If you’ve passed a certain age, your favorite baseball park – in all likelihood – is gone. It may have been where you saw your first major league game with your father (or mother; my dad didn’t like baseball), or it may be the park where you kissed your first girlfriend…or it could be that really lousy joint where you saw a no-hitter. For younger fans, all of those reasons might also apply, and of course, younger folks won’t be in the least surprised to find that people have “studied” opinions on which park is the best…as though that means anything next to your first kiss from Candy Buttkowitz.
American love rankings, as I’ve noted before, so it is my job here to tell you that the best major league baseball park – according to Sports Travel and Tours – is Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. And those folks should know. They actually ask people they’ve charged money for trips to MLB parks.
The rest of the top five comprises PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Oriole Park in Baltimore, (New) Yankee Stadium (and we all know where that is), and AT&T Park in San Francisco. The bottom three parks are Kauffman Stadium in KC, Sun Life Stadium in Miami (which actually should be ranked 31st out of 30 instead of 29th out of 30 as anybody who’s even seen TV broadcasts from the facility knows), and Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland. (O-ACC, however, did win first place for the dumbest damned name ever for a baseball field, just edging out Minute Maid Park in Houston – as in: “Hey, Bart, wanna go over to Da Juice?” “No, I don’t do steroids, Earl.”)
Having been to a number of these facilities, I can’t say that the 1200 people that Sports Travel and Tours surveyed were out of their minds or anything, but I would say that there have to be some asterisks and footnotes attached to their findings in general, and in regard to CBP.
As documented by Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, those who took part in ST&T’s survey were asked to rate each park in nineteen areas running, alphabetically, from “access to ballpark” to “security in/around stadium.” Respondents could give the facility in question one of five ratings – excellent, very good, good, poor, or very poor. Never mind for the moment that with a five-answer scale there probably should be a neutral answer in the middle (duh -“fair,” and “very good” should be “good”), or that, if a survey maker isn’t inclined to have a neutral middle answer with an odd number of choices, then fairness would dictate that, with three positive answers, there should be three negatives (duh – add “atrocious”).
Whatever the survey format flaws, CBP came out on top with twelve “excellent” ratings and seven in the “very good” category. And, though I might be biased because my Phillies play at The Bank (as some of us call it), the ballpark probably deserves a top-five rating because of a unique quality: From almost anywhere in any concourse except with your back to the field (while, say, ordering food or a beer), a fan can still see the given game’s action without being anywhere near his seat. One adds “almost” there because there is a stretch of about 30 feet or so in a memorabilia walkway beyond center field where a wall obscures the field. Otherwise, the place is an architectural work of genius in terms of purpose. Moreover, this feature is a selling point for SRO tickets. It actually isn’t that bad an idea to buy “standing room” at CBP, and then just walk the whole place. The game action is always in sight.
However, a 3.63 GPA for the park is a bit much (that’s four points for each “excellent” and three for each “very good” – 69 points in total – divided by nineteen). Some of the ratings are right on the money from my perspective: the “scoreboard information,” “friendliness of ballpark staff” and “PA announcer,” for example, are “excellent,” and the “seat comfort” is “very good,” given that cushions wouldn’t work. There are, however, some ratings that are wildly off in the ST&T results…or maybe other parks are just that much worse, but I don’t think so. One of the problems may be that some categories are misnamed, or should be subdivided. The most glaring example in this regard is the “excellent” rating for “ballpark departure (ease).” While it is surely easy to walk out of the ballpark, it most certainly is not easy to depart CBP parking lots if one has stayed for the whole game. One departs those lots east or west, heading towards Broad Street (and thereby to Rt. 76 or Center City) or east, heading towards I-95. Bottleneck is the applicable term. Book an hour for sitting in traffic, or bring extra beers and tailgate after the game in the lot (that’s everybody but the designated driver, of course). Give that category, if it includes getting out of the area, a “poor” (thus lowering the CBP GPA to 3.47 with only this change).
Another totally goofy rating is the “very good” given to “prices (food and merchandise).” Excuse me?!? On August 19th I spent $18.25 for two beers and a medium-sized bag of peanuts. A couple of years back, my wife and daughter found themselves freezing at CBP because the temperature dropped wildly during the game (about 30 degrees; it was weird). People jammed into the souvenir shops for extra clothing, but by the time my family got there, the only item useful in the situation was a $175 pleather and cloth “team jacket.” OK, OK – there was an odd run on merchandise that night, but on the same night this year that the Fightin’ Phils took a pint of blood for my beer ration and peanuts, we also paid $37.50 for three chicken finger platters with fries and three sodas (with two little girls in tow). This is not “very good.” In fact, it’s “very poor,” but it’s largely the same elsewhere in MLB.
Lower the GPA to 3.32 for that adjustment.
Other CBP items needing immediate adjustment: “security in/around stadium” – not “very good,” but “good” (“fair,” properly)…um, there was a fan beaten to death in a stadium parking lot last summer; the fight that led to that tragedy started in an in-stadium bar. “Merchandise quality” is “good/fair,” not “very good” – it’s much the same at all big league parks, it’s all overpriced, and it never includes near-past favorite players (in Philly, Aaron Rowand, Tadahito Iguchi, or Cliff Lee)…but you get the general idea:
Give the whole place something like a 3.1 or slightly lower.
It’s still likely the best park, however. A really good team plays there, and only one fan has ever purposely vomited on the people in front of him…and he was convicted of an actual crime in a court of law for doing that.
Conlin. Bill. “They love to love Citizens Bank Park.” Philadelphia Daily News 20 August 2010: 98.