mexican fare is good, and comes in big portions, too.
– While you’re at the park: Check out Shibe Park Tavern, which pays tribute to the Athletics’ Philadelphia roots and has more than 50 beers on tap.
– While you’re in town: While visiting Oakland, take a walk through Jack London Square, a spot with plenty of bars and outdoor seating to take advantage of nice weather on a summer evening.
– Player insight: “I played here. Used to be a beautiful park. … when I was here, they had the best speaker system in the country, and it was beautiful out there. They had flowers and stuff. Then they built Mount Davis out there and made it look like some of the other ones. I think they need a new stadium, a new clubhouse, new everything.” – Nationals Manager Dusty Baker
29. White Sox
Guaranteed Rate Field
Capacity: 40,615 | Opened: 1991
It’s easier to describe everything this park isn’t: It isn’t Wrigley Field. It isn’t the original and beloved Comiskey Park, which once stood across the street. And it isn’t Camden Yards, which opened a year later and ushered in the wave of stadiums that transformed the economics and aesthetics of the game. Though the White Sox have renovated, rehabilitated and retrofitted their park, it’s still the stadium that just missed out.
– A bite to eat nearby: About 10 blocks from the field is Polo Cafe & Catering, which is set in a former candy store and attached to a bed & breakfast. But the real treat, beyond the burgers, are the singalongs during Sunday gospel brunch.
– While you’re at the park: Keep it simple and get a Chicago Dog.
– While you’re in town: On your way to the South side, start at the Willis Tower to see one of the world’s tallest buildings, and detour through Grant Park, home of Buckingham Fountain, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.
– Player insight: “I loved hitting there. I always had a lot of success there, so I enjoyed going there. My teammates didn’t always, but I loved it.” – Nationals outfielder Ryan Raburn
Capacity: 31,042 | Opened: 1998
Well, for starters, it’s on the wrong side of Tampa Bay. It’s domed, so you lose the al fresco delights of those warm, late-spring and early-fall Florida nights. Its interior is drab and gray. Its roof is criss-crossed by a network of goofy catwalks, which require their own convoluted ground rules for when balls strike them. And on the field, the Rays have made just four playoff appearances in 18 years. Other than that, it’s awesome!
– A bite to eat nearby: Outdoor seating, cold beer and authentic Cuban food draw baseball fans to Bodega Comida Cantina Cafe on the days of Rays games. Tempeh, maduros and black beans and rice are among the locals’ favorites.
– While you’re at the park: The Trop doesn’t have much else going for it, so you might as well visit the Touch Tank located beyond the right-center field fence and handle some rays.
– While you’re in town: If watching baseball indoors on unnatural grass isn’t surreal enough, St. Petersburg is home to the Salvador Dali Museum, which gets rave reviews even from those who aren’t usually into museums or art. The visuals should make up for the lack of them at the park.
– Player insight: “I liked Tampa. You knew you were going to play every day. 72 degrees every day … Tampa was one of my favorite places to go. The clubhouse guys did a great job. Even though they didn’t have a lot to work with, they did a great job getting things ready for you, and on top of that, I played well there. That’ll do it. I like [that] you didn’t have to worry about thunderstorms interrupting the game.” – Nationals catcher Matt Wieters
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