Trip 10: Southern California Love

Previous: Trip 9 - No. California

The state that produced Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams didn't have Major Legaue Baseball until 1958, when the Giants and Dodgers migrated from New York (beginning baseball's virtual re-enactment of the gold rush). The Dodgers struck gold with a vintage ballpark that has flown five World Series championship flags, and still gets raves for its ambience (and its Dodger Dogs) 45 years later. Southern California's love of baseball is evident, as three major league teams currently thrive, and towns like Rancho Cucamonga and Lake Elsinore support the California League. So take advantage of the oh-so-perfect weather by renting a convertible and seeing the best of the ballpark offerings in this baseball-loving corner of the U.S.A.

Look for dates for this trip in the Baseball Road Trip Planner
(Schedules for minor-league teams in independent leagues are not available)

ico_orbitz Los Angeles: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

ico_orbitz San Diego: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

ico_orbitz Anaheim: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Address: 1000 Elysian Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Capacity: 56,000
Opened: 1962
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
League: National (MLB)
Web site | Directions |

At the age of 45, Dodger Stadium is worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of historic ballparks, alongside Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. The park has been the host of eight World Series, two perfect games, a mass by Pope John Paul II, and performances by U2, the Rolling Stones and the Three Tenors, among others. Its '60s charm and sprawling panoramic views make it a must-see destination.

One of baseball's few privately financed stadiums, the entire 300-acre facility is immaculately landscaped and kept in pristine condition. The playing field is regarded as the best in baseball. Club seats have recently replaced much of the park's vast foul territory, suites have been renovated and every seat is being replaced as the Dodgers pay tribute to the park's history by restoring its original muted color scheme. Unfortunately, getting a good look at the entire park is difficult; the multi-tiered entry ensures you'll remain on the concourse for which you were ticketed. Take consolation in the form of a Dodger Dog, regarded among the best ballpark hot dogs in baseball (or join the California crowd at the sushi stand).

ico_orbitz Los Angeles: Hotel

Driving distance from Los Angeles to Anaheim: 32 miles

Ballpark: Angel Stadium
Address: 2000 E Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, CA 92806
Capacity: 45,050
Opened: 1966
Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
League: American (MLB)
Web site | Directions |

In the shadows of Disneyland lies Angel Stadium -- the home of the Angels since 1966. "The Big A" has undergone two major facelifts, which certainly doesn't make it unique in Tinseltown. When the NFL's Rams moved to Anaheim in 1980, more than 20,000 seats were added to the three-tiered stadium, enclosing the outfield and increasing the capacity to more than 65,000. The park's signature feature, a 230-foot, 240-ton "A"-framed scoreboard, was moved into the parking lot, where it remains today.

After the Rams left in 1995, Disney (which bought the team from the legendary Gene Autry in 1996) undertook a renovation that undid the previous revisions, restoring the park's rightful configuration as a baseball-only facility. The outfield once again provides mountain views and open air. Other aesthetic upgrades include a new home plate entry and the "California spectacular," an elaborate fountain and waterfall to the left of the batters-eye. Other amenities abound, including family seating, three full-service restaurants and an interactive game area, but the team's history -- two of Nolan Ryan's seven no-hitters were hurled here -- deserves more prominence.

ico_orbitz Anaheim: Hotel

Driving distance from Anaheim to Rancho Cucamonga: 43 miles

Ballpark: The Epicenter

Address: 8408 Rochester Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
Capacity: 6,200
Opened: 1992
Team: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Angels)
League: California (A)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

Naming your franchise, and your ballpark, after California's preeminent natural-disaster threat is certainly creative -- there are mascots named Tremor and Aftershock, for goodness sake! -- but it sure seems like tempting the fates. At least they have the Angels on their side. Regardless, the Epicenter is an apt name for a building that annually leads the California League in attendance and has become the centerpiece of development in the area around the park.

The exterior is white, with arched glass windows. Palm trees line the plaza. The Epicenter, thus, looks like the concrete spawn of a baseball stadium and a suburban office park. A statue of comedian Jack Benny -- whose comedy helped put this winery town on the map -- greets fans at the main entrance. Inside, seats along the first base side provide beautiful views of the San Gabriel Mountains. Open air cafés top the concourse down the left- and right-field lines. Chicken burritos highlight the concession offerings.

ico_orbitz Rancho Cucamonga: Hotel

Driving distance from Rancho Cucamonga to Lake Elsinore: 40 miles

Ballpark: The Diamond
Address: 500 Diamond Drive, Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
Capacity: 7,866
Opened: 1994
Team: Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres)
League: California (A)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

Populated by the convergence of San Diego and Los Angeles outskirts, Lake Elsinore is no longer the middle of nowhere. On the contrary, it's a SoCal water-sport haven that has become a showcase city in the California League. The Diamond made the Minor League News list of top 10 ballparks for three straight seasons (2002-04), largely on the strength of the mountain views and the lakefront setting. The building has a 360-degree open-air concourse so you can keep your eyes on the game at all times. There will be eyes staring back at you; the team caps are adorned with an intense pair of eyes, one of the most popular logos in the minors.

ico_orbitz Lake Elsinore: Hotel

Driving distance from Lake Elsinore to San Diego: 75 miles

Ballpark: PETCO Park

Address: 100 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
Capacity: 42,445
Opened: 2004
Team: San Diego Padres
League: National (MLB)
Web site | Directions |

Two years after opening, PETCO Park is still surrounded by cranes as development of the "Ballpark District," adjacent historic Gaslamp Quarter, continues. Though it feels like you're walking through a construction site to get to the game, it's worth the trip. The ballpark itself is atypical of the many red-brick 'retro' parks now dotting the landscape. Made of Indian sandstone, stucco and exposed steel, painted white, the park -- with ocean-blue seats, we might add -- looks very much at place in laid-back San Diego.

Architectually bold, PETCO boasts towers behind first and third base that house multiple luxury boxes and provide a unique aesthetic. The park's signature feature is a century-old building -- the Western Metal Supply Company -- that was incorporated into the design. Tucked in the left-field corner, the Western Metal building houses a team store, two stories of party suites and a full-service restaurant. Atop the structure are rooftop bleachers, a la Wrigley Field. Behind centerfield, in addition to views of the city, you can enjoy "The Park at the Park," where you can watch the game from a berm or watch the kids play supervised Wiffle Ball games on an adjacent ballfield. For an additional $3, you can enter the centerfield bleachers and "The Beach," a sandbox just behind the centerfield fence. Concourses are wide and airy, sightlines are among the best in baseball, food options are endless (and include Rubio's fish tacos) and the LED board is state-of-the-art.

ico_orbitz San Diego: Hotel

Driving distance from San Diego to Point Loma: 7 miles

Ballpark: Carroll B. Land Stadium
Address: 3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego, CA 92106
Team: Point Loma Nazarene University Sea Lions
League: NAIA
Web site

Its location on the seaside cliffs of San Diego's Point Loma give Carroll B. Land Stadium the distinction of "America's Most Scenic Ballpark." With the Pacific Ocean looming beyond the outfield, it looks as if any ball hit could drop directly off a cliff into the ocean below. The immaculate field and the palm trees cement the park's well-deserved reputation.

Officiallly, the park is home to the Point Loma Nazarene University, who were inspired enough by the view to record a 25-6 home record at the park named for the former coach in large part responsible for turning the field into a destination for ballpark enthusiasts. Summer visitors are likely to find a game to take in. The park is constantly in use throughout the summer by the Naval Academy, fantasy camps and the like.

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