Busch Stadium

BUSCHHH

 

Stadium Name: Busch Stadium

Location: Saint Louis, Missouri

Team: Saint Louis Cardinals

Stadium Rating: B – –

First Game: Not sure, but the Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks

Let me preface this post by saying that my Stadium Rating of B – – (yes, two minuses) is completely unfair.

I mean, look at that photo. Busch Stadium is a beautiful stadium, located right on the Mississippi with the gateway arch in the background. Unfortunately, a big part of my rating is based on the experience I had at the game itself, and I’ve only had the privilege of going to one game there.

So as I said, what a beautiful stadium. A stone’s throw from the Mighty Mississippi, this is a park that you just don’t miss when driving through Saint Louis into Illinois. Every summer as I took roadtrips with my family, we’d drive right by Busch on the way to see family.

Why did I give it a B – – rating then? Let me explain.

I couldn’t possibly give it a C, because aesthetically speaking, it is a cool park with a great view despite being the heart of downtown. But I wanted to rate it just a bit lower than a few others because of my one bad experience.

The game I went to against the Diamondbacks was a hot one. Growing up in Texas, I’ve been to a few hot games. No big deal. But this one was a scorcher. The heat index was 109 degrees Fahrenheit.

  1. 0. 9.

And somehow the D-Backs were wearing black jerseys.

It was so hot that the Cardinals basically felt legally obligated to give out free ice water, which is not a thing at baseball games.

I’ve gotten heat exhaustion from being at a baseball game in Texas and was taken to the hospital in a stretcher, so I’m not lying to you when I say it was unbelievably hot that day.

The good thing is that if I go back to Busch Stadium, I’m sure I’ll have a wonderful experience and my rating will jump significantly. The problem is that my sample size is just too low. I’m sweating thinking about how bad that game was.

Saint Louis, I’ll give it another go when I can. But on this day, the heat won.

Current Stadium Rankings:

  1. Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs – Chicago, IL)
  2. PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates – Pittsburgh, PA)
  3. Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros – Houston, TX)
  4. ?
  5. Ballpark in Arlington (Texas Rangers – Arlington, TX)
  6. Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers – Milwaukee, WI)
  7. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks – Phoenix, AZ)
  8. Busch Stadium (Saint Louis Cardinals – Saint Louis, Missouri)
  9. Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox – Chicago, IL)

 

 

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Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid

Took this picture on dollar hot dog night, 40 minutes after accepting free tickets from a friend. Sometimes life hands you some great gifts.

Stadium Name: Minute Maid Park

Location: Houston, Texas

Team: Houston Astros

Stadium Rating: A-

First Game: Too many to count

Oh, the juice box.

While not the number one park on my list, Minute Maid is the one I consider “home.” No, I’m not the biggest Astros fan, though I am pulling for them to win the title in 2017. (The Braves will win soon enough)

I have been to at least 10 games at Minute Maid through the years, if not more. While I was an intern in Houston in the summer of 2015, I went to five Astros games, all wins. In fact, I haven’t been to a Major League game where the home team lost in at least 10 straight (five this last summer in Colorado, but I’ll touch on that down the line).

The closest stadium to where I grew up, Minute Maid was and still is a place that I love going to. The Crawford Boxes, Tal’s Hill (r.i.p.), the Friday Night Fireworks, the secret hot dog stand that I frequented, it’s all part of what I love at Minute Maid.

Though I can’t remember my first game, I do have a favorite memory.

Backstory: A few years back, I was a huge fan of Ryan Braun, left fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. He is a great player, but as most baseball fans know he lied about using steroids. So, not as big of a fan now, but at the time he was someone I looked up to as an aspiring but ultimately lack-of-talent baseball player.

I went to a Brewers v. Astros game at Minute Maid maybe 6-7 years ago. I had two goals for that day, and neither involved what happened in the game itself. I wanted a batting practice ball, and I wanted an autograph from Ryan Braun. In order to make sure I was in a prime spot to do the latter, I paid $12 to take a tour of the stadium, solely to gain access to the seats behind the dugout area (as my family was sitting on the top deck).

The first time I saw Braun was when he came out of the dugout for shagging fly balls, and I yelled for an autograph. He turned around and said “after I’m done in the field,” which presumably would get me off his back. Nope.

He came in from the field and I yelled a second time for an autograph, to which he said “I gotta go hit, man.” And he grabbed his bat and took some cuts at the plate.

Finally, he was leaving the field and walking back to the dugout, and for a third time I yelled out at him for an autograph. He stopped, shook his head, and said “alright, alright you have a ball?”

Of course, I was prepared, threw him a ball, and the rest is history. I don’t remember a single thing from that game, but I got my autograph.

I then went to the outfield and proceeded to get a practice ball. The guy next me dropped a ball back onto the field that had been previously tossed to him. When a Brewers relief pitcher reached down, grabbed it and turned back to him (an Astros fan), I said “come on, right here! For a Brewers fan!”

Much to the chagrin of the person next to me, the reliever tossed me the ball, and I had my two souvenirs for the day.

So why is Minute Maid below Wrigley and PNC at this point? I’ll give you two reasons – the roof and the weather. Now you might be saying, well of course they have a roof, Houston is humid. And I will agree with you.

However, there’s just something about the downtown location, in the midst of a bunch of buildings (coinciding with the heat) that just turns me away from ranking it higher. The openness of PNC and Wrigley just invites that “let’s play two” feeling.

But I’ll always love Minute Maid, and it will always be home.

Current Stadium Rankings:

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. PNC Park
  3. Minute Maid Park
  4. ?
  5. Ballpark in Arlington
  6. Miller Park
  7. Chase Field
  8. ?
  9. Guaranteed Rate Field

Chase Field

Chase Field

Stadium Name: Chase Field

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks

Stadium Rating: B-

First Game: June 18, 2012 – Arizona Diamondbacks – 7, Seattle Mariners – 1

The summer before I started at the greatest university in the world, my family and I took a week trip out to sunny Phoenix, Arizona in June of 2012. Per usual, I wanted to go out of the way to go to a game, and made sure that we got good seats to do so at my eight park.

This actually was the last new park I went to before moving out to Colorado, but I remember it more vividly because of the game itself.

Sometimes in baseball, amazing things happen on ordinary days. It’s part of why I love the game. Any day can be one for the history books – whether it’s a perfect game, a four-homer game, a no-hitter or something else.

On this day, it was the cycle. For those that aren’t as baseball-literate, a cycle is when a player hits for a single, double, triple and a home run all in the same game. This is a really, really rare feat, similar to one throwing a no-hitter.

For reference, by my (Wikipedia’s) count, there have been 311 cycles hit for in the history of baseball. This stats has been counted since 1882! That’s 135 years of baseball. 2,430 games are played in the regular season each year, and even though there hasn’t always been 30 teams, that is still a heck of a lot of baseball. Baseball reference puts it at 212,205. Two hundred and twelve thousand games, and only 311 cycles have been hit. Since you wanted me to put it in percentages, I’ll do that gladly. That’s 0.15%. One out of every 682 games played in the major leagues includes one where a cycle has been hit.

So, cheers to Aaron Hill, his cycle, and for making a baseball statistics nerd happy on this day. (For the reference, he hit another one 11 days later, but I won’t bore you with those stats).

On to the stadium.

Chase Field is a beautiful downtown ballpark in Phoenix. Notable features include the dirt between the batters boxes and pitching mound along with a hot tub in the right field stands. Sadly, it’s only for rent, and I don’t have that kind of money.

It’s a retractable roof stadium, gracefully, as Phoenix summers tend to get a little bit warm. Chase Field only loses to Miller Park because Miller is where I go with family. But as far as the park aesthetics and features, both have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ll usually like a park better without a retractable roof, but sometimes it just makes sense.

Chase Field is a great park, but nothing really stands out making me want to hop on a flight and go right back there. Right now I put it at #7 of the 9 I’ve been to, but that’s like saying Cookie Dough is the 7th best ice cream flavor. It’s great and I’ll always enjoy it.

Current Stadium Rankings:

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. PNC Park
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. The Ballpark in Arlington
  6. Miller Park
  7. Chase Field
  8. ?
  9. Guaranteed Rate Field

Wrigley Field

Cubs

Stadium Name: Wrigley Field

Team: Chicago Cubs

Stadium Rating: A+

First Game: July 12, 2008* Cubs 8, Giants 7

*While I’m not 100% sure this was the correct game, I remember it was the Cubs v. Giants and ended on a walk-off single, which matches this game.

My family and I were on one of our annual road-trips to Wisconsin and I convinced them to stop in Chicago and see a game at the friendly confines. Everything from the moment we parked and took a bus in through the neighborhoods surrounding the parks until the moment we drove out was amazing.

I love that Wrigley is in a neighborhood – completely contrary to most downtown and busy ballparks. I love that the park looks and feels so un-corporate and just feels like where a ballgame should be played.

While I’m still bitter that I didn’t get the chance to eat a Chicago-style hotdog outside the game (Taco Bell was what the ‘rents picked), walking inside and around Wrigley was the best experience I’ve had since I started going to parks. The ivy on the walls, the manual scoreboard, the obstructed views, the horse troughs in the bathrooms (sort of kidding on that one), everything just screamed The Golden Age of Baseball. And it reminded me of everything that baseball is supposed to be.

We had to hurry off to go to my uncle’s house that night south of Milwaukee, so we left right as the game was ending. I caught the walk-off single and we scurried off to the parking lot to beat the traffic. The further I get from that day, the more I’d love to go back, to see the renovated Wrigley and now the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.

The best part of all was a home victory for the Cubbies, and the white “W” flag flown over center.

As Harry Caray would say, “Cubs win! Cubs win!”

Current Stadium Rankings

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. PNC Park
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. The Ballpark in Arlington
  6. Miller Park
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. Guaranteed Rate Field

 

Guaranteed Rate Field

Guaranteed Rate

Stadium Name: Guaranteed Rate Field formerly known as U.S. Cellular Field formerly known as New Comiskey Park (an actual good name for a stadium)

Team: Chicago White Sox

Stadium Rating: C-

First Game: June 25, 2010 – White Sox 6, Cubs 0

After getting some (probably) scalped tickets, I went with a family friend to Chicago’s South Side to see the Windy City rivalry.

I remember the exact game because it was when pitcher Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs got into a dugout fight with his own teammates – not exactly something to be proud of. Six years later, and the Cubs are World Champs. Go figure. Also I’m still bitter at White Sox OF Juan Pierre for not giving me a practice ball when I stood up for 6 straight innings and yelled at him for it.

As of today, Guaranteed Rate Field (I still can’t believe they’re calling it that) is the last park on my list – but I feel like I’ve been privileged to go to nine pretty great parks so far. I gave it a C- by virtue of it not having anything really special to me. The field itself is nice, but the stadium just didn’t have any remarkable features that stood out. And now that the corporations are taking over (again) in naming it “Guaranteed Rate” I just don’t feel like there’s anything to bump it up the list.

When comparing Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate (sigh), the two differ at every spot except for being a baseball field. So, I’m sorry South Siders, but Guaranteed Rate is one I’ll probably not be rushing back to anytime soon.

Current Stadium Rankings:

  1. ?
  2. PNC Park
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. The Ballpark in Arlington
  6. Miller Park
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. Guaranteed Rate Field

 

 

 

 

 

The Ballpark in Arlington

TBIA

Stadium Name: The Ballpark in Arlington

Stadium Grade: B

First Game: ?

Sometimes a corporation comes along and buys the rights to a stadium, instantly making the name much worse. Renaming this park “Globe Life Park in Arlington” did just that. Thankfully, the Rangers have a nice enough stadium for me to look past the terrible name. “The Ballpark in Arlington” (TBIA) is classy enough and I like to leave it that way.

While I can’t remember the exact first game, I know I went with my dad, brother, and a good friend of mine up to TBIA. While a rain delay cost the first game, the second one coincided with me seeing one of the greatest players to ever lace up his cleats.

Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners has the best swing I have ever seen in person. Even in his later years (which is when I saw him play) his sweet “Swingman” swing was too beautiful to not notice. He roped a double that game, and even at the age of 13-14 I knew that was as good as it was ever going to get. I also remember the rarity of Ichiro Suzuki (who’s still balling today in his 40s) hitting a homerun, something that you won’t see very often.

As far as the stadium, I’ve had mixed reviews over the years. What I don’t like is the heat. (See: my trip to the hospital and getting carried out on a stretcher with heat exhaustion – great times)

That being said, TBIA is a beautiful park where I’ve had some great memories over the years. My favorite has to be the last-second trip I made in my sophomore year of college. My buddy Mason and I decided at 2 PM to drive from College Station on a Friday afternoon to go see the Braves/Rangers (7 PM start) for $8 a piece late in the season. While both teams were pretty much hot garbage at that point in the season, it was an awesome road-trip and a great time to go see my favorite team last minute.

I’ve sat in several different sections of the park, and can’t seem to find a bad one. And for that, I’ll always enjoy my time in Arlington. As a Texas park – it’s always one I’ll go with family and friends too. From the good memories to the bad (seriously, heat exhaustion is the worst), going to a game in Arlington is always a good time.

 

Current Stadium Rankings:

  1. ?
  2. PNC Park
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. The Ballpark in Arlington
  6. Miller Park
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. ?

 

 

 

Miller Park

miller-park

Stadium Name: Miller Park

Stadium Rating: B –

First Game: ?

While it’s not near the top of my list in terms of overall stadium design and/or experience, Miller Park holds a special place in my heart.

Miller Park is the first place I ever watched a major league baseball game, and though my memory fails me of what exact game it was, I know they played and beat the Pirates. Miller is a place that I’ve been to at least a dozen times, and have had some great memories over the years.

It was the place where I first learned to blow a bubble into a piece of gum, and it was the place where I downed an entire 72 ounce Mountain Dew bottle in 2 hours (Fun fact: I missed two home runs that game because of the Dew). But most of all, it’s a place where I saw baseball with my family – each and every time. And to me, there’s no place I’d rather be than spending an afternoon at the ballpark with family and/or friends.

The retractable-roofed Miller Park is a very nice stadium, but there is just enough lacking to give it a higher grade. I love a good outdoor baseball stadium – it reminds me of when I played growing up. So while I understand the need for a roof in Wisconsin in early April, it detracts a little bit for me, and the stadium as a whole doesn’t have tons of unique features.

That said, you’ll see Bernie Brewer sliding down each time a homer is hit and of course, you can’t miss the world famous Sausage Race.

Every summer I do my best to go to Wisconsin for at least a weekend. And if so, you can probably find me – it’ll be at Miller with a Brat and a beer.

You won’t find me complaining.

Current Stadium Rankings:

  1. PNC Park
  2. Miller Park