New York’s Other Park: Citi Field

When I went out to Flushing in Queens for a game last July 4th, I wasn’t expecting much. I had been to the Mets’ old stadium — Shea Stadium — several years ago and was not impressed.

So after I got off the 7 train and walked toward the stadium, I was cautiously impressed. The facade and outside surroundings of the park are immaculate. It has the feel of an old-time ballpark, but the features of a new-age place.

When I entered through the grand home-plate entrance, I was really impressed. The grandiose entrance hall featured banners of former Met greats, and when I settled into my seat on the club level, the view of the field was fabulous.

One of the most unique features of Citi was, I thought, its cell phone charging stations throughout the club level’s bars. You could sit and watch the game from the bar, be served a cold drink, and charge your phone all at the same time.

The only thing I thought was a little ridiculous was the game-day attendants at the park. At about the eighth inning, me and my friend went down to field level to watch the final three outs of a blowout game from the bottom level before leaving. The attendants made us go back to our seats, and did not allow us to watch the game from the 100 level. I can understand the practice if the game was a sellout or close to being full, but at less than 50 percent capacity, it seemed a little odd.

But all in all, the stadium is beautiful. It even has a Shake Shack in center field, what more could you want? Oh and don’t worry Mets fans, the iconic home run apples are still in place at the new stadium.

My view at Citi Field, July 4, 2014 (photo credit: Andrew Kivette).

 

The Jewel of the West Coast: Safeco Field

If there’s one city on the west coast I could call home, it’s Seattle. The mild weather, the best coffee in the world, and the wonderful coast just make it a great place to live. The city’s ballparks are also something to cherish.

I’ve been to Seattle for baseball once. It was the final stop on my west coast baseball swing. We caught two games — a night game and a day game — before heading out of town. One thing that makes this park a great place to watch a game is the ease in getting there. We took public transportation (Sound Transit) and arrived at the park with ease. The stop for the light rail is literally called “stadium”, how much easier could it get?

As for the park, it’s settled in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle, which means South of Downtown. The stadium opened in 1999, and it is true to Seattle. With a very open feel to the stadium, it empowers the feelings of the city that the Mariners call home. It’s a great place to watch a game.

 

Baseball History: Monument Park

In my post on Yankee Stadium (which you can read here), I discussed the tradition and history of the Yankees franchise, which you can delve into in Monument Park. Located beyond the fences in center field, Monument Park memorializes great Yankee players. It also has several monuments to significant moments in history, as well. Tucked into a corner of Monument Park is this reminder of the terrorist attacks that occurred in New York on September 11, 2001.

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Image credit: Andrew Kivette

It serves as a great reminder to the victims of the attack. The inscription reads:

“We Remember
On September 11, 2001, despicable acts of terrorism were perpetrated on our country. In tribute to the eternal spirit of the innocent victims of these crimes and to the selfless courage shown by both public servants and private citizens, we dedicate this plaque. These valiant souls, with unfettered resolve, exemplify the true character of this great nation. Their unity and resilience during this time of distress defined American heroism for future generations.

Dedicated by the New York Yankees
September 11, 2002”

The Cathedral of Baseball: Yankee Stadium

Just a quick ride from Manhattan on the B or D trains take you to 161st Street. Home of 27 World Championships, the New York Yankees call the Bronx home.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing games both in the old Yankee Stadium and the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. The first memory I have of a Yankees game is a good one — way back on June 13, 2004. It was heralded as the return of David Wells to the Bronx. Wells was pitching for San Diego in ’04, and I remember walking up to the ticket booth with my dad and buying two tickets on the very last row in the upper box in right field. There wasn’t a bad seat in old Yankee Stadium, and we had a bird’s eye view of David Wells’s return. The game, a Sunday 1 p.m. start, went extras and saw the Yankees walk off for the win, and spoil the David Wells reunion.

Fast forward to 2012 and my first game at the new Yankee Stadium. I had come up for a few days in the summer to see my Braves play for the first time in the new stadium, and was blown away. A few notes about the game: Sabathia threw a complete game, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira went yard, and Derek Jeter drove in the game-winning run to take the first game of the series against Atlanta, 6-2.

The game was simply a bonus to experiencing the grandiose stadium that is baseball’s cathedral.

A must-see is Monument Park. Talk about history. Monument Park, located beyond the center field wall, is where all the Yankee greats are honored if their numbers are retired. Greats like Ruth, DiMaggio, Maris, Mantle, Berra and Gehrig are never forgotten as they are forever cemented in Yankee lore in Monument Park. There are monuments to historic moments of the past not to do with baseball in Monument Park, as well. Popes that have visited Yankee Stadium are represented, and a moving monument to the September 11th attacks sits in the corner of the outdoor area.

If you get to the stadium early enough, make sure to stop by the Yankees Museum. A new edition for the new ballpark, the museum features rotating exhibits put together by the curator. A centerpiece of the museum is a wall that holds baseballs signed by nearly anyone to ever done the pinstripes. This is the largest collection of Yankee autographs ever, and caps a gorgeous museum that includes several World Series trophies and rings.

As for food, the stadium houses a steakhouse, but I opted for the Italian sausage. You really couldn’t go wrong here, as there is literally anything you could want in the stadium.

First Pitch

While filling out college applications several years ago, I was posed a bizarre question for an essay:

Where do you enjoy getting lost? 

Sitting at my desk, I pondered the prompt. “Where do I enjoy getting lost?” The common answers popped into my head: the library, to show I’m studious; a museum, to show I’m cultured; or maybe even a park, to show that I’m capable of getting lost in nature — something like Walt Whitman, I thought.

But then it hit me. I don’t enjoy reading so scratch off the library, I’m not one for museums normally, and I’m no Walt Whitman.

The answer that illustrated who I was came to me, after a few moments. I like getting lost at a baseball game. Let me explain:

Whenever I think about going to baseball games my mind is flooded with fond memories and vivid imagery from simpler, childhood days: the smell of popcorn, the sunshine beating down on my weathered, faded baseball cap,  sticky fingers from cotton candy, and my grandfather showing me how to crack sunflower seeds in my mouth and spit out the hulls. Just a simple thought of going to a baseball game transports me back in time.

This is my utopia.

I was very lucky growing up to have grandparents that cared enough to share with me the great game of baseball. Starting in middle school, each summer they, along with my uncle, would take me along on a baseball tour to several ballparks around the country. We took four tours: a west coast jaunt, an east coast saunter, a southern swing, and a midwestern journey, and all in all, we hit 26 of the 30 major league parks.

So through this blog, follow me on my journey to finish off the rest of the parks that I’m missing! I’ll be sharing stories, opinions and off-the-beaten path facts about each of the parks I’ve visited, along with some baseball-related trips around the country that are worth a visit.

Home Base: Turner Field

It is only fitting for me to start my blog with a tribute to my hometown team, the Atlanta Braves.

Being from Atlanta, Georgia, Turner Field has a special place in my heart. It was the first major league park I ever went to, is home to my beloved Atlanta Braves, and the site of the first Opening Day and postseason games I attended. My junior prom was even hosted at the 755 Club in the park.

Over the years, I have seen dozens of Braves games at “The Ted,” as the park is affectionately known as. I was at Chipper Jones’s last game, and at Jason Heyward’s first game. So many of my childhood memories are ingrained into that stadium in Fulton County. A little bit of history on the stadium: it was built for use in the 1996 Olympic Games, which were hosted in Atlanta. Prior to playing at Turner Field, the Braves jointly occupied Fulton-County Stadium with the Falcons, Atlanta’s NFL franchise. Turner Field was built in the parking lot of Fulton-County Stadium and hosted its first season of Braves baseball in 1997. One of the only remaining reminders of the old Fulton-County Stadium is the outfield wall, which marks where Hank Aaron, Major League Baseball’s former home run king, hit home run number 715 to pass then-king Babe Ruth. Enough history though, let’s get on to some of the unique aspects of the current stadium.

One of the best features of the stadium is a giant Coca-Cola bottle that sits perched above the stadium in the upper deck in left center field. A symbol of one of the city’s greatest icons, the larger-than-life bottle is made entirely of baseballs, gloves, bats and other relics of the game. The bottle shoots fireworks out of the cap after wins, home runs or big plays made by the home team Braves. It’s quite a site on a summer night to see the red, white, and blue fireworks emerge to roars of the crowd after a big-time hit.

Another thing that makes this stadium uniquely Atlanta’s stadium is, of course, the presence of Chick-fil-A. What Atlantan wouldn’t enjoy a chicken sandwich, ice cold Coke and Braves baseball? Note: even the Chick-fil-A’s in the stadium are closed on Sundays.

As for the stadium as a whole, it is quite vast. The park seats over 45,000, which makes it one of the largest parks in the nation for baseball. Rarely does the place fill up, but you can count on it being loud come August and September if the Braves are in the middle of a National League East pennant race.

Some other cannot-miss aspects of the park include the Braves museum in the left-center field plaza. You can get a ticket at the door, but it houses some really neat artifacts from the team’s early days in Boston and more recent days in Atlanta. As the longest continuously running baseball franchise in professional baseball, the museum has relics from some of the game’s best players including Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, and my childhood heroes like John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.

Don’t forget to hit up the Chop House if you are in the mood for something to eat or drink. Located right above the action in right center field, the two-story restaurant offers views of the field and has some pretty tasty wings, as well. It opens when the park does, so if you get there early it is a great spot to have a cold drink and catch batting practice, but be warned, it does get very crowded so get there early.

One of the things that I absolutely love about Turner Field is the pre-game atmosphere in the parking lots. The Ted is one of the few parks in Major League Baseball that provides green space to tailgate in and set up cornhole and other fun pre-game activities. In the summer, you’ll find thousands of fans outside soaking up the sun and having a good time. If you have the time, make sure to check it out.

While Atlanta may not have the flashiest park in the majors, there are some unique qualities that make Turner Field home to me. If you have the chance make sure to check out The Ted.