The Ballpark E-Guides Blog Is Now Where It Belongs

Nothing against MLBlogs, but I saw no sense in updating two blogs all the time, so I have moved the Ballpark E-Guides Blog to the Ballpark E-Guides site, which in my mind makes pretty good sense.

Check out the new blog here: http://www.ballparkeguides.com/ballpark-e-guides-blog.php

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Best,

Kurt

Book Review: The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip

For all of the information contained in “The
Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: A Fan’s Guide To Major League Stadiums
“,
authors Josh Pahigian and Kevin O’Connell fail to answer the one question I had
while reading this book.

And that, of course, is how they persuaded a publisher to
pay for this venture. THAT is something I want to know.

But that said, this book isn’t short on information about
any ballpark destination you may have, at least any ballpark that opened before 2004. Josh and Kevin traveled across the country and visited all 30 major
league ballparks in 2003. At least I’m guessing it was mostly 2003, the book does
include chapters for Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Petco Park in San
Diego, both of which opened in 2004. If there’s one regret they may have, it’s
that they didn’t go on this trip in 2012, when the only stadium left to replace
will be Oakland’s.

There is a chapter dedicated to each ballpark; in each
chapter the reader learns some of the history of the team, where and how to get
a good seat, how to get to the ballpark, some places to eat or drink at before
and after the game, some features of the ballpark, and some comments on the
overall experience. Overall each of these is covered pretty well; if there’s an
obstructed view seat, they’ll probably let you know about it. They’ve even
ranked each stadium’s hot dogs, with San Diego’s as the worst, while Oakland of
all places produced the best. A matter of opinion of course, but still fun.

All of this, I can tell you from experience, would be
painstaking work if it were actual work. They obviously enjoyed doing it as
much as I do.

And for the most part Josh and Kevin have done a terrific job.
This book would be very handy if you were going on a trip to four or five or
more ballparks as a vacation. It’s also an enjoyable read for any baseball fan on its own.

It is all written in an easily readable style, as if they
were talking to you and giving you the scoop in a non-condescending way,
occasionally interrupted with eye-rolling jokes shared between the two.

If I had a complaint about the book if would be that there’s
just a tad of braggadocio in it; for example, the introduction asserts that “You
hold in your hand the best guide on the market for the kind of road trip you’re
envisioning”. True, probably, although you could substitute the word “only” for “best”. Which isn’t their fault, of course. Still, this is a minor complaint. I received this book as a Christmas gift, and haven’t spent a minute
wishing I’d asked for something else.

If the publisher were willing to pay for an updated version
in order to include Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Busch Stadium, Nationals Park, Target
Field, the new ballpark for the Marlins that opens next year and the renovated
Kauffman Stadium and U.S. Cellular Field, I wouldn’t say they hadn’t earned the
right. This stuff changes constantly, as I well know.

So while adding the shameless plug for comparison; The Ultimate
Baseball Road Trip is very good for that, a road trip. The book doesn’t go into
the detail that a Ballpark E-Guide
does, and the reader probably won’t learn much new about his own home ballpark, but then they don’t have the luxury of updating things for the reader like I
do. But even with eight of the chapters in this book becoming dated, it’s still
a worthwhile purchase.

Take it from someone who is insanely jealous of the authors.

Some Thoughts on Sun Life Stadium

For some strange reason, I forced myself to take on the task of writing a guide for Sun Life Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins. Why, I don’t know; the team will be moving into its shiny new retractable roof dome in 2012, and the guide is going to become obsolete before I can even get photos for it.


But here’s some excerpts from the intro, anyway, so that it doesn’t completely go to waste:

While
attending a Marlins game at Sun Life Stadium, it’s probably natural for fans of
the Fish to be frequently overcome with that feeling that “I’m in the wrong
place”. That feeling will probably last until the Marlins new ballpark opens in
2012.

Not only was
Joe Robbie / Pro Player / Dolphins / Land Shark / Dolphin again / Sun Life
Stadium constructed and currently maintained with the Miami Dolphins and the
NFL firmly in mind, the place never lets the occupying MLB Marlins and their
fans forget it. Other than late Dolphins owner Joe Robbie’s foresight in having
his new stadium built with the capability to accommodate baseball, the local
baseball team that has racked up two championships playing here (to the
football team’s big fat zero) is largely regarded as a nuisance.

That’s some
thanks to a team that has somehow managed two World Series victories in its
brief existence, and all without the benefit of division titles. Has any team
in any major sport pulled off that particular feat? You’d think the Dolphins
would show a little more gratitude. At least one team in Miami wins.

Still, it’s
not hard to see why the Marlins have more struggles at the gate than most
teams.

To start
with, there is the venue itself, with its constant reminders that you are here
to watch football games, not baseball. The angle of the seats, availability of
concessions and lack of nearby, well, anything are all big strikes against the
place. For eight football games a year, these things don’t matter so much.

Then there is
the oppressive weather in South Florida, where
85-degree July and August nights and near daily thundershowers are the norm.
Sun Life Stadium is no help in this regard, with blisteringly hot orange
colored seats and precious little covering or shade for most of them.

And finally
there is still the lingering discord over the “fire sales” following the team’s
championships, where an overreaching owner let the team’s biggest stars go
following a World Series title, a sure way to kill the excitement of local
baseball and alienate plenty of fans. The heat of Miami is no place to spend time getting to
know a completely new group of players.

But being a
Marlins fan, at least for now, requires a special kind of fortitude. And a
guide to make the best of it.

To their
credit, the Marlins have made the best of the situation. They’ve been offering
fans more deals than most other teams. They’ve created an outfield wall that is
actually asymmetrical, without fudging it as many parks do these days. There’s
plenty of extracurricular entertainment, like the SportsTown tent outside the
Stadium, a hot tub near the Marlins’ bullpen, and multiple fan zones where kids
can burn some energy.

And while
baseball isn’t necessarily a cheerleader sport, no one here is complaining
about the Marlins’ Mermaids, who dance for the fans in scant teal and green
outfits between innings. I’ve read that they’re rejects from the Dolphins
cheerleading squad, in which case I need to see the winners.

And the
Marlins are a good team. So it’s not
all bad.

They Still Miss Michigan And Trumbull

Comerica Park in Detroit is a beautiful ballpark, one of the more underrated in the new retro-park boom. There is a great view of the city and the gargantuan scoreboard from just about any seat and the front gate with its tiger statues is stunning and is not done justice with photos. The concourses are large and there aren’t any obstructed views, which is more than can even be said about PNC Park. There is a cool Walk of Fame in the outfield and water fountains in center field. The nearby scene has improved and becoming a fun place to be, in a city where there aren’t many attractions.

 

But researching Comerica for an upcoming guide, I ran across quite a few diatribes from Tigers fans who hate it. And for no other reason than because of what it replaced.

 

If Tiger Stadium were still standing today, it would be, along with Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in baseball, older than Wrigley Field even. That isn’t something any baseball fan dismisses lightly. The new Comiskey Park was not warmly received by White Sox fans. Baseball’s history is among its most appealing attributes, and fans will always choose to preserve it.

 

The venerable venue at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull initially defied efforts to take it down. In the late 1960s, the initial plan for the Lions’ Pontiac Silverdome was for it to be a multipurpose facility; thankfully, the Tigers ultimately balked. (Although, if they had gone through with it, the building of Comerica might not have been so hard on Tigers fans’ hearts.)

 

In the 1990s Tigers fans openly opposed the idea of replacing Tiger Stadium, but with Camden Yards and Jacobs Field bringing in hundreds of millions in revenue, Detroit and the Tigers passed on saving the old girl, even though Tigers owner Mike Ilitch had poured some money into improving the place.

 

So understandably, Comerica Park is a sticking thorn in the side of Tigers fans. Most Red Sox fans will tell you that they don’t care if there are poles in their view or that their seat is uncomfortable when they’re sitting in the ballpark where Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski played. Tigers fans felt the same way about the ballpark where Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and Al Kaline resided.

 

I love Comerica Park, but I understand Tigers fans’ feelings on the whole thing. As great as Camden Yards is, as an Orioles fan I would have been happy to attend games at Memorial Stadium for the rest of my life, and sit in the ballpark where Jim Palmer, Brooks and Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, and Eddie Murray made their marks. I still would.

 

Like Memorial, the Tiger Stadium building managed to survive a few years, before it finally was decided that the land is too valuable to simply preserve a landmark and the crumbling building was demolished. This is as it probably should be–it’s worse to have the ballpark still standing without a purpose. And so today in both cities, only a baseball field remains where a majestic and historic ballpark once stood.

 

Time marches on relentlessly and the feeling of the world passing you by is painful. Rarely is that represented in the mind of a fan than in seeing their home ballpark demolished. Ten years later, some Tigers fans are still vocal about that. It wouldn’t have mattered if Comerica was the greatest ballpark ever built, just as it didn’t matter how good New Coke could have tasted. NASCAR’s popularity is plummeting right now precisely because everything people loved about the sport was altered or changed in some way.

 

As much as I love Camden Yards and Comerica Park, I understand the feeling. Even 20 years later in my case.

 

Free Parking At Tropicana Field

At most ballparks you can find free parking somewhere, if you’re willing to walk at least a half a mile and/or risk getting your car towed. But for Tampa Bay Rays games, you need only find three other people to carpool with you–admittedly a challenge in a lesser venue featuring a team unlikely to be very competitive this year, but at least a viable option.

 

The Rays list this under “The Rays Go Green“, but apparently they’re most ecology-minded after getting out of church, since this option is widely available on Sundays, while for the rest of the week it’s the first 100 cars that arrive in the lot. The applicable lots are 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9; 6 and 7 are closest to the field and are off of 10th Street.

 

Not a bad deal, unless you’re one of those antisocial tightwad types who only goes to the game with other people only so that they’ll chip in on the parking. In that case, there are further lots that charge about half of what the Trop does, but it’s a bit of a hike.

 

The best thing is that the “premium game” parking rate is even waived for this–the Rays say “all other games”, so from that I assume that it applies to when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town. I probably shouldn’t mention this, since it may have been an oversight on their part. So shhhh…

 

Tropicana Field will never win any best ballpark awards, but it does have some things going for it, and one of them is that it won’t break your wallet in half. The upper reserved and upper box seats are perfectly reasonable, and if you’re early enough you can bring some friends and park for free. And you know the game won’t be rained out.

 

And if you’ve gotten those occasionally available all-you-can-eat seats in the tbt* Party Deck, your food and parking is paid for. That’s a significant chunk of change at the ballgame these days.

 

The MARTA Braves Shuttle (?)

The task of going to an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field used to offer several options–among them simply driving and parking, taking a MARTA Blue or Green Line train to the Georgia State Capitol station and walking, or taking any MARTA train to the Five Points Station and hopping on a free (for train riders) “Braves Shuttle”, which took riders directly to Turner Field and back to Five Points after the game.

 

This last option was probably the most popular of the three, Atlanta traffic being what it is and Turner Field parking costing as much as it does (although it is cheaper than many ballparks, I will grant). It was a rather simple, inexpensive way for Braves fans to get to a game.

 

Apparently though, as I write this, the Shuttle is no more. MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) has been losing money in a struggling economy, being funded by suburban counties that have lost considerable tax revenues. As a result, along with upwards of 300 MARTA employees being laid off, services like the Braves Shuttle are being cut. Needless to say, Braves fans are not happy about this development, and I’ve read a few angry comments on blogs suggesting that they will not be attending Braves games this year.

 

It’s understood the new dilemma that has been created. The latest I’ve read from the excellent Braves blog called “Talking Chop” is that the Braves are considering funding the shuttle, but this was in July, and I have not yet heard word since then. The Braves do still, however, mention the Braves Shuttle as a way to get to the game on their own website–and if it’s not going to be available, I would hope they would let people visiting Atlanta this summer for a game (myself, for instance) know well enough ahead of time.

 

And of course it causes me stress; not only was I going to use the Shuttle myself, but it is a key tip in the (coming in 2011!) Turner Field E-Guide. But Ballpark E-Guides never backs down from a challenge, and I will get on this and find alternatives as soon as possible.

 

One thought that comes to mind is the same thought I had when I heard that the Nationals were discontinuing the Nats Express from RFK Stadium–why not charge people a buck or two to ride the shuttle? Surely someone could figure out how much to charge to make the option break even or even be profitable. I am sure Braves or Nationals fans would pay a small fee to have a convenient avenue to get to the game, and in the case of the Braves Shuttle, MARTA would be keeping the Braves fans riding the trains to games as customers–which they need in times like these.

 

But working for a government contractor like I do, I know whether or not an idea makes sense is rarely a consideration for its implementation. All the same, I contacted MARTA and asked anyway.

 

In the meantime, Braves fans can either drive to the game and park at Turner Field, or make the rather lengthy walk from the Georgia State Station. Quite frankly, neither seems all that great, especially with presumably more folks needing them.

 

I’ll let you know what MARTA thinks of my idea.

 

www.itsmarta.com

UPDATE 2/12/2011: As expected, MARTA did not give my idea any consideration; I doubt they even read it. I was sent a very generic e-mail saying that the Braves Shuttle has indeed been discontinued. Well, heck, I already knew that.

 

You Get What You Pay For

“And, for the cost of $5.00, it’s a bargain at twice the price.” – Christine E., Boston Red Thoughts

 

Of course you’ve heard the expression “you get what you pay for”. It is a generally accepted accounting principle that applies beyond commerce to all walks of life. You get the garden you’ve cultivated. You get the business success that you’ve put your effort into getting. You get the relationship you’ve worked at.

 

In other words, life is fair, right?

 

“You get what you pay for” is a general tendency. It is by no means assured. No one understands this better than baseball people. Did the Yankees get what they paid for with Hideki Irabu? Are they getting what they paid for with A.J. Burnett? Will they get their money’s worth from a declining Derek Jeter in the upcoming years? I could do this all day of course, with any team. But the Yankees, for all of their success, are the easiest target.

 

When I was a younger and single man I had a part-time bartending gig. I won’t say where it was, but one thing we were told to do when we ran out of Absolut vodka was to bring up the bottles to the attached liquor store. The manager would take them into another room, out of our sight, and refill them. He would run some bullsquat at me, like “we get paid on the return”, but everyone knew they were filling the Absolut bottles with cheap rack vodka.

 

And every so often someone would make a point of demanding Absolut vodka in their vodka-and-cranberry, and I’d hand him the fifty-cents-extra-for-“premium”-vodka drink, which he would sip with a satisfied exhale. And I’d laugh. He got what he paid for, as far as he knew.

 

People in general have so assimilated the “you get what you pay for” principle that we just accept being ripped off sometimes. We have it burned in our minds that if we don’t pay the ridiculous price for parking at the ballpark, that we risk getting our car stolen or towed. Why? That may be the case in some cities, but many times it is not. Baseball fans pay upwards of $4 for a small bag of peanuts or a soft pretzel at the park, not even thinking twice about the possibility that they could get a similar quantity outside for a quarter of the price–without the clumps of salt that make you thirsty enough for a $5 soda. People rarely imagine that a ticket agency or reseller or scalper might offer a bargain on tickets, and in reality that is very often a better option than paying face price from the team itself.

 

If there is one thing I’ve learned researching the ballparks I’ve researched, it is that I have been paying too much and experiencing too little at ballgames. Although, I suppose you could say that by researching, you get what you pay for in time and effort. Fair enough. But I’ve never subscribed to the notion that you must pay more for quality or even an acceptable outcome.

 

Ballpark E-Guides not only provide plenty of helpful tips for you and save you the time and effort finding them for yourself, they’re just $5. Less than most tickets, less than parking, less than most items available at the ballpark these days–and who hasn’t felt ripped off after paying for tickets, parking or food at the game?

 

Hopefully with a Ballpark E-Guide, you’ll get more than you paid for.

 

The Let Teddy Win Blog

There are a zillion blogs out there. Many of them are very
well designed and feature great content. Many others are designed and feature
content. And there are a select few that not
only are well designed and feature great content, but also revolve around a clever
and unusual theme.

Let Teddy Win
is one such blog. The author of “Let Teddy Win”, Scott Ableman, chronicles almost
daily the fortunes of U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt in the Presidents’ Race
that takes place at every Washington Nationals home game. I came across it looking
for information about Nationals Park–which it wasn’t short on, I should mention.

Ableman is the CMO of Simplexity, an
e-commerce company based in Reston, VA, and a Nationals season-ticket holder. In
response to my e-mail asking him about it, he shared with me that he started
the blog when his young son pointed out that Teddy Roosevelt never wins the
Presidents’ Race, and he inexplicably found no information about this on the
Nats’ website. This is surprising; reading the blog, you would almost think he
was employed by the Nationals.
(And I mean that in a good way.)

The Presidents’ Race–featuring all of the Mount Rushmore
presidents–is Washington’s answer to the Sausage Race at Miller Park, and with
all due respect to the racing sausages, I’d say the Presidents’ Race is more
entertaining. And it is so largely because of the inept foibles of America’s 26th
President, who never emerges victorious. The reasons for his losses, as
reported on in Let Teddy Win, are often amusing: getting
tackled by someone wearing a Grinch costume
, passing
out Hispanic Heritage T-shirts during the race
, or losing his
glasses
. Teddy is the Wile E. Coyote of his day.

The blog is, ultimately, a Washington Nationals blog, and
comments on Nationals issues of the day–but the news is usually tied in with
Ableman’s unwavering support of the still winless President. When Stan Kasten recently
departed as president of the Nationals, Let Teddy Win openly pondered whether
the team would now take a tougher stance on Abe Lincoln’s cheating.

It can’t be easy to write a blog based entirely on a 30-second
between innings event and manage to make it an enjoyable read, but Ableman
pulls it off, and consistently so. He stays on top of the Presidents’ Race standings, posts
videos of other appearances of the Presidents, and occasionally pays some lip
service to what happened in the game as well. On top of that, for anyone
interested in seeing this Presidents Race that all of the fuss is about, Ableman
informs readers of Teddy-related promotions that the Nats occasionally offer to
fans.

Nationals Park is beautiful, and this is a team that appears
to be on the rise. But while they are yet a subpar team, there is an
entertaining between-innings skit that, while maybe not worth the price of
admission, provides chat fodder and amusement for the team’s fans. All made
possible by a very well-done and highly original blog.

Let Teddy Win: http://blog.letteddywin.com/

Secret Stadium Sauce at Miller Park

Wisconsin is brat country, something I learned too late
after my first trip to Miller Park.

While I liked Miller, I was a little bit miffed at the low
quality of the hot dog. I believe at the time I declared it to be the worst dog
I’d ever had at a ballgame, and I liked Wendy Selig less afterward for it.
(This was in 2001 when she still owned the Brewers.) As far as I was concerned,
there was no excuse for a ballpark in Wisconsin to have a lousy hot dog.

It became a theory of mine after learning that Milwaukee is
the only ballpark that sells more brats than hot dogs that the lesser dog was
intentional, as a way to get folks to buy more brats. I was probably wrong on
that one, although I’m not yet totally convinced.

Sausages at Miller Park are available in four varieties for
varying tastes. There is the Wisconsin brat, the Italian, the Polish, and the
Mexican chorizo. The four flavors are very different, but according to most
accounts, the one thing that makes them all taste better is the Secret Stadium
Sauce.

Secret Stadium Sauce is a Milwaukee institution, carried
over from the days at Milwaukee County Stadium. It is a blend of water, tomato
paste, corn syrup, vinegar, a blend of spices and capsicum.

The story of its creation is one of necessity being the
mother of invention: close to 40 years ago, the team’s concessions were running
out of ketchup and mustard, so a stadium vendor named Rick Abramson put
together a concoction of ketchup, mustard, smoked syrup and barbecue sauce,
slapped it all together, and became president of Delaware North Companies
Sportservice. Now there’s a company that recognizes genius when they see it.

Since that time the Secret Stadium Sauce has become a Milwaukee institution, with its own Wikipedia entry and Facebook page even. Indeed, baseball authorities Tony Kubek and Bob Costas would
trade off broadcasting duties when announcing games in Milwaukee, so they could
each enjoy their brats with Secret Stadium Sauce without enduring endlessly
long seconds of delay between bites.

Like the Stadium Mustard in Cleveland, the Secret Stadium
Sauce is available in local grocery stores in Milwaukee, which means that there
is also no shortage of it in the world-class tailgating scene of Miller Park
parking lots.

Condiments – bringing people together.

Citizens Bank Park – A Must Visit For Any Baseball Fan

I live in South Jersey, which is unequivocally Philadelphia sports country. Nobody around here is a Giants or Rangers or Knicks fan, and the occasional Devils fan you find is not very vocal about it. People here bleed Eagles green, Flyers orange and Phillies red, and no one cares too much about the 76ers.

 

I don’t live and die with the Flyers’ fortunes and care much less about the Eagles, but I must admit that the new, revitalized sports complex in Philadelphia is quite the sight, especially driving by it on I-95 on the way to or from the Philadelphia Airport. The outside of the new hockey/basketball arena is impressive to look at, Lincoln Financial Field is beautifully in your face off of the highway, and if you’re heading north (as you would be coming from the airport) it saves the best for last, the view of the stunning relatively new home of the Phillies, Citizens Bank Park.

 

The designers got just about everything right–from natural grass to the red brick façade to the unique octagon shape. From the scoreboard to the sightlines to the counters in the concourse areas. From Bull’s BBQ to Tony Luke’s to Harry The K’s restaurant. Even the ushers are as nice as can be–which wasn’t always the case at their former home, Veterans Stadium. Citizens Bank Park is modern and humble at the same time, and that’s a more difficult feat to pull off than it looks.

 

To many baseball people, the only flaw of the Bank is its location away from the heart of the city. But they certainly maximized what they had, with ample parking and an Ashburn Alley that may not have happened in the cramped quarters of Center City (downtown for you non-Philadelphians).

 

It’s great that the new ballpark in Philadelphia was so well done. Philly’s reputation as a harsh, unpleasant sports town full of perpetually surly fans was worsened by the Vet, a concrete artificial turf donut known more for its jail cell than its baseball ambience. With its new baseball-only ballpark, people come to Phillies games and think of beloved local heroes like Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn, both of whom are nicely honored in the team’s new home. They see great pitchers who are also likable fellows in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who could have gone anywhere. They see a father who hugs his daughter after she throws the foul ball he caught back on the field. And if Philly is good enough for them, how bad could it be?

 

It also doesn’t hurt that the Phils are fielding an exciting team these days, a team that is full of colorful personalities and piling up winning seasons. The Phils are going to be one tough ticket this year, with perhaps the strongest starting rotation this writer has seen in his life.

 

I’m fortunate enough to be living just a 20-minute drive away, but wherever you live, you really should make the trip to Citizens Bank Park to see a Phillies game. You won’t regret it, especially if you’ve been to the Vet and can compare. Philadelphia went from having one of the worst venues in baseball to having one of the best, and now seeing a game is always a much more enjoyable experience.

 

And if you go armed with some knowledge, you can avoid the considerable traffic, park in a spot that will get you out easily, take the train without stopping everywhere, find a pretzel and drinks outside, get a hot dog for $1 and a gluten-free dog for your lovely celiac afflicted wife, decide which brand of cheesesteak at the game suits your taste, drink a free soda, and find a beer much cheaper than the ballpark price.

 

Believe it or not, despite having gone to close to two dozen games at Citizens Bank Park since its opening in 2004, I did not know how to do any of these things before researching for the Citizens Bank Park E-Guide.

 

Now you can too. And you should. The Bank is not to be missed.

 

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