Saturday, August 31, 2013

Best MLB Stadiums

Over the course of my life I have been fortunate enough to travel to and attend many sporting events, particularly the game I love the most, baseball.  Overall I have been to 17 ballparks.  A few of these ballparks have been torn down and replaced with more modern stadiums.  Below is my own personal rankings of the 17 I have attended.  20 years ago, this list would be pointless as the majority of teams played in dumps of stadiums.  One stadium on this list changed all of this and made ballparks and architectural must see and a new and unique experience wherever you were.  Love it or hate it, here we go....
1.) Old Yankee Stadium.  Truly was the cathedral of baseball, the House that Ruth built.  I remember my first time at this stadium and even though the Yankees sucked and I was rooting for a great player by the name of Griffey, there was no mistaking that this stadium was something special.  Before Damon and Affleck or Vince Vaughn, Yankee Stadium was the only stadium talked about in movies or TV, this was the home of the pressure, the comebacks, the history, the ghosts.  Only stadium I have ever witnessed that could make or break a player, from opposing pitchers throwing up before taking the mound to Mr. October and Mr. November, this stadium was the center of the sports world.  The Stadium had a special feel that was unlike any other stadium I have been to.  From Eddie Layton on the organ to Bob Sheppard on the PA, this was baseball's most important venue, always was and always will be.
2.) Wrigley Field. Another old stadium at the top of this list and this is due to the beautiful venue itself as well as the "feel" of this park as well.  Located in a neighborhood (awesome) the ivy, the rooftop bleachers, the lake view, the old scoreboard, the 7th inning stretch and greatest of all...the fans.  No other place that we have been that had a loosing team (last place when we went) had the energy and the passion for just the simple purity of enjoying baseball.  Even Old Yankee Stadium would be empty when the Yankees sucked, Wrigley has its days, particularly early spring and late fall, when it is more empty than full, but it was full and full of energy when we went.  It had a similar feel to the Old Yankee Stadium.  I hope Wrigley never changes.  The fans hate that big toyota sign and the couple of ads in the ivy, but unlike every other stadium, it is still pretty pure.  I hope the Cubs can win some more to show off this beautiful stadium.
3.) New Yankee Stadium. Gargantuan! The place is a monster of baseball, the House that George built.  Biggest scoreboard in all of sports (besides Cowboys) and luxury everything.  Ticket prices are insane. It feels like a resort of Yankees nostalgia and I love that stuff.  We were fortunate enough to attend the first playoff game ever at this stadium and the place started to rock like the old one.  The frieze all the way around the stadium is amazing, the great hall, the Yankees museum, Monument park is still here, there are 5 star restaurants in the building as well as a hard rock cafe.  The stadium has it all.  The classiest stadium in sports by far, just so new, and Babe Ruth never stood in that batters box, but Derek Jeter did and Mariano owned the mound so, years from now this will still be one of the best stadiums in all of sports.

4.) Camden Yards.  The stadium that started it all.  No stadiums looked like this or were placed downtown before Camden Yards hit Baltimore.  A couple of blocks from the inner harbor, it opens right up to the city with Eutaw street and the warehouse.  It was great when it was empty, it was great when it was Yankee Stadium south and its great now that the Orioles have some fair weather fans that show up now that they are winning.  To me, this original got it right.  Every stadium that came after has been trying to follow this one.  Great place to watch baseball.
5.) PNC Park. Continuing with what Camden did, PNC park took full advantage of making one of the most picturesque ballparks out there.  The river, the bridges, the skyline, PNC takes advantage of all of it.  The venue stuns during the day and stuns at night.  Finally, this season, people will get a chance to see just how awesome this ballpark is as the Pirates should make the playoffs for the first time since Barry Bonds was skinny.
6.) Dodger Stadium. I know Ebbets field and Brooklyn, heartbreaking stuff.  The Dodgers have been in LA for some time and this is a great place to see a game.  The palm trees, sight lines, mountains and hills of LA are beautiful.  The skyline is directly behind the stadium.  The fans are into it, the location is great which makes it a great place to watch baseball.  I believe this stadium is 50 years old now and still is one of the best and only four deck stadiums in baseball.
7.) Petco Park.  First time trying to find this stadium in the Gaslamp and couldn't do it, blended right in to the downtown.  Left field actually makes use of an old warehouse and turned it into a bar/restaurant/shop and rooftop deck.  The center field opens clear up to the city and you can see for miles.  The outfield hill which allows you to bring dogs is an awesome feature that only a city as laid back as San Diego would have.  Right center field even has a sand pit for kids to play in during the game! Awesome! If only the Padres could win and do something about their uniforms, this ballpark would get the attention it deserves.
8.) Citizens Bank Park. Philly fans needed to be gone with the Vet.  Not only did Philly get the Linc but it got this bandbox of a beautiful stadium as well.  Again, opens up to a great skyline view, incorporates the Liberty Bell and a Phillies version of Monument park but it has the freaking Phillie Phanatic and some of the craziest fans in sports.  Great place to see baseball, about time for Philly.
9.) Safeco Field.  The House that Griffey Built.  Since the Mariners opened it, they haven't really been that good.  The retractable roof is amazing to behold how fast, simple, and non invasive it can open or close. Only baseball stadium (until new Yankee) that I have seen sushi sold at, the famous Ichi-roll.  Don't know if they still have it or not.  Great views of the city skyline and the bay.  Beats the Kingdome any day!
10.) Comerica Park.  Detroit got an upgrade to a spacious old time but modern ballpark in 2000.  The park has Tiger statues all over it as well as a carousel and playground for kids which is unique to sports venues.  Again, using the Camden blueprint, the stadium opens right up to the downtown skyline.  In recent years they have made some improvements including bringing the fences in a bit, the stadium is still spacious.
11.) Skydome.  This stadium to me is dated now but was revolutionary when it first came out.  A retractable roof! A hotel in the ballpark! A restaurant in the ballpark! A hard rock cafe in the ballpark! All things that were unheard of.  The Bluejays were good when this ballpark opened in 1989 and its a shame that they stopped being good and how dated this ballpark got as fast as it did.  Its great for cold weather Toronto, but, Turf! come on.
12.) Nationals Park.  DC needed a team, it got the Expos.  DC needed a ballpark and it got a gem.  Unfortunately it is in the middle of nowhere in the city and there is nothing around.  Tried to find a bar or restaurant before the game, NADA.  Maybe this will change in a few years, but even though its DC, its feels far from DC.  You can only see the Capitol building with the right view but other than that it doesn't take advantage of being located in the nations capitol.  It has everything else though, all the modern amenities, but nothing stands sets it apart from say Turner Field, Great American Ballpark, etc.
13.) Great American Ballpark.  This stadium was a huge improvement over the dump the Big Red Machine played in.  Just like Nationals park, it has all the modern amenities but misses on taking advantage of the beautiful river in the way that PNC park or San Francisco does.  They block it with outfield stands so unless you are way up top, you are unaware that it is even there.  They could have used that, or turned the stadium around to open up to the skyline in the city of Skyline chili.  They missed on that, but otherwise a great place to see a game.

14.) Veterans Stadium.  The toilet bowl of sports.  This was cutting edge at one time.  The Vet was a dump but so was Riverfront and Three Rivers.  I remember going here as a kid and seeing Dykstra's tobacco juice all over the turf in center field.  I remember tickets being $5, which invited in Philadelphia's finest which is why there was a jail under the stadium.  Not a great place for baseball, maybe not even a great place for football.  But it was Philly, it was intimidating for opposing players and it was HUGE.
15.) Kingdome.  The photo actually represents how I felt about it.  Beautiful on the outside but you don't want to see the inside. Griffey killed in this place and it was loud! Not a good place to see baseball though, Safeco is much better and the Seahawks now play in one of the best NFL stadiums out there (you can get Top Pot, donuts that is, in the stadium).
16.) Shea Stadium. Speaking of dumps! Sorry Mets fans.  Looked like they tried.  The place was huge and it had character and its own unique feel but it was a dump.  I don't have much else to say.  I was not impressed at all.  I am glad you all got a new stadium.
17.) Tropicana Field.  I don't know how an expansion team in 1997 got a dump of a stadium like this one.  The best part about this stadium is the Ray tank in right center field.  Other than that, there is nothing appealing about this stadium.  The team is great, the fans are non existent and a joke.  I feel bad for Joe Madden and the star players that will soon become Yankees or Red Sox.  They need to move this team to say, North Carolina or Virginia.  This stadium is the worst in baseball.

Honorable Mentions: At&t park in San Fransisco.  Weren't able to attend a game when we were out there, but that is one of the most beautiful ballparks in all of baseball.  Cannot wait to get there someday.  St. Louis plays in a great new stadium  that opens up to the city and the arch and reportedly has some of the greatest baseball fans out there.  They do fill that stadium even when it is 110 degrees in July.  Have seen but not attended a game at Coors field in Colorado and Miller Park in Milwaukee, the beer stadiums.  Both look great.

Dishonorable Mention: Fenway Park.  I hate the Red Sox so minus five points there.  Fenway gets points for being old, original and the Green Monster.  Someday I may go, just to judge the experience first hand.  Looses points for not sticking to the origins and pumping big screens and huge scoreboards into what was once an old fashioned, just there for baseball, type of venue.  Also looses points for Ben Affleck.  As well as their falsified sell out streak.  I have also personally sat next to many Red Sox fans at old and new Yankee Stadium that have stated they come to Yankee Stadium to see the Red Sox play just because Fenway is old, crowded, tight, and the fans are rude and inconsiderate of others around them.  I was surprised to hear this as you could say the same about old Yankee Stadium.  Minus points for bad fans.  Overall there are alot of deductions to what could be a great stadium.  Seriously, who the fuck wears Red Socks?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Need more people like these

These days there is a ton of pointless technology that allows people to be dumber, lazier, and more useless than they used to be when people actually made and did things that mattered.  It's good to know that some people are still optimistic and still learning to create and share hope and actually positive uses of the technology available today.  This kid is great and I hope there are plenty more out there like him.  Anyone can make a difference.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dave Matthews Band Hershey Park 7/13/13

We had the great privilege of heading to Chocolate City to see the Dave Matthews Band with Kool and the Gang at Hershey Park Stadium.  We were in Baltimore and had no idea that Hershey was that close to B-More, so we took the drive, saw another incredible show (one of the longest of the summer) and got to meet, none other than Boyd Tinsley.  Boyd has been tweeting with my wife for sometime now and after the shows, he has been holding gatherings near the venue.  Since this gathering was at the venue, we finally decided it was time to go and check it out.  Boyd had a huge line of people waiting to see him and talk with him and really, what a nice guy to spend such time with each person.  I have never seen hugs like that.  He (cue Rob Lowe) literally, hugs everyone for at least 30 seconds.  You may be thinking, yeah 30 seconds isnt that long, it is a very long time to hug someone, anyone, let alone a complete stranger.  Good for Boyd.  He talks with you, autographs anything you bring, pretty cool deal.  Very nice guy.  The show itself was dope.  Kool and the Gang are an excellent band and they had the place fired up after crushing their hits, songs like Jungle Boogie, Ladies Night, Get Down on It, and of course Celebrate.  DMB set was filled with many rarities like Alligator Pie, Idea of You, Drive in Drive Out, and our first Lover Lay Down as well as the high energy thumpers of Dont Drink the Water, Granny, #41, Rapunzel, Jimi, and Two Step (always evolving to epic proportions).  Mark Whitfield guested on and excellent If Only and Crash.  This was also the night Dave got a lift from a fan to the show, he told a funny story about during that night.  Glad we made the trip, glad it worked out, overall a great fun night!

 1. Squirm
2. Alligator Pie
3. Louisiana Bayou
4. The Idea Of You
5. Belly Belly Nice
6. (Kill The Preacher)
7. Don’t Drink the Water
8. If Only *
9. Crash Into Me *
10. Drive In Drive Out
11. Granny
12. #41
13. Spaceman
14. Corn Bread
15. Lover Lay Down
16. Rooftop
17. Pantala Naga Pampa
18. Rapunzel
19. Jimi Thing

-------- ENCORE --------

20. Runnin Down a Dream
21. Two Step

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dave Matthews Band Alpine Valley 7/5-7/6....Plus Chicago and Milwaukee

Its been a busy summer so I am again way behind on updates to this blog.  Much more to follow, but first we had the huge privilege to travel to one of the best venues to see our favorite band as well as one of our favorite cities and a surprise city as well. 
First things first and we got to Chicago on the 4th of July and got a great deal on a hotel right on the river and a few blocks from Navy Pier.  Chicago is one of my top three cities that I have ever visited and on any day it could be in the 1, 2, or 3 spot depending on my mood.  Next to NY, it is the only what I would call, metropolis, in the USA and it is also one of the cleanest.  There are so many things to love about Chicago, the food, architechture, people, but my favorite is it being on Lake Michigan.  It gives the city a unique outdoorsy laid back feel that only few other cities can rival.  We got to eat at Lou's, get to the top of a skyscraper, watch the firework's off Navy Pier, and the next morning eat at one of the few restaurants that my wife dream's about, Yolk (if you havent been, best breakfast anywhere). 

That day we took off for what many DMB fans argue as the best place to see DMB, Alpine Valley Music Theatre.  DMB fans argue SPAC and Alpine with the Gorge being the best venue hands down, but for the rest of the venues not located on Red Rocks or a beautiful river gorge, its Alpine or SPAC.  Growing up with SPAC as our hometown venue, we were very curious to see what the hype was about and man does the midwest deliver.  The place is HUGE!!! biggest pavillion I can say I ever saw and easily the biggest lawn.  The weather was phenomonal, the view is beautiful and for our experience the people were great!  Wisconsin people really have a great attitude and were so relaxed and fun.  People seem very happy out there.  No place I have ever been to does tailgating like what we saw at Alpine.  This is BIG10 country, they invented it, they do it right, I could go on and on about the amount of skill, effort, and great food that we witnessed all around us each night.  It was more than some college football games that I have been to and I have never seen that level of tailgating at any concert, especially not Dave Matthews.  Awesome!
Night one we were lucky enough to have PIT tickets and were directly in front of Dave, about 6 rows of people back, not bad.  Grace Potter opened and absolutely crushed it.  From my hometown of Burlington, Grace has gotten much better over the years and much more reognition for her style of blues-rock, and much better since we last saw her in 2011.  There was nothing like hearing the 40,000 people behind you screaming and singing the songs along with you.  The place was loud! The sound it crystal clear with the great wooden acoustics that make this venue one of the best in America.  Night one opened with a high energy Lousiana Bayou and by the time Warehouse was played a few songs later the place felt like it was vibrating from the energy.  Other highlights were Captain and a nice smooth twosome of Snow Outside into Fool to Think that featured Stanley Jordan.  The set closer of Ants-O-Ween had the place jumping! Great set, great night, great energy! NIght one set below:

1. Louisiana Bayou
2. Belly Belly Nice
3. So Right
4. Spaceman
5. Warehouse
6. Dancing Nancies
7. Save Me
8. Captain
9. (Kill The Preacher)
10. Don’t Drink the Water
11. Snow Outside *
12. Fool To Think *
13. Granny
14. What Would You Say
15. The Space Between
16. You Might Die Trying
17. Everyday
18. Ants Marching
19. Halloween

-------- ENCORE --------

20. Some Devil +
21. Drunken Soldier
22. Pantala Naga Pampa
23. Rapunzel

The next day we ventured into Milwaukee, not expecting it to be as awesome as it was.  Right on Lake Michigan and beautiful! People again awesome! Food (cheese) again awesome! and clean, architecture unique, awesome, awesome, awesome.  We spent the majority of the day on ther river walk, just very baffled that these wintery type cities, do summers better than warm weather cities.

Night Two we were again fortunate enough to have PIT tickets and were even closer than we were the night before! Grace was again awesome! DMB started off with a great run of Squirm, One Sweet World, When the World Ends, Take Me to Tomorrow, Rooftop, and then the loudest #41! When everyone screams "Yeah"!!! with Dave at Alpine, it is truely one of those unique moments.  Other highlights were Running Down a Dream, Jimi Thing, Grace is Gone with Stanley Jordan and the whole ending run, including another Halloween set closer!  NIght 2 set below:

1. Squirm
2. One Sweet World
3. When The World Ends
4. Take Me To Tomorrow
5. Rooftop
6. #41
7. Gravedigger
8. (Kill The Preacher)
9. Why I Am
10. Runnin Down a Dream
11. Jimi Thing
12. Corn Bread
13. Tim And Stanley Jam *
14. Grace Is Gone *
15. Grey Street
16. Recently
17. The Song That Jane Likes
18. You and Me
19. All Along The Watchtower
20. Halloween

-------- ENCORE --------

21. Dream Girl
22. Time Bomb
23. Two Step

The next day we took in the first place Pirates (yes that is true) at Wrigley Field before departing that night.  There will be another post on ballparks, but all I can say is that Wrigley is the shit! The fans are amazing and outside of the Old Yankee Stadium, I have never been in a better environment for a baseball game and mind you the Cubs are in last place.  Every other teams fans should be embarrassed, the Cubs do it better than all of them!