As the Orioles head to Target Field in Minnesota this evening to open up a four-game set, I found myself in a mood to talk ballparks. Undeniably, every city is proud of it’s park and all fans have reasons for saying it’s the best out there. However whenever the which ballpark is best question comes up, Camden Yards is always at the very least in the discussion. Recently I received an email from Kurt Smith of Ballpark E-Guides, with his opinions of the yard. Granted Kurt is about as biased a sthe rest of us because he’s an Oriole fan, however he makes some great points:
But having been to many ballparks on the eastern half of the continent, and judging without the prejudice of my home team (even though I’m an Orioles fan), it’s my belief that Oriole Park at Camden Yards is still the best ballpark in baseball, for several reasons.
The biggest reason is simply aesthetics. There are plenty of ballparks with great views…PNC Park in Pittsburgh’s view of the Clemente Bridge and the Pittsburgh skyline is spectacular, and the view of the ivy and thousands of fans sitting on rooftops at Wrigley Field captures the spirit of baseball as only a century-old ballpark can. Camden Yards, with the huge warehouse in right field that still may be the most striking visual feature of any ballpark, along the view of the Baltimore skyline, does visual as well as any ballpark. There are dark green seats too, which fit in perfectly with the red bricks and green grass.
It’s gorgeous on the outside too…there’s nothing wrong with the Kasota gold limestone that adorns the façade of PNC Park or the silver steel on the outside of Nationals Park, but if a ballpark is going to pay tribute to the timelessness of the game of baseball, it’s best to do it with millions of red bricks.
- The designers of Oriole Park got the fan experience right. In this writer’s humble opinion, the most overrated feature of new ballparks is the “open concourse”, where folks can stand behind the seating sections and watch the game from the concourse. That’s all fine and good, but how much time do you spend doing that at a ballgame, as opposed to sitting in your seat? The drawback of the open concourses is that along with the club levels and suites that all ballparks have today, the people in the upper level—many of whom have been priced out of the best seats these days—are now in wave to pilots territory. Most all of the post-Camden ballparks are particularly bad with this.
- I could go on. Boog’s Barbecue, a Polock Johnny’s sausage with the “Works”, Natty Boh, Eutaw Street, the view of Baltimore from the upper concourse, few obstructed views, and something no other ballpark will likely ever have…an Earl Weaver statue. Feel free to drop me a line if you want more arguments to duel with Wrigley and Fenway (or Miller!) partisans. I’ve been extremely fortunate to view 14 ballparks inside and out, and all things considered, Camden Yards is still the best. I haven’t yet been to Coors Field, AT&T Park, Safeco Field or Target Field, but in all fairness to those ballparks and their fans, somehow I don’t see them topping the jewel in Baltimore.
The fact is that there are a lot of great ballparks in MLB. In fact, there’s a redeeming quality about all of them. However there’s a certain timelessness and majesty that sets Camden Yards above the rest. It has the creature comforts that Fenway and Wrigley lack, yet it still has the old time feel. It’s not as agressively modern as Nationals Park down the road in DC, yet it still feels new. I tell people that it’s the best venue in America to see a sporting event. That’s probably a matter of opinion, and I’m sure that there are some opinions out there which would put Camden Yards below some other parks. However the fact remains that it consistently appears on lists putting it in the top tier of parks around the league. And that says something.
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