She’s been to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums – and here’s her scouting report

eritters@charlotteobserver.comApril 5, 2014 

  • Planning your trip

    • To see the Reds, park across the Ohio River in Covington, Ky., at 3 p.m. at a pay meter lot. Pay $2 to get you to 5 p.m., after which it’s free. Walk across the Roebling Bridge (opened in 1867, designed by the Brooklyn Bridge’s John Roebling) and spend a few hours at the riverfront parks.

    • Fly to Kansas City or St. Louis, and take Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner to the other.

    • In Cleveland, save a day for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    • In Minneapolis, stay at a hotel near the airport/Mall of America, and take the light rail downtown. Do the same in Chicago – stay at the airport, and take hotel shuttles to O’Hare and then the train into town. You trade transit time for hotel rates. This has mixed effectiveness in New York, depending on where you stay.

    • Do not go to Oakland, Calif., just to see the stadium of the A’s. It’s the worst one left in either league. They had sewage in the visiting team’s locker room during the 2013 season. But across the bay is the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park, one of the best, so pair them.

    • For any venue, buy your tickets ahead of time if the opponent is the Red Sox or Yankees, or if the game is on or near July 4 and there will be cheap beer. I had to make two trips to see the White Sox because of this.

    • In St. Louis, any decent opponent may sell out on any day of the week. These folks are baseball fans as much as they are Cardinals fans.

    • The Astros and Rangers are about five hours apart, but there’s no train. Save a few hours for the NASA museum in Houston, and I’m told a tour of the new Cowboys Stadium is worth the trouble.

    • This is less true than it used to be, but if you want to see lots of scoring, choose American League teams. For lower final scores, pick National League teams.

  • 5 easy combos

    1 Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels (in Anaheim, Calif.), San Diego Padres.

    2 San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s.

    3 Greater Midwest: Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers.

    4 New York Yankees and Mets, Philadelphia Phillies.

    5 Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles.

I’ve seen all 30 Major League Baseball teams play at their home stadiums.

My first big-league baseball stadium visit was to Atlanta – Fulton County Stadium as a kid, then Turner Field.

In the early ’90s I got to visit the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field and Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

I got serious about this in 2002, when I was in Los Angeles for a game show audition, and arranged to see the Dodgers, Angels and Padres.

Creating travel packages has been a fun part of seeing all the parks. The best trip was to San Francisco to see the Giants and As, and then taking Amtrak’s Coast Starlight to Seattle for a Mariners game.

Highlights from around Major League Baseball’s venues:

Best capturing of old and new: Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. It opened in 2000, but parts of the upper deck look straight out of the ’60s. There are tigers everywhere, of designs from several eras.

Best riverboat in center field: Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, where the Reds play. This is one of the few fields named for a corporation that sounds like a park name you might choose anyway.

Favorite park: Wrigley Field, with Camden Yards a close second. The Green Monster at the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park was impressive, but the seats there were designed for rear ends a hundred years ago, at least the one I had in right center field behind a pole. It wasn’t the game experience I’d hoped for.

Best short hot dog: Cincinnati’s Cheesy Coney, which is about a 4-inch dog covered in Skyline Chili and mounds of shredded cheese.

Best long hot dog: The Denver Rockies’ Denver Dog – all-beef topped with shredded cheese and green chili sauce. And recently picked jalapeños. If you use your finger to slide the peppers off the dog, you should not then stick that finger in your eye half an hour later. Just sayin’.

Most overrated hot dog: Dodger Dog, in Los Angeles. You can do better from any street cart in your own hometown. Or even the frozen store brand.

Best standing-room only experience: Wrigley Field during a series between Chicago’s Cubs and White Sox.

Closest I sat to home plate: The original Yankee Stadium, on a ticket bought from a businessperson just before the game started – his associate had not shown up. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper sat three rows in front of me in row A.

Stadium that looks most like a UFO crashing diagonally into Earth: Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field.

Best play I saw: Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba put out two runners at third base on one play on Aug. 14, 2013, one on a rundown between third and home and the other a baserunner who should’ve stayed at second during that rundown.

Best inning I saw: Jose Bautista was a great relief pitcher for the Cubs in 1993 (10-3, 2 saves in 111 2/3 innings). In the best inning I ever saw, he loaded the bases with Braves with none out on Aug. 22. Mark Lemke grounded to the pitcher, who threw home to get David Justice for out No. 1. The next batter was legendarily slow Sid Bream, pinch-hitting for John Smoltz. Bream also grounded to Bautista, who threw home for out No. 2 (Terry Pendleton), and catcher Rick Wilkins had plenty of time to throw out Bream at first.

Most disturbing use of eminent domain to relocate several neighborhoods for a baseball stadium: Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chavez Ravine. A friend from L.A. tells me that it took a few generations for many area Hispanics to support the team because of the thousands of people who were forced to sell their homes and move – to houses they could not afford on the pittances they were paid.

Outfield where you most want to run under the fountains: Kansas City Royals’ Kauffman Stadium.

Best brats: Several contenders, but the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park won for me.

Most family-friendly team: Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field. Golden Glovers (seniors) pick up foul balls instead of teenagers; you can get value menu items such as hot dogs and 8-oz. drinks for $1.50; and a lady in the upper deck waves a unique flag for each player – the team gave her a couple of lockers so she doesn’t have to tote the flags to the arena every day.

Best rotunda: Citi Field, new home of the New York Mets, honors Jackie Robinson as a contributor to their history: Without the Brooklyn Dodgers there would be no Mets. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda has a quote from Robinson around the top: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Best baseball fans: St. Louis Cardinals’. They are fans of the game, not just of their team.

Ellyn Ritterskamp is a copy editor and page designer in the McClatchy Publishing Center in Charlotte.

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