Welcome to Ballpark Ratings! My name is Cole Shoemaker, and this has been an ongoing project I have worked on during the tail end of the ballpark building boom, launching in 2012. Ballparkratings.com scrutinizes all major league and spring training ballparks to a degree never seen before, implementing a comprehensive ratings system based on setting, architecture, functionality, and amenities as well as photo galleries with 300+ photos. Compared to similar websites, mine stresses opinions (ratings) more and has lengthy reviews, though I always point out all post-1991 ballparks are good ballparks. My website will also feature a number of research articles and other rankings based on particular categories.
I view this website as a vehicle that combines all of my interests into one hobby. Compared to other sports, baseball is more inherently tied to its venue, but you may still ask, beyond just being a baseball fan, why are you so obsessed with ballparks? Why does the baseball stadium deserve such extensive study?
Just as ballparkratings.com synthesizes my passion for writing, architecture, urban planning, business, and baseball into a singularity that represents American culture, the ballpark itself has always done much of the same.
If baseball is America’s national pastime, then the ballpark is America’s sanctuary, the quintessential playground for this country’s taste in sports, architecture, business, and general consumerism. If baseball is America’s national pastime, then shifting cultural paradigms are specifically reflected in the evolution of the new modern ballpark. It’s the perfect case study.
The retro ballparks of the post-Camden era (post-1992) perfectly encapsulate post-modern American regionalism from city to city. Like I always say, whether you’re a baseball fan or not, the American ballpark merits study because it often seems to represent its region better than anything else in our culture. The ballpark, separate from a stadium, has become a sanctuary for both the fan and the community through integrated urban aesthetics (or the appearance of), which is largely responsible for the sustained appeal of the game itself.
The game of baseball is often referred to as the country’s “civic religion,” and its venue deserves at least equal attention, especially considering the so-called “mallparkification” of some of the newer ballparks. The ballpark reflects the general ethos of the nation, from architecture and American regionalism to the urban revival and class divisions with premium seating.
In terms of the individual ratings, you might note that I find it pointless to evaluate the classic parks (Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium) or the multipurpose facilities (Oakland Coliseum, Tropicana Field, Rogers Centre), as it’s akin to comparing apples and oranges. I use a different format for the classic ballparks and don’t extensively review the multipurpose facilities, though I might reconsider Rogers Centre if there aren’t rumblings for a replacement by the end of the decade.
Of the ones that are graded, don’t get too worked up over the ratings (as I know many are like overprotective little league parents when it comes to their ballpark), as the difference between the worst retro ballpark and the best is miles closer than the difference between the worst retro ballpark and the Oakland Coliseum or Dolphin Stadium. All post-1991 ballparks are good ballparks. I give out criticism pretty loosely, so try to take it lightly!
You may be asking the question: what makes a great ballpark? Well, the ridiculously long-winded answer is outlined in the “criteria” section, but the true answer is extremely simple. As Janet Marie Smith once said, “It’s not the steel trusses and brick arches that I think of as being the formula for [a ballpark’s success]. It’s rather the relationship to the city.” A ballpark must be visually connected to its context both inside and out in terms of design, while also reflecting the region through other amenities like food. In other words, a good ballpark should represent its city.
Finally, you may be wondering what specifically this website offers that other ballpark websites don’t. Well, first off, I made an effort to include ballpark pictures you can’t find easily on the internet, such as photos of the concourses, club lounges, club seating, concessions, restaurants, museums, entertainment features, sightlines, and even seating cantilevers. I may also get criticism for focusing on the category of “premium seating,” but you can’t ignore the business side of baseball. It’s the one factor that overwhelmingly drove the ballpark building boom. Yes, without the demand for luxury suites and club seating, we would have had no Camden Yards, or any of the new ballparks. Lastly, my site has a hard slant toward architecture and aesthetics, as I am well versed in architectural jargon and interior design principles.
If you’ve visited some of the other existing ballpark websites listed in my “links” section, or just love baseball and the new ballparks, you should love this website! Heck, you’ll love this website if you hate the nation’s recent wave of retro “mallparks”. As a baseball fan, the point is I find the niche subject of baseball stadiums weirdly fascinating, just like you do, and I hope you’ll share this experience with me for years to come as I continue to write many more articles and expand into spring training/minor leagues.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. If you have a question about a specific ballpark, no matter how obscure, please ask! Also, e-mail me if you have any interest in writing an article yourself for this website. Thanks!
Cole Shoemaker, creator and operator, ballparkratings.com