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.)

The park that started it all

Last Tuesday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Completed in 1992, Camden Yards started a revolution in baseball: gone were the character-free, soulless, utilitarian stadiums of the sixties and seventies; Camden Yards ushered in a new era of baseball-only facilities that were designed to meld with the cities they inhabited, have some character of their own, and be a treat to attend.

Outside the stadium, behind the center field scoreboard. The iconic warehouse is on the left.

Outside the stadium, behind the center field scoreboard. The iconic warehouse is on the left.

The stadium is situated just a few blocks from Baltimore’s iconic inner harbor and really in the heart of downtown (much like Progressive Field). Upon getting to the game, Katie, my dad and I received complimentary Aubrey Huff T-shirts.

Wide open concourses, and a very similar feel to Progressive Field.

Wide open concourses, and a very similar feel to Progressive Field.

The concourses are incredibly similar to Progressive Field in that they feel very wide open, a sharp contrast to all of the older stadiums. One difference is that Progressive Field opted for concourses almost twice as wide but added a merchants row in the middle of the concourse, making two somewhat smaller concourses. The upper deck at Progressive Field has only the one row, which is similar to Camden Yards on each of its decks. I liked Camden Yards’ approach, but I think I prefer Progressive Field’s lower deck because you are able to walk around the entire lower deck without missing a pitch.

We got to our seats in the lower deck and enjoyed this view:

Camden Yards

With the exception that I wasn’t able to get a nice wide-angle shot of the whole field, the seats were excellent. We enjoyed the game, some high-priced but substantial snacks, and the Orioles ended up winning. Overall, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, much like its contemporary, gets a 9 out of 10. If you’re interested in all the pictures I took, they’re available here.

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?

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.