Park #30 – Overstock.com Stadium (Oakland, CA)

I lived in CA for 40 years and somehow never made it to this park.  But, on July 2, 2012 – with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews in tow – I arrived at Overstock.com Stadium (http://tinyurl.com/2fawyo) to watch the A’s take on the Boston Red Sox.
 
I spent all of my adult life avoiding this park (opting to see ball games in San Francisco), and now I know why.  The park was old and tired and sad.  It made me sad.  It lacked any spark or any of the fun attributes that I have seen thus far in other parks…newer parks… legendary parks!  I will say, the fan base is loyal and very much in tact, so I have to respect them and their devotion.  That’s all good…every fan should have their team, and every team its park (although, I’m inclined to say, that the A’s are VERY deserving of a new park, one dedicated solely to baseball)! 
 
The whole time there, I had flashes of “Moneyball” come to mind, but that was the “hey day” and there wasn’t a sign of Billy Beane (http://tinyurl.com/3rtnvzo) anywhere!  For the record, the A’s prevailed on this day (6-1) and all was right in the world at Overstock.com Stadium (such a mouthful of a name for a ballpark, if you ask me)!
 
Glad I went, always am, but now I can say, “Been there, done that,” …not going back!   
 
To give them credit, they actually had the right stamp for my Pass-port!

To give them credit, they actually had the right stamp for my Pass-port!

A lovely day for a game!

A lovely day for a game!

And an equally calm night! (same game)!

And an equally calm night! (same game)!

Game Play!

Game Play!

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Park #29 – PNC Park (Pittsburgh, PA)

The travel stars realigned, and I arrived in Pittsburgh with time to spare..and that was a good thing as PNC Park (http://tinyurl.com/8235qcq) was the perfect ballpark to explore from top to bottom!  Like with Detroit, I hadn’t placed Pittsburgh very high on those cities I had longed to visit, and just like with Comerica Park (http://tinyurl.com/cav4ek8), I was pleasantly surprised. 

At the onset…the arrival itself is impressive.  Crossing over the Roberto Clemente (http://tinyurl.com/ofhqk) Bridge, you get to see the park “come into view” and it’s spectacular.  Immediately, I was reminded of AT&T Park (http://tinyurl.com/c49qzxu) in San Francisco – one of my all-time favorite parks – with its glorious water views.

Once I crossed the bridge, I was welcomed by a vibrant street scene (closed off to car traffic) that was teeming with vendors, games for the kids and music.  If you have been to Fenway Park (http://tinyurl.com/d9tunah), Wrigley Field (http://tinyurl.com/cj4n2zl) and/or Camden Yards (http://tinyurl.com/d93x6y3), you know what to expect!  It was the perfect way to gear up for the game inside the park!

I made my way into the park and tended to the business of getting my Pass-Port (http://tinyurl.com/7v2ut3k) book stamped, only to be told at the Guest Relations office that they didn’t have the official stamp.  Instead, I settled for a signature “P” stamp that they dated. (Later, while purchasing my souvenir magnet, I found that they had the stamp in the main retail shop, and passed that along to Guest Relations for future reference.)

Before I headed to my seat, I strolled into an indoor/outdoor full-service bar that mixed and exceptional margarita and provided sweeping views of the bridge and surrounding waterways.  From this vantage, views of the small playground area were also visible – another nice touch to help entertain the kids and very much unlike the forced, circus-like ambience that you see/get at The Trop (http://tinyurl.com/cn2h4kl).

The purest in me enjoyed the wide concourse and plentiful food offerings…I like to see diversity in food options, despite the fact that I usually always have a hot dog!  I was directed to a “side” elevator that lead me to the Club Level.  As I stepped beyond the doors, the thrust of air conditioning swept over me, and it was a good thing because it was hot…I’m talking HOT!  The rest of the “haves” were enjoying games of pool, upgraded food offerings, lots of cold drinks, and snow and ice cream cones as far as the eye could see.

I made it to my seat, a few rows behind home plate, and sent a silent thank you to the “seat gods” for placing me next to the cutest, single lawyer who was also trying to get to all the parks in the league (but only when his beloved/beleaguered Cubs were playing the home team). His name was David, and we chatted from first pitch to about the bottom of the second inning when we literally were about to melt.  I retreated back to the confines of the Club so that I could “re-energize” with a soft serve cone.  David had his own ballpark rituals that included photos…five outside the park, five inside the park, five from his seat and five during game play.  At first, he seemed hesitant to share his routine, but, really, who am I to judge?  I’ve got all kinds of pre-game and game time rituals!

After his photo shoot was complete, he joined me in the Club and we watched the game from the “AC” seats and chatted until I left for the airport.  We swapped contact information and agreed to stay in touch (which we did/do)!  There may be no crying in baseball, but no one said anything about flirting, right? 😉

Here are some pictures that simply do not do the park justice…Pittsburgh may not be high on your “must see” cities, but if you love baseball, it should be!

Roberto Clemente Bridge on the approach to PNC Park

Roberto Clemente Bridge on the approach to PNC Park

Roberto Clemente Statue

Roberto Clemente Statue

Views from the Park with Bill Mazeroski statue in the foreground

Views from the Park with Bill Mazeroski statue in the foreground

Club Level diversion

Club Level diversion

Family fun for everyone!

Family fun for everyone!

Honus Wagner Statue

Honus Wagner Statue

Pristine field

Pristine field

The "Greats!"

The “Greats!”

Stunning Views of the Outfield!

Stunning Views of the Outfield!

Parting Shot!

Parting Shot!

Without question, this park ranks in my Top #5…and, I can’t wait to return (when it’s much cooler)!

#5: Pac Bell (SBC/AT&T) Park

The Giants moved to Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park in 2000, and I was there several times during the inaugural season (http://mlb.mlb.com/sf/ballpark/index.jsp).

Though I can’t remember the specifics on any one game (sadly), I do remember what the awe I experienced when I first saw the new park.  Gone was the howling winds of Candlestick and the ridiculous distance one would have to drive up the 101 to get there.  Pac Bell was in the heart of the City, with views of the Bay – bright, shiny and new, and the standard by which I measure all new parks.

This park wasn’t just a venue, it was an experience – interactive and festive — without being over manufactured.  The food was yummy and varied, which I know was a dream for many (though, not for me since I’m the hot dog purist).

Even when the Giants lost, each game was a joy to watch – the park made it so.