- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2006

Life on the road with a major league baseball team affords all kinds of opportunities most “civilians” never get: lousy press box meals, delayed airline flights, lost luggage, hotel rooms that start looking the exact same in every city.

Not that a sportswriter would ever complain, of course.

Truth be told, the baseball beat is incredible, perhaps the most rewarding experience many writers will get. And one of the premier perks of the gig is the opportunity to attend ballgames at every stadium in the league.

Upon seeing the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis earlier this season, this reporter can claim to have been to all 30 current major league ballparks, something of a lifelong mission.

Here’s one man’s ranking of baseball’s 30 stadiums, listed from worst to first:

30. Shea Stadium, New York Mets — It’s a dump, plain and simple. The concourses are filthy, the amenities antiquated, the upper deck is five miles from the field and the sound system has to be pumped up to ridiculous levels to offset the ever-present roar of jets taking off from nearby LaGuardia.

29. Dolphins Stadium, Florida — As a football stadium, it’s fine. As a baseball park, it’s an embarrassment. There’s really nothing quite like a Tuesday evening ballgame in front of 5,000 rabid Marlins fans.

28. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay — Bad design, bad atmosphere, bad location, really bad home team. They botched this one, big time.

27. RFK Stadium, Washington — Yes, the place has some charm, and it certainly has some history. But something tells me Nationals fans will forget all that the moment they step into the new ballpark in April 2008.

26. McAfee Coliseum, Oakland — People forget that this used to be a nice place to watch a ballgame. Then Al Davis turned the center-field bleachers into a football-watching monstrosity.

25. Metrodome, Minnesota — Loudest park in the country when it’s filled up. Deadest park in the country when it’s not.

24. Rogers Centre, Toronto — Fifteen years ago, this place was considered revolutionary. Now, it’s just cheesy.

23. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox — Amazing that this concrete eyesore opened only one year before Camden Yards.

22. Busch Stadium, St. Louis — You’d think the Cardinals would do things right and build a gorgeous new park. You’d be wrong. Very underwhelming.

21. Miller Park, Milwaukee — Strange-looking dome sits off the interstate five miles from downtown. Just doesn’t seem to fit.

20. Ameriquest Field, Texas — Way too much going on at this amusement park, er, ballpark.

19. Turner Field, Atlanta — There’s nothing wrong with it, per se. But nothing really stands out about it, either, except for the stunning HD scoreboard in center field.

18. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati — They missed an opportunity here. Great baseball town, average ballpark.

17. Chase Field, Arizona — If you can ignore all the excess (the swimming pool, the giant advertisements, the massive roof), it’s not a bad ballpark.

16. Comerica Park, Detroit — Nice open feel affords fans a view outside the place. Too bad the only thing to look at is downtown Detroit.

15. Jacobs Field, Cleveland — Takes a lot of its concepts from Camden Yards, just not done as well.

14. Angel Stadium, Anaheim — They did a nice job renovating this place into a modern ballpark. But there’s still too much Disney-ification inside.

13. Minute Maid Park, Houston — For a retractable dome, they did as well as possible. The train above left field is a nice touch.

12. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia — After all those years at the Vet, this place is a palace to Phillies fans.

11. Safeco Field, Seattle — The best of the domes. One of those ballparks that really seems to fit in with its particular city.

10. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles — This ballpark’s as old as RFK. You’d never know it. Still a classic.

9. Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees — OK, it’s falling apart and sorely needs to be demolished. But, man, there’s so much history in that place.

8. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City — Most underrated park in the majors. The fountains are spectacular.

7. Coors Field, Colorado — The home-run rate is down thanks to the infamous humidor, but the setting remains one of baseball’s best.

6. Petco Park, San Diego — Great job incorporating the old Western Metal Supply Co. building into the left-field foul pole. The park beyond center field is a nice touch, too.

5. Fenway Park, Boston — Still the most unique sporting venue on the planet. And the owners have done well fixing it up and adding new features (like the fabulous Green Monster seats).

4. Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs — There is no experience in sports that compares to an afternoon in the bleachers, rising as one for the seventh-inning stretch and bemoaning the woeful state of the Cubs.

3. AT&T; Park, San Francisco — A rare ballpark in which the best views are from the upper deck, especially down the right-field line, where you can see the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown San Francisco and, oh yeah, a ballgame.

2. Camden Yards, Baltimore — The original “retro” ballpark is still the gold standard. Others have tried to duplicate the look. None has completely pulled it off.

1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh — A perfect blend of coziness (there are only two decks), spectacular view (the Allegheny River and downtown Pittsburgh) and incorporation of local landmarks (the Roberto Clemente Bridge). They really did this one right. Too bad the home team isn’t worthy of its digs.

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