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Ballparks? No cookie-cutting here!

April 26, 2013

It continues to amaze me, no matter how often I go to a professional baseball game, that I so easily become immersed in the atmosphere.  Wrigley Field is my most common venue to see a game, but I’ve been across town to U.S. Cellular Field as well (they should’ve just named it Comiskey Park again!).  I’ve also been to Washington to see the Nationals, Pittsburgh, the old Busch Stadium, Miller Park in Milwaukee, and Fenway Park.  Each one was an incredible experience.

Wrigley Field and Fenway are, of course, the oldest parks, and baseball relics of sorts.  People desire to visit these Holy Grails of the sports world just to say they’ve been. When I step back, I consider myself lucky being able to attend a game at Wrigley so often.  It’s too bad the maintenance isn’t better there.

After Wrigley and Fewnay, PNC Park in Pittsburgh is my personal favorite, at least of the ones I’ve been to.  The skyline is picturesque, and the Clemente Bridge hangs over the rivers that the city is known for.  There wall to straightaway right field is covered in a league scoreboard.  I was fortunate to have attended when the Pirates were a hot ticket in town, and the stands were full as the Buccos hosted the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pittsburgh lost the game as Albert Pujols tore Pirates pitching apart.  Yadier Molina also homered for the Cardinals.  Pittsburgh ended up tanking for the remainder of the season, while St. Louis surged into the playoffs to become the 2011 World Series Champions.

I have witnessed a total of three World Series- winning teams in my lifetime.  Of course, I saw the 2011 Cardinals, but I also witnessed a shellacking by St. Louis hitters at the hands of awful Cubs pitching in 2006.  The Redbirds boasted a lineup that included Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, and a young Yadier Molina.

I also got a chance to head to U.S. Cellular to see Boston play the White Sox in 2007.  We sat in the bleachers and watched the Sawx absolutely hand it to the Sox, with Curt Schilling pitching brilliantly.  I believe David Ortiz hit two homers in that game.  My cousin and I cheered in the faces of distressed and annoyed White Sox fans.  Boston would complete a four-game sweep over Colorado to win the World Series.

Milwaukee may be considered slightly over-modern by baseball purists, but I really enjoyed myself there.  It was shortly after Manny Ramirez’s suspension in 2009, and my dad and I wanted to see Manny and the rest of the Dodgers.  Manny homered, Matt Kemp hit a grand slam, and the Dodgers won.  If I recall correctly, the Brewers and Dodgers combined for 20 runs in the game, Los Angeles scoring 12 of them.

When my parents and I went to D.C., we figured we had to go to a Nationals game at the brand new park.  It was 2008, and the Nats weren’t what they are now, but the park was beautiful and the seats were six bucks.  I don’t remember much about the game itself, but I love the stadium.  Our nation’s capital has seen a positive revival in baseball.

I went to the old Busch Stadium, and yes, I adore Cardinal fans.  My appreciation for baseball is on par with theirs, so how can I not?  They love their team and know their players.  I can’t recall much about the game, other than Pirate Rob Mackowiak drilling a home run into a section near us to lead the game off.  This game is an example that as the 10-year old kid that I was in 2004, I didn’t care who was playing baseball; I just wanted to see a game.  The Cardinals, by the way, were the eventual National League champs, but got swept by Boston to end an 86 year curse.

There are many parks I’d still like to venture to for a game.  I’ve been to Dodger Stadium for a tour, and even have a cup of the dirt from the field, but a game would blow the tour away.  Anaheim looks beautiful, as does Baltimore’s Camden Yards, (the former) Ballpark in Arlington, and many other places.  One of my goals is to go down south to Atlanta and do the Tomahawk Chop.

I’m glad that the Marlins tore down their old place.  Pro Player Stadium (the name I remember it by) was not an ideal ballpark; it was meant more for football.  The Metrodome is a terrific football venue (it gets incredibly loud) but I imagine this would not be an ideal park to play baseball in, either.  Target Field is one of the places I’d most like to see a game; I’ve seen the inside through the gates and it’s gorgeous.  If only their team was as competitive as in their mid to late 2000’s days.

Overall, baseball stadiums are unique, as I have written before.  Football, basketball, hockey, and other sports have no room for individuality in field of play, because all the measurements have to be the same.  It’s interesting that in baseball, the outfield makes way for all sorts of nooks and crannies, because in many ways, they lead to a more fascinating experience.

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