Tier #1: I absolutely love these places. These three parks are the cream of the crop.
PNC Park in Pittsburgh (#1): The baseball romantic in you should make you choose either Fenway Park or Wrigley Field as your number one venue to watch a game but if the uncomfortable seats of those places aren’t your thing, look no further than PNC Park to take the top spot. PNC Park is wonderfully simple with a great view in a nice area. Even if you’re not a baseball fan and you find yourself in this city, you should consider attending a game. It’s that nice. If you go, sit in the lowest part of the upper deck so you can still see the playing field, as the view is fantastic. Even if you get lower level tickets, make sure to pay a visit to the upper deck to take in the view. If you do, you may not want to return to your seat closer to the playing field.
Fenway Park in Boston (2): I love approaching Yawkey Way and smelling the brats and soaking in the atmosphere before entering the gates of Fenway on game day. I have never tasted better brats at any other stadium, whether having one outside or inside (you may want to share it with someone because no trip is complete without a Fenway Frank). I have never seen such passionate fans either. They go there to watch baseball. They aren’t there for a circus like some places seem to be. However, you need to be warned, built in 1912 it wasn’t exactly constructed with modern day amenities in mind. You may not always get the leg room you want or need in comparison to many of the newer parks but, hey, it’s Fenway. If you would like to have your cake and eat it too, sit in the Pavillion Box seats. They are newer and there is more room to sit. Also, since it is in an updated area, it’s not as congested either, so there is less wait for concessions and restrooms.
AT&T Park in San Francisco (3): If you make a visit to the upper level, you will be blown away because nobody in baseball has a better view and you’ll be thrilled you went. Even if you’re not a baseball fan and find yourself in San Francisco, like Pittsburgh, you really should consider attending a game. There are a few more “nooks and crannys” at AT&T Park and this isn’t always better, but criticizing San Francisco in comparison to Pittsburgh is like a billionaire complaining he “only” has $50 billion instead of $50.1 billion. You can’t go wrong with either venue as your number one of the newer parks.
Tier #2: I like these ball parks for different reasons and both are in my top five.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore (4): Meet the ball park that forever changed the face of stadiums becoming parks again. This park has the perfect blend of old and new. While it doesn’t have every amenity that the newer parks have, such as every seat facing home plate, it is a great venue in a great setting. The warehouse is only one reason it’s a special place.
Wrigley Field in Chicago (5): Wrigley Field has the best baseball atmosphere outside of its playing facility. It’s a great experience. However, where Fenway Park earns top honors, is the ball park itself. Wrigley Field is in the midst of a $500 million renovation project so there is a chance it could join the ranks of Fenway or overtake it. However, at present time, it’s not as nice of a venue and you can tell it’s old (Fenway is old, but seems “old” in a classy and rustic way, whereas Wrigley seems old in a dumpy way; although it has improved the past few years). I only have Wrigley this high because it’s Wrigley.
Tier #3: This tier rounds out the Top 10. Any of these ball parks could go in any order. They are that close.
Target Field in Minneapolis (6): I like how this park feels more intimate due to its smaller seating capacity than the rest of the parks in the top ten. While it doesn’t have the view of the others, the creators did a nice job of using the land they had to work with to do a good job of creating a facility that makes watching baseball enjoyable in Minnesota after too many years of watching the Twins in the Metrodome.
Petco Park in San Diego (7): I am a sucker for modern structures incorporating historical buildings into its design, although the Western Metal Supply Company building wasn’t in the original stadium blueprint. It’s also in a great area in a beautiful city.
Busch Stadium in St. Louis (8): This is a great stadium but my personal preference is for cozy parks that make the setting feel more intimate (like Target Field) rather than large venues that make you feel more detached from the area. Even though it’s a large stadium, which I don’t always like (and some rankings may seem to contradict), it’s still nice enough in spite of the much bigger feel to rank this highly. If you go, it’s more fun to sit behind home plate or towards third base so you can enjoy a view of the Gateway Arch. The new ball park village across from the left field gates has been a positive addition, too. For some reason, if there wasn’t a view of the Arch within the stadium, it may not crack my top ten.
Coors Field in Denver (9): This is another park with a stadium feel but when you add other factors such as placement and view of the Rocky Mountains in some places, it ranks up there in terms of overall places to watch a baseball game. Although some fans are more noticed than others, such as the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium or the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley, if you want to experience a Major League Baseball game in a, seemingly, other world – try sitting in the Rock Pile. It’s in dead center field and it’s more of a college frat party atmosphere. If that’s not your thing, don’t sit there.
Safeco Field in Seattle (10): Although not the newest city with a retractable roof, it is the best stadium with one. Some of this has to do with the city and its geographic view. Although I’ve only been here three times, I don’t have many other specific reasons why I like it so well. I just do. However, it could have something to do with my being a Seattle Seahawks fan since 1983 and there being a great view of “The Link,” too.
Tier #4: This tier is the rest of the parks that deserve to be on the top half of places to watch a game.
Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati (11): The park is nice but not overly special until you pay a visit to its upper deck. For all the times I had been to Cincinnati before, I never made my way to the upper level. Once there, my perspective of the park changed and it jumped from somewhere in the twenties to twelve. The view of the Ohio River and the hills of Kentucky beyond that may not rank up there with Pittsburgh, San Francisco, or what the Dodgers have but it is on a very short list after. I’ll continue to purchase lower level seats in the ball park because people like being close to the action but will most likely be finding an empty seat above for myself on future tours. That’s how much I like it up there.
Citi Field in Flushing (12): On one hand, I don’t like the fact that the Mets, from Queens/Flushing, tried to take so much from Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers. It would be more understandable if they were from Brooklyn, but they aren’t. Even though it’s a bigger venue, it does have a “field” feel if you sit in the right locations.
Progressive Field in Cleveland (13): It seems like yesterday Jacob’s Field was new and now it’s already one of the older parks. With that being said, most of today’s newer parks still aren’t as good as “The Jake.” Despite what you may think of Cleveland, Progressive Field is in a nice area and there are places to eat around the park before the game or to enjoy the pre-game atmosphere. If you enter any gate, choose centerfield so you won’t miss the Bob Feller statue and the mini-Hall of Fame out there.
Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia (14): I would like this place better if they had tried to keep is simpler. I like the brick, the plaques in the outfield, the field itself, but it seems they tried to get too cute with all the levels. With that being said, I still have it in my top half of parks so it’s not like I do not like it. I just think it could have been better and simpler.
Chase Field in Phoenix (15): Of all the parks I have watched games at, I would say Chase Field was my most pleasant surprise. I like the atmosphere around the ball park before games and the area. They really did a nice job inside, too. I also like the fact that it’s easy for the group to get tickets behind home plate in the lower level and the food is reasonably priced in comparison to most other places.
Tier #5: Even though we begin the bottom half of parks, these places really aren’t that bad.
Miller Park in Milwaukee (16): There are plenty of tailgaters in the parking lot and it is a nice place for baseball but I don’t like being in such a massive structure. It’s nice knowing you’re going to get to watch a game when the weather turns bad though.
Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (17): The stadium itself doesn’t deserve to be ranked this high. However, when you add in Chavez Ravine and the setting of the stadium it really does make up for some of its negatives.
Turner Field in Atlanta (18): One would think Turner Field must not be nice since the Braves are moving into a new ball park this upcoming season. The fact is that it is a nice venue and its final ranking is eighteen. The main reason for leaving has more to do with moving into a better area and, of course, money. SunTrust Park already has the makings and look of a ball park that will end up in the top 10 and I am excited to see it in its inaugural season this summer.
Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City (19): If “The K” had not been renovated to the tune of $250 million, I would have it in my top 10. However, the “upgraded” facility now ranks in my bottom half of places to watch baseball. Gone is too much of the green grass beyond the outfield wall and any decent views of the playing field if you’re a regular person walking the concourse behind home plate. Sure, some of that $250 million actually went to improving the park but it wasn’t enough to make up the difference at what it lost either.
Marlins Park in Miami (20): If you like wearing sunglasses, they will come in handy when you go watch the Marlins (even if the roof is closed on a hot summer day). If you don’t like wearing sunglasses, you should strongly consider bringing a pair with you if you’re going to a game. I don’t mind Marlins Park, but it’s definitely unique in a colorful way I’m not overly excited about.
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (21): You know there are many nice ball parks in the Majors when this one enters the rankings at 21. It’s in a nice area and the park is nice, too. It’s just that some of these decent ball parks have to find a spot on the list.
Comerica Park in Detroit (22): Any ball park that has a carousel in a premier area of the concourse isn’t going to rank high in my book. If the circus is your thing, you’ll love it. Sure, I am being too hard on Comerica because of this, but it’s my opinion. While most will have this much higher on their lists, with good justification, I do not.
Yankee Stadium in the Bronx (23): If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “you get what you pay for,” you’ll be quite disappointed with Yankee Stadium. Both New York teams unveiled new stadiums in 2010 but the Mets ended up with a better product even though Citi Field cost well under a billion dollars whereas Yankee Stadium ended up well over a billion. If you want a great view of a bunch of concrete, this is your place to be if a few decent seats near the playing field that will cost you a monthly mortgage payment is your thing.
Minute Maid Park in Houston (24): This is a nice place if you show up for a game and it’s over 100 degrees, as the cool air feels better than you thought was possible for air to feel. The hill in centerfield should be an embarrassment to the architects who designed the facility in an attempt to be unique. Sometimes trying to be different doesn’t work.
Nationals Park in Washington D.C. (25): This is a classic example of a modern ball park done on the cheap. It’s not that it’s a bad park, it’s just that there isn’t anything overly nice about it either.
Tier #6: If it weren’t for these parks you wouldn’t appreciate as much how nice the good parks are.
Angel Stadium in Anaheim (26): The fake rocks in the outfield do nothing for me. Other than having the pleasure of seeing Mike Trout play, it’s really not an impressive venue. I have read that the Angels lease is up in a few years and they are eyeing a new place to call home. I can see why.
U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago (27): My favorite part of this field is how closely they allow busses to it. The old Comisky Park home plate in the parking lot is a nice touch, too. The statues around the lower level are well spaced and yet I can’t help why I do not like it. Maybe it’s the too loud intercom system if you’re close to a speaker or the drains backing up if you are at a game where they get too much rain. It could also be there isn’t much around the stadium to give it more of a baseball atmosphere as you enter.
Rodgers Center in Toronto (28): This stadium was my final visit before I had visited all 30 current MLB parks. I wasn’t missing out on anything special. While it was modern when it first opened, it is no longer a nice venue. It’s not bad, it’s just not nice.
Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay (29): The Gin Blossoms had a song called “Hey Jealousy” that was popular when I was in college. There was a line something to the effect of “if you don’t expect too much from me you might not be let down.” This is appropriate for my experience here. The “Trop” wasn’t as bad as I expected, but when you go in with rock bottom expectations, you aren’t likely to be disappointed either.
The Coliseum in Oakland (30): This place is a dump. The only thing nice I can think of is that it was fun to be in the same place the Oakland Raiders teams used to play in during the 1970s with the likes of Ken Stabler, Fred Bilitnickoff, and Ted Hendricks. I’m not a Raiders fan either. If anyone in Major League Baseball needs a new stadium, it’s the Athletics.
These are my personal rankings. I do not claim to speak for anyone else. I also reserve the right to change my mind year after year.
For example, the first time I attended a game in Kansas City I really enjoyed it and had Kaufmann Stadium easily in my top ten ball parks. However, this was before their $250 million renovation. After “The K” had a facelift and the green grass beyond some of the outfield wall was turned to concrete in the name of “progress,” it has become one of the stadiums I like the least, even though the amenities and updated remodeling in certain parts of the stadium have supposedly made it so much better.
Sometimes how one views a ball park has to do with their experience there, too. If you sit in a section where the people are friendly, you may think positively about the fans of that team and, in turn, think more favorably of that venue. Likewise, if you sit in a section with a few troublemakers, it will impact your experience and that is what you will remember from your one and only visit to that stadium.
For example, I read a recent article from someone who has now watched a game at every MLB stadium. They were positive about Wrigley Field and not so kind to Fenway Park because of having seats behind a steel beam, which affected their viewing pleasure and experience. After having been at Wrigley Field over 20 times and Fenway Park over 10 times, I can say with certainty that there are just as many spots in Wrigley, as there are at Fenway, where you may have an obstructed view. This particular person obviously let their one seat location at Fenway dictate their overall view of that park.
The day of the week is another factor in potentially judging a ball park. If you go to an early weeknight game, the atmosphere is likely to be more subdued and the facility is likely to have fewer people than it would during a weekend contest. You may come home from your tour thinking that ball park was or was not what you expected due to the day of the week or the opponent you saw play. Yankee Stadium is a different world when you see them play a weekend game versus the Red Sox than when you see them play a Monday game against a team such as the Astros.
Another example of personal preferences is Detroit. I do not like Comerica Park. However, I have had several people on our tours that rank it among the top of their lists. It’s simply a matter of personal opinion.
I am ranking the parks not solely on their facility. If I did a park like Nationals Park would be much higher than Dodger Stadium. I am also factoring in the surrounding area of the park such as views and game day experience. If you set a stadium near natural beauty, like Chavez Ravine, that’s an example how I can like Dodger Stadium much better than Nationals Park.
Also, if I judged parks solely for their ball park only, a venue like Wrigley Field would be close to the bottom of my rankings, rather than in the top five that I have them in below.