Monday, July 30, 2007

Hotel Clark

The house has been a hotel this summer (not as packed as last summer where international water polo players invaded for the summer). Before and after our family cruise, a lovely family from New Zealand made our home their home away from home while they attended weddings of family members in Southern California and England. Will still lives here but is busy getting ready to head off to college. Nicky lives in San Diego, but is busy getting ready to move to New Zealand. With their pending moves, they seem to be in and out of the house more than normal. August will bring Ivana to our house for a month prior to joining her husband in New Zealand. I also offered our guest room to a co-worker who is visiting for a week in August from Oregon.

Although the house is busy, Annette and I would hot have it any other way. We find time to cherish the quiet moments like a simple panini and a glass of wine for dinner. But its the energy and vitality that thrills us when the guest room is full. With the kids leaving in late August and Ivana leaving in September, we are now taking reservations for October. Family and friends can make their reservations online or, get this, can even call us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Best of the Best

Sorry for the delay, but a family vacation got in the way. These are the Go-Go parks. You should make every attempt to attend a game at all of these stadiums. They run the gambit from the oldest to some of the newest stadiums, but they all have one thing in common. They each enhance the fan experience, making visiting a game even that much more exciting. So here are my top 5 parks:

The Top 5

  1. Wrigley Field, Chicago - Where else is a Wednesday afternoon game against the Rockies feel like game 7 of a post season series? Good seats help here, but there is so much energy both inside and outside the stadium, I dare you not to enjoy yourself. The fans go to have fun and fun is had by all. Check out my 10 second clip of the last play of the game.
  2. Fenway, Boston - Go early and soak up Yawkey Way. The build up outside the stadium is like a great warm up act at a concert. It gets the blood pumping and you are so excited when you enter the stadium, it makes the first pitch exciting.
  3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh - Absolutely the best stadium. Too bad the team has been bad for many years. The back drop of the city at sunset is stunning and surreal. They have great food, not a bad seat in the park, fun stuff around the stadium, what's not too like?
  4. AT&T Park, San Francisco - The view of the bay from the upper decks is wonderful. The place smells of garlic and although the upper decks are pretty high, the whole complex is small and includes free views from the right field fence. The park itself has enough quirks but they don't come across as gimics. A short porch in right is complemented with a deep right field gap. Angles make things interesting yet left field seems so symmetrical. It also helps that the Giants are my favorite team.
  5. Petco, San Diego - Both Petco and Comerica in Detroit dared to be different. The Tigers embedded the Tiger logos throughout the stadium making it unique. The Padres took on the California Beach and recreated it in the stadium by using sand colors rather than red brick and green steel. Their park in the park is great and they paid homage to older stadiums by incorporating existing buildings into the park. Even cascading plants in the concourse areas give you that Californian feel.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Take me out to the ball game

Now that we dispensed with the no-go and so-so parks, its time to talk about the 11 parks that you should take the time to visit and catch a game. Parks 6-11 are as follows:
  • Jacobs Field, Cleveland - A good looking downtown park in a city that has adopted its rock and roll heritage. The food was so-so, but being downtown gives it a fun atmosphere.
  • Camden Yards, Baltimore - The original new stadium built to be old. Newer stadiums have improved on the design, but they should get credit for being first. Boog's BBQ and the warehouse make it worthwhile.
  • Safeco, Seattle - The best of the retractable roof stadiums. Being next to the football stadium, they have created a little Yawkey Way in front of the stadium. Trains run nearby and blow their whistle during the game adding to the experience.
  • Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia - Another new park that got it right. Big concourses to walk and still watch the game. They have wide concourses on all of the levels. There were so many places to walk and gain different views of the game, you could walk all game. They do have cheese steaks at the park.
  • Busch Stadium, St. Louis - The new Busch is like many of the other new parks; clean, wide concourses, red brick, iron structure, but the structure is nothing special. But take in a game and you will notice what makes the difference, the fans. They draw from a wide swath of the Midwest and at game time its like a swarm of red bees headed toward the hive. When a fly ball is hit to center field for an out the scoreboard reads just 8. Everyone seems to nod and agree and writes the result in their score book. These are fans.
  • Comerica Park, Detroit - I really like this park. Its different. They have embraced the Tigers with Tiger statues, Tiger claw marks in the stadium walls, Tiger history throughout the stadium. This makes the stadium standout from many of the new stadiums. The food is outstanding, they have a great scoreboard, what else could you want? Some fun outside the stadium for one. The area is run down and falling apart. Put this park in any other city and its definitely in my top 5.
Next post, My Top 5

Thursday, July 05, 2007

So So Parks

These are the parks classified as So-So. If you are in town, then I would catch a game at one of these parks, but I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to make a special trip to the stadium.

The older Stadiums with some history:
  • Yankee Stadium, New York - After the remodel of the stadium in the 70's, there is nothing special about the stadium. What is has going for it is history and very knowledgeable and loyal fans.
  • Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles - A simple stadium that has gotten old. One big reason to go is grilled Dodger Dogs. With so much going on in LA, their fans are bandwagon fans, and even if they are going good, the fans are just not that enthusiastic.
  • Kaufman Stadium, Kansas City - A Dodger Stadium clone with a nicer outfield with fountains and grass.
The following parks are stadiums with retractable roofs. All are nice, but they don't add much to the baseball experience. Of the three, I would give Minute Maid a nod as the best of the three.
  • Minute Maid Park, Houston - Has some uniqueness that gives it an edge.
  • Chase Field, Phoenix - A mall with a baseball stadium. Fits the Phoenix market, but not spectacular.
  • Miller Park, Milwaukee - You must get the Bratwurst with the works and special sauce
The following parks are nice, but have little or no personality
  • US Cellular Field, Chicago - A new stadium with one big draw, the fans. The fans make it a fun experience.
  • Coors Field, Denver - Nice downtown ballpark, just too damn big
  • Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati - A new ballpark that tried to pay homage to many facets of Cincinnati baseball history and ended up with a stadium without focus. Looks like the stadium was designed was based on a series of compromises.
  • Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta - Largest video board I have ever seen.
  • Angel Stadium, Anaheim - A nice stadium that they ruined when the Rams moved in. When the Rams moved out, they tried to fix it. Its better, but without major changes, it will be hard to crack the Go-Go list. Fans have improved after the 2002 World Series, very loud and loyal.
  • Ball Park at Arlington - It suffers the same problem as the park in Cincinnati, no focus. They tried to be cute by added an office building but it just doesn't work.
Of all the So-So parks, US cellular is probably my favorite. The fans make it worth the experience. Loud, obnoxious and loyal. Those are good fans.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Now that I have visited every major league park that is currently being used, there is a strong desire to rank my favorites. To help me in my ranking, I decided to group the stadiums into three categories; Go-Go, So-So and No-Go. Go-Go stadiums give the fan a unique baseball experience and everyone that enjoys baseball should go out of their way to attend a game at these ball parks. Ball parks that fall into the So-So category are nice stadiums and if you are in the area and have the time, catch a game. Most of the time you will have a good time. The stadiums that qualify for No-Go should be avoided unless you are an avid baseball fan. It is hard at these ball parks to really have a great baseball experience unless your lucky enough to watch a great game.

So to start the analysis, here are the No-Go Parks:

  • Tropocana Field, Tampa Bay
  • Rogers Centre, Toronto
  • Shea Stadium, New York
  • McAfee Colosseum, Oakland
  • Metrodome, Minneapolis
  • Dolphin Stadium, Miami
  • RFK Stadium, Washington DC
None of these stadiums add anything unique to the baseball experience and in some cases they distract from watching the game. All of these stadiums are general purpose (except for Dolphin which was designed for watching football). Even food at these parks is bland and general purpose. For example, at the Metrodome, one person ordered deep fried cheese curds. Anything deep fried should taste great, but these were down right nasty. If you do attend a game at one of these parks, make sure you have good seats and good friends as the conversations at the game maybe the most memorable part of your visit.
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Monday, July 02, 2007

Seamhead 2007

I just returned from my annual baseball roadtrip where my brother and I, along with some friends and other family members, visit several ballparks in a week. This year's trip included stops in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago's Wrigley Field, Detriot, Toledo (minor league game), Cleveland and Pittsburg. This trip marks the culmination for my brother and I of visiting all 30 major league parks that are currently being used. In future posts, I will offer my rankings of favorite stadiums, but I will clue you in that it is hard to beat a soldout day game at Wrigley Field where the Cubs win with storm clouds gather overhead. It is very hard to have a better pure baseball experience than that.

We did come close in Cleveland when we saw a player, starting in his first game, hit a walk off winning home run for Cleveland. For a more intimate baseball experience, take in a minor league game. The park in Toledo was a small version of PNC park in Pittsburg. Snuggled downtown in clean fun town, its a good way to spend an evening.
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