Northern exposure

Day 3 of the Lake Erie Baseball Odyssey

A beautiful day for (indoor) baseball.

This past weekend, I went to three different baseball games in three different cities featuring six different teams. There’s a story with all of them, and since my trip took me around the perimeter of Lake Erie, I’m making this a series of posts called the Lake Erie Baseball Odyssey. Click here for Part 1, and here for Part 2.

Despite winning back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993, the Toronto Blue Jays are a bit of a cursed franchise. They have three big issues, two of which are that they’re in Canada, and that they’re in the American League East. Canada’s national pasttime isn’t baseball; it’s hockey. Any baseball team in Canada has to be at least as good as the worst hockey franchise in the area, or there’s not much interest. The Montreal Expos, for example, had too many losing seasons and were forced to move. The Blue Jays have been playing well for the last few years and have won two more World Series than the Expos did, not to mention a few pennants and division titles, so they’ve been able to stave off attrition. But their task seemingly gets continually harder, as they’re in the same division as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and recently, the Tampa Bay Rays, and Baltimore Orioles. There’s not a weak team in the division, but someone has to lose, and the Jays, who haven’t made the playoffs since 1993, have just as much a shot to win the hotly-contested division as to lose it.

The Blue Jays’ third problem is their stadium. The SkyDome was completed in 1989, and despite being only twenty-three years old, is the seventh-oldest active stadium in baseball. Of the stadiums that are older: Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium are classics; Anaheim Stadium and Kauffman Stadium have aged well; the Athletics have been trying to relocate from Oakland Coliseum for years. The SkyDome (now called the Rogers Centre) is in that unlucky middle area between outdated and in need of replacement. As a twenty-three year old stadium, the Rogers Centre will probably not be replaced for many years, but because it was completed just before Camden Yards started the ballpark renaissance, the stadium looks and feels dated.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

Like every winter, I’m anxious for this one to end. Not particularly because it’s been cold here in Columbia, SC, but because the end of winter means the beginning of baseball season. Pitchers and catchers for many teams reported to Spring Training today, and while the Indians aren’t required to report until next week, many of them are in Arizona already preparing for the upcoming season.

Which is why, when I read the title of this article, I smiled a bit and started to read.

Wake me up when September ends

Albert Pujols

Today is August 27th, which means football season is nearly upon us. More importantly, though, we’re just over a month away from the baseball postseason. It’s been a pretty odd season (actually, it’s been a pretty odd month of that season), so I figured I could look back at my predictions from before spring training and see how they’re stacking up. In fact, I’ll be classy about this and get started…wait for it…after the jump! (I’ve always wanted to say that.)

Americana 2009: My annual list of baseball parks to visit

Since an unexpected opportunity arose today to take a trip to the Baltimore/DC area, I decided that today I would finalize my list of baseball stadiums to visit this year. To review, last year I visited:

  • Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland, OH
  • Great American Ballpark, Cincinatti Reds, Cincinatti, OH
  • Shea Stadium, New York Mets, Flushing, NY
  • Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees, Bronx, NY

I planned on visiting a couple more, but at least I was able to see Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium before they closed. This year, hopefully with a little bit more disposable income, I’ll be able to visit the following stadiums:

  • Progressive Field, Cleveland, OH. Sort of goes without saying, but I hope to attend quite a few games at Progressive Field this year (and hopefully the Indians will be a fun team to watch at home this year).
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD. Since my mom will be taking a trip to the Baltimore area in May, the opportunity seems perfect to visit one of the more important stadiums in baseball. Camden Yards was only built in 1992, but more importantly was the first stadium to go for the retro, one-purpose feel, as opposed to the multi-purpose doughnut stadiums of the 60s, 70s and 80s. The Orioles haven’t been competitive for years, but the park is consistently ranked high in terms of customer experience and from my early scouting, tickets are a good value.
  • Nationals Park, Washington, DC. Until Yankee Stadium and Citi Field open in April, this is the newest park in baseball. Similar to the Orioles, the Nationals aren’t very competitive so it’s likely that prices will be reasonable. I haven’t been to DC since 8th grade (which seems hard to believe, it feels like I was just there recently), so that’ll be fun too. This park would be lower on my list, but since I’ll be around there in May, it seems like a good opportunity to knock it off.
  • Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO. I’ve always been a casual fan of the Cardinals (mostly because of Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa) and St. Louis is a great baseball city. Prices here are less reasonable, as the team is competitive and the people of St. Louis are baseball-obsessed. I’d like to visit in July sometime, for an ultra-American, ultra-traditional summer’s night of baseball.
  • Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City, MO. As long as I’m out in Missouri, might as well see the other great baseball stadium. Renovations are being done now that should make Kaufmann Stadium even better than before. If possible this is a team I wouldn’t mind seeing the Indians play on the road, since the Indians have a high chance of winning and the Royals fans are said to be the nicest in baseball (I guess you can’t really afford not to be, at that point).
  • PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA. To think, if the recession had happened a couple years ago, PNC could have bought the naming rights to Jacobs Field and we could have had TWO PNC parks. This is probably the best value out there, at least for me – the stadium is only three hours away, the team hasn’t been competitive in nearly twenty years, and the people in Pittsburgh are a bit preoccupied with their football these days. I’m targeting an August visit for this park.
  • Fenway Park, Boston, MA. I’ve been to Fenway Park once, but it was when I was less interested in baseball and I’m not sure I appreciated it as much as I could have. Also, I was there in June last time – this time, I’m going for a September game. As far as tradition, it doesn’t get much more traditional than Fenway in September. It’d be really nice to get a divisional showdown between the Sox and Rays or Sox and Yankees (yikes, that just sounds dangerous), but any game in September would be good.

Overall I’d be pretty happy if I knock these stadiums out this season, but if I don’t get them all that’s okay too. For 2010, I’ll definitely look to visit New York again and see the new stadiums, and then I’d like to go out west to Colorado, Texas, or maybe even California.

Anyone want to share gas money?

Two sports stories

Two sports stories on this very early Monday morning.

  • First, what some are calling the best Super Bowl of all time, even better than last year, and the reason I’m not sleeping tonight. This year was rough for me because I had more of a vested interest in the game, but thanks to this catch from an Ohio State alumni, the Steelers won their sixth championship:


    Totally agree with the opinion that this broadcast was second to none. Al Michaels knows enough about football to know when to get excited and when to shut the heck up, and Madden was his normal self. I didn’t catch anything except the end of “Glory Days” by Springsteen, but I heard good things about that too. The game was great: it had its fair share of controversy, a 100 yd interception return, and great storylines that dated as far back as 2006.

  • The other story is less happy: led by our main man Dennis Kucinich, certain Congressmen feel it’s their duty to interfere in the naming rights of the Mets’ new stadium. It’s as if these career politicians couldn’t figure out that agreements have already been signed. Clearly they haven’t been in New York lately – that Citi Group sign was up when I visited over the summer (more photos):


    Even if the sign wasn’t up, even if the patch wasn’t chosen, even if they were complaining about this months ago…aren’t these the same guys that are throwing around trillions of dollars in bailout money? Who are they to talk about conservative spending? And more importantly, did we really elect you to worry about that stuff? I’m not sitting at Lazorpoint on work time writing music or checking my fantasy football teams; they shouldn’t be spending their work time worrying about sports (it must be a liberal thing, to want to control everything – search “barack obama bcs” and you’ll see).

    Instead of making the bailout work, these guys are looking for ways out if when the bailout doesn’t succeed. “Maybe if Citi group had saved that extra 400 million, we would have made that 800 trillion dollar bailout work. Or the next 800 trillion dollar bailout,” they’ll say. “It wasn’t our fault.”

    I’m tired of politicians making excuses, pointing fingers and not doing their jobs. That’s the kind of change we need – but no one is accountable anymore. Until that happens, we won’t turn around.

The stadiums in New York

So over the last weekend (long weekend, including Monday) my dad and I took a trip up to New York City and Cooperstown to visit Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium and the Baseball Hall of Fame (in reverse order). As promised, here’s the write-up on my impressions of the two stadiums (check out the photos, too).

Yankee Stadium: Bronx, NY

Yankee Stadium is perhaps the most legendary venue in all of sports (except for maybe The Horseshoe). If you have watched ESPN at all in the last year, you know that this is the final season at Yankee Stadium and so I wanted to catch a game there before it was closed. Seats this season are in high demand – the ones closest to the field go for as high as $2500 a seat. Our seats were 1/100th of that, but still had a pretty nice view:

Yankee Stadium

One thing that you don’t see in the pictures are the concourses. Both stadiums had narrow concourses (as most are in old stadiums) but for some reason Yankee Stadium’s seemed a lot less claustrophobic. The concourses in Yankee Stadium had the appearance of a New York subway station, which was a nice touch.

We weren’t able to see Monument Park – for some reason it was closed just after we got to the park. There is a picture of it from afar in my gallery.

Apart from that, I feel Yankee Stadium is the absolute best place to watch a baseball game, in terms of atmosphere, history, and the fans – in fact, it might be the best place to watch a sporting event period.

Shea Stadium: Flushing, NY

Shea Stadium is also in its final season, but because no one is really going to miss it, it’s not quite getting the attention. Whereas Yankee Stadium is a park that is completely designed for baseball, it’s apparent that Shea Stadium was also designed to play football and the shape is a little unnatural. The prices at Shea were also a little higher – a hot dog there costs $4.75 compared to Yankee Stadium’s $3. Overall, I was a bigger fan of Yankee Stadium than I was of Shea, but the seats at Shea were pretty nice too:

Shea Stadium

New York photos

For those of you who are interested, photos of my trip to New York. I’ll post a full write-up soon.