So, I did it! I visited all 30 ballparks before I turn 30 next week. This last week was crazy—I visited eight different cities in nine days, across all four time zones. It was an incredible adventure.
The coolest thing about baseball is that every field is different. Each playing surface is configured differently, and each stadium tells a story. It’s beautiful, really.
But I’m exhausted, and I can’t believe everything went off without a hitch. I took 13 flights in 10 days. I had way too many early wake-up calls, and I spent way too much money on Lyft rides. But it was all definitely worth it.
Pro tip for anyone who is thinking about doing a trip like this—get TSA Precheck. It made the early mornings much better when I could just zip through security. All of the first class upgrades from Delta didn’t hurt either.
Anyway, on to the final rankings. When I started out on this journey, I decided to grade each ballpark in three categories:
- Ballpark: The physical features and baseball environment of the park.
- Pre-/Post-Game Atmosphere: The area around the stadium—the bars, the tailgating, how easy is it to get to, etc.
- Fans: Were the fans jerks? Were they non-existent? Or were they friendly, loud and welcoming?
So, after visiting all 30 parks and grading them on the above criteria, I put the parks in a list and awarded points (30 for the best, 1 for the worst) for all three criteria. So, we’re grading on a curve.
Here we go, from worst to best (* next to the grade means it was the best in that category)
When I planned this trip in March, I could’ve never imagined that everything would fall into place so perfectly. Last Friday, I left Madison and headed to Kansas City. Since then, I’ve gone to Houston, Dallas, Denver, Oakland, Phoenix and Cincinnati.
The closest I came to having things go awry was in Cincinnati after a rain delay. But on Saturday, I flew up to Detroit and my boyfriend Drew met me at the airport. His flight perfectly landed at the same time as me. Things were falling into place.
We took a Lyft into downtown Detroit and checked into our hotel. We walked toward the ballpark and stopped at Detroit Beer Company to watch some college football and eat lunch. We then had a beer Cheli’s bar—which is owned by former Badgers hockey player Chris Chelios. There were some fans tailgating around Comerica Park, and the bars were busy, yet not super crowded. It was a fun, festive atmosphere.
In Phoenix, I got a unique baseball experience sitting in my own bullpen seat. The next night, in Cincinnati, I got another experience unique to baseball—a lengthy rain delay.
Friday morning was my third day in a row of a 3:30 AM alarm to get to the airport for a 5:45 flight. Again, I was thankful that the Phoenix airport is really close to downtown, and my flights were on time yet again – thanks Delta.
I made it to Cincinnati around 2:30 PM and the game was due to start at 6:40. It was so humid—my glasses fogged up when I stepped out of my Lyft. I checked into my hotel next to the ballpark, and then went for a little walk around the stadium. The weather looked like it might hold off.
Nearing the home stretch of my trip, I had yet another 3:30 AM wake up call. I hopped on the hotel shuttle to the airport at 4 AM for my 5:45 flight to Phoenix. I flew Delta because they treat me like a human—so I had to fly through Salt Lake City again.
I landed in Phoenix, stepped outside and immediately regretted the decision to wear pants. It was 107 degrees at noon. But the good news is that the Phoenix airport is very close to the city—in fact, when you fly in, you go right over downtown and get a great view of the ballpark.
They leave the roof of Chase Field open during the day since they have real grass, but close it a few hours before game time and crank the air conditioning.
The home stretch of my trip started with a 3:30 AM alarm in Denver, so that I could hail a Lyft for the 30-minute drive out to the airport for a 5:50 AM flight to Oakland. I could’ve flown directly there on United, but I would rather be treated like a valued customer, so I flew Delta through Salt Lake City.
I arrived in Oakland early in the morning and got settled at my hotel by the airport. I picked this hotel because it looked like it was within walking distance to the Oakland County Coliseum. I technically was, but the woman at my hotel strongly advised against walking through that neighborhood. So I had to take Lyft around town all day.
When I landed, there was a heavy fog all over the bay area, but by the early afternoon it had lifted and the sun was shining. It was a bit chilly, but pleasant. I looked on the map for nearby breweries, and as I was scrolling through, something on the northern tip of Alameda Island caught my eye.
I recently read the book “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer. It won this year’s Pulitzer Prize. It’s about a gay man about to turn 50, and one of the best lines in the book was this:
“New York is a city of eight million people, approximately seven million of whom will be furious when they hear you were in town and didn’t meet them for an expensive dinner, five million furious you didn’t visit their new baby, three million furious you didn’t see their new show, one million furious you didn’t call for sex, but only five actually available to meet you. It is completely reasonable to call none of them.”
For us millennials, that passage now applies to Denver.
Everyone is moving to Denver. The weather is great, there’s no humidity, there are mountains and a crap ton of breweries. So I chose wisely when I picked Denver as the only city in which I would spend more than one night.
On Sunday morning after seeing a great game with loud fans in Houston, I drove north for the exact opposite.
After about a four hour drive down an insanely boring road with a crazy high speed-limit (classic Texas), I made it to Arlington about three hours before first pitch between the Rangers and the Twins. It was over 90 degrees and the sun was relentless. Luckily, I remembered to pack sunscreen.
One thing I didn’t have the foresight to check was to see if there were any football games at AT&T Stadium—which is right next door. Sure enough, there was a big college game between LSU and Miami. There were already tailgaters for both teams in the lots surrounding the ballpark.
Still, traffic wasn’t bad, and I was able to get a good spot near the park. I applied sunscreen and headed toward the park. Both the Cowboys and the Rangers play in stadiums outside the main cities, and the venues are surrounded by parking lots. It’s very similar to Kansas City—however, there’s one noticeable difference.