Category Archives: Major League Ballparks

Progressive Field – Cleveland, Ohio

— Matt Nelson

“I still call it ‘The Jake.'” Well, I can’t take credit for that line, but if you want a t-shirt with that quote, you can buy one here.

Progressive Field, probably still better known as Jacobs Field (1994-2007), is the very, very, nice ballpark located in downtown Cleveland, home of the Indians.

I’d been to a game at this park back in 2000. It’s a little different these days. Back then the Indians for the team to beat in the AL Central and the place was packed. No really, pretty much all of the time. From June 12, 1995, to April 4, 2001 the Indians sold out 455 straight games. That was a Major League record until it was surpassed by the Boston Red Sox in 2008.

These days the Indians are having a much harder time selling tickets. I visited the park for a day game on Thursday, July 1 against Toronto. No shortage of seats on that afternoon. Hopefully things will turn around a bit. The Indians are only a few years removed from their run to the ALCS in 2007. There seems to be a lot of talent in the Indians organization. But, as Indians VP for Public Relations Bob DiBiasio told me, “We are not a checkbook organization,” so don’t expect the club to sign a bunch of high-priced free agents to compliment those young players. The Indians lost Cy Young winners Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia in recent years because they couldn’t afford to keep them around.

The park is in a great location on the south side of downtown Cleveland. Sitting behind home plate or along the first or third base lines offers a nice view of the city. Of course if you sit in the left field bleachers, you’ll still find fans beating the drum.

Center Field pays tribute to the Indians long history. Heritage Park opened at Jacobs Field in 2007 and is very, very well done. Lots of great names have played baseball through the years in this city. No charge, just stroll in off the concourse. Also while strolling the concourse, make sure you hang out in the left field corner by the foul pole. A nice standing room-only area right there, and never a shortage of home run balls flying into that area either!

I love unique light towers, and the ones at Progressive Field are pretty darn cool. I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s kind of a distinctive look for the park.

Progressive Field is not at the top of my list of the 31 MLB parks I’ve been to, but it ranks relatively high and really is a nice place to take in a game. I have no complaints with this park!

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Look for more on Progressive Field when my segments on Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio, air on KCRG-TV in a few weeks, and when they’re posted on the “Ballparks of the Midwest” KCRG.com site.

Classic Park is home of the Lake County Captains of the Midwest League, and Indians affiliate. What this means is that the Captains players are playing just 18 m iles from where they hope to be in 2-4 years.

The Indians were very accomodating with my interview/video request, as well as giving me the opportunity to watch the game from the press box! Again, look for that video story in August.

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Miller Park

— Matt Nelson

Miller Park is a nice ballpark. Is it the best around? No. But there’s not a whole lot to complain about either.

I’d been to Miller Park twice for Major League games in past years, but the game on Friday, May 7, was a new experience for me as the Midwest League invaded. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers affiliate) hosted the Cedar Rapids Kernels and it was a good thing there was a retractable roof. Rain on and off all day would’ve washed this game out, but with the roof, we had baseball.

The park is located west of downtown Milwaukee in a location right next to where County Stadium was. There’s actually a Little League field in the middle of all of the Miller Park parking lots which is pretty cool. Other than that, it’s not the best surrounding for a ballpark. Just a lot of parking lots.

My complaint with the stadium itself is that it feels like a dome. I know, I know, the roof can pull back, and they open up the windows in the outfield, but even with that, when I’ve been in there with the roof open, it still kind of feels like a dome.

The most distinct Milwaukee feature of the park is Bernie Brewer’s slide out in left field. Yes, he was in attendance for the Rattlers/Kernels game, but he didn’t have much opportunity to celebrate as the Kernels won this game. And of course the most distinct thing at Miller Park is the sausage race, and yes, the race happened for this Midwest League game as well.

One thing any fan should be sure to check out is the “Roof Control” room that is located on the second level behind the press box. It looks cool, plus where else do you see a sign identifying a room as “Roof Control?” (Maybe just the other retractable roof parks)

Miller Park is a nice ballpark. I rank it near the middle of the 31 MLB parks I’ve been too. Nothing great, nothing horrible. On this day what was great was the fact that a bunch of minor leaguers got the chance to get a taste of the big leagues. There was no doubt the game at Miller Park meant a little bit more than most games during the course of a long season.

You can check out my video recap of the Kernels/Rattlers game at Miller Park by clicking here. (Thanks to the Brewers organization, they were helpful and easy going when I worked this game at Miller Park, and I had great access to get some great shots!)

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Three down, Five to Go

Shooting the Kernels and Rattlers at Miller Park in Milwaukee on May 7, 2010

— Matt Nelson

I am currently in edit mode! After a couple of weeks of busy ballpark shooting in Burlington, Davenport, and Appleton, I’m busy writing and editing the stories on those ballparks and cities that will air on KCRG-TV9’s Ballparks of the Midwest starting June 30.

I also was fortunate to cover the Cedar Rapids Kernels-Wisconsin Timer Rattlers game at Miller Park on Friday, May 7. It was quite the experience for the fans, players…and the media too!

Back to the editing…

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Filed under Major League Ballparks, Midwest League Ballparks, Project Updates

Target Field

— Matt Nelson

Finally. An effort that began in 1994 was capped Monday, April 12, 2010, at Target Field as the new ballpark on the westside of downtown Minneapolis opened for the Twins first official game. Through the years there were  many possible ballpark sites, contraction ideas, franchise relocation ideas, all kinds of nonsense. But now the Twins finally have a fantastic new home in Minnesota, and I had the fortune to be there for the first regular season game on a gorgeous sunny, 65-degree afternoon as the Twins beat Boston 5-2.

Target Field is crammed into a small lot just west of Target Center. Most visitors to the ballpark will come from the downtown side of the ballpark. The downtown side of the ballpark is also the outfield side of the stadium. So what that means is that many people may not see the home plate corner. It’s worth a walk around though just to get a sense of how small the site is (there are BNSF railroad tracks that line the westside).  Target Plaza in the right field corner is the main gathering point and home to two of the stadium entrances. The left field corner is where the light rail stops within feet of the ballpark. A “Twins Touch” to the gates is that they bear the numbers of the Twins who have had their numbers retired by the club.

What’s cool about the property being so small is that if you come from downtown Minneapolis you don’t see the ballpark until it is right in front of you. That creates a much more urban feel to Target Field than stadiums that can be seen with an unobstructed view from miles away.

Like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Target Field’s exterior is covered in Minnesota limestone. While PNC Park has a more traditional look to it, the limestone on the exterior of Target Field has a rough, abstract look. For the time being anyway, I like this. It makes Target Field unique from the more traditional exteriors that the newer ballparks have had with brick. However, I wonder in the long run if the novelty value of it will wear off and I will ask myself, “What were they thinking?”

Statues have been placed in several spots around the ballpark, there are murals on the exterior of the left field wall, and there is also the Golden Glove. This is the most popular photo spot at Target Field and short lines form as people take turns sitting in it. There is also a nearby plaque with a list of all of the Twins Gold Glove winners. The Twins also have areas on Target Plaza dedicated to past ballparks in the Twin Cities, and a legacy wall that includes the name of every player who’s played for the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins make sure to get every penny they can from you on a visit to the new stadium. The biggest team store is located in the right field corner but there are several throughout the ballpark. A little nicer than the tiny stands that were on the Metrodome concourses.

The Twins will get your money at the concession stands too, but the selections are fantastic, and unique to Minnesota. They really have a lot of variety! For $11 I tried Walleye on a Spike from the State Fair stand in Center Field. It was really good. My parents had Shrimp on a Stick and Pork Chop on a Stick, which they gave favorable reviews. The concessions lines don’t obstruct traffic on the concourses like they used to at the Metrodome either. With a couple of isolated exceptions pedestrian traffic within the ballpark seemed to flow pretty well.

The views from the upper levels of the ballpark are quite nice. From the third base side, the Minneapolis skyline. From home plate and first base, direct views of the scoreboard and the very nice “Minnie and Paul” animated sign in Center Field. Also on the top level is a pub where the stadium organist plays just feet away from patrons.

For the opener our seats were in Section 129 in the Left Field Bleachers. Good seats. We felt like we were close to the action, and the last couple of rows were in the shade all afternoon long. Even though it’s bench seating, there are backrests and the seats seemed to be plenty wide even for a sold out game. These are also great seats for people who take the light rail as they are just a few feet from the light rail stop. If you drive, I suggest parking several blocks away and walking to Target Field. There are plenty of downtown parking ramps. I suspect that parking in ramps A, B, or C right next to the ballpark would involve a considerable wait to leave after a soldout game.

Standing room abounds on the main level. Great views can be had from all areas of the outfield and the infield too. In the infield though, standing room areas and the last few rows of seats may have a bit of an obstruction for fly balls as the upper levels hang over. Make sure to check out the old Met Stadium flagpole in the Right Field corner.

Another unique feature of the ballpark is the canopy on the top of the stadium. It will provide a bit of shelter from the elements for fans up there, but it also looks pretty cool, and is unique. The lights for the stadium are actually inside the canopy, so no light towers at this yard.

I have now been to 31 MLB parks, 24 of them active. Of the ones I’ve been to I would only rank AT&T Park, PNC Park, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards ahead of Target Field when it comes to ballparks built in the last twenty years. I have no complaints with Target Field, but I still have to give AT&T and PNC the nod due to their spectacular views, and to Camden Yards because of its significance in ballpark history. Give the Twins credit, they found a way to get a ballpark that is unique in many ways, and is tailored to Minnesota traditions. Some of the newer ballparks have become cookie-cutters themselves, this is not one of them.

Target Field is a really, really nice stadium, especially when you compare it with its predecessor. Twins fans, and non-Twins fans who visit Target Field in the coming years will not go home disappointed!

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HHH Metrodome

100_9249— Matt Nelson

I was in Minnesota last week for a funeral and on the way back The Mrs. and I were spending the night in Bloomington. The next day we planned to do some shopping for the upcoming arrival of Baby Nelson.

100_9250After checking into the hotel I managed to watch innings 9-16 of the Twins Friday loss. Yes, I considered going down to Metrodome to catch some of the extra inning baseball. I realized I had a problem though. One, I had no ticket and they wouldn’t be selling them at that point. Two, the game could easily end before I made the 12ish minute trek downtown.

100_9269Saturday morning when we were checking out of the hotel I was wearing Twins gear and Front Desk Guy asked if I was going to the game that day. I responded (in a disappointed tone) by noting that we were just going shopping that day.

After visiting Ikea (the site where the old Met Center was) we were on the way into the Mall of America (the site where the old Met Stadium was) when The Mrs. made the mistake of noting she wasn’t in any real hurry. That mistake, plus the numerous other people clearly heading to Metrodome for the game (an easy trip from MOA to Dome via light rail these days) prompted me to play “Let’s Make a Deal” as I talked her into 5 innings of that afternoon’s Twins game (unless somebody had a no-hitter going).

Pay no attention to the blue seats behind the curtain

Look at those lovely blue seats hidden behind the curtain.

Short story made long, I made what is likely my final trip to the Metrodome Saturday and saw 5 innings of what turned out to be a 4-3 Twins win. It was 2-0 Twins when we left. Francisco Liriano looked good and Cuddyer and Morneau whacked home runs while we were there. While we were driving home the Twins proceeded to give up the lead before regaining it. It was probably better for my stress level that we left when we did.

100_9262While the Metrodome was not a very good place to watch baseball, it was nice Saturday to be able to easily by $10 tickets 30 minutes before game time, and to not have to sit in the periodic afternoon rain showers that day.

I’ll miss the Metrodome’s a little bit having been to 51 baseball games there, but outdoor baseball at Target Field in 2010 will be very nice. April 12, 2010 v. Boston is the opener, now I just need to find a ticket!

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Baby Nelson's 1st MLB Game (Sort of)

Baby Nelson's 1st Twins Game (Sort of)

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Other St. Louis Stuff

100_9170— Matt Nelson

(This is an article that compliments Busch Stadium III)

The place to find baseball history in St. Louis is the Cardinals Hall of Fame. I haven’t been there, but that’s what I’m told. Problem is, because they have yet to build the planned ballpark village, there is no current HOF to visit. 

The Missouri History Museum isn’t a bad alternative. Admission is free, parking is free, and it’s located in Forest Park.

100_9201The museums exhibits include ballpark seats from Sportsman’s Park (a.k.a. Busch Stadium I) and Busch Stadium II. Old photos of the ballparks, old jerseys, video (film), turnstiles, program sales stands…basically a little bit of everything. Right now there’s a display case near the main entrance that includes All-Star Game related artifacts. There’s also an All-Star Game arch outside the front door.

100_9195While at the Missouri History Museum, be sure to check out the exhibits on Charles Lindbergh and the 1904 World’s Fair. Those exhibits are very well done. The 1904 World’s Fair exhibit includes a little bit of info on the 1904 Summer Olympics which were also in St. Louis. It’s really too bad Tug of War and Fancy Diving are no longer sports, or at least called those names.

100_9189If you want more information on the Lost Ballparks of St. Louis, check out this site that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has put together.

100_9163There is no shortage of baseball themed restaurants in the St. Louis area. Near the ballpark are Mike Shannon’s and The Mad Hungarian’s joints. Out in the suburbs you’ll find Pujols 5 and Ozzie’s Restaurant.

100_9165We went for Ozzie’s. Good food at a very reasonable price. Nice collection of memorabilia including a whole lot of Gold Glove Awards.

100_9097Of course no trip to St. Louis is complete without a trip up to the top of the Arch. We bought our tickets for later in the day and then came back at that time (you can also buy them on-line). The only thing is that you have to wait in the security line just to be able to buy tickets at the arch. Another thing to keep in mind, when they say your ticket is for a time such as 4:00, it’s more likely to be 4:45 before you actually get on your way up to the top. Despite a short wait, it’s worth it! 

The best thing about a drive from Eastern Iowa down to St. Louis? As of last July the Avenue of the Saints is now complete. It’s all 4-lane once you get to the AOS.

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Busch Stadium III

100_9112— Matt Nelson

(Click here for a seperate St. Louis post)

It’s a bad sign when the temperatures are so hot that somebody passes out and falls at a night game. Of course I didn’t attend the night game, I attended the Saturday afternoon game the next day. Brilliant planning. Why the Cardinals originally scheduled it for a 12:15 start I will never understand. Despite the city’s best attempts, the game was not moved to the evening.

100_9117The temperature was 92 degrees for the first pitch. It rose to a high of 97 later in the game and factoring in the heat index, it felt like it was a little under 110.

100_9125My pregnant wife was a trooper and did very well in the heat. We all were helped by the fact that we moved up a level and into the shade after 1.5 innings. It felt somewhat cooler there. Credit the Cardinals for giving away free water and having misters in different spots of the ballpark as well. The ushers were also doing a good job of moving older fans to shaded seats. The $10 I spent the day before on my own mister might be the best $10 I’ve ever spent.

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The View From the Gateway Arch

As for the game, my beloved Twins just couldn’t get it done Saturday(although they did take 2 of 3 in the series). Squandering opportunities with runners in scoring position and giving Pujols pitches right down the groove, two of which he hit out of the yard.

This was my third visit to Busch Stadium III. I saw Royals v. Cardinals games in both 2006 and 2008. The ballpark is very nice and there’s nothing wrong with it. At the same time, there’s nothing that stands out about it either. The view of downtown is very nice and you know you’re in St. Louis because of the great view of the Arch.

100_2038The brick on the exterior works nicely with the Redbird theme. Some of the steel on the lights and stadium exterior were built to resemble the historic Eads Bridge.

100_9100One thing that I saw this time around that I hadn’ t noticed in the past, are spots in the left and center field concourse where the Busch Stadium II dimensions are marked within the new ballpark.

100_9118The biggest problem with Busch Stadium III right now is still the uncompleted ballpark village. The area just beyond left and center field is supposed to be filled with new multi-use development, but that hasn’t happened yet. At least it’s gone from being a pit to a parking lot, but it’s still an eyesore. Someday they will get their ballpark village built. Too bad it didn’t happen in time for the All-Star Game, which Busch Stadium III hosts on July 14.

The best thing about going to a game in St. Louis are the fans. They really get into the game, and they really know their baseball. That raises Busch Stadium III from being an average ballpark to slightly above average in the new age of stadiums.

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Plenty of Open Seats in the Sun
Plenty of Open Seats in the Sun

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