BY KEVIN KERNAN
Following this weekend there will be only three more football games played in the NFL. There’s the AFC and NFC Championship games next weekend and then comes the Super Bowl. After that it is essentially baseball season. Good times.
This brings us to BallNine’s annual rating of the ballparks here at The Story, kind of like running with the bulls in Spain with Hemingway. There is bound to be blood. That’s okay. You can fire away at the rankings and tell us where we are wrong and what we got right and let us know your list or a Top Ten or Bottom Ten.
After having been to hundreds of ballparks and just about every major league park you can think of – including all three with the name Yankee Stadium – and having been to all the ballparks here on the list except for the new ballpark for the Rangers, (don’t worry I called in help on that one from people who have been there) here is my list and why the ballparks finished in this order.
Many of the names of the ballparks have changed through the years, I’m just surprised there was no rebranding to FTX Ballpark, but MLB took care of that matter by putting the poor umpires under the FTX scandal umbrella. Without further ado here goes, top to bottom and you can tweet us at @BallNineTweet to let your voice be heard: Attention Chris.
1 – Petco Park: This one I take personally. Working in San Diego at the time, I pushed for the new ballpark to be built downtown on the radio show I did with Hank Bauer, the football player. They built it and the fans came to the ballpark; the owners spent the money and baseball is so alive in San Diego now and a lot of it has to do with building this park in the Gaslamp Quarter. A variety of excellent food options, bar options, viewing options. Perfect weather and if you get bored with the game you can take a break and look out over the Coronado Bridge. I was here for the Bartolo Colon home run.
2 – PNC Park: Thankfully, you can see the Clemente Bridge and the gorgeous Pittsburgh skyline to take your mind off the Pirates. Another downtown park with beautiful views. This town is about steel – and there is plenty of steel in the ballpark to remind you of that fact. There is a Riverwalk area and check out the food there including the Pimento fried chicken sandwich. There is history too with the Bill Mazeroski statue, that still gives me shivers because of his Game 7 World Series home run in 1960, the Roberto Clemente statue, the Willie Stargell statue and the Honus Wagner statue. Yes, there was a time when the Pirates were really good.
3 – Fenway Park: Love the Green Monster, love the ballpark improvements made under the watch of Larry Lucchino. Seats are tight but that is part of the fun and there are even rooftop gardens now. Spent many nights here watching the Yankees and Red Sox battle but hours before the game I would always relax and eat my lunch in the quiet ballpark staring out at the Monster. Worth the ballpark tour as well.
A view of T-Mobile Park in Seattle. (Kevin Kernan)
4 – Wrigley Field: Same goes with this place. Never forget being there the day after the Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and the fans who made the pilgrimage to Wrigley that day to honor the Cubs and honor their family members who were not around to see the magic finally happen. You know all about the ivy and everything else. Changes have been made to “modern” the place up a bit and build up the area. There is something to be said for being on top of the action and I think that is the special ingredient here with seats close to the field. As we well know from the Steve Bartman incident, fans are part of the story here.
5 – T-Mobile Park: Built in 1999 this ballpark is well made. To see the blue sky on a summer day in Seattle is captivating. If it does rain, the roof can be put in place. What I like is that the field level seats behind home go straight up to the next section and the press box, no moats to be found. Food is fabulous, you can take the rail or walk and now the Mariners have an exciting team. Best coffee in the majors, too. I was there the day Aaron Judge nearly hit the ball out of the entire park.
6 – Truist Park: The Braves have done it right with The Battery where you can hang out before and after games. The park is intimate and in the dead of summer it is a sweat box, but that works to the Braves advantage against opponents. Been to three different ballparks through the years in Atlanta and this one is the one they got right. Braves are making a mint here and fans are enjoying it too. By the way, MLB owes them an All-Star Game.
7 – Target Field: Kasota limestone greets you as you make your way into this ballpark. The seats are wide and there is an intimate feel to the place. There is a Minnesota touch to the look of the park. The food has a local feel and taste as well, including Mac’s Fish and local restaurants such as La Tapatia. The ballpark is in the warehouse district and it was always an easy walk for me to get there. Don’t miss the Rod Carew statue on the way in, either. You can take the rail line from the airport right to the park.
The Rod Carew statue outside Target Field in Minnesota. (Kevin Kernan)
8 – The Big A: Now known by the not so catchy name of Angel Stadium of Anaheim, this will always be the Big A to me and they need to move the Big A back to a more prominent spot than where it is now, in the back of the parking lot. The reason I put this park so high on the list is that everything is easy here. Big parking lot, great weather, of course, probably the friendliest group of ushers in all of baseball and it’s a pretty park where you can see stars Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. From a work standpoint it was great too with elevators that took me from the press box right to both clubhouses. Good people, good park. Plenty of food options too.
9 – Minute Maid Park: Spent a lot of time here since 2017. The fans are tremendous, maybe the best in baseball for being into the game. Has a retractable roof, has a train, and they win, what more do you need? Another downtown ballpark you can walk to and on Sundays I used to go to the Catholic Church right across the street for Mass and then go to the game. You must get the Texas-sized baked potatoes and BBQ.
10 – Oracle Park: Used to be in my Top Five but has slipped, just like the ballclub and the city of San Francisco which has a host of problems. Press box-wise it’s the best because you are right there with the fans and can easily carry on a conversation with them. Pungent odor in the air in the upper deck. Did I mention the Garlic Fries? My favorite remains the Cha Cha Bowl and take the walk to centerfield to Orlando Cepeda’s food shack, enjoy the sights of the bay and the characters along the way.
11 – Dodger Stadium: Impressive view from the upper deck, still a glorious ballpark that was built way back in 1962. Team is great too and you can star gaze on the field and in the stands, there is one big problem though and it’s not just me complaining, I hear it over and over. They have gone sound system crazy with loud music and in-game hosts. Tone it down please. Dodger Dogs are not what they once they were, but they are still a treat. Walk along the left field concourse to see a quality Bobblehead display and there are historical Dodger pieces on the concourse.
A celebration at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. (Kevin Kernan)
12 – Camden Yards: Starting to show its age at 31 and now with the deeper left field wall it’s kind of a weird layout. Still a wonderful ballpark. You can get everything from crab cakes to Boog’s BBQ. This ballpark owes much to Larry Lucchino as well and Janet Marie Smith, who studied postcards of classic ballparks like Ebbets Field, Tiger Stadium and Forbes Field to come up with the design after she was hired by Lucchino.
13 – American Family Field: One of the more underrated ballparks. Love the Sausage Race, love the food options. The fan shaped retractable roof does the job. Best tailgating ballpark in baseball and that is a huge plus. This is a park where you can tell the fans love being there. It’s their home and that means something. Give me a brat, Brewers. Almost got nailed in the head by a foul ball in the press box.
14 – Citizens Bank Park: This place came alive in October and as an opponent you know this is not the easiest place to play. Good site lines. Solid, sloppy Philly food and from a media standpoint by far the best press room food in baseball and Frankie Two Scoops, the ice cream man, always wants to give you an extra scoop. Rocky would Iike coming here.
15 – Globe Life Field: This is the only park I have not been to but those who have been there tell me it is ENORMOUS even though the seating is 40,300. That’s a good thing in a Texas way and there is a retractable roof and a climate-controlled atmosphere, comfort over everything else. Two state of the art video boards, too, make it replay friendly. Nolan Ryan has a well-deserved statue and they even sell an autographed picture of Nolan punching Robin Ventura in the team store.
16 – loanDepot Park: I like this place because you know you are in Miami and again, the roof makes it an on-time game every night. I have to admit, I do miss the Home Run Sculpture. Enjoy the Cuban food.
17 – Busch Stadium: Solid like The Arch, fans are tremendous. Like visiting an old family friend. Make sure to have the Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
18 – Coors Field: Maybe one day the Rockies will figure it out. Their fans love this place and always a treat to see the fans way out in centerfield. Enjoy a Smashburger on the Rooftop. After all, you are in the Mile High City.
AMBS in Milwaukee's press box in the spot he nearly had his head taken off by a Ryan Braun foul ball. Check out the inscription on the wall. (Kevin Kernan)
19 – Great American Ballpark: Don’t be shocked but I love going to the Reds’ ballpark. You know you are going to see some home runs, its affordable and you can enjoy the view of the Ohio River. Any place that offers up a Skyline Chili Cheese Coney and Dunkin’ Donuts is okay in a “college kid 2 a.m. dining” kind of way.
20 – Comerica Park: A pretty ballpark and love the tiger sculptures out front. There is a carousel and a Ferris wheel for the kids and a beer hall for the adults. I’m a sucker for statues and you can see a Ty Cobb and Al Kaline statue (and others) here as well.
21 – Citi Field: Really needs something unique to show it is where the Mets play, not a place where the former owner loved the Dodgers. The Tom Seaver statue was a tremendous addition by Steve Cohen. Shea Bridge is a fun walk. Good food.
22 – Kauffman Stadium: Has held up well through the decades. Known for its fountains and is more fan friendly since recent renovations. It’s a drive to get there, right next door to where Chiefs play and that is a huge parking plus and tailgate wonder.
23– Yankee Stadium: This version of Yankee Stadium ruined Monument Park. Turned it into Monument Cave. I remember the original monuments in center field so I call this Disneyland Yankee Stadium. Yes I was spoiled by the original Yankee Stadium, I even liked the pillars that blocked your view and the overhang behind home plate where you could yell at the umpire and he would hear you as Nestor Chylak did one day to me and my friends. He let us know through a gesture that he was not happy with us.
A view from the box: Chase Field in Arizona. (Kevin Kernan)
24 – Tropicana Field: Everyone dislikes this park but me. Roof is goofy, so are the catwalks but I love the site lines and the friendliness of the park and the easy parking. Like Dodger Stadium, The Trop now has a problem with too much manufactured noise in an effort to rev up the fans.
25 – Progressive Field: Never felt in tune with this ballpark. Didn’t see anything unique about it. I like the Heritage Park area and I see they will renovate the park, spending $200 million. That should help. I’m probably a little harsh here but there is not a lot about this place that ever caught my eye.
26 – Chase Field: A little sterile but this is a hitter’s paradise and D-Backs need to take advantage. Alex Rodriguez told me this is his favorite ballpark to hit in and thank goodness for the roof in the summer.
27 – Rogers Centre: Love that it is downtown Toronto. Retractable roof is functional and it’s fun to see the CN Tower, but the exterior is ugly and looks unfinished inside and out. Have heard from fans that it is not the greatest of sight lines because of the depth of the seating in the lower bowl. Get tickets for second level.
28 Guaranteed Rate Field: Not an easy place to navigate and because on other side of town Wrigley Field is iconic it has a lot to overcome, but the White Sox fans that come here are devoted to the game. Not a lot of fan engagement to be had but there is a Frank Thomas statue.
29 – Nationals Park: No real atmosphere and the great views of Washington are gone because of building construction. On a personal note, they put the press box and TV booths close to the moon.
30 – RingCentral Coliseum: Been a dump forever. The A’s need to get out of here ASAP.