Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stadium Memories

While I absolutely love meeting athletes and getting autographs, I also enjoy going to different stadiums and sports arenas around the country.  I find the fans, food and atmosphere at different stadiums fascinating.  Since we are still in the spring training season, I am thinking about which baseball stadiums and parks I will be visiting this year.

Since I am based on the east coast, I have been fairly limited to where I have been.  I will be blogging about some of my experiences at the stadiums I have visited soon.  The following are some of the experiences from fellow blogger Aaron Garcia from AllSportsTalk.net:

Growing up in Southern California, I was pretty privileged to have three major league baseball stadiums within about 150 miles of my house.  I grew up going mostly to Dodger and Angel games, but when I got older I went to a few Padres games on occasion. I have had the privilege of visiting 10 major league parks, although only 7 of those would still count now since the Padres, Giants and Mets have all gotten new ballparks since I came to visit. Below are the stadiums I’ve visited in no particular order.

1.       Dodger Stadium
2.       Angel Stadium
3.       Qualcomm Stadium (before the Padres moved)
4.       Candlestick (before the Giants moved)
5.       Coors Field
6.       Chase Field
7.       U.S Cellular
8.       Wrigley Field
9.       Miller Park
10.   Shea (before the Mets moved)

Candlestick Park

I have had good experiences at just about all of these parks with the exception of Candlestick.  You see, I grew up in a Dodger family (which meant we hated the Giants and vice versa).  When I was 6 years old, my parents and I were on a trip to San Francisco and it just so happened that the Dodgers were in town.  I was smiling uncontrollably as I put on my dodger gear in preparation for the game, but my mood changed the moment I walked through the gates.  My parents and I were cussed at, belittled and abused, all because I was wearing Dodger’s gear.  It was one of the worst experiences of my life.  I can’t say that the same thing wouldn’t have happened at Dodger Stadium, but it is doubtful. 

Shea Stadium

My experience at Shea was during a senior class trip to NYC.  It was April and being from Southern California, I stupidly assumed that the weather everywhere in the US was as awesome as it was in LA.  I froze my toes off sitting in the nosebleeds at Shea, but it will go down as one of the most memorable games I’ve ever been to, even if for all the wrong reasons. 

Miller Park

Miller Park was an awesome experience as well.  I went there a couple years ago right after I graduated college.  I got to see Prince Fielder homer and Bernie Brewer go down the slide (although not into a mug of beer like he did at the old stadium). 

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field was another memorable trip for me.  I have family in Chicago and used to go back there every summer for a week or so. My family is full of White Sox fans (not sure why) and our trip usually took place when the sox were in town.  One time, however, the Cubbies were in town and nobody else from my family wanted to go, so me and my mom packed up the rental car and headed on over to Wrigley.  Seeing the ivy on the walls in person was an amazing experience.  I’m not too sure how much longer Wrigley will be around, but I am very glad that I got to see it and would love to go back. 

Comiskey Park (U.S. Cellular Field)

Sticking to Chicago, I also got to see what is now US Cellular, although it was called Comiskey Park when I used to go.  I don’t remember anything specific from the White Sox games I went to, except that one time the game got rained out and I cried like a baby.  I’m not even sure how old I was or that it even matters – but I cried my eyes out because I wanted to see some baseball. 

Coors Field

Coors field was an interesting experience for me.  I was a junior in high school and had just gotten done with a baseball camp at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  My family came to pick me up and we decided to head over to Denver for a Rockies game. We got to visit the ring of purple seats that mark 1 mile above sea level, but thankfully our seats were a little closer to the action.  This is a beautiful park and a must-see if you ever find yourself in town at the same time as the Rockies. 

Qualcomm Stadium (Old Padres Digs)

I went to a few games down in San Diego, but it was a lot further of a drive for me than Angel or Dodger stadiums were, so it was a rare treat to see the Padres play.  Also, I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of them, seeing as they were NL West division rivals of my Dodgers.  Quite frankly, the old stadium down in San Diego wasn’t that nice.  I would love to get back there to see Petco Park.  I like baseball stadiums with an old timey feel. 

Chase Field

This is my new stomping grounds, so to speak, now that I reside in Phoenix.  I usually only go to D’Backs games when the Dodgers are in town, but every now and then I make an exception (especially if free tickets are involved).  Thank God for retractable roofs and air conditioning.  There is nothing quite like the feel of stepping into the ballpark which is usually kept at a cool 76 degrees when you just parked your car in 110 degree, skin melting heat.  It’s a huge ballpark, in terms of seating, so don’t get the cheapest tickets or you really won’t be able to see much. 

Angel Stadium

Even though I don’t like to admit it, I tried to rebel and become an Angel’s fan when I was younger.  I loved Chili Davis, Wally Joyner and Chuck Abbott.  Playing Wiffle Ball in the backyard with my dad, I was the Angels and he was the Dodgers.  We really only went to Angel games when the Red Sox were in town, mainly because my dad was a closet Roger Clemens fan.  A couple times we went when the Royals were in town because my dad liked Brett Saberhagen too.  Most of the Angel Games I went to were before they renovated the stadium, but once they did, they turned it into one of the most beautiful parks in all of Major League Baseball. 

Dodger Stadium

And here is where I start to show some of my bias.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many Dodger games I have been to (usually arriving in the third inning and leaving sometime after the 7th inning stretch – like good Dodger fans do.  My dad and I would sit out in left field pavilion with a bag of peanuts and a handheld radio so we could still hear the sweet sound of Vin Scully’s voice.  I would peek over the railing and watch the Dodgers warm up in the bullpen and on the way to the bathrooms, there were little gaps in the fence where you could get an even closer view of the pitchers throwing in the pen.  One time, my dad caught a home run ball from Steve Sax and got him to autograph it after the game.  I still have the ball and ticket to this day.  The views of the field and even of the surrounding area are amazing at Dodger Stadium.  The park is in pristine condition, despite being the home of the Dodgers since 1962.  So many amazing memories there, Dodger Stadium is and always will be my favorite baseball stadium. 

Aaron Garcia is the owner of All Sports Talk, a sports blog covering MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA Sports.  He covers topics ranging from general sports news to satire and even practice tips for young athletes looking to improve their game.  You can follow Aaron and All Sports Talk on Twitter @allsportsnet.

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