<
>

Six More Great Ballparks

7/27/2006

When we embarked upon researching and compiling our Baseball Road Trips package, we knew we couldn't capture every last sparkling baseball diamond around the country, and that we'd inevitably miss a few of baseball's finest stops.

So after a few weeks of gathering feedback, we've decided to add an addendum, featuring six more great ballparks to add to the list.

Remember that our Baseball Road Trip Planner is a handy tool for scheduling your own baseball road trip.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
Ballpark: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Address: 333 West Camden Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
Capacity: 48,876
Opened: 1992
Team: Baltimore Orioles
League: American (MLB)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule

We wanted to include Oriole Park at Camden Yards in one of our road trips, but we just couldn't make a full trip work. The minor-league parks in the area are generally not well-regarded, and RFK Stadium is forever Skins country in our minds. Perhaps if the Nats get a real ballpark, we can talk.

But please don't think our omission of Camden Yards means we don't regard it highly. We were merely trying to avoid the obvious majors-only trips in order to give you new ideas, but it never hurts to take this classic I-95 junket: Boston (Fenway), New York (Yankee + Shea), Philly (Citizens Bank) and Baltimore (Camden).

Pristine, detailed retro ballparks are a dime a dozen (well, maybe a few billion a dozen...) these days, and a couple may even arguably surpass Camden in overall experience, but still: they're all knockoffs.

Camden Yards remains the original. So go. For the Inner Harbor views and the B&O Warehouse and Boog's Barbecue and an all-around pleasant day at the ballpark with comfortable seats and great views of the ballgame from around the park. It's a ballpark that any true fan should visit at least once.

ico_orbitz Baltimore: Hotel

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
Ballpark: Rickwood Field
Address: 1137 2nd Avenue West, Birmingham, AL 35204
Capacity: 10,800
Opened: 1910
Team: Birmingham Barons (White Sox)
League: Southern (AA)
Web site | Directions
Rickwood Field hosts one Barons game per year, the Rickwood Classic; this year's was played on June 22.

In doing our research, one ballpark stood out above and beyond the many outstanding minor-league parks which dot this country: Birmingham's Rickwood Field.

Built in 1910, Rickwood Field is the oldest active park in baseball. Formerly the home of the minor-league Birmingham Barons and the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues, Rickwood now hosts one minor-league game per year, the Rickwood Classic. It's a throwback game featuring the AA Barons that counts in the standings. By all means, try to catch one if you can.

The key thing to know about Rickwood is this: it's restored, not renovated. Unlike the many retro ballparks which have sprouted up that are thoroughly modern in reality, Rickwood Field is like stepping into a time machine, thanks to the ongoing efforts of the non-profit group Friends of Rickwood, who fund the restoration.

Features include a grandstand which is covered all the way from behind third base around to the right-field corner, a hand-operated scoreboard in left, overhanging light towers, vintage ads on the outfield walls, and a rooftop gazebo press box behind home plate.

Rickwood Field, used in the filming of movies Cobb and Soul of the Game, hosts many amateur and semi-pro ballgames throughout the year and is open for visitors to take free self-guided tours.

The honor roll of Hall of Famers who have played at Rickwood includes the following: Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Hornsby, Mathewson, Wagner, DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Musial, Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Mays, Paige, Fingers and Reggie Jackson. Not bad.

ico_orbitz Birmingham: Hotel

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
Ballpark: AT&T Bricktown Ballpark
Address: 2 South Mickey Mantle Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73104
Capacity: 13,066
Opened: 1998
Team: Oklahoma RedHawks (Rangers)
League: Pacific Coast (AAA)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule

Quite frankly, we really should have extended our Lone Star State Swing to Oklahoma City to include this absolute gem of the minor leagues, which has been ranked as the No. 3 park in the minors for the last two years by Joe Mock on MinorLeagueNews.com, after holding the top spot in 2003 and 2004. On his site BaseballParks.com, Mock says, quite simply, "I've not seen a nicer design for a minor league park."

One of the anchors of the revitalized downtown entertainment district known as Bricktown, "The Brick" is fittingly constructed of just that: plenty of red brick. The seating is intimate around the stadium, including both berms and bleachers in the outfield. Statues of Oklahoma baseball legends Mickey Mantle and Johnny Bench stand outside.

With the Ford Center rocking to the NBA action of the Hornets just a few blocks away from AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, Oklahoma City has quietly become home to two of the better venues for professional sports in America. Who knew?

ico_orbitz Oklahoma City: Hotel

EVANSVILLE, INDIANA
Ballpark: Bosse Field
Address: 1701 N. Main St., Evansville, IN 47711
Capacity: 5,110
Opened: 1915
Team: Evansville Otters
League: Frontier (Independent)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule

Multiple e-mailers pointed out that we missed Bosse Field, a treasure in Evansville. Add it to the Mid-South to the Majors tour, and take a break from the amenities of modern ballparks with an old-school classic.

Originally opened in 1915, Bosse served as the home stadium of the Racine Belles in the movie A League of Their Own. The home of the Frontier League's Evansville Otters, Bosse Field's seating bowl is a big ol' semicircle, which leaves plenty of foul territory between the fans and the game. But after you unfold your wooden seat in the grandstand, we're sure you won't mind. Truly a baseball experience as it used to be.

ico_orbitz Evansville: Hotel

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA
Ballpark: West End Field
Address: 945 South Main Street, Greenville, SC 29601
Capacity: 5,700
Opened: 2006
Team: Greenville Drive (Red Sox)
League: South Atlantic (A)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule

Of all the places in the country you might expect to find a miniature version of Fenway Park, perhaps only the Bronx is more unlikely than South Carolina, don't you think? But there it is, beautiful new West End Field, which opened this year in Greenville, S.C.'s vibrant historic West End district.

This Red Sox affiliate has apparently decided to try to get its outfielders ready for the big club, as there's a mini-Green Monster (the Green-ville Monster is "just" 30 feet tall, as opposed to Boston's 37-footer) complete with a hand-operated scoreboard in left, a notch in the center-field fence, and a right field which curls around to 302 feet at its version of the "Pesky Pole."

All reports are that West End enjoys a Fenway-like measure of intimacy, as well, with seating sections are limited to a maximum of 13 rows. The grassy berm -- a standard feature of new minor-league parks -- offers an unique vantage point at West End, as it's in foul territory behind third base, angled toward home, rather than in the outfield.

Unfortunately, there are no Fenway Franks here, but then again, you can't get fried cheesecake at Fenway, as you can at West End Field.

For detailed reviews of West End Field, check out BallparkDigest.com or Baseballparks.com.

ico_orbitz Greenville: Hotel

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA
Ballpark: Grayson Stadium
Address: 1401 E. Victory Dr., Savannah, GA 31414
Capacity: 8,000
Opened: 1941
Team: Savannah Sand Gnats (Nationals)
League: South Atlantic (A)
Web site | Directions |
Schedule

At the behest of ESPN.com senior writer Jim Caple, who took a modified version of this South Atlantic Circuit trip for Page 2, we've added Grayson Stadium and Savannah, Georgia.

Not that our arms had to be twisted to add this venue as an extra stop -- Savannah is one of the more unique destinations in the U.S. (and has seen tourism skyrocket since the release of both the book and movie versions of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"), and Grayson Stadium is one of the more historic venues in the minors (Aaron, Mantle and Jackie Robinson all played here).

The approach to the stadium along stately, tree-lined Victory Drive is lovely. What the ballpark may lack in modern amenities is offset by plenty of old-school charm. Not only is the exterior made of red brick, but so is the foundation of the main grandstand seating area. There are bleachers behind the short porch of 290 feet in left field (a Class A rarity), but you can no longer sit in them, as they've been condemned and are scheduled to be torn down. Take it over to the Skybox Bar & Grill in right field, or simply stick to the covered grandstand area and enjoy a relaxed Savannah evening at the ballpark.

ico_orbitz Savannah: Hotel