30in30for30 Baseball Stadium Rankings

Be forewarned: this post will be analytical in nature with few pictures or videos.  Numbers Guy has temporarily taken control of the site to introduce you to the 30in30for30 baseball stadium rankings.  You will find much explanation for why things are the way they are and, perhaps more importantly, aren’t the way they aren’t.

Calibration-based Rankings
“This is the world’s best chocolate!”  Such an exclamation has an inconceivably small chance of being right.  Why?  Because there are millions of iterations and permutations of chocolate.  Unless one has sampled them all, how could one possibly know?  Since it is equally inconceivable for someone to have tried all possible outcomes, we all operate under the assumption that when someone makes such a claim, they are only comparing it to what they have tried.  Saying “this is the best chocolate I have ever had!” doesn’t have nearly the same hyperbolic impact.

Following that same logic: how could we possibly rank each stadium without any knowledge of the other stadiums?  Sure, Stadium C certainly seems like it has the best location, but how could we know for sure when we haven’t experienced Stadiums D-Z?  That’s why our rankings will be a calibration-based ranking system.  After each stadium, we will rank that stadium in several categories, but also re-rank (calibrate) all of the previous stadiums based on the new information we’ve now acquired.  Simple and straight-forward?  Maybe not.  But it will be far more accurate and fair than the alternative.

Also worth noting: just because we are calibrating each stadium against one another does not mean we are factoring out subjectivity.  We’ll do our best, but it’s impossible to completely remove our opinions.  Plus, this is our ranking system… so if you have a problem with how we rank something, we’ll let Phil sort you out:

Categories to be Ranked
–  Accessibility: how easy is it to find and get into the ballpark
–  Physical location: location of the park in relation to the city and/or the population it serves
–  Parking: availability, proximity, cost
–  Public transit: availability, proximity
–  Uniqueness: incorporation or proximity to unique or interesting aspects
–  Community: local nightlife/bars, “at home” or neighborhood feel of the park

–  Price
–  Availability
–  Helpfulness of staff

External Aesthetics
–  Self-explanatory

Internal Aesthetics
–  Self-explanatory

Entertainment (active)
–  Games (video board, on-field)
–  Fan promotions
–  “Fan caves” or other things to physically perform at the stadium

Amenities (passive)
–  Seat views
–  Video boards/Jumbotron
–  Restaurants or bars in the park
–  Ballpark features you don’t physically interact with but enhance your experience with their presence

Fan Engagement
–  Attendance
–  In-game engagement (cheering effort and proper timing)
–  Socialization with other fans

Wait a Minute, What About…
Trust me, it was our first thought too, but it has several key complications that made us exclude it.
1)  It’s not something a ballpark go-er is forced to interact with.  Those who are frugal, have dietary restrictions, or are just disinterested can forego the food without any problems.
2)  Food is just too non-comparable.  How can you really compare garlic fries against sushi rolls against fully-loaded nachos against an ice cream sundae helmet?  You’d have to try and limit your scope.  So let’s assume you want to rank just the hot dogs of each stadium.  There are so many variations (regular, kosher, beef, etc.) that you’d have to limit even further.  And once you’ve done that, you’re basically just comparing toppings/condiments.
3)  It’s too subjective.  “That brick is red” is a fairly unimpeachable statement.  One could argue the shade or hue, but no one would say “no, it’s yellow” or “no, it’s wood.”  To quote a popular corporate buzz phrase: it is what it is.  However, taste is very subjective.  Just because I don’t like onions doesn’t mean the onions aren’t good or that the dish isn’t good or that you won’t like it, I just don’t prefer them.
Due to these factors, food will not be ranked.  After all, this is a baseball roadtrip: 3 strikes and you’re out.

See above.

Game Quality
Would it be amazing if we saw a no-hitter?  Of course.  Does that have anything to do with the stadium?  Of course not.  Yes, we are ranking fan engagement and one can argue that fans are more engaged in a game where their team is winning, but we’re well aware of that and are utilizing many other factors to help compensate.

Rating Scale (1 – 10)
Simple, straight-forward.  We wanted (and still may pursue at the end of this) to do a 1-30 ranking system, so you knew exactly where each park ranks relative to one another, but the inherent problem with that is relativity.  What if Ballpark G was a lot of fun and a good venue to take in a game, but it just so happens it’s behind 16 other stadiums?  It doesn’t make Park G any less fun nor would it affect our recommendation.  So we have to rate each stadium by using other stadiums as benchmarks, but we cannot exclusively rate stadiums against one another.

That sums it up, so let the rankings begin.  Also, a quick disclaimer: we reserve the right to make adjustments as the needs arise.

Ranker - Rockies

~ Brian & Tim

Game Four Write Up: Petco Park

Petco Game 4
Game #4
Petco Park: an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a ballpark. There is so much to say about a park that offers a bit of everything, even baseball!

After leaving San Francisco, we had a full night of driving ahead of us.  Our end goal, though, was comfortable lodging and a 4-year-old nephew who couldn’t wait to see his Uncle Tim.  We slept a few hours, then prepared for our evening foray into San Diego and Petco Park.

Around the Park
Parking In San Diego was interesting.  The Padres never had plethora of parking, but in recent years they lost one of their lots to the city.  To counteract this loss of spots, they have ingeniously partnered with local parking garages.  Discounted rates for Padres parking can be found through the city and are advertised on their website.  Parking was a breeze and the walk to the stadium through the GasLamp District was quick and scenic.

External Aesthetics
So this is where it starts to get…weird. What IS this thing?  Is it a mall, is it a baseball park, is it an office complex?

There are not a lot of clear answers from the external views of the park.  Tim found this to be–disturbing.  Brian found this to be–intriguing.  The main entrance of the park, the southernmost tip, provided us with the clearest “baseball ballpark” view.  But even then, the pyramid structures off to the left gave us the distinct impression that entering Petco would be an entirely different experience than our previous 3 days.
Petco Exterior Sign
Petco Exterior WMSC
Petco Exterior Luxor

By now we had discussed our ticket buying plan and decided that we would walk up to every stadium to experience what someone walking up to the stadium would feel.  The staff was incredible friendly and helpful in selecting our tickets.  The prices were cheap and there were a variety of choices.  From the beach seats, to Park at the Park, there are number of different avenues the Padres are leveraging to drive fans into the park.

Internal Aesthetics
Once we made it into the stadium, our premonitions were confirmed.  This would not be a “cookie cutter” ballpark. The wide-open design of the concourse reminded us of an open air mall.  The Western Metal Supply Company had an entirely different aesthetic feel, it wasn’t until we were sitting in our seat that it actually felt like a baseball stadium.  The views from out seat prioritized baseball with plexiglass at the bottom of the aisles (as opposed to the metal bars of a typical stadium).
Petco Interior

The seats were easy to find and, given that the game was on a Monday night, there were not too many people to fight through to find our location.  We opted for seats in the upper deck behind home plate, instead of bleacher seats which we had been sitting in the past two games.  The seats offered a great view of the city and of the gigantic video board.
Petco Seats

Entertainment and Amenities
The aforementioned video board provided much of the entertainment for the evening with typical baseball games in the half innings, as well as tweets from fans scrolling through the bottom corner.  What set Petco (for better or for worse) away from its peers, though, is the amenities.  Listed completely, it doesn’t even seem like a baseball stadium, but rather an amusement park or city center:
–  Park at the Park (giant open hill and grassy area)
–  Beach Seats (yes, exactly like it sounds: seats with a giant sand pit at the bottom)
–  Wiffle Ball Field (!?)
–  Viewing deck and restaurants in the Western Metal Supply Company (best view in the park)
–  View of the San Diego skyline (it felt like you were a part of the skyline)

All in all, it’s a smattering of locations and fixed structures throughout the park and our best guess is that families love it.
Petco Park in Park
Petco Wiffle
Petco Beach

Well, it was a Monday, so we don’t want to sell out the San Diego faithful too much, but the “announced” attendance was 22,000… and there is no way it was that close.  Luckily (or unluckily, depending on which side you were on) the Padres were playing the Mets, so there were a fair amount of New York fans.  The fans that were there cheered when appropriate and gave Ian Kennedy his due applause after his nice outing.  But the engagement was not the same with a half empty ballpark.  Color us unimpressed, but open to further review.

Shout-out to the Fox Sports San Diego
Before the game got underway, we had the good fortune to be interviewed by Ally Sturm of Fox Sports San Diego for her show “Padres POV”.  She and her producer, Jake Santos, showed us around Petco and were extremely kind and welcoming.  Thank you guys for making two guys from Chicago feel at home in San Diego.

Brian & Tim remained split on the Petco Park experience.  Tim felt the scattershot of amenities detracted from the park, as they were structure to disengage fans from the whole point of being at a baseball stadium: baseball.  Brian thought the variety of activities offered by Petco made it an exciting night for the whole family.  And who wouldn’t want an amusement park for baseball?  Petco offered plenty.
Petco Final
Petco Pano

As we made our way back to Ryan’s (Tim’s Brother), we were thrilled for some sleep (and even during normal sleeping hours)!  The next day would bring us north to the Angels of Anaheim, or is it LA?

~ Brian and Tim
(for more pics, make sure you check out our Facebook page, which is linked on the left of the site)

Game Three Write Up: AT&T Park

Game #3
Game #3
Sleep in an actual bed?  Check.
Shower?  Check.
Time to check out San Francisco?  Not as much as we would’ve liked, but some.

Rested and ready for the next adventure, we navigated the downtown streets en route to AT&T Park, which sits nestled in the Northeast corner of the city, right against the Bay.  We weren’t more than 5 minutes into our walk when police cars sped by us.  This was an area with fairly congested traffic, so to see the rate of speed they were travelling at was startling.  Tires squealed and then several loud crashes happened not more than 50 feet from us.  Some sort of police chase ended in what had to be a 10 car accident, with police officers drawing their guns and surrounding the suspect’s car.  It was an auspicious start to the evening.

Around the Park
The park is very unique, as it is bordered by McCovey Cove to the south and east; the 3rd St bridge to the south and west.  This makes for a beautiful backdrop for baseball, but also limits access to the ballpark.  Thankfully, there are still several entrances which minimize bottlenecks which may occur.

External Aesthetics
The park is a towering brick structure, surrounded by palm trees and plenty of signage to ensure there is little doubt what you’re gazing upon.  Exposed metal protrudes from the top of the stadium, but is barely noticeable as your eye level is kept lowered.  As you approach the main entrance you are greeted by the Say-Hey Kid (a statue of Willie Mays) and a large clock tower (which gives a Back to the Future vibe).  The most beautiful part is undoubtedly the view from the backside of the stadium, where the cove steals the show.  The park does a great job of integrating the water into the fan experience.
AT&T Exterior

This is the first stadium where we already had tickets for that day’s game (thank you Steven Berger).  However, since one of the goals of the trip is to judge what a casual fan would experience walking up on game day, we engaged the staff at the ticket counter anyway.  Ticket prices were high, though not exorbitantly so, and that’s probably to be expected from the reigning World Series Champions.

Internal Aesthetics
The concourses at AT&T Park were a mix between the modern-industrial Safeco and the stark concrete of O.co.  Green metal railings and fencing guide you directly toward the food vendors or your seats.  But don’t kid yourself, just about everywhere you go there is some sort of visually captivating amenity or attraction that we’ll cover a little later on.  You get the distinct impression that internal architecture and design is simply a means of conveyance to get you from entrance to attraction.
AT&T Interior

We sat in the left field bleachers, in front of the famed Coke bottle and baseball glove.  The bleacher seats had numbered designations, but we weren’t quite sure why, as the fans disregarded these assignments and moved around frequently.  It is fairly commonplace at large sporting venues to sit in a seat other than your own, most likely because they offer a better view.  This inevitably leads to an awkward confrontation when the rightful owner of those seats attempts to claim them.  This interaction took place no more than a dozen times directly in front of us and each time the fans were not only pleasant, but they were downright compassionate.  “These seats are mine, but I’ll just sit over here until someone claims these seats.”  “Sorry guys, these seats are ours, but there are some opens two rows down.”  A plea to AT&T Park: your bleacher-dwelling fans (which we’ll cover a little later on) are worthy of open-seating bleachers.
AT&T Seats

Aside from our own seats, the best view in the house is the 1B/RF line as you get a view of both the entire ballpark but also of McCovey Cove.  The higher you are, the more you can see.  This view of the Bay is diminished the darker it gets, so we highly recommend it for day games.  The seats in right field were also a cool experience: face forward and you have baseball directly in front of you (only a few rows of seats to potentially separate the field from yourself); turn around and you’re overlooking the Bay.  Pretty cool.

Entertainment and Amenities
The standards were there: fast pitch booths, a paddleboat race amongst mascots, exhibits featuring the history of the Giants, etc.  But the additional amenities are the memorable parts: the giant green Coca-Cola bottle (which doubles as a children’s slide… who knew?), the huge old-fashioned baseball glove… they even played to the tech-savvy fan with the “@Cafe” where you tweet to win prizes.  As we traversed the ballpark, we got the overwhelming sense that every single detail had been taken into consideration.
AT&T Glove
AT&T Coke

Back-to-back nights we were treated to excellent fans.  The Giants fans were engaged in the game, they socialized freely with one another, and really enhanced the ballpark experience in the process.  Several fans around us would start a chant and within seconds, they were joined by hundreds of others.  The fans in the bleachers were a special treat for us, as we are accustomed to bleacher fans who tend to be more interested in partying than taking in the ballgame.  These guys did both very well and deserve kudos.

Shout-out to the Giants
The Giants made it 3-out-of-3 ballparks that rolled out the red carpet for us.  They sent over some really nice staff who provided us a couple of gift bags filled with Giants merchandise and even featured us on their Snapchat account!  Very cool Giants, very cool.  Thanks for showing us a great time.
AT&T Snap

Shout-out to the Pirates (the opponent)
BIG thanks also to Robby Incmikoski of ROOT SPORTS Pittsburgh who reached out and asked us to do a quick on-camera interview for their Pirates broadcast.  What an amazing experience!  So cool that they took interest in our trip!

Shout-out to the Twitter community
One of the craziest parts for us has been how quickly our trip has captured a following on Twitter.  Honestly, we are just two guys from Chicago who had a cool idea and were crazy enough to try and make it happen.  The fact that we’ve been able to share this experience has been fun, but the reactions and interactions with you all out there have been amazing.  A perfect example, and someone who we owe a special thank you to, is the Twitter personality @MLBcathedrals.  Someone whom we’ve never met and never shared more than a text box with, has helped promote our adventure in a way we never could have and has never asked for anything in return.  It’s one of numerous examples of generosity and support that we are truly thankful for.

AT&T Park is going to be tough to beat.  It had just about everything, no matter if you are a hardcore baseball fan or a family looking for a fun experience.  The fans were passionate, the amenities were plentiful, the views/proximity to the Bay are spectacular, the stadium is new but doesn’t feel gimmicky.  We’ll see how everything shakes out at the end, but this is a great baseball stadium.
AT&T Final
AT&T Pano

Tomorrow, we head down to Southern California to see beautiful San Diego.  We can only hope Ron Burgandy will be awaiting our arrival for an interview opportunity.

~ Brian and Tim
(for more pics, make sure you check out our Facebook page, which is linked on the left of the site)

Game Two Write-Up: O.Co Coliseum

O.co Game 2
Game #2

With our kick-off in the books, the ball had officially (to mix our sports metaphors) started rolling on our adventuresome trip.  Immediately at the conclusion of the Mariners game, we were on the road to Oakland.  13 hours to make a 12 hour drive. There would be little sleep and no time to explore the surrounding area before this one.  As Brian took the first shift driving through the night, Tim attempted some valuable sleep. By the time the sun rose over the California Hills, we had both slept a few hours, and (other than the lack of a shower) we were fresh as we could be for game two.

Around the Park
Parking around the park was a no-brainer for Oakland. Given the tight timetable, our only realistic option was to dock in the stadium parking lots. The park is right off the highway, so there were little options around the park (a stark contrast to our Mariners experience). We arrived 1 hour before the game and found a mixture of fans tailgating.

External Aesthetics
Well, all the critiques we had read and heard regarding the external aesthetics were vindicated.  Even on a beautiful, sunny day, the stadium looked cold and uninviting.  The large concrete structure is in stark contrast to the recent trend of intimate feeling parks.  And why should it?  It’s a football stadium.  Everything from the metal fencing separating fan entrances to the NFL signage, the stadium screamed “not a place for baseball.”
O.co External

We opted for walk-up tickets again and were pleasantly surprised by the prices and customer service offered.  The salesperson walked us through our options and their respective pros and cons.  For instance, the third deck, while very high up, features $5 worth of free food in the price. One of the consistently positive aspects we heard about O.co was its fans in the outfield bleachers, so we opted for those tickets.  The seating out there is first come-first serve (much like Wrigley bleachers back home).

Internal Aesthetics
Walking in and around the park, the pervasive thought was: football. Concrete as far as the eye can see.  Many of the staircases were blocked off (because the A’s block off a majority of the 3rd deck seating). Even though this is where the A’s play all of their home games (and have since they moved to Oakland in 1968), the internal aesthetics reminded us of the years that the Nationals still played in RFK before moving into Nationals Park.
O.co Internal

The bleachers were easy to find and provided a great view of the field. As the stadium began to fill up, we were treated to the antics of the Crazies in our RF seats.  Soccer-style cheers and bass drums booming fueled the fan experience in the outfield.  While it didn’t compare with the views of downtown Seattle, we could view both of the new video boards, and were only shielded from the edge of the warning track in center and right field.
O.co Seats

Entertainment and Amenities
The entertainment and amenities in Oakland were the fans.  There were not any specific locations designed for families or children. There were a few mid-inning games, but the majority of media on the video boards showcased the dancing and waving MVP of the stadium, the Oakland fanbase.

O.co Fans
Even 30 minutes before first pitch, the Crazies were doing their thing

As we already alluded to, the fans were outstanding at O.Co.  They were engaged in the baseball throughout the game and ratcheted up in the intensity for the key moments (strikeout to end a threat, Billy Burns stealing both 2nd and 3rd base, etc.). The stadium was packed, granted this may have been because the Yankees were in town, but the atmosphere was much more passionate than the previous day’s game.

Shout-out to the Athletics
Just as in Seattle, the Athletics learned about our journey through Twitter and decided to feature us during one of their in-between inning games.  A tough multiple-choice question, which we were able to answer correctly!  Our reward was a coupon for free bacon for our entire section in the bleachers. Very cool Oakland, thank you.

O.Co was better than we expected.  The fans were outstanding and helped make the stadium feel as welcoming and warm as the 75 degree sun did.  Unfortunately, all the kindness and fandom the A’s could muster was not enough to overcome the giant concrete structure looming over us, dominating our experience.  We were left wondering what this fanbase would do with a designated baseball facility.  In our research, all the publicity and praise goes to the team on the west side of the Bay.  But these fans in Oakland were just as passionate and caring about their baseball, if not more.  They deserve better.
O.co Final

Speaking of that “other side of the Bay” team, The Giants are our next destination, whose proximity provided us some much needed time to rest after our mad dash from Seattle.  A stop at In-N-Out (a no-brainer for two guys from IL, a land devoid of such a delicacy) and a night in a downtown hotel is just what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate us in preparation for the famed AT&T Park.

~ Brian and Tim
(for more pics, make sure you check out our Facebook page, which is linked on the left of the site)