You may not like him, but the Nationals were right to invite Donald Trump to Opening Day

img_7425Listen, I don’t like Donald Trump either. Setting aside the fact that he’s a deplorable human being who brags about committing sexual assault, he’s a willfully ignorant narcissist who’s largely made a joke out of our electoral process. He won the nomination of his party by slinging school yard taunts and playing on the worst xenophobic and racist impulses among the least educated and refined of our populace. He’s neither prepared the job he holds, nor does he respect the basic civic institutions of our democracy. His grasp on reality is so tenuous I question his ability to be employed whatsoever, let alone his qualifications for the most important public office in the most consequential and powerful country in the world.

You probably either wholehearedly agree with that characterization or wildly disagree with it. I don’t particularly care which. This is America. You’re entitled to your opinion.

But since this is America, let me state one principle that should be sacred: the President of the United States should throw out the first pitch in Washington DC on Opening Day. I don’t care about the party and I don’t care about the policies. Some things should transcend politics.

Washington DC doesn’t have a lot of baseball traditions. There are no retired numbers on the façade of the upper deck (other than 42), and the pennants flying above the scoreboard are very lonely. Most of DC baseball history is littered with losing and misery. When Broadway wanted produce a musical about a terrible professional baseball team, they chose the Washington Senators.

DC baseball may not have a tradition of winning, but we have an unseverable connection between the Presidency and baseball. The first President to attend a professional baseball game, Benjamin Harrison, saw the Senators lose to the Reds (of course) in 1892. It was at a Senators game in 1910 the tradition of the first pitch was born. William Howard Taft became the first President to throw out the “first ball” on Opening Day. He did it again the next year. President Woodrow Wilson continued the tradition, throwing out the first ball on Senators Opening Day three times. The next nine Presidents all threw out the first ball on Opening Day in Washington DC, combining to do it 40 times. When professional baseball came back to DC in 2005, President George W. Bush was on the mound. He was there again when the Nationals opened their new stadium in 2008. President Obama threw out the first pitch in 2010 (albeit wearing the wrong hat).

When it was leaked Tuesday morning that the Lerners intended to invite President Trump to throw out the first pitch next Monday, the reaction on social media was predictably negative, ranging from mild disapproval to outright anger. I get it. Lest you think I’m a fan of Trump, I direct your attention to the first paragraph above.

The problem is there is no credible argument not to invite him, unless you intend to kill this DC baseball tradition altogether. Some argued that Opening Day is meant to be a happy occasion that shouldn’t be interrupted by such unpleasantries like protests and political animosity. This is a paper thin argument, likely covering a dislike of the personality involved.  Most people making this argument probably wouldn’t be doing so had the election swung the other way, and they probably didn’t make it 7 years ago when President Obama was invited to Nats Park.  It’s fine, I suppose, to argue politicians should stay away from ceremonial sporting events altogether. But I won’t entertain that argument if it was only discovered this morning.

Others argued that the Lerners should respect the values of their fans, who voted overwhelmingly against then-candidate Trump. Washington DC as a city voted 96% for Hillary Clinton and every neighboring county voted the same way, although not to those numbers. The problem here: Washington DC always votes Democrat, and always overwhelming so. Applying a popularlity test before a President is invited to Opening Day elminates 50% of our Presidents.

The most common objection, though, were those who said they weren’t opposed to a President, even a Republican, from throwing out a first pitch, just this President. There’s something–indeed many things–that are so uniquely distasteful about him. He’s an outlier. I am sympathetic to this argument. See above. However, this line of thought can be applied to any President (think Nixon or the anger toward Bush 43 after the Iraq War). As politics coarsen and the lines of political division harden, this problem will only get worse. You don’t like this guy? You probably won’t like the next guy either.

The biggest problem, however, is taking a purely ceremonial, non-partisan job, and disqualifying the applicant for purely partisan reasons. Throwing out a first pitch is the least political thing a President can do. It’s one of the few places he can be a fan and we can forget about the policies he may or not be pursuing. Objecting to the President because you don’t like him takes a non-political activity and makes it political.

It’s hard to escape the unprecedented unpleasantness of our current national political dynamic. The sitting President, especially a locally unpopular one, throwing out the first pitch would have–for only a minute–been a symbol that some things are not as abnormal as they might seem. Baseball survived through World War I, World War II, and Watergate. Presidents of both parties were there to throw out first pitches both before and after.

You may think locking Donald Trump out of Opening Day keeps baseball’s sacred day from becoming political. But locking him out because of his politics does the opposite. You may not like him, but the Lerners were right to invite him. This is Washington DC’s greatest baseball tradition and it should be kept alive at all costs.

DC may be a swamp. But turning Opening Day into a political litmus test would only make it swampier.

Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #23 Progressive Field

2016-10-06_Progressive_Field_before_ALDS_Game_1_between_Cleveland_and_BostonLast year, I achieved a life goal: seeing all 30 active MLB stadiums.  It’s a fleeting achievement though, which will become obsolete the moment the Atlanta Braves open their brand new stadium this April.  So now is the perfect time to rank the stadiums, since I’ll need a new ranking in only a few weeks.

Over the next 30 days, I’ll countdown the best stadiums in MLB–Turner Field included, since this is the last time I’ll ever get to rank it.

Rankings like this are inherently subjective.  I won’t try to give them a faux-objectivity by creating a point system like you’ll see in other rankings on other websites.  I also don’t rank peripheral factors like food, beer, and fan support.  I only care about the building and the location.  I’m ranking stadiums, not stadium experiences.

30. Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  (Oakland Athletics)

28. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

27. Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)

26. Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

25. Turner Field (Atlanta Braves)

24. Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox)

23. Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians)

The last entry on this list, Guaranteed Rate Field (formerly U.S. Cellular formerly Comiskey), carries the distinction as the last stadium to be constructed before Camden Yards changed the rules for building stadiums.  Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field) carries the opposite distinction–the first one to be built afterward, along with the Texas Rangers’ new stadium, then called The Ballpark at Arlington.  Camden opened in 1992–the Indians and Rangers opened theirs in 1994.  These two stadiums, even more so than the one in Baltimore, cemented the trend of retro-modern stadiums in MLB.

After it’s construction, Jacobs Field was a massive success.  Most teams see attendance booms in the first year of a new stadium.  Many fade after one season.  The Indians sold out every game at their new stadium for 455 consecutive games from 1995-2001, a streak only recently broken by the Boston Red Sox.  Of course, the Indians had great teams in the late 1990’s, but the excitement of the new stadium helped fill the seats.  There were several seasons during their sellout streak where every ticket was purchased before the season began.

Things have changed since then.  Even with a pennant winning team, the Indians couldn’t even average 20 thousand fans a night last season.  Progressive Field is now neither new, nor unique.  Eighteen different teams have opened new ballparks since the Indians first christened Jacobs Field.  Think about that.  Progressive Field is now in the top half of oldest MLB stadiums.

Had I made this list 20 years ago, there’s no question the Indians stadiums would have been ranked in the Top 10, probably Top 5.  The fact that it’s now ranked number 23 is not a reflection on the ballpark, it’s a reflection on the creativity and ingenuity being used in modern stadium construction.  This ranking isn’t an indictment of Progressive Field; it’s a compliment to modern baseball architecture.

In many ways, Progressive Field is the perfect stadium for the Indians and for Cleveland. For comparison, the Texas Rangers have already made plans to replace their stadium opened the same year.  Turner Field, built after Progressive Field, has already been retired.  As noted, the Indian’s stadium has aged, but it’s not showing it.  On the contrary, the team has continually tinkered with the stadium to keep it fresh and to current with modern trends.  A two-year renovation was just completed, adding new amenities like updated club levels and a new bar.  Most notably, they decreased capacity to roughly 35K, which is more appropriate for Cleveland’s market size.  Unlike Texas and Atlanta, it’s unlikely to see Indians fans clamoring for a new ballpark anytime soon.

Part of Jacobs Field’s initial attraction back in 1994 was the upgrade it provided from the Indians former home, Cleveland Stadium.  Commonly referred to as the “Mistake by the Lake,” Cleveland Stadium was a largely lifeless multi-purpose stadium the Indians shared with the Browns.  Too big for the baseball with over 70 thousand seats, the park would be freezing from Lake Erie winds during the colder months and swarming with midges during the warmer months.  The move to Jacobs Field presented a contrast in almost every way.

The new stadium was downtown, away from the lake winds and among restaurants and bars.  The ballpark became a centerpiece of a largely successful city downtown revitalization.  The Cavaliers now play right next door at Quicken Loans Arena.  Where Cleveland Stadium was cavernous, Jacobs Field was intimate, with seats closer to the field with improved sightlines thanks to it’s baseball-only design.  The old stadium was plain, the new one had quirks–an asymmetrical outfield and eccentricities like the mini-Green Monster in left field.  Even the stadium lights were unique–a toothbrush-like design so distinctive the team put it on its stadium logo.

Progressive Field is a hard stadium to rank.  There is nothing about it that’s lacking, but there is also nothing about it that makes it transcendent–at least not anymore.  Back in 1994, the Indians discovered the right formula to build a ballpark.  Unfortunately for it’s spot on these rankings, it’s a formula easily replicated throughout the country.

Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #24 Guaranteed Rate Field

1024px-thumbnailLast year, I achieved a life goal: seeing all 30 active MLB stadiums.  It’s a fleeting achievement though, which will become obsolete the moment the Atlanta Braves open their brand new stadium this April.  So now is the perfect time to rank the stadiums, since I’ll need a new ranking in only a few weeks.

Over the next 30 days, I’ll countdown the best stadiums in MLB–Turner Field included, since this is the last time I’ll ever get to rank it.

Rankings like this are inherently subjective.  I won’t try to give them a faux-objectivity by creating a point system like you’ll see in other rankings on other websites.  I also don’t rank peripheral factors like food, beer, and fan support.  I only care about the building and the location.  I’m ranking stadiums, not stadium experiences.

30. Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  (Oakland Athletics)

28. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

27. Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)

26. Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

25. Turner Field (Atlanta Braves)

24. Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox)

In 1988, then-Baltimore Orioles President Larry Lucchino met with representatives of the architectural firm HOK (now Populous) to discuss designs for the team’s new stadium.  The HOK reps brought with them a replica of the Chicago White Sox’s replacement for Comiskey Park, slated to open in 1991.  Baseball had just emerged from a period of multi-use cookie stadiums like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, which were drab and lifeless.  HOK tried to update the prototype by designing a cookie cutter baseball-only venue with modern amenities and, most importantly to the owners, revenue generating suites.  The result was the design for the new stadium in Chicago.  HOK hoped to replicate it throughout baseball.  With luck, the league would be filled with identical new Comiskey Parks–fully functional, modern venues that were in no way distinctive or unique.

Lucchino, of course, told them to get out and come back with something better.  It was too late for the White Sox, however, who got saddled with new stadium that was obsolete before its first birthday.  Guaranteed Rate Field (renamed last year) looks different now than it did when it opened in 1991.  The team quickly realized how badly they missed out on the 1990’s retro-ballpark craze, and they decided to renovate and make their home less antiseptic, since a new stadium wasn’t an option.  Starting in 2000, the White Sox began tinkering with what was then known as Comiskey Park and later became U.S. Cellular Field.   Arguably no baseball stadium has changed so quickly in such a short amount of time.  The blue seats became green.  A multi-layered concourse was added in the outfield.  The team added seats closer to the field and removed ones furthest away.  Outfield dimensions were changed to make them less symmetrical and to make room for new bullpens, party decks, and restaurants with a field view.  Guaranteed Rate Field is far more fan friendly now than it was in 1991, and it’s no longer the snaggletooth of new MLB stadiums.  It’s a pleasant place to watch a game, and it has almost everything a fan wants.

The White Sox play on the South Side of Chicago, amid highways, parking lots, and housing projects.  The site was chosen because it was adjacent to the old Comiskey Park, one of baseball’s old great stadiums, built in 1911 (the old home plate is still preserved on the site).  The atmosphere surrounding Guaranteed Rate Field is the inverse of Wrigleyville on Chicago’s North Side, with its walkable streets filled with neighborhood bars and overpriced townhomes.  The contrast further validates the stereotype of the White Sox as Chicago’s blue collar team.

In the run up to the Cubs’ first World Series win since 1908 last October, ESPN’s SportsCenter flashed a graphic of “Chicago’s Championships” since the last time the Cubs won.  It listed titles won by the Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks, while completely omitting the White Sox, who ended their own multi-generational World Series drought in 2005.  It was like ESPN forgot Chicago had a second baseball team.  Symbolic and not surprising.

We are counting down the top MLB stadiums from worst to best.  It’ll be a while until we get to Wrigley Field.  The White Sox may or may not be Chicago’s forgotten baseball team, but they definitely play in Chicago’s forgotten stadium.

Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #25 Turner Field

Last year, I achieved a life goal: seeing all 30 active MLB stadiums.  It’s a fleeting achievement though, which will become obsolete the moment the Atlanta Braves open their brand new stadium this April.  So now is the perfect time to rank the stadiums, since I’ll need a new ranking in only a few weeks.

Over the next 30 days, I’ll countdown the best stadiums in MLB–Turner Field included, since this is the last time I’ll ever get to rank it.

Rankings like this are inherently subjective.  I won’t try to give them a faux-objectivity by creating a point system like you’ll see in other rankings on other websites.  I also don’t rank peripheral factors like food, beer, and fan support.  I only care about the building and the location.  I’m ranking stadiums, not stadium experiences.

30. Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  (Oakland Athletics)

28. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

27. Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)

26. Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

25. Turner Field (Atlanta Braves)

Turner Field was a little like Atlanta itself: generic, artificial, and a derivative of something more authentic.  That sounds a little harsh, and it is, but there was nothing remarkable about Turner Field, much like there is nothing remarkable about Atlanta.  Both the stadium and the city have everything you need, but neither of them are very unique.

Years ago, the State of Georgia passed a law giving generous tax breaks to Hollywood studios filming in the state.  If you’ve noticed a proliferation of TV shows and movies with an Atlanta backdrop (The Walking Dead, almost every Marvel movie), that’s why.  On one level, it’s a basic financial transaction between corporation and municipality.  On another level, it works.  Atlanta easily passes for Generic American City for any film project where the location in fungible.  Atlanta is there, it fills the frame, but it doesn’t overshadow what’s in the foreground.

Turner Field was Generic American Ballpark.  It had a pleasant brick exterior, exposed steel in the concourse, all the modern concessions, and a giant video screen.  But it was difficult to pinpoint–other than the incessantly grating tomahawk chop music–anything about the place that stood out.

Turner Field, of course, is the only stadium in this 30 Stadiums in 30 Days countdown I refer to in the past tense.  The Braves played their last game there last fall, and the stadium is being repurposed for Georgia State football.  Atlanta will be moving to a stadium, well, outside Atlanta to neighboring Cobb County, closer to the team’s suburban fan base.  The new stadium, SunTrust Park, will be a multi-use development with office space, apartments, restaurants, a movie theater, and a bowling alley.  The strategy–and it’s not a bad one–is to generate income 365 days a year.  It’s the latest trend started to some degree by the Cubs and Tigers to benefit from non-baseball revenue near the site of your home ballpark.

But enough about the new place–back to Turner Field.  The stadium owes some its awkwardness to its origin.  It was initially constructed as the home stadium for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.  In an impressive display of civic efficiency, it was immediately converted to a baseball-only facility for the 1997 season.  The renovation was so complete, you’d never know it was constructed for track and field and not baseball.  In 2005, Turner Field was upgraded with the largest video screen then in existence along with LED displays, which frankly were oppressive to the eyesight.

Turner Field was built within walking distance to the Braves former home, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium near downtown Atlanta.  The near is critical there because Turner Field was near a lot stuff, but adjacent to nothing.  For the fan, there was nothing more to the gameday experience than the game–no walkable restaurants, bars, or anything else.  It was just a sea of parking lots.  The new stadium project will attempt to remedy that, and then some.

The outline of the old Fulton County Stadium outfield wall is still marked in the Turner Field parking lot.  This is noteworthy because the Fulton County outfield saw one of the most famous moments in baseball history, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run.  Aaron is omnipresent throughout Turner Field, along with several other notable figures in Braves/Georgia baseball history, like Phil Niekro and Ty Cobb.  Along the second deck in the outfield, the Braves displayed 14 pennants, signifying one of the most impressive feats in baseball history–14 consecutive division titles, including five pennants and one World Series win in that stretch.

Most of that recent success took place at Turner Field.  Nonetheless, attendance dwindled, some theorize because of the stadium’s inconvenient location.  So after 20 years–adolescence for a baseball stadium–it was abandoned.  It speaks to the fans’ affinity for the place that very few tears were shed.  Atlanta can, and will try, to do better.

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Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #26 Miller Park

Last year, I achieved a life goal: seeing all 30 active MLB stadiums.  It’s a fleeting achievement though, which will become obsolete the moment the Atlanta Braves open their brand new stadium this April.  So now is the perfect time to rank the stadiums, since I’ll need a new ranking in only a few weeks.

Over the next 30 days, I’ll countdown the best stadiums in MLB–Turner Field included, since this is the last time I’ll ever get to rank it.

Rankings like this are inherently subjective.  I won’t try to give them a faux-objectivity by creating a point system like you’ll see in other rankings on other websites.  I also don’t rank peripheral factors like food, beer, and fan support.  I only care about the building and the location.  I’m ranking stadiums, not stadium experiences.

30. Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  (Oakland Athletics)

28. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

27. Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)

26. Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

Anyone who has been to Wisconsin in April knows why the Brewers have a retractable roof.  It can get cold, and when it gets cold, a climate controlled stadium can have huge benefits.  But there’s something about indoor baseball that doesn’t feel right.  It just doesn’t feel like baseball.  Now that we’re at number 26 on this countdown, we can see it’s not a coincidence that four of my bottom five stadiums are domes or retractable roof stadiums.

It’s not the roof, however, that puts Miller Park near the bottom of my list.  It’s the feeling inside the park.  Much like Chase Field in Arizona, Miller Park looks and feels like a warehouse or airplane hangar.  More than any other stadium, Miller’s roof is very prominent, both when it’s open and closed, and that’s not a good thing.  The roof itself is an innovative design that unfolds like a fan.  It’s a nifty piece of engineering, but it’s not an atheistic masterpiece.

Miller Park isn’t a bad stadium; it’s actually a very enjoyable park.  It’s still relatively new, so it’s loaded with all the modern amenities.  Because it’s Milwaukee, there’s a beer stand or bar every five feet.  Bernie Brewer, the team’s mascot, has a his signature yellow slide to go down after Milwaukee home runs.  It’s kitschy and cheesy, but it’s the right kind of kitschy and cheesy.  Besides, it wouldn’t be Wisconsin without a little bit cheese.

Miller Park was built right in the middle of the MLB stadium boom in 2001.  Between 1998-2001, seven stadiums opened in four years.  All of them capitalized on the retro-classic or retro-modern style in the spirit of Camden Yards, which opened in 1992, or Jacobs Field, which opened in 1994.  Unlike it’s contemporaries, the Brewers opted not to build their stadium near downtown like Houston, Pittsburgh, or Detroit.  Instead, Miller Park was built next to the old Milwaukee County Stadium, which everyone couldn’t wait to tear down.  The distance detracts from park atmosphere.  I prefer downtown stadiums, which are a little bit closer to the life of the city.  One byproduct of the stadium’s location and it’s proliferation of parking spaces: the Brewers have a very healthy tailgating scene.  In fact, of all the stadium’s I’ve been to, Miller Park felt most like a football game.

One final thing: Miller Park has a statue of Bud Selig.  That’s gross.  Please avoid it if you go, or do humanity a favor and tear it down with your pickup truck when nobody’s watching.  Bud Selig did some good things as commissioner, and some very bad things.  But a statue?  Egads.  Now that I’ve reached the end of this writeup, I’m starting to think #26 was being kind.  Appropriate though, because if there’s one thing Wisconsinites understand, it’s being too nice.

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Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #27 Rogers Centre

Last year, I achieved a life goal: seeing all 30 active MLB stadiums.  It’s a fleeting achievement though, which will become obsolete the moment the Atlanta Braves open their brand new stadium this April.  So now is the perfect time to rank the stadiums, since I’ll need a new ranking in only a few weeks.

Over the next 30 days, I’ll countdown the best stadiums in MLB–Turner Field included, since this is the last time I’ll ever get to rank it.

Rankings like this are inherently subjective.  I won’t try to give them a faux-objectivity by creating a point system like you’ll see in other rankings on other websites.  I also don’t rank peripheral factors like food, beer, and fan support.  I only care about the building and the location.  I’m ranking stadiums, not stadium experiences.

30. Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  (Oakland Athletics)

28. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

27. Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)

It’s hard to believe that Rogers Centre–then Skydome–was the premier baseball stadium in the sport when it opened in 1989.  At the time, the Skydome was new, fresh, and exciting. In many ways, it re-imagined what a stadium could be.  It had a hotel overlooking the playing field!  There was a Hard Rock Cafe IN the stadium! (The restaurant closed in 2009).  The SkyDome was the first retractable roof stadium in MLB.  In 1989, the Skydome was first in many ways.

Now, it’s “last” in many ways.  Other than Tropicana Field (which has its own problems), Rogers Centre is the last MLB stadium left without natural grass.  It’s also the last stadium to be constructed for both baseball and football.  Rogers Centre is the last American League stadium to hold over 50 thousand fans.  When constructed, the SkyDome was built to big, modern, and multifunctional.  It was revolutionary.  But that revolution ended rather quickly following the construction of Camden Yards three years later.  At the time, the SkyDome looked like the future.  But in the retro park era, most MLB teams decided the future involved looking back, not forward.

The SkyDome became the Rogers Centre in 2005 after the team and stadium were bought by Rogers Communications.  Many locals are still upset about it.  But by 2005, the mystique of the SkyDome had largely worn off.  The Blue Jays played nightly before sellout crowds after the stadium was opened.  The team won back to back World Series in 1992-93.  Toronto and the SkyDome was the center–I mean centre–of the baseball world.  By the mid-2000’s, well into the MLB stadium building boom, the SkyDome started to appear rusty and out of date.  Rogers Communications poured plenty of money into the stadium bring it into the 21st Century.  Renovate, not replace, was the plan.

Now in 2017, Rogers Centre is a little bit of an outlier among MLB stadiums.  To my knowledge, though, there no plans to build a new stadium in Toronto, unlike Atlanta and North Texas, who abandoned/will abandon parks before they’re even 30 years old.  On the contrary, plans are in place to renovate the stadium even further.  Natural grass will be in place by 2018.  The temporary seats to accommodate football will be locked into place.  They’re a little late to the party, but the Torontonians are finally catching up the modern baseball stadium trends.  It helps that the stadium is downtown Toronto.  In any other location, it might be tempting to build a new one.  Instead, we’ll probably keep seeing one fresh coat of paint after another.  25 years ago, SkyDome was probably considered to be great.  Now, it’s not even good.  It’s just good enough.

800px-Rogers_Center-restitchedToronto_-_ON_-_Rogers_Centre_(Nacht)

Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #28 Chase Field

Last year, I achieved a life goal: seeing all 30 active MLB stadiums.  It’s a fleeting achievement though, which will become obsolete the moment the Atlanta Braves open their brand new stadium this April.  So now is the perfect time to rank the stadiums, since I’ll need a new ranking in only a few weeks.

Over the next 30 days, I’ll countdown the best stadiums in MLB–Turner Field included, since this is the last time I’ll ever get to rank it.

Rankings like this are inherently subjective.  I won’t try to give them a faux-objectivity by creating a point system like you’ll see in other rankings on other websites.  I also don’t rank peripheral factors like food, beer, and fan support.  I only care about the building and the location.  I’m ranking stadiums, not stadium experiences.

30. Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  (Oakland Athletics)

28. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Just outside Phoenix is Frank Lloyd Wright’s old winter home, Taliesin West.  Today, it is a tourist attraction and an active school of architecture.  On the way to Chase Field, I visited the famous site, so the ideas of Wright were fresh in my mind as I went to see my first Diamondbacks home game.  I’m not a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan; many of his architectural ideas are, to be kind, pretentious.  But I do subscribe to his underlying philosophy that buildings should complement the landscape.  Architecture should blend with its surroundings.

I feel this way about baseball stadiums. Dodger Stadium feels like it was built for the California sun.  Fenway fits in its Boston neighborhood, and it always has.  The Giants didn’t try to avoid the Bay–they built right up to it and made it part of their stadium.

This is a long way of saying that nothing at Chase Field feels like Arizona, one of most distinct natural settings in the world.  A stadium architect looking for inspiration wouldn’t have to go far to find it.  The Grand Canyon.  The Sororan Desert.  One quarter of the state is occupied by Native Americans, mostly Navajo, with truly unique and dintinguishing imagery.  I don’t know exactly what I imagine Arizona’s stadium to look like, but I do expect it to reflect Arizona.

Instead, the Diamondbacks play in an airplane hanger.  Or a warehouse.  It’s a giant building with big windows with seats and a baseball field.  It’s simple, and not in a good way.  It’s not particularly charming and it doesn’t feel cozy or welcoming.  Again, it’s a large warehouse for professional baseball.

There are good features to the stadium.  The team managed to keep natural grass even though it’s a retractable roof stadium.  A have a bias against indoor baseball, but the Arizona heat makes the climate controlled arena the best of two bad options.  Chase Field is still relatively new-built in 1998–so most modern amenities are there.  Concourses are open.  Sightlines are fine.  Despite the roof, the design makes heavy use of windows to allow plenty of natural light.  The stadium is also right downtown in Phoenix, within walking distance of bars, restaurants, and hotels.  The stadium is serviceable.

But that’s it.  Serviceable.  The baseball stadium genre throughout MLB has become so innovative, a generic park like Chase Field feels a little bit left behind.  I don’t see a need for Phoenix to immediately construct a new ballpark.  But if they did, Chase Field wouldn’t be irreplaceable.

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