We were in the car on a couple of hour drive home from somewhere early this year. My two boys, Sam (12) and Max (11), were in the backseat and Pattie, my wife of 21 years, in the front with me. An hour or so into the drive the family came out of their reading/sleeping/headphone induced comas and a conversation started. The topic was dream trips. Someone said, “safari.” Someone else said, “sail around the world.” And then Sam suggested visiting every Major League baseball park. The car got quiet. We could do this. But, then reality set in. It would take years. School and jobs, and soon, girlfriends and puberty would get in the way of seeing all the parks as a family. The discussion moved on.
A couple of months later fate stepped in. My job at AutoNation was affected by a corporate restructuring. (An outplacement counselor told me that this sounds better than “my job was eliminated.”) When I came home early from work that day and let my family know, there were a couple of minutes of concerned mutterings and then Sam’s face lit up and he said, “Dad, does this mean we could visit every baseball park this summer?” I thought about it for about five seconds, smiled back and said, “I think it does.”
AutoNation was a great company to work for and my opinion of them only went up when they asked me to stop coming to work but promised to keep paying me for a while. With the job search worry put off for a while, the kids still pre-eye rolling age and a dream in our heads it seemed like an opportunity that just couldn’t be passed up. So, the decision was made, we are off on the adventure of a lifetime: to visit every major league ballpark during 2003.
The decision to visit every major league ballpark was easy compared to planning how to do it. Clearly nobody told the people that schedule major league baseball games that we were planning this trip. We figured that we could see the Marlins and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before school let out and then when school finished pack into the car for a cross continent road trip. Atlanta posed the first problem. Whose idea was it to let teams go out on the road for two weeks? If we waited for the Braves to get back from their road trip we’d have to delay the start of our trip by a week. After staring at maps, web sites, team schedules and wads of paper with failed plans we finally came up with a plan that worked and wouldn’t cause us to perform to many unnatural acts with a car. The plan only has us driving 12,000 miles in a little bit more than two months – a true test of family love.
Everybody got into the act working on the plan. Take Your Kids to Work Day took place right in the middle of creating the plan. Sam and Max saw a chance to take the day off. They thought they could spend the day “at work” with me. Max got put to work doing research on sites that we could visit along the way: Civil War battlefields, National Parks, friends and relatives along the way. Sam started to gather baseball stats that we’d like to track. It was a lot more work than they thought they’d be doing.
Pattie started thinking about all the other details. How do we keep everyone entertained on the long drives? What souvenir should we get from each park? We considered hats and shirts but finally settled on a pennant and program. Her job was made a lot easier when her friend, Sonja gave her The Bad Girls Guide to the Open Road by Cameron Tuttle. This book includes such essentials as the 8 tried-and-true ways to get out of a speeding ticket, places to get a free shower including the roadside motel parking lot pool, and the bug splat field guide. The book is great but I hope Pattie doesn’t take all of the “bad girl” ideas too seriously, particularly the suggestions about what to do with marshmallows.
We have gotten lots of great ideas from all of the people that we’ve talked to about the trip … after they get over the jealousy. I spoke to a couple from St. Louis in a restaurant in Chicago. They’d been to many of the parks and talked about their experiences in just getting tickets. A fire fighter in Weston told us about staying at the Sky Dome Hotel in Toronto and being able to see two games from his hotel room in the outfield. Everyone has something to contribute and we have really appreciated all of the input.
Finally, as we have a lot of friends and family across the country, I decided to build a web site so that we could share the trip and keep a record of it for ourselves. We decided to include the schedule and a map, pictures and a running commentary. We got a web site address: 30mlbparks.com and set up an email address to keep in touch with folks while we’re on the trip: email@example.com. So, check it out and follow along with us as we visit every major league ballpark during 2003.
Friday the 13th of June. The time has come to say goodbye to our Florida friends, pack up the car and head out on the road. Are you superstitious? We weren't, but maybe we should rethink that. Everything was going along fine. By five o'clock we'd packed most of the non-clothing, made sure the notebook computer that we were taking was ready, collected car games, journals, baseball books, snacks, drinks and drawing pads. All that was left was a couple of loads of laundry and to pack clothes for a two and a half month road trip. Then the Friday the 13th thing happens. The power goes out. We're not panicking. How long can it be out? The sun is shining. So, we relax and have a great going away dinner with Sonja, Mike, Mitch, Cody and Mackenzie. At eight o'clock we're starting to get a little worried. It's beginning to get dark. All our socks are wet in the drier. By nine, we're in our closets with flashlights starting to pack. At eleven we'd gotten most everything packed (except for those socks and a few other essential unmentionables.) At eleven thirty the power finally returned, we finished the laundry and were ready to go by 2am.
Max had spent the night at Brandon's house. We got an early start and went to pick him up at 7am. What we found was poor Max lying on the couch, moaning. He had the flu and had been sick three times during the night. Being the demonstrative kid that he is, he proceeded to get sick one more time. We decided to call a "rain delay" and postpone our departure. We took Max home and let him sleep for four hours. He felt much better when he woke up and we rolled out of Weston at noon.
It was a bittersweet moment for all of us. We are excited to be heading out on the adventure of a lifetime but we are leaving behind some very wonderful friends. We've got some great Florida memories and we'll keep in touch.
March 31, 2003, Opening Day - Marlins vs. Phillies
The Phillies won 8-5. Kevin Millwood won the game. It was Jim Thome's first game as a Philly. The Marlins played horribly until the ninth when they came back. Pro Player Stadium isn't a baseball stadium and Will Call was terrible. We waited for an hour and a half to get our tickets*. Food was not great, service was terrible. Not a very good stadium, uncomfortable seats, bad location. Nothing special inside the stadium.
Bottom line: Bad team. Bad stadium. Not worth it!
* Editors note: the Marlins subsequently sent four complimentary tickets to apologize for the inconvenience.
To start with, the seats aren't great, especially that there are no bleachers because of the Dolphins. It is a football not baseball stadium. Not the greatest food unless you're in a box. The Will Call is bad. The team is bad. Good for football not for baseball. Basically, the park stinks. Not nearly as good as it could be.
April 26, 2003, Devil Rays vs. Orioles
Devil Rays won 10-7. Friends Tyler and Mitch went with us. Lots of hits and doubles. Domed stadium had very interesting structure. Cool inside, good food (had Outback Steakhouse), sit down restaurant behind center field wall, nice seats, and good viewing positions. Nothing bad about this stadium. Looks nice.
Bottom line: Bad team getting better with Lou Piniella as manager. Good stadium. Nice place to go in Tampa.
It is a nice place and one of the only domes. A great thing is no rain checks. Food is good. There is an Outback Steakhouse. The only problem is: bad team. Nice average park from what I've seen so far.
June 17, 2003, Orioles vs. Blue Jays
The Orioles were fabulous hosts. We were met by Bill Stetka, who was very friendly and arranged for us to get a great stadium tour from Sue Ellen. We went out onto the field and learned all about the grass and drainage system that can remove up to 18 inches of water from the field in an hour making it possible to play 30 minutes after even the hardest showers. We met Ernie Tyler, who has been at every home game since 1960. Ernie is responsible for getting the baseballs ready for each game. To do this he takes special mud from a stream just off the Delaware River (a bucket of this mud is provided to every team at the beginning of the season) and rubs it into the ball. This takes the shine off the ball and makes it a bit easier to grip and it darkens the seams making it easier for the batter to see. We got to go up to the press box; meet the starting second baseman, Jerry Hairston, who is currently on the disabled list; and learned all about the building of the stadium. We also learned that the Sports Illustrated cover featuring Boog Powell in his uniform has him in black dress shoes because he forgot to bring his cleats. Which was a great fact to know when we were out on Eutaw street before the game and stopped at Boog Powell's BBQ restaurant. He was there signing autographs. Sam and Max got an autograph and their picture taken with him. He was a little surprised that we knew about his shoes.
But we were rained out! So full commentary comes after we see the game which is rescheduled for July 3rd.
June 18, 2003, Phillies vs. Braves
In the game, the Braves were dominant beating the Phillies 6 to 1. Russ Ortiz got the win and Kevin Millwood the loss. The stadium has an artificial turf field and housed both baseball and football. The seats had no cup holders but there is good viewing from all positions. The Vet is a round stadium and it is open from the hallways so that you can see the action from anywhere. Veterans Stadium holds 63,000 making it the largest stadium in the National League. The food at the field was good and the stadium had many concession stands. This is The Vet's final year and next year the Phillies will move into Citizens Bank Park. This new facility is right across the street from Veterans Stadium.
The bottom line: Average stadium, average team.
June 19, 2003, Yankees vs. Devil Rays
Rain out number two of the week. We only sat in the rain at the house that Ruth built for an hour before they called the game. It's just as well because they closed access to Monument Park over an hour before game time and we were shut out.
Dave gave us great seats down the third base line and access to the Stadium Club.
Sports Center speculated that the Yankees caused the game to be called early because they didn't want Weaver to have to pitch against the Mets.
We'll do the full commentary after we see a game!
June 20, 2003, Mets vs. Yankees
Thanks to Dave again for great seats. Pattie and Lynn had a tough time with parking but they got their exercise.
The Mets played the Yankees in the subway series. Andy Pettite won the game and Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter, and Jason Giambi homered helping the Yankees to a 5-0 victory.
Shea is an interesting stadium. It has a huge scoreboard in left center field and every time a Met hits a homer a "big apple" comes out of a top hat and lights up. Shea has four decks of seating all with good views of the field. Despite these features, Shea is ugly and very dirty. The food at the stadium was above average and so was the service. The park is located near LaGuardia airport and planes frequently fly over the field. Shea stadium seats about 56,000 people.
Bottom Line: The Mets should stop spending money on old players and think about building a new stadium.
June 22, 2003, Expos vs. Blue Jays
The Expos lost 4-2 against Toronto. The Jays' Roy Halladay threw an eight inning three hitter and won his eleventh in a row. Olympic Stadium is fully bilingual with French and English announcements. The field is Astroturf and the seats are well above the playing field. The seats are not the most comfortable but they do recline. The stadium has a wide selection of foods ranging from typical ball park food to Mexican and Greek. Food and service were good. The stadium wasn't. It is a dome and did not have a good feeling to it. By the concession stands it was very dark and dingy. Seats about 47,000, but never draws near that.
Bottom Line: Desperately need to leave Montreal or get a new stadium
June 24, 2003, Blue Jays vs. Orioles
Rick Helling got the win in this game and Kelvim Escobar the loss. The Orioles won 6-4 and both Jeff Conine and Carlos Delgado hit a homerun. The Skydome is a nice stadium and the only bad part was the Astroturf field. It had good food and many choices including Mr. Sub's restaurants. Skydome has a retractable roof and is the first stadium to draw four million fans in a season. Some of the features of the Skydome include a full scale restaurant called Windows on Skydome, a Hard Rock Cafe, and a Marriot Renaissance hotel all entirely in the stadium. The hotel has over 300 rooms and over 70 that have field views. Good service makes it a even nicer place to go.
Bottom Line: I like all the unique features but they need to get rid of the artificial turf.
June 27, 2003, Red Sox vs. Marlins
The Red Sox beat the Marlins 25-9. They scored 14 runs in the first inning, ten without getting an out. Both Bill Mueller and Johnny Damon came within one hit of the cycle. Fenway was nice and the service and food were not bad. Some viewing points were very bad however and the seats were not very comfortable. Features like the Green Monster (37 feet tall wall in left field) and the Pesky Pole (foul pole in right field) make this park a classic and a treat to go to. Some renovation would not hurt the park. It seats about 35,000 and opened in 1912
Bottom Line: Classic Park. Cursed Team.
June 29, 2003, Indians vs. Reds
The Indians beat the Reds 3-1 and Jason Davis won the game. He pitched 7 2/3 innings and gave up 5 hits and 1 run (unearned.) Jacobs Field is a great park with good food and good service. Some of the foods are Mexican, bakery, Sushi, Grill, and American ball park foods. Good viewing positions throughout the stadium and padded seats keep you comfortable. The park is new and is in downtown Cleveland with views of the skyline. There is a picnic area complete with trees in center field and there are many souvenir and apparel shops throughout the stadium. There is even a play place for small children inside the park. It seats about 44,000.
Bottom Line: Young park. Younger team.
June 30,2003, Tigers vs. Blue Jays
The Tigers beat the Blue Jays 6-2. Mike Maroth got the win and Corey Lidle the loss. Maroth pitched 7 innings and gave up only two runs. Comerica park was very nice. The main entrance was very nice with 5 giant stone tigers and two giant baseball bats next to the gates. Inside the park there is a food court with a carousel with tigers instead of horses. There is also a ferris wheel at the stadium. The food was pretty good at the park and the service was also pretty good. There are not many seats at the park but that gives a good feeling. In center field there is a ivy covered fountain and a flag pole that was in play before the fences were moved in in left field. Also in left field are statues of all time Tiger greats. The park is very nice but it needs more seats.
Bottom Line: Good park but needs more seats even though it would never fill.
July 2, 2003, Pirates vs. Reds
The Reds won the game four to three in the ninth inning. Mike Williams blew the game in the ninth inning with two outs and with the Reds down to their final strike. Kip Wells pitched very well and threw eight great innings. PNC park was very nice. There is a series of stores and restaurants out side of left field which are accessible for people inside and out of the stadium. In the stadium there is a full service Outback Steakhouse above the left field bleachers and a great view of the Pittsburgh skyline. The food at the park was alright but the service was very good. The stadium is right on the river and a view of three gold suspension bridges is very nice. The stadium is a good size and is new opening in only 2001. The scoreboard that shows other games scores also shows the outs and if anyone is on base in those games. The stadium is very nice and the Pirates will not be needing anew stadium for a very long time.
Bottom Line: A great park. Nothing bad, everything good.
July 3, 2003, Orioles vs. Blue Jays
The Orioles won the game six to five. Jason Johnson of the Orioles pitched 7 and two thirds of one run ball. Jeff Conine hit a home run in the Orioles four run seventh inning. Camden Yards is a great park with views of the Baltimore skyline. There is a huge warehouse over the right field wall that was formerly the B&O railroad warehouse. It now houses shops, restaurants, and offices. Camden Yards has good food, good service, and was the first of its kind ballpark wise. There are many varieties of food at the park including a great barbecue place called Boog's barbecue named for former Orioles star Boog Powell. This restaurant is on Eutaw street (the street that the warehouse is on.) along with many other vendors. Camden Yards seats about 50,000 and is very nice.
Bottom Line: First of the new style parks, possibly the best.
July 4, 2003, Reds vs. Mets
The Mets won the game 7-2. Tom Glavine won the game and Jimmy Haynes got the loss. Both Cliff Floyd and Jose Guillen hit home runs in the game and the Mets had a five run eighth inning and the Reds could not recover. Great American ballpark was nice. It has a wide assortment of ballpark foods including chili dogs, Italian sausage, and kielbasa. The service could have been better but it was not bad. Some features in the park are smoke stacks in the left center field seats that shoot out fireworks every time a reds player hits a homerun and at the bottom t see the action here is a giant mist machine that keeps fans cool. Every single seat is red and the seats are close to the field so you can up close. The park seats about 40,000 and is nice but nothing special.
Bottom Line: If you are going to build a new park, why not make really nice?
July 6, 2003, Braves vs. Expos
The Braves won the game 7-5. Mike Hampton pitched a good game and got the win. Chipper Jones hit two home runs in the game and Andruw Jones made a great catch in centerfield. Turner Field is very fan friendly. It has games like virtual reality hitting and seeing how fast you can throw. There is a full service restaurant called the Braves Chophouse and there is a Braves Clubhouse store. The service at the stadium was very good and the food was also good. At the stadium there are many varieties of food to choose from including a hot dog stand with 21 different types of hot dogs. The Braves have a place called Skyfield above the left field bleachers where kids can run on real dirt with real bases and just take a break from watching the game.
Bottom Line: Fan friendliness, food, and service make this park good.
July 9, 2003, Rangers vs. Twins
The Rangers beat the Twins four to one. Joaquin Benoit pitched a great game, seven innings, one earned run, and four hits. Ugueth Urbina got the save and Alex Rodriguez and Torii Hunter hit home runs. The Ballpark in Arlington is nice, the outside is made of bricks and the park has many classic features. In right field there is a double deck porch as there was in Tiger Stadium and the grass in center field is modeled from Wrigley Field's evergreens. Behind the center field wall there are many fan friendly things. There is a small wiffle ball field, throwing targets, and even hitting off of a tee for younger kids. The service at the stadium was good as was the food. The choices of food at the stadium included chicken, pizza, hot dogs, nachos, and catfish. There are two full service restaurants one which is a Friday's. This stadium is very nice and seats about 48,000.
Bottom Line: Nice park, not very well known.
July 10, 2003, Astros vs. Reds
The Astros won the game eleven to two. They got nine runs in the first inning and Craig Biggio got his 500th career double. Ron Villone got the win and Billy Wagner the save. Minute Maid Park was built off of the old union train station and it has a retractable roof. When the roof is closed there is a glass wall behind left field but that can also retract. The food at the stadium was good but the service was not very good and could have been much faster. The stadium was kind of small and it would have been nicer if larger. It has a kids play place and every time an Astro hits a homerun a train above left field complete with steam moves across the tracks. The stadium also has a hill in centerfield along with a flag pole on top of the hill. The exterior of the park is nice and has many structures and statues.
Bottom Line: Good food. Nice design. Bad service.
July 13, 2003, Diamondbacks vs. Giants
The Diamondbacks won the game seven to four. Brandon Webb won the game but gave up four runs in the first. Both J.T Snow and Jose Cruz Jr. hit homeruns for the Giants. Bank One Ball Park was nice. It was big and spacious giving it a better feel than other parks that can be closed. The B.O.B. does have a retractable roof blocking out the sweltering Arizona heat. The park has many features including a pool in left center field and many stone structures in the park. The park has a Friday's restaurant just like the one at The Ballpark in Arlington. The food at the park was good and they have many, many varieties of food. The service was also good at the park and the structure was very good. The exterior was also nice and had any interesting things on the outside.
Bottom Line: Everything is good except for the roof.
July 17, 2003, Padres vs. Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks won the game nine to one. Curt Schilling won the game and pitched seven great innings with eight strikeouts and only one run and one walk. Steve Finley hit a homerun and both teams committed errors in the first. Qualcomm Stadium was not very nice and was very tired looking. The food was only average and the service was not any better. The stadium did not look nice, much like other baseball / football stadiums. The design of the park is bad and it is very dirty. Anything about this stadium was at best average. The nice San Diego weather makes going to the games enjoyable but it doesn't get any help from the .park or the team.
Bottom Line: Three B's sum this park up. Bad food, Bad service, Bad design.
July 18, 2003, Dodgers vs. Cardinals
The Dodgers won the game eight to five. Kazuhisa Ishii won the game but gave up back to back homeruns to Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols in the first inning. Eric Gagne pitched the ninth for the Dodgers and picked up his 34th save of the season. Rickey Henderson also hit a homerun for the Dodgers in his second game with the team. Dodger stadium was o.k. It needed some repairs to the seats. I liked the setting in Chavez ravine with mountains in the back round. The selection of food here was good ranging from places like Subway to sushi and traditional ballpark. However the food was at best mediocre and the service was slow. The stadium has a sit down restaurant and skyboxes that were added in a recent renovation in 2000. The structure of the stadium was nice and this park will be around for along time.
Bottom Line: If fixed up a little bit it could become a classic park.
July 21, 2003, White Sox vs. Indians
The White Sox won the game four to three. Joe Crede of the White Sox homered and Tom Gordon pitched the eighth and ninth for the save. Miguel Porzio won the game in his first major league start and had a solid outing. U.S. Cellular Field has had some renovations from last when it was still called Comiskey Park. It housed the All-Star game this year and has changed from concrete outside to brick outside and the center field bleachers were removed and a restaurant with a large patio was put in. The food was good at the field and you could get a lot of things like hot dogs, polishes, and bratwursts. The whole entire park has been improved greatly this year and is much better than it used to be. The stadium's structure is not very nice and the park is way to big.
Bottom Line: Much more renovations will be needed before this park is to be considered great.
July 23, 2003, Brewers vs. Astros
The Astros won the game 2-1 in extra innings. The Brewers blew a 1-0 lead in the ninth and then in the tenth with a chance to win and a man on third with one out could not score. Then in the eleventh Lance Berkman of the Astros hit a homerun and the Brewers could not answer and eventually lost the game. Miller Park was pretty nice but other than the retractable roof it did not have many special features. The sausage race was fun but the fans did not have much to do in the ballpark before or after the game. I liked the structure but the park felt a little small. The food was pretty good it had a lot of traditional ballpark foods and stuff such as Wisconsin bratwurst. Miller park had a sit down restaurant and a slide that the mascot (Bernie Brewer) slides down when a Brewers player hits a home run.
Bottom Line: Pretty good sums this park up.
August 3, 2003, Angels vs. Blue Jays
The Blue Jays won the game 4 -1. Kelvim Escobar pitched a great game of 8 1/3 innings. He gave up five hits and no runs and got the win. Cliff Pollite got the save and only had to face one batter. Scot Shields got the loss but didn't pitch a bad game. Edison International Field was pretty nice, there were two giant Angels hats in front of the stadium that gave it a nice feel. In left center field there is a series of rocks and waterfalls that can be used as a fountain or even as geysers. The service at the park was good and the food was better than at most parks. The fare for food was mainly traditional ballpark but you could get dishes such as pasta. Some features at the ballpark were a place that you could run the bases, a speed pitch, and batting cages. This park was fan friendly and was pretty nice.
Bottom Line: Better than average but not great.
August 9, 2003, Giants vs. Phillies
The Giants took a 5-2 lead into the seventh inning where the Phillies scored two one run coming off a Pat Burrell solo shot. The Phillies then preceded to score a run in the eighth to tie the game and there was not any scoring in the ninth. The tenth was also scoreless but in the top of the eleventh Pat Burrell hit another homerun this time a two run shot and Philadelphia scored once ore and won the game 8-5. Pac Bell park was great and it had many very nice features. The stadium is located right on San Francisco bay next to a large marina and it had good views of the bay bridge and Oakland. Out in left and center field there are things like a speed pitch with prizes to the top speeds, a giant baseball glove, a giant coke bottle with 4 slides in it, and a mini wiffle ball field for little kids with its own jumbotron. The structure of the park was great with a high wall in right field that extends all the way to center here there are a few rows of bleachers and then some standing room. The entire park was basically made of brick and it had a very nice feel to it. The food at the park was great and it had any brand name you can think of. It had Subway, Carl's Jr., Ghiradelli ice cream, Boudin bakery clam chowder, Orville Redennbacher's popcorn, Gordon Biersch garlic fries,there was also Mexican, Caribbean bbq, and traditional ballpark fare. Pac Bell park is great and is the best park in baseball.
Bottom Line: As close to perfect as you can get.
August 11, 2003, Athletics vs. Red Sox
The A's won the game 4-0. Tim Hudson pitched great and got the win, he had a complete game shutout against a normally high powered Red Sox offense. Pedro Martinez got the loss. The A's scored two in the third and added to their lead in the sixth with a Terrence Long two run homerun that basically put the game away. Network Associates Coliseum was ugly. It is both a baseball and football stadium and is huge. The seats are very far away from the field and the structure of the stadium is horrible. The food was traditional ballpark fare and was good. However the service was not very good and was slow. This park was bad and the A's who are a good team deserve a better stadium.
Bottom Line: Food can't make up for the bad structure.
August 15, 2003, Mariners vs. Red Sox
The Mariners won the game 10-5. There were three homeruns in this game one by Manny Ramirez, one by Bret Boone, and one by Ichiro. Ichiro's homerun broke a 4-4 tie with a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth and after that the Mariners never looked back. Safeco field was nice it has a retractable roof but it is different from other parks with retractable roofs because the sides don't close up. The field was nice and the seats were very nice they are padded and close to the field. The food was good and you could see the game from the concession stands. The service was very good and very fast. Some of the foods they have there are traditional fare, sushi, teriyaki, Carl's Jr., stir fry, and barbeque. Safeco field is nice and is one of the nicer parks in the majors.
Bottom Line: Good park, good food, good service.