I've been to every major league stadium. Although every stadium has its own uniqueness, some stadiums stand out from the rest. Some of the things I take into consideration which are important to me and create the "total fan experience" are the in-game-operations, such as the music, entertainment between innings and scoreboard operations. I also consider the food, accessibility to the ballpark, customer service and friendliness of the ballpark staff, and the view. When I go to visit a stadium, I attend a series sitting in different locations each night and try to interact with staff and arrange a stadium tour. A must for me is a stadium organist. So with these thoughts in mind here are my rankings:
PNC Park has it all, including an amazing view both of the field from any seat and beyond the outfield of downtown Pittsburgh. There's so many food choices you will never leave the ballpark hungry. Customer service is one of the best in the sport; before you can approach someone with a question the staff has already approached you. The fans are rowdy but at the same time respectable. All the information you need for the game is right there clear, concise and correct on the main scoreboard. Plenty of entertainment happens throughout the game, most notably the racing pierogies, and I love the digitally mastered sounds of Vince Lascheid (who died in 2009). There is easy parking in and around the stadium, transportation by mass transit or river boat are also options. The team offers a great stadium tour that is a must for any baseball fan. I like the incorporated design of the light towers and the color blue taken from Forbes Field.
Target Field is an amazing stadium to watch a baseball game in. It's small and intimate with great views from any seat. Great food choices had me trying something new each night. The customer service is outstanding. I remember speaking to an usher telling him of my baseball travels and my first game at Target Field. Before I knew it, he brought me a "first game certificate" which was something I didn't have to seek out. Before my visit to Target Field I asked if I could meet organist Sue Nelson, and I received a prompt and pleasant response that she would be happy to meet me and where to find her at the ballpark. When I arrived she was waiting and very pleasant. We had an amazing chat as she explained the history of the organ first used at Metropolitan Stadium, then moved to the Metrodome, and finally to Target Field. Later that night I returned to watch her play and she invited me over to stand next to her at the organ. It was a thrilling experience. I originally planned to go to Target Field in April, but I had a death in the family and had to postpone my trip to August. I already had my tickets purchased so I contacted the Twins to see if by chance anything could be done. There was no problem, my tickets were exchanged for games in August with no hassle. I was always a big fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and several people around the ballpark told me how to go about seeing all the city has in place about that 70's show. I was also told where at Mall of America you can see home plate from Metropolitan Stadium and the red seat marking where Harmon Killebrew hit the longest home run in stadium history. An excellent stadium tour exists and I especially like that the original flagpole from Metropolitan Stadium was donated to the Twins and placed in Target Field. Finally, fans will find excellent between innings entertainment, an informative main scoreboard and easy access to the ballpark.
Nationals Park by far has the best scoreboard, the best public address announcer in Jerome Hruska and his iconic opening greeting, "What a beautiful day for baseball," a great organist in Matthew Van Hoose as well as between innings entertainment and the Racing Presidents. I especially like that the Nationals always have a color guard presenting the coloring before each game. Customer service is excellent as the staff is looking to help you before you need to ask questions. It's easy to access the ballpark and plenty of mass transit options and parking are available. Inside you'll find pleasant fans to sit with and a great stadium tour. One of the things that impressed me the most was that when the Expos moved to DC and became the Nationals, the ownership returned to the city of Montreal their mascot and retired numbers but still honor and recognize the Montreal Expos at Nationals Park. Not just an amazing stadium, but a great ownership and fans as well.
St. Louis Cardinals
Busch Stadium has a very electric atmosphere and I give credit to Dwayne Hilton, their stadium organist. It's a great place to watch baseball. The stadium displays a lot of great Cardinal history and has plenty of food options plus friendly and knowledgeable baseball fans and staff. A well done stadium tour is a must to experience. It's easy to access the stadium and there's lots to see and do in St. Louis. I missed out on the riverboat tour, but did find myself one afternoon flying over the city in a helicopter, which is a must to do while in St. Louis. A great view of the Gateway Arch caps off this great stadium.
Miller Park is amazing with its fan-shaped roof. The giant scoreboard in center field keeps everyone constantly up to date. Bernie's slide and the racing sausages are great entertainment. Dean Rosko entertains the fans while both teams are at bat and makes "Roll Out the Barrel" part of the 7th inning stretch. The food is excellent and I loved dining at the stadium restaurant in the outfield before the game. An excellent stadium tour provided an inside look at the bullpens, something I didn't get to do on any other stadium tour. The fans and the ballpark staff were friendly and I enjoyed staying in downtown Milwaukee. I had dinner two nights at Ryan Braun's (since closed) restaurant and a boat tour of the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan was the icing on the cake. Although the stadium isn't downtown, I had no problem finding transportation out to the ballpark.
Todd Gimbi is an ardent baseball fan who has visited, and truly experienced, every major league ballpark. A native of eastern Pennsylvania, he's a fan of the Washington Nationals and finished his all 30 ballpark quest at Houston's Minute Maid Park in September of 2013. Todd submitted his Top 5 ballpark list on April 16, 2014.