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Baseball’s Cathedrals

January 29, 2009

Being a big baseball fan, I’ve been to several ball fields throughout my life. The first one was, naturally, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota. It is, honestly, an ugly ballpark but it’s like that tattered old t-shirt you keep in your closet for those special days. You can’t seem to let it go or hate it, it’s just a part of your life that you don’t want to lose. Like I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, it grew on me and I will never forget the memories that were created there growing up.

Once I grew up and went on vacations with my family and took some journeys myself, I’ve been able to visit several other ballparks and experienced what they have to offer. So I thought I would share some of my thoughts, since Spring Training is only 3 weeks away (Whoooo!).

Personally, I like the old-time stadiums myself. Even though they can be cramped, outdated, have only 4 bathroom stalls in the whole park, funky smells. But what they DO have is the authentic smell of a ballpark, the grass, the dirt, the leather, the beer, the peanuts, and the hot dogs. That, to me, is the essence of a ballpark. When I go to games, I want to feel like I went back in time, to a much simpler life where it’s all about enjoying the game. Old stadiums have all those smells, and they also have the history of the parks. If only the walls/seats could talk, imagine the stories they would tell.

Nowadays, there’s been a huge boom of new ballparks being built all around the country. I cannot argue with the economics of doing that, as new parks do attract new fans for the added spectacle, with those 100 foot HD scoreboards and the flashing lights circling the stadiums. Granted, it’s more accessible, bigger concourses, more pro shops, more bathrooms, more entertainment for the unpure baseball fan. But to me, it feels FAKE, like they’re trying to sell the game to me, saying, “lookee here, it’s fun, we got games for you, bigger food, bigger candy, bigger toys..”. It all feels forced onto me and I end up staring around the park, feeling distracted and unable to focus on the game itself. It takes away from the experience of the game itself. Baseball is not a game meant to be played in a rushed fashion, it’s a slow game and I think the new stadium owners feel compelled to keep the unpure fan captivated and I don’t blame them, after all they need their cash.

Which is why, 4 of my 5 favorite ballparks are of another Era, although one is sadly, disappearing into a parking lot. In order, they are…

Fenway Park

Fenway Park - Boston, MA - Boston Red Sox

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field - Chicago, IL - Chicago Cubs

Kauffman Stadium

Kauffman Stadium- Kansas City, MO - Kansas City Royals

Camden Yards

Camden Yards - Baltimore, MD - Baltimore Orioles

Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium - Bronx, NY - New York Yankees

I’m not being biased by picking Fenway Park first, I’ve been there and it was pure joy when I first walked into the park on a sunny Saturday afternoon with my family. The first thing I noticed was the smell, it contained everything I mentioned above. It felt like baseball heaven. I hope to spend my netherworld life there, with my woman beside me, a hotdog in one hand and a cold Budweiser in the other, watching all the legends play for bragging rights day after day.

Wrigley Field is nearly as good as Fenway Park, but it’s just too darn windy for me.

Kauffman Stadium reminds me of the cornfield in “Field of Dreams”, where it’s all about the game and none of the flashy BS.

Camden Yards is not old by any standards, it’s new (opened in 1993). But when I first went a couple of years later, I was expecting a bling bling stadium, but it felt like an old park, with the warehouse in right field and the brick facade. It is one of the most enjoyable parks to watch a game, I’ve been to quite a few and still go there in the summers.

Now, Yankee Stadium, as much as it hurts me to say it, it really is one of the special stadiums in baseball. Can you imagine how many games it has seen within its confines. Babe Ruth’s mammoth homers, DiMaggio’s hit-streak, Gehrigh’s games-played streak, Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game and more… I have a passionate hate for the Yankees, but what they have is unparalleled in the history of sports arenas/ballparks/stadiums and it’s just a shame that they decided to tear it down, all in the name of Benjamin Franklins. Pathetic, throwing away their temple.  (But heehee, the so called mystical Aura of Yankee Stadium will forever be gone!)

So there it is, I do wonder about the new fields and the history that will eventually accumulate in them. Target Field, CitiField, the new Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Ballpark, Comerica Field, SBC Park, Coors Field and on forth. Will I look back one day when I’m 75 and will Fenway still rank #1 on my list?

Only time will tell…

~Runteldat~

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