The Journey to All 30 (Pt. 1)

Many baseball fans around the country dream of going to the ballpark of every team in the MLB. With 30 parks in 2 countries and 18 states (including the District of Columbia), it is the adventure of a lifetime. Most fans try to travel around to the ballparks that they can, seeing their team play on the road. I have always taken a different approach to this journey. While I love seeing the White Sox play on the road, (which I have done more than ever in the last 4 years while attending a college in Ohio) there is something about attending a game at a new ballpark and cheering for the home team for the day that is very intriguing.

In my experience, discovering what it is like to cheer for the home team is a big part of seeing what the ballpark is like. Some cities and teams have absolutely electric crowds, no matter the time of day or the team that is visiting. Other cities/teams have more of a “fair-weather” feel, where it seems like everyone is there to drink beer and watch baseball, rather than support the team playing. Because of the length, I have decided to break it down and do 2 separate articles with 3 teams in each one. Though I have only been to 6, this summer I aim to cross off 5 more, meaning a 3rd and potentially 4th edition of this article will be out later on. (Author’s Note: I am not ranking them, so the order in which I write about them is random.)

  1. Guaranteed Rate Field- Chicago, IL (Chicago White Sox)

Of course, I had to start with my team’s ballpark. Being a White Sox fan, this is my home away from home, and I have been spending my summers going to games for as long as I can remember. While it is a common “joke” that going to a White Sox game is dangerous because of the stadium’s location, I think Guaranteed Rate deserves more merit than a backhanded insult such as that. I have been to more games than I can count, and have NEVER felt unsafe. I cannot think of a better way to spend a day than going to a White Sox game.

Pros: The food is absolutely unbelievable. Sure, the hot dogs are great, and there is soft serve ice cream served in helmets but, there are also delicious churros and Polish sausages with grilled onions that are to die for. Another big pro about Guaranteed Rate is that the Red Line runs directly next to the stadium, so it is easy to get down there without driving. The White Sox also do a lot of fun “theme” nights, including Hawaiian Shirt Night, Mullet Night, Greek Night (ft. Southpaw in a Toga), etc. In addition to that, they also do post-game fireworks several times throughout the season, and those have notoriously been out of this world.

Cons: Though I am a White Sox fan myself, I am the first to admit that White Sox fans are very fair-weather. When they are doing well, the stadium is filled and the crowd is on fire. But when they aren’t, tickets don’t sell and the fans are bitter and cranky. We are definitely not on the level of Yankee fans, but I would not call White Sox fans the most friendly. That is not to say I have ever had a bad experience while at at game, more so just the overall attitude of people tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Photo Credit: Alexis Atwater
Photo Credit: Alexis Atwater
Paul Konerko’s Last Game, U.S. Cellular Field

2. Progressive Field- Cleveland, OH (Cleveland Indians)

Progressive Field is a ballpark I have become very accustomed to in the last 4 years. Going to a school in Northeast Ohio and spending the last few summers here as well, the only way for me to see the White Sox play was to make the trip up to Cleveland. Progressive Field is nice, and the fans aren’t bad. I would not say that this ballpark makes my eyes turn into hearts, but it is a nice place to catch a day game. Though I am typically only there when the White Sox are in town, I have also experienced being an Indians fan for a day.

Pros: Their bleachers are really fun. The notorious Cleveland “drum guy” who has been going to Indians home games since he was young, and in 43 seasons has only missed about 40 games, has his home in the left field bleachers. He is a very nice fan, and seeing someone so dedicated to a team is refreshing. Another great thing about the Indians in general, is the fact that some of their minor league teams play close to Cleveland. For example, the Akron Rubberducks (Cleveland AA) is only 20 minutes away from Kent, where I go to school, and only about 40 minutes from Progressive Field. RubberDucks games are a really fun and an inexpensive activity.

Cons: Cleveland as a whole is kind of a boring city. But, an odd thing about Progressive, their soft pretzels are AWFUL. I never knew it was possible to mess up a soft pretzel, but I have given them multiple chances and every time I am disappointed. As I said above, Progressive Field as a whole is more or less perfectly fine. It just doesn’t have any WOW factors like some of the other ballparks I have been to.

Photo Credit: Alexis Atwater

3. PNC Park- Pittsburgh, PA (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Out of the 6 ballparks that I have been to so far, PNC Park is without a doubt the most gorgeous. Between the bridge, the skyline, and the river, the backdrop almost seems imaginary. I went to PNC a couple of years ago for a night game during the week against the Cardinals. It was a really fun game and despite the fact that it was in early April, the weather remained nice and I got to truly experience the beauty that is PNC Park.

Pros:  First and foremost, the views at this park are insane. Seeing photos of it, or what it looked like on TV set my expectations very high. Those expectations were all exceeded within 30 seconds of getting to my seat and seeing the skyline perfectly laid out beyond the walls of the stadium. Another great thing about this ballpark was definitely the fans. Though they seemed mellow at the beginning, they really got into the game and were very nice. Seeing fans fly the Jolly Roger after the win was also a fun experience.

Cons: The food basics, in my opinion, were very subpar. The hot dog I had was not very good at all, and the popcorn tasted a little bit like it was scooped off of the floor in a movie theater and put into my bag. Quite frankly though, those are the only negatives that I could think of for PNC. My experience was amazing, and I cannot wait to go back.

Photo Credit: Alexis Atwater
Photo Credit: Alexis Atwater

Without a doubt, there is no better way to spend time than catching a ballgame. Whether it is at the stadium you love and are most familiar with, or experiencing a new city by paying their team a visit, the love of the game is a very driving force.

Part 2 of this little installment is coming soon. Until then, what ballpark is your favorite? Have you had any bad experiences? Send a tweet my way and give me your opinions!

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