Park #27 – Comerica Park (Detroit, MI)

May 20th, found me waking at the crack of dawn to head from Tampa to Detroit and Comerica Park (http://tinyurl.com/7d7eccb)!

I hadn’t heard anything about the park, so I didn’t have any pre-set expectations and/or notions.  In absence of a metro system or efficient shuttle service, I hopped a taxi and headed to the park. I arrived shortly before 11:30 a.m. and encountered a line (which I thought was for “will call”), but was for the front gate.  The park didn’t open until exactly 90 minutes before game time.

So, I was able to enter with the eager few and…I what I saw IMPRESSED ME!

Unlike The Trop, Comerica was a celebration of baseball with a great layout and creative “amenities” like a merry-go-round with tigers for horses and a ferris wheel with the cups shaped at baseballs.  While, these are not truly in keeping with the “purity” of a traditional ballpark, these were tasteful additions with a true smack of “Americana.”  What also made them good embellishments was the fact that they were set off from the main concourse near food courts..the many food courts that offered a wide range of fare, and one thing I had never seen…Jose Cuevo read-to-drink margaritas…SCORE!  If it couldn’t get any better, it was a Pepsi park – I truly didn’t know what to drink first (but seriously, the margarita won out..three times over)!

With my Pass-Port (http://tinyurl.com/7v2ut3k) in tow, I headed to guest relations, and again, no official stamp to be had.  They did their best in using another stamp with a hand-written date, but it was not the same.  For my troubles or their shortcomings, Jill from guest services gave me a hat…which I would need later as the sun beat down!

With my hat and margarita in hand, I made my way to my seat…five rows from the visitors’ dugout.  I was elated to find out that my seats came with service, and Melissa was quick to “refill” my drink!  Dangerous for sure!

For the first time in forever, I departed from my traditional hot dog fare and instead ordered hummus and vegetables – talk about going 180 degrees!  I had planned on something more substantial later, but I ran out of time and that was all I ended up consuming!  It was tasty, but not very hearty and NOT remotely close to being traditional ballpark food!

There was little not to like about Comerica (with the exception that Justin Verlander was not in the rotation…that was something I didn’t like).  Even from the exterior — the tiger heads were a regal welcome and lent themselves in so many ways to the theme of the park (the tiger-go-round…perfect case in point).

Of course, shortly after taking my seat, I befriended “Tim” who was also in pursuit to see all the parks, but wasn’t too eager to finish any time soon. However, he was partial to the parks in CA — AT&T and Petco — and, of course, I couldn’t agree more!

At the 7th inning, we sang God Bless America, Take Me Out to The Ballgame AND the YMCA – their version of “Sweet Caroline” perhaps!

On this hot summer day, the Tigers took on the Pirates and squeezed out a 4-3 win, which made the visit all the more sweet!  I hurried out right after the game to catch my plane home and was thrilled with my visit…even the $50 taxi ride didn’t matter!  Without question, this was one of my favorite parks to date…and I’ll be back to the Motor City!

A “roaring” good welcome!

A great team history timeline!

The “feline” ferris wheel

One of the many food courts

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Park #26 – Tropicana Field (Tampa, FL)

I’m just going to say it…The Trop was a Flop!  At least it was for me!

I’m a baseball purist, so I am partial to ballparks where the game is the main attraction and the venue is traditional in its design, and intentions, and is mindful of the game and the team’s history/lore.

The Tropicana (http://tinyurl.com/cpd4x8c) was a circus…complete with circus games.  The concourse was a abuzz with “side show” attractions that created long lines and lots of congestion to get to your assigned seat. 

On this day in May, the 19th, I had arrived well in advance via the courtesy shuttle from my nearby hotel (which, upon taking a walk to get some lunch, I discovered was located in a sketchy part of St. Petersburg, and not anywhere I would walk after dark), to give me enough time to explore the park and also get my Pass-port Stamp (http://tinyurl.com/7v2ut3k).  I was thrilled to see that they readily had their stamp for my book, but also with the fact that my book was the first they had ever seen in person! 

With that accomplished, I took to the lines…the longest one, by far, was to pet the sting rays.  I get that I was there to watch the “Rays” play, but to have actual fish there seemed a bit “side-showy.”  I mean, Detroit doesn’t have tigers in cages, etc.  Perhaps, I thought, they took that one a bit too literal.

I will say that the Ted Williams museum was an absolute highlight and VERY well done.  The exhibits were dynamic and interesting with a great combination of amazing photos and memorabilia that made for a telling and inspiring historical record of Williams’ stellar career and never-to-be-seen-again accomplishments.  One absolute highlight was the movie that was playing that featured both Billy Crystal and Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (historian) – those together make anything better!

I got to my seat and looked up to the dome covering…sigh.  I’m not a fan of domes – just another pet peeve of mine – I like sky at my ballgame, and the “field” looked discolored…but that’s me being picky!

Evan Longoria was not in the line-up, but was still present and there to sign balls for the kids in the stands – a nice thing to do, and a cutie to boot!

The game kicked off with a rendition of the Anthem that included someone accompanying the music with sign language.  A nice touch that I hadn’t seen this season!

I consumed my customary hot dog despite the “neon” green relish that I find to be a bit odd, but still tastes the same.

The Rays were playing the Braves and would go on to win 5-2 that day, thanks to a grand slam by Matt Joyce in the bottom of the 3rd and a single shot HR by Sean Rodriguez in the bottom of the 6th.

I boarded the courtesy bus back to the hotel and wished that a side trip to Fergs, THE sports bar in town, was a stop on the way back, but, alas, I was back in the hotel by 10 p.m. and prepared for the next stop for the weekend…Detroit!

They were so thrilled to finally use the their stamp!

View from my seat!

#10: Angel Stadium of Anaheim

I moved to “the OC” in the middle of the 2006 to work at the Fairmont Newport Beach.  I had been living in Northern California since 1999, so it was time to try something new.  I was looking forward to the change of scenery and living in Southern California again, but this time, further South.  I found a condo to rent in Orange, CA, and immediately started to get my bearings.  It didn’t take me too long to realize that I was less than 10 minutes away from Anaheim, Dinsneyland and Angels Stadium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_Stadium_of_Anaheim).

In the two years I lived there, I visited the park often.  I would wake up on a weekend day, see they were home and just pop on over.  I loved having such easy access to my “home team.”  Though, I guess I never got used to seeing the freeway out over center field – I suppose I was so accustomed to seeing the San Francisco Bay instead – but regardless, this was a great “home stand” for me!

#9: Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

I accepted an invitation to the headquarters of an international hotel group for a job interview in late June, 2006.  Before I accepted and determined a date, I ensured that the interview coincided with an Arizona Diamondback’s home game – because that’s how I roll!

The meetings were intensive and exhausting, and, after 8 hours of interviewing, I knew that there wasn’t a fit, but I had a game to attend at my first dome field (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chase_Field)!

I taxi’d over to my hotel and then walked over to the park.  It was a HOT day, the roof was closed and the misters on full blast.  I see the point of it all – in cities like Arizona, the players would wilt and the fans would faint – but not seeing a “skyline” in the outfield, is just all wrong to me.

I had great seats, and, sadly, I remember very little else about the game.  I think I just couldn’t get over being “inside,” though, I do recall spending a good amount of time admiring the construction, and how truly impressive it really was, regardless.

I was grateful for the visit and the fact that I was able to get someone else to pick up the airfare – a total baseball bonus!

#8 – Fenway Park (a.k.a, The Green Monster)

Thankfully, there are some parks visits I remember with perfect clarity…this is one of those parks!

On May 20, 2006, I was on the treadmill at the gym reading an article on Albert Pujols and his “perfect swing.”  I cut my workout short and decided, “I’m going to St. Louis to see Albert Pujols hit a home run.”  But, when I got home and looked up their schedule, the Cards were playing the Giants IN San Francisco.  I lived in Redwood City, CA, at the time, so, logistically, this was a godsend, but I wanted to see him IN St. Louis!

So, I sat, and pondered another park I wanted to see – of course, I wanted to see Fenway!  As luck would have it, they were at home playing the Yankees.  In less than two hours, I cashed in airline miles for a ticket leaving the following day, found a ticket to the game on Craigslist that I could retrieve at the Will Call box, and booked a room at a Doubletree Hotel (love their cookies) near the metro – I was good to go!

So, the next day, I was up at the crack of dawn on my way to SFO. I called me Mom to tell her where I was going, and in her half-asleep state said, “You’re going where? To see a Monster?”

By now, my parents have grown somewhat accustomed to my last-minute-random-solo jaunts, and just said, “Call me when you get there.”

So I got into town, checked into the hotel and then set out for a walkabout.  I had been to Boston once before and thought it was a beautiful city, and especially “user friendly.”  Thank god for that Freedom Trail – it’s like a tour map for dummies – just follow the red line!

I did just that and called my family as I walked by Paul Revere’s House and The Old North Church.  I ate lunch at the Union Oyster House (the restaurant that apparently invented the toothpick; http://www.unionoysterhouse.com/) and then reported to Fenway for my ballpark tour.  It was beautiful – so steeped in history, and curses and everything in between (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenway_Park). 

I had met a couple at the restaurant and even volunteered to take their picture with some giant lobsters, only to get to my seat at game time — three rows from the field along the first base line, closer to right field — and finding that my “friends” from the restaurant were sitting a few rows over…classic!

Sadly, the Yankees won that day. But, the trip was perfect.  I still had Albert Pujols on the brain, but that would have to wait for another trip, another time.

#7: Coors Field, Colorado

I always lament that I don’t drink beer, especially when I’m at a ballgame – and at a park named Coors Field, no less.  But, alas, I’m a soda girl!

This park was part of a business trip sometime at the end of June in 2005, and I was able to gather a few PR friends to go rogue and head out to the park! (http://mlb.mlb.com/col/ballpark/index.jsp).

The hotel concierge instructed us to buy “rockpile” seats (aka, the nosebleed) for the paultry sum of $4, but then advised that we would be able to move closer down after a certain inning.  Sounded like a solid idea, so we did exactly that.

It was brilliant!  In hindsight, I’m not sure if the moving down part is really allowed, but in this instance, the park was fairly empty, so it didn’t seem to bother anybody!

I liked the “family feel” of this park and, while I’m not a fan of the cheap seats, I truly appreciate what Coors Field is doing their part to keep this “America’s pastime.”  Long gone are my $19 days at the park and replaced with an outing averaging more like $300 – $500 for a family of four – making baseball not so attainable to some of America.  This was my takeaway from Denver!  I wish I could remember who they played and who won, but i do remember having a great time with my friends that surpassed any media event that I think we skipped out on – sound decision, I would have to say!

#6 – Safeco Field, Seattle

From my best recollection, I visited Safeco in early June 2005.  I was in town for a media conference and I headed out alone to see a game instead of attending a cocktail reception.  I thought the game was more important – clearly!

With no disrespect to any Mariners’ fans or Seattle natives, but this park doesn’t hold any special memories for me – other than I was really happy to visit a new park – keep in mind, it might also have something to do with my failing memory!

But, while I can’t pick one defining moment to capture my time there, I also can’t think of anything that made for any aversion – sort of like, “not too hard, not too soft…just right.”

I remember walking up and thinking that the new park was MUCH better than its predecessor – or the building that was hallowed out nearby and glad that I got to see the newer version (http://mlb.mlb.com/sea/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=groundrules) that was completed in 1999.

I remember being excited to see Ichiro play and how I thought he had so much swagger in his walk and being amazed with the number of Japanese fans were in the stands (little did I know that three years later, I would learn to understand — or try to — the fandom that lives/breathes in Japan for their baseball).

I remember that I was excited to be embarking on a baseball “triple shot” that would start with Seattle, followed  by a Cubs game and then, finally Denver.  The baseball gods weren’t with me on that one and my Cubs game got rained out – but Denver was up on deck!