OK, so let’s get this out of the way: There is no bad MLB stadium to watch a game. Why? Because you are watching baseball at the highest level with incredible things happening!!!
But, as we all know, the surroundings make an experience better … or worse. And we aren’t just talking about the folks sitting around you who were complete strangers when your ticket was scanned at the gate.
I have been to 17 MLB stadiums — including all five current venues in California — 13 of which still exist (Milwaukee County Stadium, Metrodome, Busch Stadium II and Globe Life Park have since been replaced). Well, I guess 18 if you count going to Candlestick Park in San Francisco for an NFL exhibition game.
What criteria did I use to create this list? Again, we are talking about watching a game, so I wanted it to be about feeling comfortable in the stadium, having unique characteristics, and having amenities. It has nothing to do with the home team.
Also, I am going to tilt a bit toward modern ballparks without forgetting the historical stature of certain stadiums. There are about six tiers of stadiums, with a good portion being very close to each other in the second half of this list.
Enough of my blather setting this up, grab your popcorn from the concession stand and sit back and criticize my list of stadiums for watching MLB games:
1. PNC Park, Pirates
Do you like bridges? How about water close to the outfield wall? A picturesque view of downtown? Check. Check. Check. Now factor in the history built into the PNC Park, including the 21-foot-high wall in right field to honor Roberto Clemente, and the coziness of only having two decks and it all adds up to a great experience. Walking around the stadium before or during the game is easy. Sure, the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t exactly been making winning headlines with their play, but the stadium has the amenities to compensate for that (and the team is getting better). Every time I see this stadium on TV, I want to go back.
2. Oracle Park, Giants
From the creators who brought you PNC Park, you could easily swap Oracle Park into the No. 1 spot. While the home of the San Francisco Giants has had way too many names since opening in 2000 thanks to changing sponsorships (Pacific Bell Park, SBC Park, AT&T Park, and now Oracle Park), the smell of garlic fries and view of San Francisco Bay make it an envy of most every other team. The stadium sits on the revitalized waterfront, with balls that clear the wall in right splashing down in McCovey Cove and sending kayakers paddling for souvenirs. Having lived in San Francisco for about 15 years, I saw plenty of games here, including my first two World Series games in 2014.
3. Petco Park, Padres
No top three for MLB stadiums is complete without Petco Park, San Diego’s gem of a venue. This stadium is perfectly tucked into the downtown, so you can have dinner and a few beverages in the Gaslamp District and walk to the stadium. The views are pretty good, too, although mainly of other downtown buildings, which might be the only negative considering how close it is to San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Like its counterparts in Pittsburgh and San Diego, Petco Park is cozy and has its quirks, including the Western Metal Supply building down the left-field line.
4. T-Mobile Park, Mariners
Though I haven’t been to Seattle yet, T-Mobile Park is on a short list of stadiums I want to go to. Many will become more familiar with T-Mobile Park’s assets as the Seattle Mariners are set to host the 2023 All-Star Game. Surrounded by a wealth of restaurants and drinking establishments, the stadium is part of the vibrant downtown footprint. While the stadium does have a retractable roof, it doesn’t totally enclose the stadium, leaving it vulnerable to weather conditions (i.e. not totally protected from the cold in the spring). Food offerings inside the stadium stray from the tried-and-true path to include grasshoppers, Spam, sushi, and gourmet toast.
5. Coors Field, Rockies
Coors Field might be a little high at No. 5, but I had a great experience in my one visit here for a three-game series. The complete openness of the Colorado Rockies’ home field is refreshing, particularly sitting in the left-field bleachers. The purple-colored seats marking the mile-high elevation are a nice touch, but the real attraction is the understated views. There is just something relaxing about sitting in your seat at Coors Field watching a game. In a nod to the region, there is an area beyond the wall in center field field with a waterfall, pine trees and water fountains. The neighborhood is pretty good, too.
6. Target Field, Twins
While you can question how wise it was for the Minnesota Twins to build a stadium without some sort of roof (retractable or otherwise), what they did build in Target Field deserves a spot high on this list. Twins fans sure must appreciate the coziness and personality of Target Field after 28 years in the hollowness of the Metrodome despite the weather challenges. Built by the same group behind the stadiums in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Baltimore and other cities, the Minneapolis version is a more modern take, with less of the old-school brick feel. Still, it fits nicely within the business district of the city.
7. Kauffman Stadium, Royals
Yes, there is legitimate chatter that the Kansas City Royals could be getting a new stadium. But that won’t happen for at least a few more years. That argument is mainly based on the location of Kauffman Stadium, which doesn’t have much ambiance around it unless you are talking about Arrowhead Stadium, home to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. That aside, Kauffman Stadium still holds an allure, with the fountains and waterfall beyond the fence in right-center field. There have been upgrades and adjustments to the stadium and the field, but the open view beyond the stadium’s outfield holds up as picturesque. It keeps the stadium among the ones I most want to visit, in addition to a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum just down Interstate 70.
8. Citi Field, Mets
This entry from the New York Mets is probably a little high for my liking, but the throwback theme to Ebbets Field in addition to the sensory overload of electronic ribbon boards, scoreboard, and other message boards won me over. Citi Field has just a bit of what everyone is looking for in a ballpark experience, with nods to history (all the seats are green like they were at the Polo Grounds) and something new (the party deck in left field). The bridge motif that appears throughout the ballpark goes to the wealth of bridges in New York City.
9. Camden Yards, Orioles
The OG of the modern MLB stadium still has staying power after more than three decades. That is because of the atmosphere around the Camden Yards, particularly the old B&O Warehouse and Eutaw Street beyond right field. While their play over the years has been to the contrary, the Baltimore Orioles set the standard by which all other stadiums are judged and patterned. Some of the view has been diminished by a hotel beyond left field, but the overall feel of taking in a game in this stadium has not changed.
10. Minute Maid Park, Astros
If you want to take about ballpark features, there isn’t much that tops Minute Maid Park. The home of the Houston Astros, like ’em or hate ’em, has the Crawford Boxes, the train high above the playing surface, a retractable roof, four heights of the outfield wall, an entrance through an old train station, and a gas pump that tracks home runs. Thankfully, Tal’s Hill was taken out of center field. It is spacious yet cozy, with plenty just outside the ballpark to keep you entertained before or after the game.
11. Truist Park, Braves
The second-youngest MLB stadium followed the pattern of creating an atmosphere around the ballpark to have foot traffic for those not attending games. The home of the Atlanta Braves, Truist Park has a wealth of diverse viewing options even if the view beyond the ballpark isn’t that great. The biggest plus for Truist Park is the highest percentage of seats closer to the field than any other stadium in MLB. The batter’s eye beyond center field includes pine trees and a water feature that adds to the in-stadium experience.
12. American Family Field, Brewers
Come for the Racing Sausages, stay for Bernie Brewer doing a home run slide. The Milwaukee Brewers hit a home run with American Family Field and have done a few alterations around the ballpark to keep it fresh. The most important aspect of the stadium is the retractable roof, which can be open for the good weather in the summer, while closed due to rain or cold. There isn’t anything of note around the stadium, so fans are forced into their favorite pregame activity of tailgating. The smell of brats on an open flame can draw anyone in.
13. Dodger Stadium, Dodgers
In case you thought I was forgetting a few of the historic stadiums, I didn’t. I grouped these three stadiums together because it is difficult to create separation between them. Dodger Stadium generally rates pretty high on most lists like this, but if you go to a game, you hopefully understand why I have it down here. In my one visit to the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it felt like I was visiting someone’s grandma who hadn’t realized she could buy new furniture. Everything around the stadium felt old, including the concession areas. The Dodgers have made upgrades in the last couple years, especially in the outfield section, and the views from the upper deck are terrific.
14. Fenway Park, Red Sox
The oldest MLB stadium opened in 1912 and has seen its share of history. Fenway Park is noteworthy for the Green Monster, a 37-foot-2-high wall in left field, and the Pesky Pole, aka the right-field foul pole a mere 302 feet away from home plate. Of the three relics, the Boston Red Sox took the earliest action to keep their stadium somewhat modernized. As with the other two, it should be on everyone’s to-do list and is the only one of the trio I haven’t been to.
15. Wrigley Field, Cubs
A year short of celebrating its 100th birthday, Wrigley Field is still a must-see venue. It was only in recent years that the Chicago Cubs have taken significant steps to upgrade Wrigley. Aside from the ivy-covered walls, which take a bit to come in each spring much like any plants, there are no significant features of Wrigley other than the surrounding neighborhood, which has become commercialized with landlords selling sets atop the buildings across the street.
16. Busch Stadium, Cardinals
The third version of a St. Louis Cardinals ballpark with the Busch Stadium name, the downtown venue leaves fans roasting in the summer sun, although you have a nice view of the Arch.
17. Citizens Bank Park, Phillies
Ashburn Alley, a row of restaurants, will fill you up if the Philadelphia Phillies start lacking for entertainment.
18. Nationals Park, Nationals
If you thought politics was shady, you need to check out the Presidents’ race after the top of the fourth inning. Teddy Roosevelt went nearly seven seasons without winning a race.
19. Progressive Field, Guardians
Did you know that the 19-foot-high wall in left field was known as the Little Green Monster? Neither did I.
20. Globe Life Field, Rangers
The distance between home plate and the wall behind it is 42 feet, honoring Jackie Robinson. Also, Globe Life Field is the youngest MLB stadium, having opened in 2020.
21. Comerica Park, Tigers
In addition to a 15-foot-high tiger statue outside the main entrance, there is a Ferris wheel outside the stadium on the third-base side with cars designed like baseballs.
22. Great American Ball Park, Reds
Two steamboat-inspired smokestacks in center field spew fire with every strikeout recorded by a Cincinnati Reds pitcher and fireworks for every home run by the home team.
23. Chase Field, Diamondbacks
The capacity for the Chase Field swimming pool in right-center field is 35.
24. loanDepot Park, Marlins
The home run structure that used to be in center field cost $2.5 million in public funds and is now on display at an outdoor plaza.
25. Rogers Centre, Blue Jays
The original mascot of the stadium was a turtle named Domer. Domer has an Instagram page.
26. Yankee Stadium, Yankees
The back wall of Monument Park is covered with black shades to prevent any reflections from distracting batters.
27. Guaranteed Rate Field, White Sox
The home plate from the previous stadium, Comiskey Park, has been preserved in the parking lot.
28. Angel Stadium, Angels
During the 2028 Summer Olympics, Angel Stadium (and Dodger Stadium) is scheduled to host softball games as well as baseball games.
29. Oakland Coliseum, A’s
Opossums have been sighted multiple times at the Coliseum, including the press box in 2022.
30. Tropicana Field, Rays
The stadium was home to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lighting for three seasons in the 1990s as it tried to lure an MLB team.