My ballpark journey revisited: Camden Yards is still the best -
Rich Dubroff

My ballpark journey revisited: Camden Yards is still the best


Wednesday was a beautiful day in Baltimore, the nicest of the spring, and for the first time since I returned from spring training, I took the short drive from my house to the ballpark. I was curious to see it. Since I don’t live very far, and visit it for games, there’s never any compelling reason for me to alter my walking route or drive past just to take a look.

From the outside, the park looked great, and ready for baseball, but of course it isn’t. Maybe there will be games with fans some time this year, but there may not be. It still looked great.

As we’re waiting, let’s take another look at the ballpark rankings I published here in August 2018 with a few re-rankings.

1.) Oriole Park at Camden Yards

This week marked its 28th anniversary, and it still looks and plays wonderfully. Even with far less than capacity crowds, the ballpark is still a jewel.

There are things that need improvement. The scoreboard is tiny and antiquated, and while I appreciate that both batting average and OPS are included for each hitter, the numbers are so tiny that they’re impossible to read.

Other than Boog’s Barbecue, the concessions aren’t great, and offerings for non-meat eaters aren’t many, but those are things that can be fixed.

What’s underappreciated about OPCY is that it’s been a measuring stick for other new parks since then.

2.) Oracle Park

A compelling case could be made for this as the best ballpark in the majors. It seems a lot like Camden Yards, but since I don’t get to see games there very often, it’ll have to take a back seat.

The view into San Francisco Bay is breathtaking, and the terrific public address announcer, Renel Brooks Moon, helps set a dramatic scene.

Lots of great offerings to eat, and if you’re visiting San Francisco, it’s just a healthy walk from Union Square.

3.) Wrigley Field

It’s so fashionable to love the Cubs and Wrigley Field that it’s almost hard to rank it so highly.

The Orioles last visited in 2014 before some huge renovations, but the neighborhood is wonderful, the grass is lovely, and the sounds of the park make you feel so close to the action.

Since my last visit, a new scoreboard and outfield seating has been added and bullpens removed from the field of play.

The Orioles were scheduled to play there in early June, but maybe they somehow can make those games up or play there next season.

4.) Yankee Stadium

This may be the only list you’ll read that has Yankee Stadium ranked this high. However, as you may have surmised, I’m big on intimacy, and you feel close to the action.

The fans still call the roll of the defense during the first batter, but “An-Du-Jar” doesn’t have the ring as “Der-ek Je-ter.”

It’s like New York, so if you don’t like loud, you probably won’t like Yankee Stadium.

5.) Safeco Field

Safeco Field and AT&T Park are the best parks in the generation that came after Oriole Park. Because of Seattle’s unique climate, the playing surface can be covered with a roof, but you can still feel temperature changes.

Seattle is a great place to visit, although it’s awfully far. Lots of great restaurants and activities are near Safeco, and the ballpark majestically reflects the city.

6.) PNC Park

The Orioles had visited Pittsburgh in 2011, 2014 and 2017, but a trip in 2020 wasn’t on the schedule.

As nice as Camden Yards looks with the Warehouse, PNC has a similar look to downtown across the Allegheny River.

You can walk from downtown across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and eat a Primanti Brothers sandwich at the park. Those are the ones with French fries and Cole slaw.

7.) Coors Field

When I last wrote this, I rated Coors Field in the middle of the pack, mainly because I hadn’t been there in many years. Last season, the Orioles played a three-game series there, and I knew I had to rate it higher.

It’s a lively place that opened just three years after Camden Yards, and is in a lively neighborhood. With no other major league stadium anywhere near Denver, the Rockies have a huge area to draw from.

8.) Target Field

A great scoreboard, wide concourses and an overall appealing ballpark make the Minnesota Twins’ home, opened in 2010, a superb place to visit.

The Twins organization solicited opinions from baseball people on touches for their park and, as a result, it’s a great experience for players and fans.

9.) Citizens Bank Park

Another place the Orioles play every third year for two games, Citizens Bank Park is in South Philadelphia near Lincoln Bank Field and the First Union Center, home of Philadelphia’s other pro teams.

You can see the heart of Philadelphia a few miles away, but the park has no true signature touch other than the bullpens, which are located on top of each other.

10.) Dodger Stadium

A generation ago, Dodger Stadium was the one of the jewels of the major leagues. These days, Dodger Stadium, which the Orioles last visited in 2016, looks somewhat old.

The vistas still look lovely, but postgame traffic is a nightmare. The third-oldest park in the majors, Dodger Stadium is 58 and still a nice place to watch a game.

11.) Fenway Park

This is the park I have the most mixed feelings about. It’s great that it’s different, but it sometimes feels more cramped than intimate.

The concourses are tight, its look is unique and still charming. Like Wrigley, Red Sox excellence in the past 17 years has made being a fan of the team seem cool, and the arrogance of the fans can be a little much at times.

12.) Petco Park

On most lists, you’ll find Yankee Stadium rated lower and Petco Park rated higher. It helps that it’s in San Diego, where the weather is ideal. It also helps that it’s a great location, but my problem with it is that it copies from other ballparks and has nothing original.

There’s a warehouse building, a la Camden Yards. There are some quirks but nothing wonderful. It’s a great and relaxing place to watch a game, and the weather is terrific.

13.) Busch Stadium

This is the only ballpark where the Orioles have never played, and I’ve been there only once as a fan. I was about to rectify that last week, but because of the pandemic, that visit will have to wait.

I loved its location in downtown St. Louis, and the joy from the crowd was pulsating. Hearing “Here Comes the King” played on the organ in the eighth inning is great, and so is the park’s pretty look.

14.) Comerica Park

Like Citizens Bank Park, this is one of the most underrated stadiums in the big leagues. It looks out on downtown Detroit, and the field hearkens back to the early days of baseball with a dirt path between the mound and home plate.

I visited it last year for the first time since the Division Series in 2014 and was impressed with the resurgence of downtown Detroit.

All four Detroit teams play within a few blocks. Ford Field, home of the Lions, is nearby and so is Little Caesars Arena, home of the Pistons and Red Wings.

15.) Angels Stadium

Believe it or not, this ballpark is more than 50 years old, but thanks to a renovation, it still looks wonderful. It’s helped by the absence of a real winter.

The rock formation in the outfield is really cool, and the team’s hype video, “Calling All Angels” with shots of Gene Autry and Dwight Eisenhower, is the best in baseball.

16.) Progressive Field

When it opened, the venue, which was then called Jacobs Field, was the site of many entertaining games between the Indians and Orioles. But in the 25 years since, other newer parks have pushed Progressive Field down the list.

There’s nothing wrong with the park, which is less than a mile from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s just that other, newer parks are nicer.

17.) Kauffman Stadium

Just like in Cleveland, this ballpark was rated higher before the spate of newer parks opened. Kansas City was ahead of its time 37 years ago when it built separate stadiums for baseball and football in the same locale. That’s been copied in many places.

The Royals’ ballpark had its own makeover several years back, and an All-Star Game and two consecutive World Series brought deserved attention to this jewel.

Points taken away for its location. Although it has more than ample parking, because it’s by I-70, there’s nothing to do nearby, but downtown Kansas City is 15 minutes away.

The city is perhaps the most underrated in America with great food and excellent attractions, including the Negro Leagues Museum.

18.) Minute Maid Park

Here’s a park that tries too hard. The train in the outfield is fine, and Tal’s Hill, now removed in center field, was unique because it had a slope. Its location on the edge of downtown Houston is a plus.

Overall, the park is too busy but a big improvement over the Astrodome.

19.) Citi Field

It bothers me that there’s nothing in Citi Field that says New York. Because the park is enclosed, there’s no way to tell where you are.

Fans tell me that food in the park is good. There is a Shake Shack, and that’s always a plus.

20.) Nationals Park

I’ve tried hard to like Nationals Park, but it just strikes me as cold. I always thought the architects wanted to make sure it didn’t remind fans of a newer Camden Yards, and then went the other way.

It was neat to see the All-Star Game and World Series there in consecutive years. Perhaps that idea can be copied and brought 35 miles north.

The area around the park, which was barren when it first opened a dozen years ago, is now hopping.

21.) Truist Park

Baseball’s newest park is fine, but apparently traffic getting there is a nightmare. I wish the Braves had stayed downtown instead of in a suburb. When the Orioles visited in 2018, I didn’t get a chance to visit the hyped restaurants in “The Battery,” adjacent to the ballpark.

The scoreboard and sound system are nice, and the Braves have a terrific “Monument Garden,” their version of a Hall of Fame, on the lower concourse that features retired numbers and historical artifacts.

“Beat the Freeze,” where a fan tries to win a race against a costumed member of the ground crew, is baseball’s best between-innings entertainment. ‘

22.) Great American Ballpark

Nothing special about this 17-year-old stadium. Located close to where the Reds used to play at Riverfront Stadium, it’s near the bridge to Kentucky.

I hear that they’ve moved the press box to left field, so they may have lost me as a return visitor.

The Bengals play nearby at Paul Brown Stadium, which is more interesting than this one.

23.) Miller Park

Perhaps the only newer park that’s weaker than the one it replaced. County Stadium was near it, and it always reminded me of Memorial Stadium. Bricks with a bakery inside.

Miller Park is a 10-minute ride from downtown Milwaukee and, when the roof is closed, it’s kind of depressing. Watching Bernie Brewer make his way down the slide after a home run is kind of fun.

24.) Marlins Park

My wife would say this place suffers from overstimulation. The Orange Bowl once stood here just minutes from downtown Miami, but the new place seems sterile.

The Marlins have had their own set of issues and haven’t had a contending team since they’ve played there. Perhaps if they played well, the crowds would be livelier, and it would rate higher.

25.) Chase Field

This is the only park I haven’t been to in this century, but I remember being unimpressed when I first saw it. The Diamondbacks are hunting for a new home away from downtown Phoenix.

The retractable roof is necessary because of the heat but other than Seattle, which was inventive, it’s hard to have a top-shelf park with a dome.

26.) Rogers Centre

Sadly, this one was built just three years before the Orioles opened theirs, and quickly seemed outmoded. Toronto is a great city, and the exchange rate is favorable, but the rabid Blue Jays fans deserve a better park.

My guilty pleasure is that I like to sing along with “OK, Blue Jays,” and annoy my fellow writers, but it too has moved its press box to left field.

27.) Guaranteed Rate Field

Like Toronto, this suffers from opening just the year before Camden Yards. When it was new, it seemed intimate. Now, it’s dreary and without atmosphere

Making things worse, Wrigley Field is just 10 miles away, and it’s in the middle of a neighborhood that’s jumping. There’s not much around the White Sox home. Because it’s in a great city like Chicago, that’s doubly bad.

28.) Tropicana Field

The Rays have been trying to escape the Trop forever and have threatened to play half their home games in Montreal if that doesn’t work out.

The crowds are small, there’s no atmosphere and it’s located in St. Petersburg, where many from Tampa are hesitant to go.

It has the only non-retractable roof in baseball, so you know there’ll be a game but since you can’t see outside, you never know what kind of weather you’re missing.

29.) Oakland Coliseum

Once upon a time, this was actually a pleasant venue to watch a game. Then, the Raiders moved back from Los Angeles and seats were built to hide the Oakland Hills view.

Now, the Raiders are leaving for Las Vegas and, like in Tampa Bay, the Athletics have been trying for a new home for years. They’ll probably end up building a new stadium downtown if things work out the way they plan.

In the meantime, they’ve added food trucks so fans have more dining options, and some are really good.

TBA: Globe Life Field

The Rangers were scheduled to open their new retractable-roof home across the field from Globe Life Park this year, but for now that’s on hold. The Orioles are scheduled to play there in late August.

On Friday, I’ll rate the 25 parks that I’ve been to that no longer house a major league ballclub.





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