Casey Boguslaw tours the big league ballparks to give you the lowdown on everything from the price to the carpark and food.
LA, San Francisco and Wrigley
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.
Milwaukee and Kansas City
I had the opportunity to attend three games in 12 days as my summer of baseball has continued. Two parks were familiar to me and one was a brand new experience. Here’s a rundown of the key takeaways.
Milwaukee, WI May 11th
Traffic/Parking: Two friends and I decided to take the 90 minute drive up to Milwaukee to attend along with the White Sox. The trip up I-94 was an easy experience and we arrived at the parking lot well in time for an odd 6:05 first pitch. Miller Park is rather famous for their tailgating experience as one would predict from the land of beer and brats. We stopped at a 7-11 to pick up a few cases of Spotted Cow (excellent local beer only sold in Wisconsin), with of course some to take home as well.
First thoughts: I have attended a few games at Miller Park as Milwaukee has become a frequent escape over the years. I’ve mostly attended in the heart of summer so the interest in the status of the retractable roof has never come in question. On a cool May night, it certainly was in our interest and as we pulled up, the roof was open. About an hour before first pitch, the roof closed and thus our jackets remained in the car.
Food/refreshments: I didn’t do too much out of the norm here as nothing too exciting caught my eye. I went with the fairly standard nacho bowl that is sold at most stadiums now. I also could not imbibe too much due to the 90 minute drive that I was facing upon conclusion of the game. When you think Milwaukee you think Miller and brats, and you certainly can get either of those anywhere you turn.
In-game experience: Jeff Samardzija and some very spotty White Sox defense had the team down 5-0 before we even took our seats. The game was very entertaining as it was offense-filled and a back-and-forth contest. Khris Davis may have hit the largest homerun I have ever seen in person as he almost hit Bernie the Brewer before his trip down the slide. And for the record, the Polish sausage won the race.
The most important instance of the game happened to my buddy Steve as he completed his lifelong goal of catching a foul ball. The ball ricocheted off a seat but Steve made an impressive one hand grab without spilling his beer in his other hand.
Wrap-up thoughts: I will certainly find a way to keep coming up to Milwaukee for baseball games as the Miller Park experience is always a good one. The stadium is very nice and you can’t beat the tailgating.
Kansas City, MO May 15th
Traffic/Parking: A business seminar brought me out to Kansas City for the first time and I took the opportunity to spend an evening at Kauffman Stadium. I hopped in a cab from my downtown hotel and traffic was a little messy with being rush hour on a Friday but the cabbie did say I left at the right time as I arrived about two hours before first pitch. Parking looked vast as Kauffman is on the same grounds as Arrowhead Stadium with ample parking for what looked like at least two stadiums.
First thoughts: I had my first experience with using the SeatGeek app and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for the best deal in tickets to a sporting event or concert. My ticket for the second row on the right field line was great.
The crowd really caught my attention as my previous few days in KC let me know that this city really supports their baseball team now. Everywhere I turned I saw a Royals hat or playoff T-shirt. To add to the intrigue, the Royals played the Yankees this particular evening and there were Yankee fans almost everywhere you turned as well. I tried my best and found little effort needed in staying neutral.
Since I got in the stadium as soon as gates opened I was able to watch a little of the Royals BP before walking around the concourse. Kauffman stadium features a “Hall of Fame” for their team in left field just outside the perimeter of their well-known waterfalls. Not surprisingly, the Hall of Fame features a lot of moments from last year’s run. There was also a room almost fully dedicated to George Brett and pinetar. My favorite part was seeing the history of the bats and gloves used throughout the years that even allowed you to get a hands-on experience (at least I think you were allowed to).
Food/refreshments: As luck would have it, I got to attend another stadium featuring $1 hot dog night. I instead set my sights a little higher and took a crack at a “gourmet” hot dog stand and got one mostly topped with chili. I had originally planned on finding some KC BBQ but I had gotten my fill the previous night. Boulevard beer is a staple in Kansas City and I did take a walk around their brewery before my trip out to the stadium. Since I had found which kinds I preferred, I mostly had that at the stadium. Delicious.
In-game experience: It has been a while since I have experienced a game with so much crowd interaction. The fans were all very much in to each pitch and I enjoyed their involvement. The Royals destroyed the Yankees and I left around the 7thinning to fetch a cab after the Royals had entered double digits.
Wrap-up thoughts: Kansas City is a must-go for any baseball fan. I understand that I attended in what is a peak of Royals baseball but I am glad I got to experience it.
Chicago, IL May 23rd
I won’t spend too much time going over US Cellular Field as I did that in my last stadium recap but I wanted to write a few words about the pre-game ceremony that I attended.
Paul Konerko’s number #14 was retired last Saturday in a wonderfully done dedication to his career. I was fortunate enough to view it front and center as my seats were right behind the plate. Seeing “Paulie” on that field one more time was enough to fill me with a lot of emotions remembering what joy he brought me over his career. Konerko will go right alongside Frank Thomas as my favorite White Sox players over my lifetime but he certainly has my most remembered singular moment. His grand slam in the World Series will never be forgotten and he could have easily had a World Series MVP along with his ALCS MVP just for that at-bat. I was happy to be able to attend a very well done ceremony by the Chicago White Sox and receive my souvenir statue.
I visited Minute Maid Park on Wednesday evening and I am hoping to get a few more parks in this summer and will use this space to summarize my visits. I will make sure to hit all the key topics to provide the reader some tips on future visits.
Traffic/Parking: This being the Astros second home game of the season, the crowd was significantly lessened. I drove from a hotel about 10 miles to the north and even though I left during rush hour, I got to the stadium fairly easily. The parking situation was different from what I have normally seen as there didn’t seem to be any stadium-sanctioned lots. The lots around the stadium seemed to be independently owned and even though I was uncomfortable with the situation, I found a spot right next to the stadium and made my way in.
First thoughts: One of the items I was most anticipating with the stadium was whether or not the retractable roof would be open or closed. Even though the weather had reached the 90s during the day, the evening was a little cooler. By cool I mean the 60s, and a Chicago boy was still definitely in shorts and sandals. The roof was open, to my delight. I had over an hour to kill so I walked throughout the entire stadium. The Indians were just wrapping up their batting practice and with the outfield not having many seats, the batted balls get fairly close to the concourse in some areas.
I got to see the famous train that rests on a track above the left field concourse and the infamous hill in centerfield with the flagpole. It looks as ridiculous as you would think it does and I am surprised that such a feature still exists in a modern stadium.
Food/refreshments: This was the stadium’s best feature and I made sure to taste a few of the many options offered all through the park. I found out earlier in the day that the attracting feature to draw fans in to this particular game was dollar hot dog night. The dollar hot dog booths were spread out through the stadium, just enough to be able to find a close one but not to have any crazy lines at any of the ones I saw. Let’s just say I had more than a couple.
The new food item that I was pumped for after seeing on Baseball Tonight was the “chicken and waffle cone”. To describe it – a waffle cone filled up with mashed potatoes (possibly to make it look like ice cream?) and then “topped” with little chicken pieces and then dressed with a honey mustard sauce. I am not the biggest fan of mashed potatoes so it didn’t measure up to my expectations but the honey mustard was very tasty. For the record, it’s also pretty difficult to consume. You’re not eating it like an ice cream cone.
I also have to commend the beer selection. The stadium featured many different types including a local craft brewery, Saint Arnold, which had a few different types. I partook in the amber and it was very tasty.
In-game experience: The crowd was a little light although it was somewhat late arriving where at least the area in the lower level between the bases filed up. It was a pretty loud crowd and I was impressed with the amount of Indians fans I saw (when they barely come to their own games). They do a decent effort to try to increase crowd involvement but it was hard to liven up the crowd during a low-scoring game. I did not get to see the train in action as the Astros didn’t score a run, let alone a homerun. I do believe the conductor spends the entire game in the train which has to be a bizarre experience. I am curious whether it’s the same guy each game and how he likes it. Since there were open seats available everywhere, I changed vantage points a few times throughout the game. The stadium is very modern and the large scoreboard provides a fun in-game experience.
Wrap-up thoughts: Houston provided a good overall baseball experience. The game was light on excitement as two solo Indian homeruns provided the only offense. The Astros struck out 13 times and the first two times through the order the 2, 3, and 4 hitters struck out. It’s hard to get much offense with that happening. The opening series also set a record as the Astros hit .096, which was a modern era record for lowest average for the first three games in a season.
Less than 48 hours later, I attended my second game of the young season at the White Sox home opener. It takes a little out of a home opener when you have two #4 starters facing off compared to two aces, but there was still a lot of electricity in the house.
Traffic/parking: This game being a 3 pm start on the South Side of Chicago was predictably going to involve a lot of traffic. I drove in straight from O’Hare airport and it took about 90 minutes to get there. I have my parking secrets knowing the area which helped since the many stadium lots were all full by the time I arrived. A home opener on a Friday provided a much different experience than the game I attended earlier this week.
First thoughts: My first thoughts are cheating a bit as I have attended U.S. Cellular Field over 100 times. I find the park beautiful and the changes they have made in recent years make it a great experience, regardless of where you sit. Security is tough on allowing guests to the main concourse unless you have a ticket in the 100 level, which is a downside but the team chooses to limit the crowd on the concourse by doing so. It was a nice day for an early April afternoon, specifically if the sun was shining on you.
Food/refreshments: The Cell, as it’s commonly referred to by the home fans, is widely known as having one of the best offerings of food selection in the league. I kept it simple with a polish sausage and a bag of peanuts. I would highly recommend the mac and cheese burger and you can’t go wrong with bacon on a stick. The beer selection is a wide variety but it’s not always easy to find premium brands and the lines for those booths are usually amongst the largest.
In-game experience: The 3 o’clock starting time had many perks along with some pitfalls. I wrote in the preseason about how I think all April ballgames in cold-weather cities should be day games to preserve some of the spring warmth. A 3 pm start may be the best of both worlds as most of the game was under the sun but also late enough to get a Friday early dismissal work crowd to get out to the game. The 3 pm start was also beneficial to the drinking crowd as the fans were a bit rowdy. Clearly some had the chance to start the pre-game ritual early for the game as I saw more than a few examples of heavy indulgence. The White Sox organization has made efforts through the years to make their stadium as family friendly as possible and 3 pm starts may not work to balance with those efforts. For now, I wish they would keep coming and the game may not have been a success for the team but it certainly was for the bottom line.
Wrap-up thoughts: U.S. Cellular will always have a special place in my heart but objectively, I do recommend it to any baseball fan. The food is outstanding and they provide a lot to do for families. The White Sox moving to a 0-4 start wasn’t great for any fans attending but hopefully the crowds can be as close to the size and energy as that opener.