The final leg of my 2015 eight stadium baseball tour is complete and I was able to see one of the newest ballparks and two of the oldest. Here are few of the things I’d like to share with all baseball fans about the three parks.
Los Angeles, CA June 8th
Traffic/Parking: My day job took me out to the West coast and many of the things you hear about the City of Angels are true. It was very hot, as it reached the upper 90s on Monday as I headed to Chavez Ravine. Traffic is also no joke and Dodger Stadium is not the easiest place to get to. I got there plenty early so I believe I missed the worst of it and I luckily found a free lot. The Dodgers website mentioned a cheap first-come-first-serve lot but from at least my experience, it was free. It was downhill from the stadium and I decided to work off my Dodger Dog before eating it by taking the hike up the mountain. Plenty of sweat later, I had made it up to the gate.
First thoughts: The view from the gate as you look across the ravine is scintillating. The stadium is also a sight. History is prevalent throughout the walk around the perimeter with lists of MVP winners, Cy Young winners and Gold Glovers that played for the team. The joy of having a warm climate team is the ability to have an “open-air” feel. Part of the reason I arrived so early was that I wanted to be able to watch the Stanley Cup Final so after a quick look-around the inside of the stadium I ponied up at an outdoor bar for some pre-baseball hockey.
Food/refreshments: I was taken aback by around 200 pre-poured cups of half-filled tomato juice rimmed with what looked like paprika. What was even more interesting is the first wave of crowds entering the stadium didn’t order one so I could figure out what was going on. Turns out it was for a drink called a “Michelada” which is Clamato juice and beer combined. They did start getting ordered and by gametime almost all of the pre-poured were gone. I did not take the plunge on attempting one but stuck to regular beer. I was not impressed with the beer options so I stuck to the usual domestics.
In between periods I went over and had a chicken parmesan sandwich at the Tommy Lasorda restaurant, which was very good. The hockey game ended (my Blackhawks lost, but everything turned out ok in the end) and I grabbed a Dodger dog (very good, as well) and headed to my bleacher seats for some baseball.
In-game experience: Unfortunately, the thing that sticks out most about the game to me is that I got very cold. It turns out the desert gets cold once the sun goes down and I wasn’t prepared for it after the 90 degree temperature during the day. My favorite part about the in-game experience was during the first inning the fans in the outfield had a personalized chant for each outfielder, and after performing the chant, every one of them acknowledged the attention with a hat-tip. I was somewhat surprised by the attendance as their seemed to be far too many open seats for one of the best teams in baseball. It was a Monday night so that may have been the reason. The players didn’t seem to mind though as the Dodgers took a commanding lead and I can’t lie – the cold got to me and I headed out early. It was nearly midnight my time (I had arrived in LA earlier that day) and I had gotten my fill of Dodger Stadium.
Wrap-up thoughts: It was great to be at what was basically a baseball museum that still had recognized modernization. I enjoyed the open-air feel (until the sun went down) as the scenery was beautiful and you could really enjoy a day game there.
San Francisco, CA June 12th
Traffic/Parking: It’s unfortunate that I have to start here. I had a disastrous journey to the stadium, but thankfully the downside ended there. Crossing the Bay Bridge during rush hour is not a smart idea for anyone who doesn’t have California’s highway “pass” as I sat at the toll for about two hours. Six dollars later I got to cross the bridge and make my way to the stadium. I was directed to what looked like only one available parking lot and was stunned that it cost $35 to park “anywhere I wanted”. Very poorly done by the Giants but the area around AT&T Park is pretty cool. There was a lot of outdoor entertainment around the pier that lines McCovey Cove including live music and plenty of food. I only had enough time to take a few pics and make my way into the stadium because I had lost my early arrival time to the Bay Bridge.
First thoughts: I had very high hopes entering the Giants’ home as it has always been one of my favorite ballparks to watch on TV. I purposely bought a seat right along McCovey Cove to be able to take in one of the most unique ballpark features in all of baseball. It was great to see the canoes waiting for any possible homeruns into the cove and even yachts pulled up for some very rich patrons.
AT&T Stadium was very unique in that it put in a lot of effort to accommodate to all ages. There were plenty of areas for children including a giant Coke bottle-slide and a small ball field to play T-ball. The surprising part was that there was a large teenager population. Baseball is widely believed to be struggling in the teenage/young adult population but certainly not in San Francisco. There was a courtyard-type area where the teens congregated and it was refreshing to see that a baseball stadium can be a Friday night hangout.
Food/refreshments: I had filled up at In-N-Out Burger pregame so I didn’t consume any food upon arriving but there was a wonderful variety including many seafood options which I am sure were fresh and tasty. I was drawn to the Anchor Brewery stand to try out some of the local flavor – and I was not disappointed. Even though I ran into the same problem of being a little cold in the California evening, I enjoyed a delicious ice cream dessert towards the end of the game.
In-game experience: Much like what I witnessed at Kauffman Stadium with the Royals, it turns out if your team makes the World Series; the fans come out and support you in droves. The fan interaction was present throughout the entire game including many outfield chants and stomping on the metal seats. The game was captivating as Chase Anderson of the Diamondbacks (my second time seeing the D-backs this week) brought a no-hitter into the 7th inning. Arizona had only scored one run as Madison Bumgarner got himself into trouble a few times but was able to escape most. With it being a 1-0 game, the crowd was very involved until the final pitch.
Wrap-up thoughts: After a rough start to the day, I enjoyed my experience in San Fran. With AT&T Stadium being one of the newer stadiums in the league I was still taken aback on how great of a job the architecture was done. The Giants really have it all, maybe a little more in even years, but they have that great stadium every year.
Chicago, IL June 22nd
Traffic/Parking: Even though I have lived very close to Chicago my whole life, this was only my second ever trip to Wrigley Field. Wrigleyville is known for not having much parking options but I have friends that live close by and was able to get a parking pass to park roadside and take the few block walk. Chicago traffic is never great, especially on the North-side but I had a fairly easy trip on this particular night.
First thoughts: As I mentioned, I had been to Wrigley once, but not since the renovations had begun on the Chicago tourist attraction…I mean, landmark. This was my first experience in the bleacher seats and it was somewhat strange having the “sit wherever” set-up. Another strange part was that the bleacher entrance is separate from any other entrance, and you can’t get there from anywhere else in the park. The new jumbotron is where your eyes immediately go and it was a much-needed addition that does look great.
Food/refreshments: The bleacher section, being separate from the rest of the park, did limit you on what was available for consumption. I was also short on cash and it was difficult to find a stand that accepted a credit card. I had the lovely experience of choking down an Old Style but I was in the Wrigley bleachers and I felt it was something I had to do. Due to the lack of credit card-accepting stands, I held off on food until postgame. The burger at Goose Island down the street was delicious!
In-game experience: I got to see the Dodgers for the second time this month and this time got to see the reigning NL Cy Young and MVP winner, Clayton Kershaw. I also got to experience two of the potential Rookie of the Year winners in Kris Bryant and Joc Pederson. I got my monies worth as both homered, Bryant twice. Kershaw got hit around a bit and the Cubs were able to outlast him and the rain, which seemed like it had a good chance of being a lot worse before and during the game.
Wrap-up thoughts: Wrigley is probably the polar opposite of AT&T as you really get to see the difference between old and new. Even with the recent renovations, Wrigley still is far from Dodger stadium, which has modernized enough over the years, and it does not have a stadium feel as much as just being at a park. The bleacher experience only furthered that feeling with the separation from the rest of the sections.
I have no plans in experiencing any other stadiums this summer but it was a fun few months. I hope to pick this up next summer with some new parks so I can continue to see different cities unique take on this great game.