Tag Archives: Major League Ballparks

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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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!

100_9270

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

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

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Wrigley Field

100_9013— Matt Nelson

Wrigley Field never gets old. I’ve been there 8 times now and I love the place. I rank it second of the Major League Ballparks I’ve visted (Fenway as No. 1).

100_9032This past weekend was interesting in Wrigleyville because there were Minnesota Twins fans everywhere. While there are certainly Twins fans who make road trips when the Twins play at Milwuakee or on the Southside, this was a weekend series where thousands of fans made the trip down I-94.

100_9035Wrigley is such a unique experience not only because of it’s age (you have to expect that a pole will block your view of part of the field), but because it is truly a neighborhood ballpark. Some might argue that Fenway has that too, but Wrigleyville is distinct.

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Nationals Park

100_8734— Matt Nelson

It’s not in the Midwest. And it’s not the minor leagues, but last week I saw two games at my 30th Major League Stadium! I still have 6 more active parks that I haven’t been to (NYY, NYM, SD, ARZ, SEA, OAK), but I’ve crossed Nationals Park off of the list.

100_8766The ballpark is very nice, it’s just too bad the team is sobad. Located south of the United States Capitol, Nationals Park is an attempt to redevelop an industrial area of town. Will it work? Time will tell. Taking the Metro to the ballpark dumps you off a block from the stadium, and unless a concentrated effort is made, most fans won’t see most of the exterior. This might be a good thing considering the visual blight that much of the industrial neighborhood is.

100_8891Nationals Park isn’t a “retro park.” It really has a modern look to it. The thing about it is, nothing really stands out from the other parks built in recent years. There’s nothing unique about the playing field dimensions. There aren’t really any quirks to the entire stadium, and unfortunately there are very few seats with a view of the U.S. Capitol. The other thing that doesn’t help is that the tickets are expensive, especially when the quality of the team is taken into consideration.

100_8875Give the Nationals credit as they did work to make it a green building of the ballpark. The best thing about going to a Nationals game are The Presidents. George, Tom, Abe and Teddy. Teddy has yet to win the big race in the 4th inning, which is the running joke.

100_8752If you get a chance to see a game at Nationals Park, it is a nice place to watch baseball and there’s nothing wrong with the stadium. However, there’s also nothing that really makes it unique.

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