One of my favorite purchases of the last year was from Etsy. It was not some sort of stitching, or a vintage bottlecap, or earrings in the shape of Donald Trump. It was this map.
From Minneapolis-based Map My Travels, it's a mounted, framed wall hanging that allows you, with push pins, to track every Major League Baseball stadium you've been to. They also have maps of national parks, kids' attractions and even a global map of tourist destinations. Every time you've been to a place, you push a pin in there; there's a black pin for the place you just went, and a red one for you where you are going next. I find it irresistible. Life flies by. It's important to remember where we've been. Every one of those pins means something to me. Every one is its own memory.
And the map is almost full.
It has taken me almost 40 years, but as of now, with a new baseball season on the horizon, I have been to all but five MLB stadiums. Last year, I knocked off Arizona. I'm getting close. I am nearly there.
If you're curious, here's my ranking of the 25 active MLB parks I've attended. Everyone has his or her own list. I'd love to hear yours at email@example.com. I'm excluding Busch Stadium from this list, because I am a Cardinals fan, and thus completely biased here. Busch isn't the best stadium in baseball -- though it's certainly in the top half -- but I'd always put it atop a list like this just because it's always the one stadium I can't turn down a trip to visit. Your favorite team's stadium feels like home, regardless of its objective value. It's yours.
Anyway, here is my subject-to-change ranking of the best stadiums. Remember, though, even the worst on this list is wonderful. It's better to be at a baseball game than to be doing just about anything else.
This list takes into account all of it: sightlines, concessions, location, coziness, history, that ineffable subjective sensation unique to every individual.
24. O.co Coliseum, Oakland A's
23. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays
22. Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays
21. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds
20. Turner Field, Atlanta Braves
19. Nationals Park, Washington Nationals
18. Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
17. Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks
16. Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians
15. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox
14. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies
13. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City Royals
12. Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees
11. Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers
10. Target Field, Minnesota Twins
9. Citi Field, New York Mets
8. Coors Field, Colorado Rockies
7. Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles
6. Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners
5. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox
3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates
2. AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants
1. Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs
What can I say? I'm a sucker for Wrigleyville.
This leaves five stadiums I have not yet seen.
Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers. I've gone to the World Series every year since 2013, so I've been this close to going to Detroit a couple of times. Tigers fans are nodding along here, yep.
Globe Life Park, Texas Rangers. The backdrop behind center field has always been fascinating to me. It looks like they could have a horserace just beyond the center-field fence. The only problem I can see with this one is the same problem Jerry World has: It's out in the middle of nowhere and it's impossible to walk there. (This is the problem with Kauffman Stadium too, if we're being frank.)
Marlins Park, Miami Marlins. The newest stadium. I'll get there as soon as I can, sheesh, I'm busy, all right, it's only four years old, cut me a break. I'm still pretty certain I can see that statue from my house here in Georgia, though.
Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros. I never made it to the Astrodome either. To be honest, I've never even been to the city, a situation I will rectify next week for the Final Four. But the closest I've ever been to Minute Maid is "Boyhood" and, of course, Albert Pujols in 2005. When I go, I really need to talk them into letting me ride the train.
Petco Park, San Diego Padres. This stadium is hosting the All-Star Game this year, so this is one I know I'll finally get to knock off the list. San Diego is another city I've never been to before. I need to travel more.
Anyway! I need to get that map full so I can complete those rankings … and my map. But until then, I need your help. Thus, as the NCAA Tournament winds down, we proudly introduce MLB Stadium Madness, in which we at Sports On Earth ask you, our readers, to help us figure out the best MLB stadium. This will go on over the next several weeks, with different matchups each Friday.
I'll visit the winning stadium later this year and write up a thorough, This Is What This Place Means review. So my future is in your hands. Hopefully you pick one I haven't seen before.
First off, the bracket! You can put together a 30-stadium bracket, as long as you give two stadiums byes. Rather than attempt to seed the stadiums myself, I decided to seed them by age. The oldest stadiums get the top two seeds, and on down. It might lead to some funky first-round matchups, but that's the fun of it.
Thus, this is how the bracket looks:
1. Fenway Park
2. Wrigley Field
3. Dodger Stadium
4. Angel Stadium of Anaheim
5. O.co Coliseum
6. Kauffman Stadium
7. Rogers Centre
8. Tropicana Field
9. U.S. Cellular Field
10. Camden Yards
11. Globe Life Park
12. Progressive Field
13. Coors Field
14. Turner Field
15. Chase Field
16. Safeco Field
17. AT&T Park
18. Comerica Park
19. Minute Maid Park
20. Miller Park
21. PNC Park
22. Great American Ball Park
23. Citizens Bank Park
24. Petco Park
25. Busch Stadium
26. Nationals Park
27. Citi Field
28. Yankee Stadium
29. Target Field
30. Marlins Park
So, the matchups. Vote with your heart, your head and your soul. Polls close at noon on Thursday, March 31.
No. 3 Dodger Stadium vs. No. 30 Marlins Park
No. 4 Angel Stadium of Anaheim vs. No. 29 Target Field
No. 5 O.co Coliseum vs. No. 28 Yankee Stadium
No. 6 Kauffman Stadium vs. No. 27 Citi Field
No. 7 Rogers Centre vs. No. 26 Nationals Park
No. 8 Tropicana Field vs. No. 25 Busch Stadium
No. 9 U.S. Cellular Field vs. No. 24. Petco Park
No. 10 Camden Yards vs. No. 23 Citizens Bank Park
No. 11 Globe Life Park vs. No. 23 Great American Ball Park
No. 12 Progressive Field vs. No. 21 PNC Park
No. 13 Coors Field vs. No. 20 Miller Park
No. 14 Turner Field vs. No. 19 Minute Maid Park
No. 15 Chase Field vs. No. 18 Comerica Park
No. 16 Safeco Field vs. No. 17 AT&T Park
Some tight matchups there, particularly that last one. Make your voice heard, and we'll be back with the Sweet 16 next week.
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Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me @williamfleitch; or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.