Old Yankee Stadium. PNC Park. Camden Yards. Turner Field. Tropicana Field. Marlins Stadium. Safeco Field. Every Grapefruit League Spring Training site. Countless Minor League stadiums.
This is a summary of all of the baseball parks and stadiums I have been to over the years, and there are definitely high points and low points of each stadium. Depending on where you are located, parking may or may not be an issue. The weather could be a factor forcing you to bundle up in the fall or wear your favorite team’s Speedo in the summer. Fans are more obnoxious in particular ballparks. The food and beer served is a huge variance from park to park, except for a constant of Bud Light.
My biggest interest may perhaps be the seating in each stadium. While I am a believer there is not really a bad seat in any park (unless you are sitting behind a pole), there are definitely more comfortable seating arrangements in certain places versus others. Some of my favorite games to go watch are Spring Training games. Since I live in Florida, I have been to all of the Grapefruit League stadiums, which is also where a minor league affiliate usually plays during the season.
The best parks by far are in Port Charlotte, Clearwater, and Lake Buena Vista. Each offers ample grass seating either in the outfield or along the foul lines. There is something to sitting in the grass and watching a baseball game that just feels natural. There is no assigned seat, the ground is soft, and you can lie out or take up as much space as you want. Many people bring blankets or lawn chairs for the grass seating, but I prefer to just sit when and where my body tells me to with no upkeep to watch out for.
Most big league baseball stadiums do not offer grass seating, however, and you are required to either buy a ticket for one particular seat or a standing room only ticket if the team has such tickets for sale. I wouldn’t mind standing room only for the World Series perhaps, but not for a random regular season game when I’m trying to enjoy myself. I actually like to buy a cheap seat ticket, then move around and sit in different sections of the park throughout the game; this doesn’t always go over well with ushers who may be checking tickets from time to time, but normally I can find the unattended aisles or catch the usher helping someone long enough for me to slip by. I do this to get a view of the entire ballpark, and it is interesting to see the things you normally wouldn’t see sitting in the same seat for the entire ballgame.
Food is very important for any stadium – eating is a fundamental want and need. For some reason, people don’t mind paying $10 for a hot dog and another $10 for a beer, when they could buy ten times that a grocery store. If parks would still allow you to bring in food, you can bet that there would be cooler after cooler in the aisles and way more drunk people than there already are. Fans may also come to more games from the money they wouldn’t have to spend on the food and drinks.
While some parks have specialty items and unique food or craft beer selections, there is a standard choice of hot dogs, burgers, cracker jacks, nachos, soda, and beer at most baseball stadiums. The only rebuttal a person has is to sneak in their own food and beverages, and that really is not worth the hassle. I’ve experimented with it many times before.
When you get to the ballpark, you have to leave your car somewhere, assuming you drove and didn’t take a subway. Parking can start your game day experience off right, or leave you cursing every person and employee who is within a 10 mile radius. The only place where I have seen free parking is in Lake Buena Vista at the Braves Spring Training. This is Disney for those of you who haven’t been, and it’s not like they need the money to fund raise for new bats and balls.
Regardless, most places have set parking prices throughout the year and charge more the closer you get to the stadium. I would say $10 is a fair price, but I usually will pay up to $20 if I am close to the first pitch and want to get inside as fast as possible. Either way, somebody made the extra $10 from me through either parking closer, eating before the game, or eating and drinking at the game. The team has a 2 out of 3 shot to get that $10.
Baseball stadiums entertain outside the white lines too
Entertainment during the game is only as rewarding as you are willing to enjoy it. If you don’t like mascots, kiss cams and dancing fans, themed on-field contests, mascot races, trivia, and “guess which hat the ball is under” games, then go to the bathroom in between innings. There is always something going on to catch your attention, and as a baseball enthusiast, I wish they would take an inning or two off so fans can just watch the players with the sounds of the game. I get tired of hearing the loud obnoxious emcee whose job it is to get the fans riled up every three outs.
There is no need for blaring music every half inning; that’s 18 songs just from switching sides alone every game. If you heard a conversation players had on the field while getting loose, you would want to hear more of it too. Or maybe not depending on which players you overheard.
Baseball games are a great experience. I really believe anyone can have an enjoyable time whether you are sitting in the nose bleed seats counting ants on the field, making business deals in a luxury box or suite and secretly checking your fantasy team every ten minutes, or streaking across the field trying to get on television.
A game is not just for a baseball fan – it is a family experience (disregard the streaking comment) which is what most teams and parks are striving for. There is so much entertainment that someone could go to a game and not even know what was going on, but still have so much to talk about after the game. This plays part to the individual parks and baseball stadiums as opposed to the teams that play there.
If you go to a game at Minute Maid Park, you can’t miss the train that goes off. At Miller Park, I dare you to count how many times someone goes down the slide in left field. Tropicana Field is home to the Rays, and actual rays which will be awesome the first time you see it every time. What color was that wall in Fenway Park? I’m pretty sure it always has been and always will be green.
Every park has its perks and benefits. Most parks have a few flaws as well. Despite where you live or who your favorite team is, go to a game if you are on vacation. You aren’t going to just watch a baseball game. You are going to have fun and be entertained. Stadiums do a great job of providing that value. They may stop serving alcohol after the 7th inning, but you may get lucky enough to catch extra innings, see a celebrity in the crowd, or win a hot dog eating contest that you registered for and never thought you would get chosen.
You might get a giveaway t-shirt, catch a foul ball (appear on Sports Center for interfering with a player trying to catch a foul ball), or see fireworks after the game. Every game is different, but every game is great. Unless your team gives up a walk-off home run to end the game. No matter how many baseball stadiums you have been to, your favorite one will be based on the experience – not the outcome of the game.