January 14, 2011
During the winter months I think a lot about stuff outside of baseball and I reminisce about memories of the season. I remember the first time I actually saw a major league stadium in person. I was at Anaheim Stadium (back before it was Edison International Field and before Disney owned it) as a kid and my uncle took me up the walkways to the View Level. We were going to watch the California Angels-I want to say this was back in 1990. We had seats up there over third base but we walked through the breezeway over home plate. It was a day game (probably a Sunday) and the sky was beautiful over Anaheim. I remember holding my uncle's hand as we walked out over the field. My first view was of a game underway-yes, we arrived late-and the home whites were being worn by the Angels who were on the field at the time. I had an oversized cap on my head that I took off as we neared the railing. I remember thinking that it was more exciting to see the field and the ballplayers than it was to see Disneyland. The stands were ascending to my left and right full of people cheering. I smelled the grass from a hundred feet above it. It was, in a word, thrilling.
Since that day when I was about nine or so I've been to about a bunch of baseball stadiums-and a ton of sporting venues in general. Nothing's quite matched that first visit to a ballpark though. Each one's got good points and less than good points but they're all pretty darn unique.
Angel Stadium's my home park and I'll always have a soft spot for it but I'd say that to a non-biased observer it's far from the perfect place to watch a ball game. Heck, it's a ton of fun but I can see how people might point out negative things about it. I guess if you try hard enough you can pick on just about any professional sports venue. I haven't been to them all but here's what I know. The most beautiful park (at least on the West Coast) is in San Francisco. Anyone want to debate on that one? The ugliest is the Coliseum in Oakland-yuck. Here's hoping those fans get a new stadium soon...
I haven't been to a ton of parks on the East Coast but Camden Yards is pretty freakin' nice-and the Orioles deserve to have that place at least half-full on a nightly basis. The Astrodome was HUGE and looked mesmerizing and a little bit scary from the road as we drove away from it the night we saw the 'Stros play. Texas' new park is a bit better than their old one-but not by much. The Metrodome was a weird place for baseball-and I really want to see Target Field. PNC looks pretty snazzy, too. Other parks I want to visit (and soon) are in Denver, Seattle, and Atlanta. I'll get to all of 'em eventually.
There's a story to each one and if you're a fan you've probably got your own. What makes your perfect park? Granted, ballhawks are the majority of readers on this site... but I don't mean, "What's the best place to snag baseballs?" I mean, "What makes your trip to the park perfect?" I love it when employees are friendly (that's something Angel Stadium's got going for it) and it's great when there are decent prices on food at a stadium. For some, a good play area for kids makes the trip special, for others it's great to see a nice display of the team's history. Ever hear, "There's no bad seat in this place," about a ballpark? Really? I mean, I've heard it but I can guarantee I can find a lousy seat in just about any venue... and there are plenty of them at Yankee Stadium from what I've read.
For me, a perfect park has a green field, comfortable seats, friendly employees, and a bright, informative scoreboard... and the ushers don't care much if you move to seats closer to the field. It would also be nice if there were a lot of seats in home run territory-something Angel Stadium doesn't offer. How about you? Think about what you'd put in a park if some gave you a billion dollars to build one... and what if you had to keep more than just the ballhawks happy?
Enjoy the winter months, folks... pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in one month!
Matt Jackson is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.