Welcome to the introduction to what will hopefully be an all-encompassing look at all 30 MLB ballparks … plus a few that are either no longer with us or are not being used for baseball.
This will be the MLB version of what Ari Kaufman has been doing with his Down on the Farm series for the last two years.
I’ve tried to experience as much of each ballpark as possible, but there will be some holes or gaps that I hope any readers would kindly comment on if they can provide better information.
This whole thing started during a White Sox-Cardinals interleague in Chicago game in 2006.
The Sox were blowing out the Cardinals in what would become a 20-6 rout, and my mind began to wander. After catching it and bringing it back, I began to recall that this was the Cardinals’ first season in the new Busch Stadium and that I had never seen a game in the old Busch Stadium.
After the game, I immediately went to work on going to the new Busch Stadium and vowed to see a game in every MLB park that was still around in 2006.
The series title Ninety Feet from Home was chosen not only because it is the actual distance between 3rd and home (obviously) but also to capture the essence of any great ballpark – it should make you feel as if you’re not that far from home.
I realize there are sites out there that are dedicated to reviewing ballparks. I know – I’ve checked as many as I possibly could while preparing to go to different ballparks. After spending considerable time on these sites, I’ve come to two conclusions:
- I don’t introduce myself as Jim Caple from ESPN.com’s Page 2, or come with a camera crew sponsored by MLB Fan Cave, which would grant me access to every part of the stadium regardless of my section, row and seat number.
- While the sites do offer some insight into the ballparks, they always seem to be missing at least one key aspect below — usually the Fan Relations category.
I found it nearly impossible to glean knowledge on all the following six categories no matter how many sites I visited.
Basically, I wanted to know what to expect going to a game as a regular Joe and see how accommodating each stadium would be.
Forthwith, the aforementioned six categories:
While it might seem trivial, location has a huge effect on the overall je ne sais quoi of a ballpark.
Most directly, it influences parking – both pricing and options. But indirectly, it can affect your mood (both before and after the game) and overall enjoyment of the ballpark.
Is it readily available? Can you take public transportation? Are there alternative options to the official lots?
These questions will be answered (if encountered) and will save you the potential huge headache of looking around for a spot.
This is essential, especially for the seating.
A sound ballpark design can make you feel like the game is being played in a neighborhood park seating 30 and not 30,000. Seats should all be facing the action (i.e. home plate) and most views should be unobstructed.
The architecture should also boast something unique to the home city, thereby enhancing that cozy feel.
Not my opinions on the bathroom facilities.
Sometimes you get to the ballpark a little too early. Sometimes your team is getting beaten worse than the Romans at Cannae but you don’t want to leave. Heck, sometimes you just want to throw something.
This is the place for all the distractions, and whether they’re necessary and/or they work.
You can get a hot dog and soda at every stadium. Trust me.
This (like the architecture) is a place for the home city to again differentiate themselves by offering city specialties or just quality food. This also includes (if applicable) any unique or distinguishing libations offered (beer).
My favorite category.
This relates my various tales of dealing with the staff of the ballpark, from asking to be allowed to take a picture of the stadium from behind home plate on the lower level to being allowed to see everything the stadium has to offer.
The most important aspect of this category, however, is the ability to move freely around the ballpark seats without being hassled by the seating dictators. Very important in my view.
The Rating Scale
Each category will be rated from a low of 1 to a high of 10 based on my experience, relative to overall quality and not any other ballpark. They will then be weighted accordingly to produce a score with respect to 100.
Why the weighting? Because something like food is not as important as architecture or fan relations in my opinion. This equation is not a law; you can obviously change the weights to fit your preferences.
For the mathematically inclined, my equation:
where L is location, P is Parking, Ar is architecture, Am is amenities, F is food, and FR is fan relations.
I encourage any readers to use the comments below to suggest any changes to the equation, give your thoughts on this series, and, more importantly, proffer an opinion which stadium I should cover first. I hope to be of some service!