Archive for June 2015

Ballpark Review: Dodger Stadium

June 26, 2015

Franchise: Los Angeles Dodgers

Year Opened: 1962

Capacity: 56,000

Game Attended: June 13, 2014 v Arizona Diamondbacks

Section 158

I had the pleasure of attending a game at Dodger Stadium last year. What made it even more special is that Clayton Kershaw was on the mound and the Kings won the Stanley Cup that night, so 20% of the stadium responded accordingly. The rest of the crowd had no idea who the Kings are. Dodger Stadium sneaks up on you with how old it is. It’s been around since 1962, making it the third oldest stadium in use.

1) Aesthetics- 19/25

Exterior- 3/5

It’s an old stadium and the exterior of almost every old stadium is terrible. However, there are some redeeming qualities. It is not entirely closed (open in the outfield) and palm tries are abundant around the outer concourse by the parking lot.

Interior- 8/10

Dodger Stadium was built in the 60s and it still has that feeling and look, but in a good way. You definitely get an old-timey vibe being at Dodger Stadium. Not an old-timey Fenway or Wrigley feel, but more 50s/60s. From the hills of Chavez Ravine in the backdrop to the faded blue fence and yellow seats, it does look like you hopped in a time machine. Yet it doesn’t come across as outdated or cheesy like similar stadiums built in the same time period. These days a lot of parks have giants video boards and grand stands in the outfield. Most ballparks are built in cities or the heart of a city downtown. Not Dodger Stadium.

Backdrop- 8/10

It’s out by the woods, with trees as a backdrop- and it is completely refreshing. Most parks have buildings in the background, or a closed backdrop. The trees and hills of LA are a perfect fit for this vintage park.

2) Seats & View- 12/20

Sight lines- 6/10

One of the few flaws is the view, but that is to be expected from an old stadium. Sitting on the first level isn’t bad, but when you are sitting far down the foul lines, you really have to crane your body to see the pitcher and you don’t have a good angle for most balls in play. The bleachers do seem like a great hangout spot if you really want to get down and dirty with the local fans. As for the other levels, that’s where the fights and potential violence takes place.

Proximity- 3/5

Moreover, you do feel a lot farther away from the action on the higher levels than most stadiums today. Again, it is tough to blame Dodger Stadium because of its age, but it still is a flaw.

Comfort- 3/5

No complaints here on the seating. Not living like a king but not cramped either.

3) Atmosphere- 12.5/15

Fan Participation- 4/5

LA loves their Lakers, but they also love their Dodgers. The Dodgers are definitely an “it” thing to do, but there are also a lot of dedicated, hardcore supporters.

Attendance- 4.5/5

The team is usually among the league leaders in attendance and it makes for a fun time at the stadium. Any true baseball fan will have a blast here. And those just hoping for a good time won’t be disappointed either.

Fan Knowledge- 4/5

Across the board the Dodger fans get strong marks. Even casual fans seemed to know a lot of the team.

4) Attractions9.5/15

Team Museum & Team History- 6/10

With the rich history of the Dodger franchise, Dodger Stadium is a let down. This stadium is primed for a team museum, but alas, there is none. There is a cool mural in the stadium of past players, but there isn’t much to commemorate their team history and legendary players. At the same time though, it is Dodger Stadium. You go there because it is a classic, not because of its team museum or statues.

Things to See and Do- 3.5/5

The team store is amazing. Not only is it giant, but there is plenty to choose from. I bought myself a Brooklyn hat and it is honestly the most comfortable hat I own.

5) Food & Drink- 7/10

Hot Dog- 3.5/5

Ah, the Dodger Dog, arguably the most famous hot dog in baseball. After having it, all I can say is, it’s good. Not great, not bad. Just good. Worth having when you go there, but you won’t be missing much if you don’t have it. The Dodger Dog still doesn’t top the Philly Frank for me.

Best of the Rest-3.5/5

As for the other concessions, it was pretty much all of the same. It seemed like every stand offered the same things- hot dogs, chicken fingers, fries, and drinks. So there isn’t much diversity here. Moreover, while the food is good, it is nothing special and pretty pricy.

6) Game Entertainment & Presentation- 2/5

Why the low score? Because it’s Dodger Stadium! They don’t need between inning gimmicks or mascot races. Just warm weather, good baseball, and the hills of LA in the backdrop. If anything, I wanted to give them a high score for NOT having too much of an entertainment presence.

7) Cleanliness- 4.5/5

This is one area in which I was blown away. I know Dodger Stadium is old and somewhat of a “vanilla” park, but my one major takeaway was how clean it is. You could tell they did some off season renovations because this park was cleaner and shinier than some parks I’ve been to that were built within the past decade.

8) Local Scene & Location- 3/5

It’s LA so there are a million things to do. But the low score is due to the fact that the stadium is kind of away from it all. In order to get anywhere post game, you have to drive and you have to deal with traffic. No bueno.

9) Access & Cost- 2/5

It’s no Yankee Stadium, but the Dodgers are a premium draw that can charge a lot based on team performance, the market, and the lure of the stadium. For weekend games against a top team, expect to spend a lot. But you can find deals in other parts of the park- upper deck and bleachers. However, these value seats aren’t always good seats. As for food and apparel, expect to pay up.

Your only hope is getting here is driving. The problem is that LA is notorious for terrible traffic. So while there is ample parking, expect to leave early to arrive on time.

10) Misc +4

Stats & Info- 1

This is the one park getting a bonus point for its lack of statistical information. They have a small video board and small scoreboard and aren’t looking to upgrade either any time soon. But that helps with the vintage feel this park exudes.

Concourse- 1

Tradition-1

The history of the park gives it a bonus point. They also play organ music which is always welcome.

11) Personal Opinion- 4.5/5

Dodger Stadium is a special place and I am already thinking of my next trip back. It is baseball paradise for those who want to grab a dog, a beer, and enjoy a ballgame without the thrills and complexity of modern ballparks. There is no giant video board distracting you or anything else you see at parks nowadays. When you go to Dodger Stadium expect warm weather, good baseball, a good crowd, and a fantastic time. This is arguably the best experience I’ve had at a non-Yankee game in my life.

Overall- 80/115

This is a much lower score than expected, but this definitely is in my current top 3. It’s more of the non-stadium aspects that bring it down- local scene, entertainment, etc. But the simplicity and vintage beauty of it make this a classic stadium.

Ballpark Review: Progressive Field

June 10, 2015

Franchise: Cleveland Indians

Year Opened: 1994

Capacity: 38,000

Games Attended: June 6 & 7, 2015 v Baltimore Orioles

Sec 51, Row X, Seat 1; Sec 34, Row P, Seat 1

When I first told friends I was going to Cleveland, I got a lot of crazy looks. I was even pointed towards this video of Joakim Noah of the Bulls basically saying, “Who the F goes to Cleveland by choice?”. Well, I do Noah, I do. While I didn’t have great expectations for the city, I did have some expectations for Progressive Field. Although it’s been around for about two decades, it was and still is considered one of the best parks around.

1) Aesthetics- 21.5/25

Exterior- 3.5/5

For a modern park, the exterior is rather outdated. The main entrance by home plate gives the impression you are about to walk into an old, cookie-cutter stadium. And the open, outfield entrance is nothing to write home about in terms of exterior design.

Interior- 9/10

“The Jake” as Progressive used to be known really is a beautiful ballpark. It has a gigantic video board atop the bleachers in left and it fits the mold of the stadium perfectly.The Indians retired numbers are plastered on the right field upper deck so you can’t miss it and they fit into the look of the park seamlessly. Every time I look at the pictures I took here, I am blown away.

Backdrop- 9/10

Beyond the video board in left are city buildings and Quicken Loans Arena, which is a huge plus for me. Something about skylines and buildings in the backdrop of a stadium are just aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Despite the board in left and an upper deck in right, there is open space in center so you don’t feel like you’re in a stadium and you get more city sight lines. The park is nestled on a downtown city block which gives it a really unique field, compared to a stadium like Turner or Nats Park, which are kind of in the middle of nowhere.

2) Seats & View- 17/20

Sight lines-9/10

After walking around the park I concluded there is almost no bad view- except for the bleachers in left. I sat several rows back near home plate the first game I was at and had great sight lines, even on balls hit deep in the outfield. The second game I was equal to the infield/outfield cutoff on first and still felt really close to the action. No matter where you sit (except the bleachers) you will be able to see the video board. The upper deck is angled very steep like Turner, so you have a great view and don’t feel like you are in a nose bleed seat- and you get an even better view of downtown Cleveland! Now- the bleachers. I like that it had back support. But you can’t see balls hit to deep left (the outfield disappears with the high fence) and you you need to do a 180 turn and crane your neck up high just to see the video board.

Recommendation: 100 level, anything on the first base/home plate side. Also, the right field standing room only ticket. Its right by the food court with the brats and sliders and what not, as well as a bar. You get a great view, can still see the video board, and are right by the bullpen, which is built into the crowd so you can be just feet away from pros throwing 90 MPH- a fantastic seat. And I believe standing room only is $13 and comes with a free drink (with beer as an option).

Proximity- 4/5

As mentioned above, you feel close to the action. I refrain giving a perfect score because you’re not RIGHT ON TOP of the action- but still pretty close.

Comfort- 4/5

The seats had a ton of leg room. What keeps the score down is that some seats like the bleachers truly are not comfortable.

3) Atmosphere- 10/15

Fan Participation- 4/5

Considering the low attendance figures, I was surprised by the great atmosphere. Fans packed the lower levels and bleachers for both games. Almost everyone was in Indians gear (or Orioles gear). A lot of hecklers, cheers, and jeers as well. When the super fan with the drum got his beat going, everyone joined in every time- it was really cool. HOWEVER, in both games the stadium started to empty out after the 7th inning stretch. Which was crazy considering the first game was a 2-1 game. If not for that, the score would have been higher.

Attendance- 2/5

While the games I were at were pretty full, there is no denying the Indians current attendance rate 40%. Not good.

Fan Knowledge- 4/5

I could hear fans all around me talking about the team, trade rumors, and more so it showed the fans were passionate. Cleveland is a baseball town, all they need now is a competitive team.

4) Attractions- 8.5/15

Museum & Team History- 6.5/10

One of the few disappoints was this aspect of the park. Heritage Park is the only real attraction. It’s located behind the batters eye in center and it honors players in Indians history. Now it does a good job highlighting a lot of players and moments throughout the years, but it was only plaques. Heritage Park is billed as some grand place that honors their history. Nope. It’s just a small area with plaques. To end on a positive, I like how they displayed their retired numbers at the top of the right field upper deck. Some might find it “out of the way” but I think it spiced up an area that is typically bland in most parks.

Things to See & Do- 2.5/5

They had a decently sized team store, but it was poorly organized and the checkout line was placed so it got in the way of people browsing around (in my opinion at least). Outside of this, I couldn’t find anything to do other than wait for the first pitch.

5) Food & Drink- 8.5/10

Hot Dog- 3.5/5

When it comes to topping off your dog, there is a big debate about stadium v ballpark mustard in Cleveland. I am not a mustard guy, but I went with the ballpark mustard and it was better than most mustard I have had in the past. As for the dog itself, it was as average as it gets (but $3!).

Best of the Rest- 5/5

As far as the rest of the food- holy cow everything looked and smelled amazing. I also got an Italian sausage with peppers and onions which was really good, for a low price ($9 with toppings). The Prog also had a burger stand that smelled incredible in a right field food location that had sliders, the sausages, and other great food. They offer Rally Burgers for $5 and Pierre’s ice cream as well. This is the best value food you will get in MLB. The drinks were also good. The Washington Post had an article last year stating Progressive had one of the best offerings in baseball and its true. They did have your run of the mill stuff, but offered a lot of local and other craft brews which was really cool. Another feature I like is that you can walk the concourse at the top of the section and still see the game, and then walk to your right to access the food concessions. They also have food tables at the top of the seats on the first level, so you can sit down and eat your food there and still watch the game before getting back to your seat.

6) Game Entertainment & Presentation- 1/5

It honestly was like they didn’t even try. They had the shittiest mascot race I have ever seen. It was a straight race and over in 10 seconds. The promotions crew could hardly seem to care about getting the fans (mainly kids) pumped up and each inning ketchup and mustard mascots would dance on the dugout. And the main mascot, Slider, barely had a presence.

7) Cleanliness- 3.5/5

Just like Turner, the cleanliness is what you expect for a stadium in its third decade. Its clean but you can tell it has wear and tear. One thing I liked is how spacious the bathrooms were. Normally it is very crowded but the Prog gives you a lot of personal space at the urinal, which is always nice.

8) Local Scene & Location- 4/5

There isn’t a ton to do, but considering the park is built into the heart of downtown, there was enough cool stuff to do before and after games. On the surrounding blocks there were plenty of bar restaurants to get some drinks and grub. Also nearby is the Browns stadium, Lake Eerie, and the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame which is a must-see when in Cleveland. There is also a casino a couple blocks away if that is your thing. Overall, downtown Cleveland was way cooler than I (and Joakim Noah) would ever believe.

9) Access & Cost- 4.5/5

With the- generally speaking low attendance of the past few seasons and mediocre play on the field, seats are cheap. But there are tons of great views and seats, which makes that an even more valuable ticket. As mentioned before, this is the cheapest food I have seen at a pro park- it’s even cheaper than a lot of Minor League ballparks. The hot was $3.50. A 16oz can of Bud was $7.5. A jumbo sausage or brat is $5-7. They had rally burgers for $5. And ice cream for $4!

As for access, the local train drops off nearby and the stadium is located right off the major highway. And if you’re in the city, it’s easily accessible by walking.

10) Misc- 1

Stats & Info- Progressive has an amazing video board in left and they can’t provide clear, important game and player information. This is my biggest complaint of the park. 0 points.

Out-of-Town Scoreboard- It is very noticeable but they wouldn’t show all the games at once. If you were looking for a specific out-of-town game score, you had to wait and miss some of the game action until that score was displayed again. 0 points.

Concourse- At the top of the section you can walk along and see the field. But if you want to go get food, you enter a different part of the concourse where you can’t see the game. Tsk tsk.

Roof- No need for a roof in Cleveland.

Tradition- There was several traditions at The Prog. Cleveland Rocks is played after wins which is awesome. There is some awesome song played in the 8th called “Hang on Sloopy”. EVERYONE knew the words. And finally- the drum guy! Every time the Indians mounted a rally he would bang away from the top of the bleacher and the whole crowd would join along by clapping.

10) Personal Opinion- 4.5/5

I want to get the negative out of the way. I HATED the use of the video board and lack of game information. For the batter, they would display their picture, season stats, and only show what they did that game via a box score graphic. Most stadiums have info on date of birth, service time, etc- some neat stuff. The Prog does not. Moreover, they only have pitch count and radar on the side LED panels on third and first- but nothing on the giant video board. One thing parks do that I love is show what pitch was thrown (e.g. slider). I couldn’t find that information here which was a big no-no for me. Also, they only display one teams info at a time. When the Indians were batting, you couldn’t look up there and see the Orioles lineup and game info if you wanted to. Also, the out of town scores sucked. They only showed just a few at a time and only had the score, not who was on base and who was pitching, as all other out of town boards always show. I didn’t like that. HOWEVER, it didn’t take away from my game experience and Progressive was awesome. It felt like a small bandbox but still had the modern, stadium-like aspects to it which was great. Fitting it in downtown Cleveland is amazing as that is so much better than being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by parking lots- you can actually walk to a game here! The food and drink was great, the fans were good, and the views were awesome. The Prog is another must-see stadium.

Overall Score- 84.5/115

As Drew Carey once proclaimed: CLEVELAND ROCKS

Ballpark Review: Turner Field

June 1, 2015

Franchise: Atlanta Braves

Year Opened: 1997

Capacity: 49,586

Games Attended: May 23 & 24, 2015 v Milwaukee Brewers

Sec 204, Row, Row 1, Seat 4; Sec 105, Row 5, Seat 4

Over Memorial Day Weekend I had the chance to catch two Braves games in Atlanta. When reading ballpark rankings in the past, Turner Field always placed near the bottom. So my expectations were not that high.

1) Aesthetics- 16/25

Exterior- 3/5

The open outfield exterior of Turner is great, especially the brick wall where the ticket windows are located. However, the exterior running from third around to first definitely make Turner look more like a stadium than a field.

Interior- 7/10

From afar, Turner Field doesn’t seem special. But seeing this place in person was awesome. The video board looked nicer, the advertisements looked nicer, everything looked nicer. I love the championship banners displayed in left and the coke bottle and Chik-Fil-A in the upper deck. For an older, “bland” stadium those details make it stand out from others (think US Cellular).

Backdrop 6/10

You can’t see the skyline from the lower levels, but you can from the first base side of the upper deck and it is a great sight. While Turner lacks a skyline like Pittsburgh, fountains like KC, or any other unique part of the backdrop, it still comes together as a whole.

2) Seats &View- 15/20

Sight lines- 8/10

In the first game, we sat in the 200 level. This is still the field level but further back than the 100 level. Despite that, it was still a good seat that felt close and gave a great vantage point of the whole field. For the second game, we had the pleasure of sitting five rows back of home plate. These were by far the best seats I have had for a ML game. Even though we sat so close, there was still a good angle to pick up balls hit to the outfield. These tickets also came with access to the 755 Club- which was a blast- as I’ll mention later on.

Proximity- 4/5

Before the games we walked around to get a feel for the park and the upper deck was great as well. You don’t feel like you are sitting up too high at all and the top row of the upper deck was just as good as the first row. The vantage point is good, you get a view of the skyline, and the seats are angled so that people sitting in front of you won’t be in the way.

Outfield seats are also nice and are probably the most affordable. Really, there are very poor seats in the house.

Recommendation: 200 level, the sections that align with the batter circle on each side. There were probably 50 fouls hit into these sections each game. A lot of people went home happy with a souvenir as a result.

Comfort: 3/5

The seats were somewhat cramped, but there was good leg room.

3) Atmosphere- 11/15

Fan Participation- 4/5

The atmosphere was fantastic. The crowd was into the game and knew when to cheer and boo. Hearing the tomahawk chant in person was great and when it came time to close the game out for a Braves win, the crowd noise was deafening. Braves fans certainly impressed me.

Attendance- 3/5

A lot of people, myself included, rag on the Braves for low attendance figures, even when they were annual division winners. However, both games I attended had to have had at least 30,000 people there.

Fan Knowledge- 4/5

Braves fans are the real deal.

4) Attractions- 14/15

Museum & Team History- 9/10

The team museum is in Scouts Alley and one only needs a token to enter. The museum was very in-depth, showcasing uniforms throughout team history, the dugout bench from Fulton County, history on the different cities and eras of the franchise, as well as lockers highlighting awards and stories from past players and seasons.

Stuff to See and Do- 5/5

The attractions at Turner Field blew away just about all the other stadiums I have been to. First, when pull up to the parking lot you see they still have a cutout of the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, which is really cool. You can go stand on the old pitchers mound or dig into the batters box. Moreover, the spot of Hank Aaron’s 715th career HR is marked off with the original fence. As you walk past this in the parking lot and carry onto the stadium, you see several statues, plaques, and tributes to past players such as Warren Spahn, Eddie Matthews, Greg Maddux, and many more. For a history junkie like myself, this is awesome.

Now once inside the stadium, you have Scouts Alley to the right. For just 10 tokens, you get a free Braves shirt and a chance to take batting practice in a cage or speed pitch. It’s a great gimmick for kids to enjoy their Turner experience, while making easy money.

5) Food & Drink- 8/10

Hot Dog- 3.5/5

To begin- the classic hot dog. They offered a jumbo dog for $6. Take or leave that price, but it was a better foot long dog than I expected. Most longer hot dogs suck, in my opinion. But this wasn’t bad. Not the best ballpark dog, but not disappointing.

Best of the Rest- 4.5/5

A lot of this ranking is based on the food I ate, the food offerings, and the beer. As for the beer, they just have the run of the mill drink choices. But a 25oz’er for $10 is good for ballpark prices (I once got a 16oz Bud from Yankee Stadium for $12). They offered some southern food and BBQ along with ballpark staples. There was even a Chik-Fil-A stand which is the greatest thing ever. At least it was until I walked around the 755 Club. Food wasn’t free up there, but it was amazing. You could get 5 star, restaurant quality fajitas, pasta, or asian food for $12. Yes, only $12. There are also dessert stands with froyo, cheesecake, and giant cookies. A meal might be $12, but it’s the best $12 I’ve spent at a ballpark.

6) Game Entertainment & Presentation- 2/5

The one thing I can’t really recall, because of its low presence, was game entertainment. There was a mascot race and a lot of the “Kiss Cam” stuff, but that was about it. Although they did have a unique “oblivious cam” that stayed on a person until they realized they were on camera. Now some people find the lack of game entertainment to be a good thing, but it hurts Turner Field in my rankings.

7) Cleanliness- 3/5

Turner Field was meh when it came to cleanliness. I mean, it was clean, but you could tell was a 20 year or so old stadium. Some of the bathrooms smelled funky and you could tell the concourse had been through some shit. But it didn’t detract from the game experience.

8) Local Scene & Location- 1/5

There is no local scene at the park other than a rib joint. But downtown Atlanta is a five minute drive and there is more than enough to do there.

9) Access & Cost- 2/5

Between Scouts Alley, the good food, and merchandise, it can be easy to spend a lot of money at the park. But for the quality of your seats and food, there is good value in the money you’re spending. Their ticket prices and food prices are probably above average, but unlike a lot of places you get your money’s worth.

As for access, you have to drive. There is ample parking which leads to a lot of tailgating, but there is no good transportation system getting to the park.

10)- Misc +3

Stats & Info- 1

I have seen better, but all the info needed was present and easy to spot. They went pretty in-depth with player info, going so far as to state their MLB service time.

Out-of-Town Scoreboard- 0

Wasn’t a fan.

Concourse- 1

It was open so I could see the game when getting beer.

Roof- 0

Tradition- 1

The Tomahawk chop!

Personal Opinion- 4/5

As I mentioned at the start, I had low expectations for Turner. But I was amazed with the whole experience. If you want to tailgate, you can do so. If you want to catch BP, you are more than welcome to (and A LOT of balls were hit into the LF seats). If you want to learn about the team history, you can do so. If you want to buy some cool gear, you can do so. If you want good food, you will get it. If you want a good seat, you will have one. Turner Field is a great park worthy of visit for baseball fans.

Overall Score- 79/115