» Target Field
Minnesota Twins (opened in 2010)
Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Twin Cities after whom the Minnesota Twins were named, are the friendliest cities you’ll ever visit. Residents are so nice, you wonder if they are fake. They are not; they are genuinely friendly and helpful and considerate. This also is reflected in the giant Twins logo above the center-field batter’s eye at Target Field, which shows Minnie and Paul shaking hands over a stream representing the Mississippi River. When a Twins player hits a home run, the neon logo lights up and blinks. Anywhere else, this would seem silly. Not in The Nicest Place on Earth.
» Citi Field
New York Mets (opened in 2009)
Like the new Yankee Stadium only 10 miles away, Citi Field opened in 2009, replacing the New York Mets’ longtime home park known as Shea Stadium. Citi Field was not patterned after Shea, but rather bears a striking resemblance to the brick façade of the old Ebbets Field, home of the dearly departed Brooklyn Dodgers. This was literally by design, as Mets owner Fred Wilpon grew up in Brooklyn, which also explains the arched entryways into the exquisite Jackie Robinson Rotunda featuring a huge No. 42 statue and faux-marble flooring — another architectural feature reminiscent of Ebbets.
» O.co Coliseum
Oakland Athletics (opened in 1966)
The only thing the ballpark in Oakland needs more than a permanent name is a new location, even if it’s not in Oakland. It began as Oakland Coliseum, became UMAX Coliseum, then Network Associates Coliseum, then McAfee Coliseum and now O.co Coliseum, after Overstock.com purchased the naming rights. Beginning in 2006, the A’s closed the third deck of the stadium and covered it with a huge green tarpaulin, supposedly to make the stadium more intimate. On the positive side, good seats are always available and the movie Moneyball was entertaining.
» Citizens Bank Park
Philadelphia Phillies (opened in 2004)
The Philadelphia Phillies’ new home is spectacular, but it’s only one component of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, which is also comprised of Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles), Wells Fargo Center (home of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers) and Xfinity Live! — essentially the world’s largest sports bar with 55,000 square feet of restaurants and bars surrounding the Philly MarketPlace. There’s plenty of parking around every venue too — a sports fan’s dream in every respect. Pass the cheesesteaks and beer, please.
» PNC Park
Pittsburgh Pirates (opened in 2001)
It might not compute to fans in the biggest cities with the biggest and most expensive ballparks, but there are many baseball observers who believe PNC Park is baseball’s most beautiful venue. The views of the city skyline and the three yellow bridges spanning the Allegheny River certainly are worthy of a watercolor canvas. Good thing the views outside the stadium are spectacular, because the Pirates haven’t had a winning season on the field since 1992, after which superstar Barry Bonds bolted for San Francisco.
» Petco Park
San Diego Padres (opened in 2004)
Petco Park is in sunny Southern California, so why not take advantage of the gorgeous weather during the baseball season? Thus, one of the most popular sections of the ballpark, especially for families with children who can’t sit still, is the “Park at the Park,” an elevated 2.7-acre grassy area beyond the center-field fence that can accommodate more than 2,000 fans. Want to spread out a blanket and have a picnic? Watch your kids play on the Little League infield while keeping an eye on the Padres from the outfield fence? No problem. College coeds in bikinis have also been known to work on their tans here. What’s not to like?
» AT&T Park
San Francisco Giants (opened in 2000)
It seems ironic that a beautiful ballpark that began as Pacific Bell Park and was renamed SBC Park and then AT&T Park is known more for something it doesn’t have — seats behind the right-field wall. That, of course, is because San Francisco Bay — specifically, an area now known as McCovey Cove — beckons from just beyond the wall. The Cove also became known for boats and kayaks that loitered in the water waiting for one of Barry Bonds’ record 762 career homers (including a record 73 in 2001) to splash down in the vicinity. It also seems ironic that the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 after Bonds retired.
» Busch Stadium
St. Louis Cardinals (opened in 2006)
Sometimes, the view is the best feature of a ballpark. Looking out from home plate at the new Busch Stadium, the famed Gateway Arch is visible above the center-field wall and above the office buildings and high-rise hotels across the street. Beyond the outfield wall in left-center looms the dome of the state Capitol and skyscrapers in the downtown skyline. The groundskeepers at Busch also mow the outfield grass in a pattern that makes it look as if the Arch is casting a shadow from third base to center field to first base. Great touch.
» Tropicana Field
Tampa Bay Rays (opened in 1990)
When you think of Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays (née Devil Rays), it’s difficult not to think of the stadium catwalks — a series of rings that, according to the team’s media guide, help “lift” the stadium’s translucent, Teflon-coated fiberglass domed roof. They also sometimes get in the way of batted balls, because the catwalks hanging from the roof are as low as 59 feet above the center-field fence and as high as 146 feet above home plate. And that’s why there are ground rules too complicated to explain or enumerate. It would be nice if the team were known instead for winning a World Series someday. At least the Rays made it there in 2008, their only trip so far.
» Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
Texas Rangers (opened in 1994)
Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas, so it should not be a surprise that a Louisville Slugger-sized hot dog was unveiled at the ballpark in 2012, a year after the ballpark started selling three-pound pretzels. The Great Dane of stadium dogs, called the “Champion Dog” or “Boomstick,” is two feet long, weighs one pound and is smothered with chili, sautéed onions, cheese and jalapenos. It costs $26. Not sure if Rangers slugger Adrian Beltre could hit with it, even if it were slathered with pine tar.
» Rogers Centre
Toronto Blue Jays (opened in 1989)
The most distinguishing feature of the stadium formerly known as SkyDome is its overwhelming size. It’s 31 stories high, with a retractable roof nearly 300 feet above home plate. There are five stadium levels, numerous restaurants and a luxury hotel in center field with 70 rooms facing the field. Now the stadium is too big for the crowds it draws, because the Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs since winning back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993.
» Nationals Park
Washington Nationals (opened in 2008)
At Miller Park in Milwaukee, the Famous Racing Sausages run against each other between innings. At every Washington Nationals home game at Nationals Park, the Presidents Race is held during the fourth inning, with giant foam-headed likenesses of Mount Rushmore’s four presidents — George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt — racing around the warning track dressed in period costumes to entertain the fans. Maybe someday the Nationals, the only National League franchise never to play in the World Series, will win the biggest race.