We’re in the heart of summer right now and for a sports fan that can only mean one thing—it’s baseball season.
Travel sports correspondent Phil Wallace highlights the top five ballparks to visit this summer and offers up insider ticket advice for each park.
Many ambitious baseball fans dream of spending their summer traveling to visit every Major League ballpark in the country, though few have the time or resources to hit all 30 stadiums in one summer.
Having worked in the sports industry for my entire professional career, I’ve visited more than my fair share of parks. While an obstructed view, an overpriced ticket, or a rancid hot dog can ruin an outing, there are many parks that won’t disappoint. Here are my picks for the top five ballparks to visit on your summer travels.
Located a hillside just north of Downtown Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium remains baseball heaven on earth. While most new ballparks try to combine a 1920s retro feel with modern technology, Dodger Stadium is the only remaining baseball venue with 1960s architecture. Now the largest stadium in the majors, Dodger Stadium offers excellent sightlines, picturesque views, and the best hot dog in baseball—the Dodger Dog.
With owner Frank McCourt mired in a divorce, the team has gone into bankruptcy and Dodger attendance is at record lows in 2011. But that also means you can get terrific deals on tickets! Recently, the Dodgers offered $4 tickets on July 4th, $5 tickets Reserved Level seats on Andre Ethier Bobblehead Night, and $1 Dodger Dogs for every Saturday game in July. Some of these team-offered deals are even lower than the absurdly cheap finds you’ll get on secondary ticketing sites.
This is a tough ticket to come by, especially with the Giants having just won the World Series. But it’s hard to find a better ballpark view than what you’ll see at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The stadium sits right on the San Francisco Bay and it’s cool and comfortable. It offers the best Wi-Fi access in the majors and is one of the most environmentally friendly stadiums in all of sports with solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, and a completely green concession stand.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, then you can go and grab a kayak, and paddle your way out to McCovey Cove to catch a home run ball. Otherwise, you can walk to right field and view the cove from Levi’s Landing. In San Francisco, fans are obsessed with Gordon Biersch garlic fries. But if you want a little less heartburn, then try ordering clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.
Unless you know a season ticket holder, you’re likely going to have to pay a little extra for tickets through a broker, but it’s worth the trip at least once.
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Don’t believe the banter you hear about this ballpark. Tropicana Field is one of the most underrated venues in the big leagues and it’s hard not to have a good time there. It may look a little funny, but the Tampa Bay Rays front office has done a terrific job of making the stadium fan-friendly.
There are probably more things to do at Tropicana Field than in any other ballpark in MLB. Take a trip out to Left Field Street to participate in baseball-themed game show or get your picture taken on a Topps Baseball Card. Behind the centerfield wall, you can touch and feed live cownose rays. In Right Field Street, your kids can have their swing analyzed on a computer scouting system or paint at Raymond’s Art Studio.
If you actually want to watch the game, then you can sit in an unobstructed seat in a comfortable air-conditioned dome that keeps you free from the punishing Florida humidity. The Rays front office has their low-budget team in playoff contention again, so you’ll always watch a good product on the field. Tickets are affordable when you buy directly through the team as Tampanians are reluctant to cross a bridge into St. Petersburg.
The Pirates are currently in the midst of their first winning season in nearly two decades, so that makes this summer the perfect time to visit PNC Park. Situated on the banks of the Allegheny River, the stadium provides gorgeous views of the Pittsburgh skyline. PNC Park is practically on everyone’s “Best Ballpark” list as it merges a retro feel with modern technology.
The food at PNC Park is also first-rate, that is if you don’t mind a high-calorie meal. Head over to the “Tastes of Pittsburgh” section and enjoy one of the famous Primanti Brothers sandwiches. Or you can go behind centerfield to Manny’s BBQ, named for former Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillen, who is known to sign autographs for fans waiting line. Despite the team’s recent success, tickets are still not too difficult to find on the team website. For a deeper discount, online ticket sellers StubHub and ScoreBig almost always have ticket deals below face value.
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Let’s face it. The old Yankee Stadium was a dump. It had obstructed-view seats, tight concession areas, and lackluster club sections. The new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009, is a more modern and improved version of its predecessor, but it still retains a strong Yankee aura.
There might be more food options at Yankee Stadium than any other ballpark in the country. From a Glatt Kosher stand to heavy Italian food to New York steak, the Bronx venue has it all. And thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, you can even find out how many calories are in your hot dog before you order it.
If you haven’t seen it before, then make sure you arrive early to check out Monument Park where Yankee legends like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio are immortalized. And if you want more Yankee memorabilia, then you can head over to the Yankees Museum where the centerpiece is a statue of Don Larsen hugging Yogi Berra after his Perfect Game in the 1956 World Series.
Yankees tickets are some of the most expensive in all of sports, but many of the best corporate-owned seats are regularly vacant. Try to call around to friends at large companies. Or buy a less expensive seat in the bleachers and hang out with the real fans.
By Phil Wallace for PeterGreenberg.com. Phil Wallace is the founder and president of Picktainment.com and a lifelong baseball fan.
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