The Baseline: Stadium showdown

The+Baseline

Story by Emily Gresbrink

Fact: the best part of baseball games, besides the game itself, is going to the ballpark.

Don’t go and tell me that the park doesn’t make a difference in the game! It’s been somewhat proven, you know … “home field advantage.” Okay, I have no factual evidence to back that up, but I certainly believe it’s true.

Each team (obviously!) has their own stadium. Sometimes, the prettier and bigger (and more expensive) a park is, the better the team plays. And the opposite can be true as well: a pretty stadium doesn’t always mean a pretty performance.

Regardless, I’ve seen my share of ballparks both in person and on television and definitely can tell you what I believe are the best stadiums in baseball. So, let’s go from fifth to first, with first being my personal favorite.

5) Wrigley Field – Chicago  
Ah, “The Friendly Confines.” What is interesting about the home of the Cubs is that it feels so big and open, yet it’s completely confined within the tight, industrial feel of Chicago. This is the second oldest park in baseball (next to Fenway Park) and offers a lot of unique atmospheric touches. First and foremost, the big red marquee outside? Iconic.

Next, the massive amount of outfield seating — which is what puts this park on my list. Behind the infamous wall of ivy plants is a ton of seating. I am a huge advocate for large amounts of outfield seats — I think you get a better analytic view of the game from there. If you check pictures of Wrigley, the edges of the outfield are frosted with viewers. Oh, and did I mention this park reminisces the days of rooftop seats? Yup — viewers from apartments across the street can head to the rooftops and sneak peeks at the games. Winning!

4) Busch Stadium – St. Louis
Home to the Cardinals, this is my favorite away park I have ever been to. Busch Stadium is massive and sparkly. I went there during 2006 (the inaugural season) and whenever I see it on TV, it still looks as fresh and clean as it did six years ago. Modeled after other retro-style parks, it offers a wide spread of seats and a panoramic view of St. Louis, including a view of the Arch from behind home plate. I also really enjoy Busch Stadium because of the nature around the park; it has become somewhat of a hub within the city, rather than just a part-time park. There are numerous developments around it with baseball themes and the Cardinals have opened up the stadium for both collegiate and high school games.

3) Fenway Park – Boston
But seriously, you guys. It’s Fenway. You absolutely cannot talk about baseball without having major respect and love for Fenway, even if you don’t like the Red Sox. Fenway is the oldest park in baseball, opening in April 1912. It has a lot of charm from the early days of baseball, including a hand-operated scoreboard and very narrow seats. Another big landmark of Fenway is the “Green Monster,” which is a big green wall in left field. Seriously, it’s just a big wall that’s painted green … but it’s also a notorious target for right-handed hitters. And it’s been around since basically forever, adding to the park’s vintage-restoration charm. I like watching games at Fenway on TV because it allows my imagination to play with what baseball spectating was like in the days of old.

2) Miller Park – Milwaukee
I’ll come right out and say it: the home-base for the Brewers is pretty. I love the open feel behind the scoreboard (it’s so picturesque!) and the outside shape. This is also the only stadium on my list that bears a retractable roof — which is a big reason it made my top two. You have to be able to adapt to the crazed elements of Wisconsin, and they have it on lock. The roof can shut in about 10 minutes and play can resume. Another thing I like about Miller Park is the charm that comes from within — lots of unique, non-traditional touches make for a fun experience. Whether it’s the big slide that Bernie Brewer goes down after a home run or singing “The Beer Barrel Polka (Roll out the Barrel)” instead of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the citizens of Milwaukee have really embraced their local culture in a big way — which, in my opinion, deserves a lot of respect.

1) Target Field – Minneapolis
Okay, who is surprised I picked this? Probably no one. By now, you should all know I’m a Twins freak. But luckily, I have a lot of support behind my decision for making Target Field my best park in baseball. After the Twinkies decided to leave the Metrodome, Target Field was born. This outdoor gem is carefully constructed into the Minneapolis environment, with sleek designs and homage to Minnesota. Constructed out of materials from around the state (including lumber and masonry), it truly represents the spirit of Minnesota. Plus, the restaurants in there are swanky! You can have anything from a gourmet meal to multicultural fare (such as made-to-order stir fry) and of course, drinks of all kinds. And, if you like to stand during your games, head to the Budweiser Roof Deck and sit around Major League Baseball’s only bonfire pit. From there, you can watch Minnie and Paul shake hands over the state of Minnesota as the Twins score a blessed run.