My 5 favorite Major League ballparks:
San Francisco Giants
With terrific sightlines, scenic views of the bay and the city, gorgeous architecture and diverse food options worthy of its San Francisco home, this place might justifiably be called the gameís best. There are many shout-out touches to the teamís rich history, including the 24-foot-high right field wall that pays homage to Willie Mays and his #24, and a fence behind right-center field which people can approach from the outside and use to watch the game for free, a reminder of bygone days when kids could watch baseball games through peepholes. Built with private funds, it replaced an unloved park (Candlestick Park) and revitalized an entire area of the city. Successful by any and every measure.
San Diego Padres
This isnít often considered one of the best parks in the game, but it really should be. The sandy brown stucco and deep blue seats are designed to evoke the beaches that are such a hallmark of San Diego. The downtown location is superb, right beside the cityís popular Gaslamp Quarter. Depending on where you are in the park, there are outstanding views of the city, Balboa Park (home of the San Diego Zoo and many museums), the bay and Coronado Bridge. Also there are wall exhibits detailing the history of the area and of baseball in the area, and also the cityís extensive military history. The historic Western Metal Supply Company building is incorporated into the design of the park. Even with all of these features, there is still an even better one: a park behind center field that is open to fans and to the public via a separate entrance, where families can picnic and play catch under the watchful gaze of a Tony Gwynn statue. If there is something the designers of this park missed, I have no idea what it is.
Open since 1914 and situated smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood like parks used to be, this place is authentic old-school. Heck, they didnít even put in lights for night games until 1988 and weekday afternoon games remain a cherished tradition. From the brick walls to the hand-operated scoreboard to the famous ivy to the readily available Chicago Red Hots, this is a stadium that every single baseball fan should have the privilege of visiting. A cathedral as far as baseball is concerned.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
This is the park that kicked off the wave of retro parks throughout the game. With Boogís BBQ, brick facades, and the incorporation of the old B&O Warehouse into its design, it influenced nearly every new ballpark built over the next two decades. The park pays tribute to Oriolesí team icons and notes that Babe Ruthís father once operated a saloon that stood where center field of the park now resides. When travelling to baseball parks, this is an important one to see. After its construction, the antiseptic multipurpose concrete stadiums of the Ď70ís were officially relegated to history.
Citizens Bank Park
Similar in tone to Camden Yards, this park is well-designed with great Philly skyline views and the feel of a small neighborhood park. There are cheesesteaks and hoagies to be had, of course, and a huge Liberty Bell replica lights up and rings after every Phillies homer and win. Ashburn Alley pays tribute to Richie Ashburn, perhaps the franchiseís greatest icon, and contains the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame that pays appropriate tribute to other Phillies stars of the past. High metal tables are sprinkled throughout the concourses for people to enjoy their cheesesteaks while watching the game. A gem.
Eric Kabakoff lives in the borough of Brooklyn and is an avid fan of the New York Yankees. Despite that, he eschewed any hometown bias when selecting his favorite MLB parks, which he did after visiting the home town (and ballpark) of every major league team, completing his 30 of 30 goal in September of 2011 in St. Petersburg, FL. Two years later, he wrote a book about his collective pilgrimages, subtitling it "A Baseball Fanís Quest to See the Game from a Seat in Every Ballpark." The 266-page book is titled Rally Caps, Rain Delays and Racing Sausages, and you can read an excerpt from its Miller Park chapter at Baseball Pilgrimages, to which Eric submitted his Top 5 ballpark list on October 11, 2013.