FINAL MLB BALLPARK VISIT – #41
Before the ballpark story, I have to mention Cooper’s Town. Not Cooperstown, NY where the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is located, but rocker Alice Cooper’s sports bar a couple of blocks from the ball park in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. The place displays rock and roll and sports memorabilia all over the place and a fun menu with items either named after some of Alice’s best known songs or after sports legends. For instance, the Big Unit, named after Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson, is a 22 inch long hot dog – a big unit indeed!
Now, let’s get into the ball park tale. I guess I won’t be visiting any major league ballparks in 2016 for anything other than the pleasure of seeing a good baseball game. With my recent journey to Chase Field in Phoenix, I have completed my quest to see all current major league baseball stadiums in use today. And when you add in the ten now defunct former ballparks and the one “off- site” venue that was used, I have been to 41 major league ballparks to watch a big league game!
I started going to major league games in the 1960’s, enjoying many trips to both Yankee Stadium and She Stadium in New York. In the 1970’s, I added Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta and then Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, witnessing games one, two, six and seven of the 1979 World Series there. In the ‘80s, I added Houston’s Astrodome and Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium to the list, while the 1990’s brought me to Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami for the newly created Marlins, Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia, as well as the cold and windy Candlestick Park in San Francisco. In 2007, I ventured to RFK Stadium to see the Washington Nationals play before their new ballpark opened. Those ten stadiums are no longer in use by major league teams and all but three have been demolished. In 2007 and 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays played regular season three game series at Champion Stadium at Disney’s Wild World of Sports against the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays respectively, thus making that venue on “off-site” location for actual major league games and I attended all six of those games.
While I saw games at Dodger Stadium in LA, Turner Field in in Atlanta, Baltimore’s Camden Yards and St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field in the 1990s, all the other 26 MLB ballparks currently in use I have been able to see in the new millennium, including this final stop on September 7, 2015. Chase Field is a gorgeous venue, famously known for its swimming pool in the right field stands as well as being the place where Luis Gonzalez hit the walk-off single against Mariano Rivera in game seven to win the 2001 World Series for the Diamondbacks over the Yankees! And Gonzo was instrumental in helping my niece, Sheryl secure the best seats in the house for my visit – first row behind the DBacks dugout! And niece Amy’s children made signs depicting my historic event that got my image flashed on the centerfield video board and on local television during the game’s broadcast. I also received a personal visit from Baxter the Bobcat, the team mascot, who autographed my signs!
There are great sightlines everywhere at this ballpark and on all levels. There is a wonderful children’s play area on the third level in the left field corner where kids can play whiffle ball, run the bases and have a whole lot of fun! This ball park has a retractable roof due to the intense desert heat and since this was a day game, with temperatures outside reaching 100 degrees, the roof was closed. While this closure provided maximum comfort, it did take away from being able to see the city’s skyline outside the venue.
I’d rate this ballpark in my top ten for sure, maybe even top five. It was a great place for me to finish my tour and having the great seats and being with Sheryl and Amy and their families made it an even more special way to enjoy my 41st ball park! While I will take a break from the ball park tour in 2016, I can’t wait for the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium to open in 2017, so I can claim number 42!