This September, in the next stretch of the Leitch Across America tour (which hit San Francisco in May) I will land in Cleveland. We'll get into a lot more details about that later, but in an immediate sense, I'm ecstatic to get to see a ballpark I've never visited before: Progressive Field.
Like most baseball fans, it's a goal of mine to make it to all 30 Major League ballparks, and Progressive is one I haven't made it to yet. The list of stadiums I haven't been to is probably the closest thing I have to a bucket list: Getting to all of them before I die is legitimately important. You understand.
Here are the parks, currently in use, that I've never been to:
• Chase Field, Arizona
• Comerica Park, Detroit
• Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City
• Marlins Park, Miami
• Minute Maid Park, Houston
• PETCO Park, San Diego
• Progressive Field, Cleveland
• Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas
• Target Field, Minnesota
That's not bad: 21 out of 30. Here are stadiums I've been to but are no longer in use, ranked in ascending order of preference:
8. RFK Stadium, Washington
7. Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati
6. Metrodome, Minnesota
5. Shea Stadium, New York
4. Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia
3. Olympic Stadium, Montreal
2. Old Busch Stadium, St. Louis
1. Old Yankee Stadium, New York
So that's a lot, but it's not enough. I've always kept an internal ranking of all the parks I've been to, partly so I can know exactly where to slot in new parks when I visit them and partly because ranking things is fun, in life and on the Internet. Because it's a lazy summer Wednesday and I can't type another word about Ryan Braun without screaming, it's time to make that internal list external.
Obviously, everyone's list will be different. This one is only mine. And know that going to every single one of these stadiums -- and this is probably the most important fact to remember when reading this list -- even the one rated last, even the one rated lower than you think it should be, is better than just about anything else I'd be doing. I'd go to any of these parks in a second, if you asked me.
Also, I will include the most recent date I went to each stadium, in case there have been massive renovations since I was last there, so you can take that into account.
All right. Deep breath. Here goes.
21. Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg. (April 20, 2007) Predictable pick here, though I don't hate it as much as everyone seems to think I'm supposed to. I love that the concourse televisions were playing the MLB Extra Innings package, as if to remind you that there were prettier stadiums featuring baseball this very second. For what it's worth, I'd put this above all but three of those parks on the no-longer-in-use list.
20. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago. (May 11, 2007) There's an odd emptiness to the Cell, a lack of quirks that can sometimes make it feel like Generic Video Game Ballpark you'd play in a game that lacks licensing to use any real parks. Also: Location counts, and this isn't a great one.
19. O.co Coliseum, Oakland. (May 27, 2013) Its deficiencies are well documented, but the place still has an undeniable charm. I wonder if this would have been a lot higher if I'd ever sat out in the lunatic bleachers.
18. Rogers Centre, Toronto. (July 13, 2012) Its cavern-ness feels outdated, and the outfield area is vast yet still somehow still busy. I liked that you could see people doing the edge walk off the CN Tower, but you know what's surprising about Rogers Center? The beer selection is mostly just Anheuser-Busch products. You guys know you're Canada, right?
17. Nationals Park, Washington. (April 22, 2013) I've groused about the atmosphere at Nationals games before, and considering how poorly the team is playing, I assume it's worse now. (Or at least more sparsely populated.) The park isn't as lovely and iconic as a stadium in such a gorgeous city should be. You can see the U.S. Capitol in left field from the upper deck, but that's about it. I like some of the odd angles in the outfield, though.
16. Angel Stadium, Anaheim. (May 1, 2008) It's a chore to get out there from Los Angeles -- another reason why the name is so ridiculous -- and it's one of those parks that feel like you're set apart from the rest of society rather than a seamless part of it. (Think East Rutherford.) You can't grab a beer before the game and then walk over to the park, or at least you couldn't in 2008. And though the rocks and what-not beyond the outfield are sort of cute, they have the same artificial, movie-set feel as a lot of this stadium does.
15. Turner Field, Atlanta. (April 30, 2011) My new home park hasn't quite grown on me yet, though I'm told I'll warm up to it. Right now it feels mostly indistinct, with no real views and a huge center field scoreboard that's sort of ugly. It's ridiculous that the MARTA train doesn't run here. I am a sucker for the Chick-fil-A cow in left field, though.
14. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. (May 1, 2006) Someone made the joke once that in the '70s, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and St. Louis all had ballparks that looked exactly the same, then they destroyed them all and built four new stadiums that looked exactly the same. That's not really true, but that sameness permeates this park. I always feel like they've never done enough to emphasize they have a river just past their outfield; you never quite feel like you're on the water there, though you are.
13. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia. (July 14, 2007) I went to the first-ever night home game at this park, when it was so nice and new that Philadelphia fans had no idea what to do with themselves: They treated it like that couch your grandma has that she'll never take the cover off. They've apparently dirtied it up some more in recent years, which it needed. One of those parks that pull off the neat trick of seeming both huge and intimate, which is worth points.
12. Yankee Stadium, New York. (July 13, 2013) Dirty secret about the new Yankee Stadium: It's not that much fun to watch a game there! Well, it's fun in the way that all baseball is fun, but the place is so huge and imposing and impersonal that it's distancing. You often feel like you're watching something happen a lot farther away than it actually is. As much as they tried to recapture the mystique and history of the old place, they didn't: You're constantly aware that this stadium is meant to be enjoyed by someone a lot wealthier than you. It's sort of like a Bellagio with a baseball diamond in the middle of it.
11. Citi Field, New York. (June 12, 2013) This is sort of a typical Mets issue: The stadium is secretly kind of lovely, with a funky outfield and good sightlines and enough chintzy charm and throwback allure to hit all the right quadrants. Unfortunately, the Mets don't have a dime to their name, so they've sold the entire place to whoever will buy, and the outfield now looks like your high school field, with ads for the local funeral home and wing bar. The Mets can't turn back now, but it's tough to feel old-timey when there are ads for Amway everywhere.
10. Safeco Field, Seattle. (September 16, 2007) I was fortunate enough to see this stadium on consecutive days, one day with the roof on and one day with it off, and while it's obviously better with no lid, it works both ways. It's a friendly stadium, like its city, and comfortable.
9. Miller Park, Milwaukee. (May 10, 2008) An underrated city has an underrated park, though it's a little farther away from the downtown area than you'd like to be. It's still charming though, and wins substantial points for having a massive parking era for tailgating. They know how to do it in Wisconsin, man.
8. Coors Field, Colorado. (August 1, 2012) It's worth climbing up to the top of the Rockpile and looking around pregame, though you wouldn't want to actually sit there the whole time. Lots of excellent drinking options before, during and after the game: The locale is ideal. Don't eat the Rocky Mountain Oysters, though. It's a trick! They're balls!
7. Busch Stadium, St. Louis. (September 29, 2012) Obvious bias here, I won't pretend otherwise. The drinking establishments outside have improved in recent years -- the whole downtown is trying to make strides, which the upcoming (finally) Ballpark Village should help with as well -- and the general warm vibe at the place raises it above where it might be otherwise. I still worry about the actual structure of Busch. An usher once joked that they "spared every expense" in building it, and you can hear it get rickety sometimes, a little worrisome for a place just built seven years ago. I'd still rather be there than just about anywhere else in the world, but again, I'm not a trustworthy source here.
6. Camden Yards, Baltimore. (April 24, 2004) The original throwback stadium, and by most accounts, still one of the best. It's good to have the Orioles relevant again: Their fans, and this stadium, deserve it. (Note: It has been nearly a decade since I've been there. It might have changed, and I might be remembering wrong.)
5. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles. (April 18, 2006) I love that so many baseball stadiums have been built in the last two decades that Dodger Stadium, in Los Angeles, a city where everything has to be new all the time, has become a beloved old pearl. Traffic is always a major pain, but every time I'm here, I think of Bob Hope, and L.A. Confidential, and Los Angeles as this perfect place with a future of limitless potential, the place everyone wanted to be, the place that, within this confined space, it is.
4. PNC Park, Pittsburgh. (August 24, 2010) The one stadium you haven't been to that you must visit. Pretty much the perfect modern city ballpark. Pittsburgh as a city has had tons of problems, but when you're in this stadium, it seems like the prettiest place in the country. I have no idea how they did it.
3. AT&T Park, San Francisco. (May 29, 2013) The perfect match of architecture and natural beauty: The only thing keeping it from being higher on this list is that it's not that old. But it might be the most purely pleasurable place to watch a game. Though with all the views, it can be tough to always keep your eye on the game.
2. Fenway Park, Boston. (June 21, 2008) The seats are uncomfortable, the fans are often jerks (though I've only been told this; I've never had an issue here) and it's crazy expensive. It still feels special when you're at Fenway. It feels like baseball in its purest form, like you're really just watching guys play it in a lot somewhere.
1. Wrigley Field, Chicago. (August 20, 2011). Yeah, still the best. I don't know what changes they're going to make to this place, but right now, as a fan, it's perfect. There are times I think they should play the World Series at Wrigley Field, every year. Lord knows the Cubs aren't using it then.
Anyway, that's just my list. I can't wait to add to it. Let's hear yours.