Motivated by a friend’s Facebook post, where she wrote about all of the baseball stadiums she’s been to — an impressive list, 18 out of 30 — I figured I’d do the same. Mine isn’t quite as lengthy, but here goes.
Network Associates Coliseum/McAfee Coliseum/Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum:
“(Oakland) is this kind of town: You have to pay 50 cents to go from Oakland to San Francisco. Coming to Oakland from San Francisco is free.” – Jim Murray
I’ve been here a time or two. I remember my first game, where Matt Stairs hit the game-winning home run and became my favorite player. I’ve seen Marco Scutaro hit a game-winning home run off the infallible Mariano Rivera. I’ve seen Erubiel Durazo do the same against the fallible Jason Grimsley. I’ve seen a man start a fight with another man after he said something about his mother, all this happening three rows above me in the now-tarped third deck after medics tended to a concussed Johnny Damon. I’ve stayed there overnight for the filming of a Brad Pitt movie. I’m slightly familiar with the place.
There’s a distinctive vibe about Oakland and the Coliseum that I love. Yes, Oakland is not San Francisco. Yes, the Coliseum is not AT&T Park. But there’s a certain charm to both. Both Oakland and the Coliseum have their warts (East Oakland, Mt. Davis, etc.), but they embrace them. There’s a certain confidence to both, like even though there are flaws, they are perfect to the people who want to see it that way. Instead of an inferiority complex to The City, there’s a feeling of “Yeah, we’re not San Francisco, and we don’t want to be!”
My feelings about Oakland, as an outsider who spent most of his time in East Contra Costa County, can be pretty much summarized in the Oaklandish logo. There’s a sense of renewed ownership among the people who live in Oakland. They want to call this city home, make it their own and restore a sense of place to an area of which Gertrude Stein famously remarked, “there is no there there.”
Instead of a picturesque view of the Bay, the Coliseum offers 20 yards of foul room and a view of the Al Davis-backed monstrosity of cheap bleachers and expensive luxury boxes. It doesn’t try to upsell you on anything. It’s brutally honest, no frills, a here’s-what-you-get kind of place. I admire that.
Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park, San Francisco:
I’m pretty sure, naturally, this is the second ballpark I’ve been to. I didn’t start following the sport until about 1999 or so, and I didn’t quite have money as a teenager to head to San Francisco for a game.
I’m pretty much willing to say that AT&T Park is the nicest ballpark in California, granted its only real competition is Petco in San Diego. It’s pricey, but it’s a great baseball experience for the money. The best view in the park isn’t on the field level, but in the 3rd deck, behind home plate, where I always try to get tickets. While you’re eating some of the best garlic fries in existence, you can see a picturesque view of the Bay and one of the best rotations in the league. Renel, who is the only female PA announcer in MLB, is a definite treat to hear, as well. Aside from 80s Night, where both the A’s and Giants dressed up in awesome throwbacks, I haven’t really seen any game of importance there.
I also dislike Panda hats, but that’s another story.
There’s a funny story I love about the Giants’ park, regarding the bullpens and their placement on the field instead of behind center field. I can’t recall where I heard or read this story, but I did find something on Deadspin that may prove this correct. When they were building then-Pac Bell Park, designers forgot about the bullpens, so they were just kind of stashed near the outfield corners.
Angel Stadium, Anaheim:
Although I’m an A’s fan, I love going to Angel Stadium. The ushers, who all wear barbershop quartet-style hats and vests, are pretty cordial. The ballpark isn’t too expensive. All in all, it’s a great venue to catch a game. People whine that it’s too “Disney-fied,” but in a weird way, I kind of like that. It’s a friendly place and parking is plentiful. The most memorable moment I’ve seen? Well, all I can remember is sitting in left field and watching Jack Cust make an error on a fly ball most Little Leaguers would catch with ease. Cust even used two hands in the attempt.
Another thing I love about Angel Stadium (which is in Anaheim, a good 35 minutes to nearly 2 hours from Los Angeles) is the placement of the bullpens, one stacked on top of the other like Yankee Stadium. Since I’m poor/cheap, but enjoy taking good photos, I usually seek out the bullpen. Anaheim’s bullpen is by the left field seats, so quality picture taking is easy. Angel Stadium also usually has some of the cheapest beer of any ballpark. Thanks, Arte Moreno!
One thing I hate about Angel Stadium? You guessed it. But it’s not just the Rally Monkey. While I’m sure there are a great number of Angels fans who rooted for the team before Tony Danza ever threw a pitch, many fans seem to only cheer when told to. I often feel over-stimulated with “GET LOUD!” and other various cheering prompts on the scoreboards. When the jumbotron no longer tells fans to cheer, most stop. It’s a weird, almost Pavlovian thing to witness.
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles:
So, after a few “all-you-can-drink” Cokes during a Diamondbacks/Dodgers game, I had to go to the bathroom, as you can imagine. I head to the head, when I hear probably the most majestic voice to grace my ears. Vin Scully. I waited in the dingy bathroom for a bit, soaking up the contrast. That’s probably why the line was so long, people wanted to hear Vin as long as possible. Next time I go to Dodger Stadium, I’ll bring a Walkman.
My friend and I got bleacher seats for the game, since, well, we were both broke and they were all-you-can-eat. One thing that bugged me about the stadium was that the bleachers are totally separate from the rest of the park. While I’d rather not get into the possible reasons of why they don’t allow the riff-raff to mingle with the other sections, it was annoying. I wasn’t really able to walk around and get a sense of the park. There’s a separate entrance only for bleacher tickets, and there’s no way to get to the other sections once you’re inside. Oh well. It’s still an absolutely beautiful park, one just oozing with history. I’ve only been to one game, but hopefully I’ll head down for a game or two next season.
Petco Park, San Diego:
I was ecstatic when one of my all-time favorite players — Greg Maddux — signed with the San Diego Padres. After the Daily Aztec was put to bed one day, I hurried to Petco Park, grabbing the cheapest seat available. I was anxious to watch Maddux, who was at 349 wins at the time. Even though by that point, Maddux’s pin-point control wasn’t always there and he was just a 6-inning pitcher, he did not disappoint. Getting to see win #350, a milestone that probably never be reached again, was something I’ll never forget.
Petco Park is a beautiful place to watch a game, set right smack dab in the heart of downtown San Diego — the Gaslamp District. The trolley takes you right to the game, and for $5, you can watch the game in “The Park in the Park,” which has a video screen on the other side of the batter’s eye. I tried explaining that concept to an old, drunken/high man who was sitting next to me one day. The next inning, when his buddy came back from the bathroom, he explained in perfect Cheech dialect that the video screen allows people to see the action “through the batters eyes.”
A few features distinguish Petco from other ballparks — the Randy Jones slugger dog (behind center field, highly recommended), the sand pit for kids in right field, the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field and the wide open concourses (a much-needed respite from the crowded Coliseum walkways). I also had the opportunity to see Petco Park as a reporter, when SDSU’s baseball team played Michigan on the big-league field. Not used to receiving food when covering games, I bought a hot dog and a Coke before heading up to the press box, where I saw a popcorn machine and Coke soda fountain. Breathtaking view from the box, though.
Downsides? It’s pricey, the entire 2nd deck is for club patrons and the Padres have the creepiest mascot in baseball, by far — the Swinging Friar.
Coors Field, Denver:
The latest of my visiting ballpark visits, Coors Field was a great place to catch a game. I love the pictured foliage in the bullpen (above), the brewery inside the ballpark and the purple row of seats, 5,280 miles above sea level. As I try to do every time I see a new stadium, I usually sit in the cheap seats (mine were actually on the purple row, above right field) for one game, and then get good seats for photos the next day. The third deck offered a great view and my seats behind the Colorado dugout weren’t too expensive, so all in all, it was a great time.
Another quirk I kinda enjoyed (though it got tiring after a while) was hearing Soulja Boy exclaim “YOUUUUU!” after every Ubaldo Jimenez punchout. Much like how the Giants fans say “UUUUUUUUUU” when a certain infielder is at the plate.
Chase Field, Phoenix:
OK, here’s where I start cheating. I was in Phoenix for Spring Training, so technically, I didn’t see a game here. I took the tour, which I count. I made every effort possible to see Chase Field. I, naturally, had to check out the pool, which is pretty awesome in person. No, I didn’t get to jump in. Also, there’s a TGI Friday’s in the ballpark. I had lunch there.
Shea Stadium/Citi Field, New York:
Again, I cheated. I went to New York when the Yankees were home, meaning the Mets were away. I saw a cool little gift shop where I picked up a Mr. Met doll, so I could have some sort of evidence that, yes, I was here. The night before, Shea Stadium was rocking with a Billy Joel concert, so a “Billy Was Here” message was left on a pushpin board in the gift shop. The pins were all from different teams, pretty cool.
I walked around Shea Stadium, taking pictures, until I got to where they were finishing up construction on Citi Field. I tried to sneak in, but a construction worker shooed me away. Another thing I noticed? The area surrounding the Coliseum is paradise compared to where they put the Mets park. It’s pretty run down.
Also, I took the 7 train to get to Shea. Contrary to what John Rocker said, I didn’t think I was headed to Beirut, I didn’t see anyone with purple hair, and I’m not sure if anyone had AIDS or four kids.
(Old) Yankee Stadium, New York:
I felt the need to end this entry with one of the all-time great stadiums. I made sure to get to Monument Park for the first game. It was quite a memorable experience, seeing the all-time greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson immortalized. They also have a plaque dedicated to the policemen and firefighters on 9-11.
Yankee fans are pretty knowledgeable, and it was fun talking with them. They were pretty amicable, for the most part, and didn’t give me much guff for wearing an A’s hat. However, a man in a Red Sox hat was roundly booed. I approve.
There were Yankee cupcakes and Yankee cookies, in addition to all of the history. I could just picture the heroics of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Aaron Boone, Babe Ruth, et alius. It was kind of cool to be in a stadium so old, where so much has taken place. During BP one day, I sat on the 3rd deck and just kind of soaked everything in. I also sought out Freddy Sez, a Yankee Stadium legend. Although it meant bad news for the A’s, I loved hearing “Enter Sandman” from the Yankee Stadium speakers. Mariano Rivera has always been one of my favorite players, and it was really something to be able to see him in his natural element.
While Yankee Stadium is one of the all-time great venues for catching a game, I could see why the new stadium was necessary. The facilities seemed old and crumbly, and the concourses were terribly crowded. I would’ve hated to be claustrophobic while walking to Monument Park. You’re packed in like sardines.
I know, just 9 of 30 ballparks. I’m hoping to travel to Safeco Field in Seattle before the end of the season, but that’s still pretty much up in the air.