My subjective ranking of the 20 ballparks I’ve been to

Craig Calcaterra

Andrew Joseph and Ted Berg of USA Today’s FTW ranked all 30 ballparks today. That’s always a fun exercise and Ted and Andrew, being smart and insightful guys, do a pretty good job with it. I like most of the parks they like for a lot of the same reasons they do. Even if Andrew is crazy to think that a Dodger Dog is any good. Trash, really. I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.

Obviously, of course, such things are totally subjective exercises, just like ranking favorite albums or restaurants are. Ted likes Taco Bell a lot, for example, so it’s not like we’re gonna agree on everything. No one’s stadium list is going to agree with everyone else’s.

So, even though I’m sure I’ve done this three or four times in the past seven or eight years, let’s do it again. But first, a couple of caveats:

  • I’m not ranking parks I haven’t been to. If it’s not on this list it’s not because I think it sucked. It’s because I haven’t been there;
  • Some of these parks — Target Field, for example — I’ve only been to as a credentialed member of the media, not as a fan. That’s gonna skew things a bit and, for these purposes, will likely push it down the list. It’s not a knock on the place. It’s just an “incomplete.” Being able to drink beer and hang out and do fan stuff is a big part of the experience, and for some of these I just can’t include that kind of thing;
  • My list changes a lot. If I did this last year or the year before and it’s different, well, feelings change. And some of these places — like Camden Yards — I haven’t been to in a dog’s age. 1998 for Baltimore, I think, so it’s not going to make quite the impression, ya know? Heck, I switched a couple of these around in the couple of hours since I tweeted out a half-assed top-10.

Anyway: for what it’s worth:

1. Petco Park: It’s gorgeous. Not just the view, which a lot of people talk about, but the park itself. Greenery and waterfalls and pretty finishes and surfaces and it’s clean as hell and just an overall pleasant place to be. The food and beer are the best in the majors. It’s easy to get to no matter where you’re staying. If you’re there you’re, by definition, visiting San Diego and that’s the best place in America as far as I’m concerned. Just imagine if the team was any good.

2. AT&T Park: A lot of the same stuff for San Diego, obviously. I always forget how cold it is for night games, but that’s my problem, not the park’s. That place is gorgeous and fun.

3. Fenway Park: Cramped and expensive but balanced out by the history and all of that sepia-toned baseball jazz which I often dismiss in my writing but which I can’t help but feel in the moment. One of the last true “ballparks,” where the game is all that seems to matter. As it should.

4. Wrigley Field: The other last true ballpark. There’s something wonderful about a park just being in a neighborhood like that. I hope the renovations and the new construction don’t kill that vibe, even if they’re ensuring that this place remains the Cubs’ home for the rest of my life. The least incidental music in all of baseball, too. Amazingly, you can enjoy a baseball game without hearing Smashmouth’s “All-Star” and John Fogarty’s “Centerfield.” Who knew?

5. Safeco Field: Only one visit there but it was a wonderful night with the roof open and I met some cool people and drank some good beer. I need to go back, but I got a great impression of it. Some of it was Seattle at large rubbing off too. I really got a great impression of that city as well.

6. Dodger Stadium: Dodger Dogs suck, but I love the park. I love the view most of all. By now people are wondering why I haven’t mentioned PNC Park yet. My opinion: people overrate city views. People underrate natural beauty. The green hills and mountains beyond the walls at Dodger Stadium are fantastic. Most of us can see tall buildings outside of our dang offices. We need more nature in our lives. And yes, I realize the nature at Dodger Stadium is far away and deceiving and that you have to fight crap traffic to get there. But once you’re there you forget about that for a good while. A good ballpark should be able to take you out of your daily life for three hours. Dodger Stadium does that.

7. PNC Park: There is absolutely nothing wrong with the place and I’ve enjoyed it each time I’ve been. I think everyone goes way too crazy over the skyline view, though, and it’s super high ratings are a function of that more than anything. I addressed that above. I’ll add that, after the first few minutes you’re here, you probably shouldn’t be paying more attention to the skyline view than the game.

8. Kauffman Stadium: Above I said how great Fenway and Wrigley were because they were “ballparks.” Well, I like places that aren’t “ballparks” too. A couple of years ago I wrote about how I liked Kauffman because it was a “stadium.” I don’t think that’s a contradiction, but go read for yourself and decide. Balancing nostalgia and modernism in baseball is one of the hardest things I ever do, personally, as a fan.

9. Comerica: Here’s more subjectivity coming in. I go to Comerica a lot. I always have fun there because I know people in Detroit and I grew up going to games in Detroit and my parents are from Detroit making each of my visits there somewhat thought provoking, even if I’ve never lived there. For some reason that raises the game of the place for me. More objectively: the food is lackluster, the concourses are way too crowded and the bathroom lines suck more than they do at most newer parks, but there’s great beer at the craft beer stand in right field, making it a mixed bag. The Terrace Section — down the lines — is one of the nicer “premium” sections of a ballpark that is still pretty reasonably priced. Lots of legroom and little tables and things. A real plus. (Note: I had this ranked differently when I tweeted my list out an hour or two ago; I hadn’t thought as hard about it then).

10. Citi Field: The first of my credentials-only experiences, but it was a good experience. I did catch the Futures Game as a fan, at least, and that was nice. Food really weighs heavy here. There is some great food here. Riding out to Queens was kind of a pain but that’s not a problem if you live in Queens. Or Brooklyn or Long Island I guess. And this park was built for them, not rubes from Ohio. My only real complaint is that the place is sort of segmented up and choppy to me when you try to walk all around it.

11. Oriole Park at Camden Yards: This one suffers in the rankings because I haven’t been there in 18 years and I was a very different person who valued very different things 18 years ago. At the time I remember it being one of the best I had been to by then, but like I said, that was ages ago. And frankly I’ve forgotten most of the little things about it that go into these rankings. I’ll go back. Everyone says it holds up to the reputation it got when it was new. Better than many which followed it.

12. Miller Park: Only one visit and that was quite a few years ago, but I loved the tailgating scene. Normally I wouldn’t go for that with baseball, but it just fits there and I was in the mood. Maybe it’s my Midwestern genes. Everyone seemed nice and drunk enough to be fun but not so much to be dangerous and annoying and it’s one of the few games I’ve been to since I was a kid where I had a little radio with me and could listen to the broadcast at the same time. It was Uecker, of course, and it was then that I realized how good he is (this was days when you could listen to anyone). Domes are kinda lame, even if they’re necessary, and there was nothing fantastic about the bones of this place. But a good time will make up for a lot in the aesthetics department. I had a damn good time in Milwaukee.

13. Nationals Park: I liked that it has a more forward-looking design than a lot of the consciously retro parks built in the decade or two before it, but it’s not like it’s boldness personified and not a ton stuck out. I had a hard time finding non-macro brew. I’ve been miserably hot and sweaty every time I’ve been there, but that’s D.C.’s fault, not the Nationals’. I’m a wimp when it comes to humidity to this place has a strike against it right out of the gate. That’s on me, but these are my rankings.

14. Target Field: Like Citi Field, I was only there for the All-Star Game and this time didn’t even sit in the actual stands for the Futures Game. Despite it being a media only thing, I liked it a lot. It’s pretty, for sure. Good location, easily accessible by transit and a lot to do nearby. It’ll probably go a lot higher after I’ve had a chance to go there as a fan.

15. Busch Stadium: The 2013 World Series was my only experience there. It’s nice, but Ballpark Village was still under construction then and people tell me it’s a very different experience now than it was then. I’ll withhold more judgment until I go back. Inside it reminded me a lot of some of the more generic of the newer generation of parks like Great American Ballpark and Progressive Field and stuff. All of the conveniences, but the charms are mostly a function of one’s familiarity with it and one’s rooting interest for the local nine. I’m sure the locals love it.

16. Angels Stadium: Another super subjective ranking. It’s a renovated cookie-cutter, formerly-multi-use ballpark in the burbs and that should put it near the bottom of any list, but I had fun because of the circumstances. I was on an 8,000 mile find-myself road trip and I was with an old friend and it was the last park I visited before I became a dad so it was the last time I could feel young and dumb and childish in a park — moving up seats, giving lip to ushers, etc. — without feeling overly silly. It probably doesn’t hold up like my memories of those couple of games do.

17. Great American Ballpark: When it first opened I was sort of “meh” on it for feeling a bit boring and cheap around the edges for a new park, but I go there a lot and it’s grown on me. Mostly because I figured out where I like to sit and what I like to do before and after the game and stuff. Still, pretty generic.

18. Progressive Field: I went to the fourth game ever played there and at the time it wowed me, as it was the first of the new breed of parks built in the 1990s that I had visited. By now it feels bland, even if it is pleasant. I’ve heard the new renovations have really improved things. I’ll have to revisit this ranking the next time I visit that park.

19. U.S. Cellular Field: Better than its reputation. Nice sight lines and things and an overall chill experience, especially compared to Wrigley Field, but it’s not the most beautiful place on the planet. I went once not long after it opened and once a couple of years ago and they deserve credit for doing a GREAT job of updating it and trying to make the most out of the limitations of its almost immediately obsolete-upon-opening design.

20. Chase Field: This was for the World Baseball Classic, as a fan, not an MLB game. The game was fun, especially because I turned heel and rooted for Mexico over the United States and made many new friends in the process. I also, um, might not remember the entire game very well, thanks in part to making so many new friends in the process. It’s pretty warehousey overall. Not a place I’d want to hang out if the team stunk or the opposition was boring. A good park should be fun even if it’s a dog matchup. I’m just glad that the parking garage in which I parked left my car alone until I came back to get it the next morning. And would like to once again thank my friends for making sure I got nowhere near my car the night before.

Need to visit: Coors Field, which everyone says is fantastic; Globe Life/Ballpark at Arlington, though I question if I’ll get there before the replacement comes online; The Braves’ new park or, for that matter, their old park; Tropicana Field, though I’m sure I’m not missing anything; Oakland Coliseum, though I’m sure I’m not missing anything; Citizens Bank Park; Marlins Park, which I’m guessing I’ll find to be a guilty pleasure; Minute Maid Park; Yankee Stadium; Rogers Centre.