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 baseball stadiums and spring training ballparks to a degree never seen before, implementing a comprehensive ratings system based on setting, architecture, functionality, and amenities. This website also features a number of independent research articles that examine the debate (and my opinion) about the history of ballparks, the new wave of retro ballparks, design and architectural trends, the growing business of premium seating, and other logistical specifics: how does it reflect our evolving society from a macro perspective? Each ballpark features a photo gallery with 300+ photos, showcasing not only interior and exterior shots, but pictures that are more difficult to find on the internet, such as the concourses, club lounges, suites, concessions, restaurants, etc. All photos are taken by me. Ones without a watermark are just older.
While there is a “comments” section at the end of each specific ballpark review, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook if you have any questions or comments. Facebook may be quicker. If you have a question about a specific ballpark, no matter how obscure, please ask!
Where to begin? Start with our long-form piece ranking, rating, and briefly reviewing the current MLB ballparks all together.
Hello Hello! I finally created a Facebook page. Like us on facebook!
COVID-19 has caused the most significant disruption to sporting events since World War II, and baseball is no exception. Major League Baseball suspended operations indefinitely on March 16, 2020, and baseball is very unlikely to be played in front of fans in 2020 even though play resumed on July 23.
We know that global pandemics change society and culture, shifting collective consciousness and reversing or accelerating preexisting trends. We know that such pandemics end, but we don’t know who we will be afterward. Some consequences may take years to manifest, some are quickly apparent.
While most of the focus in the sporting world is on the actual games resuming, COVID-19 may also have lasting social consequences for the fan experience at ballparks, even after a vaccine is developed. It’s hard to predict, but the way we attend games may permanently change.
For now, this lull has proven to be a great time to discuss baseball topics independent of the game like ballparks, as seen by the spike in the topic on social media. We shall move full speed ahead with new content in the coming months.
___As the pandemic continues, I felt compelled to write a piece that encapsulates a part of the Major League ballpark experience that may not be the same for the foreseeable future, even when we can return to ballparks. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a decade-long retrospective, but stadium cuisine was a defining element of the ballpark experience in the 2010s. This is a detailed snapshot of MLB ballpark food pre-COVID.
___Baseball is back, so our in-depth review of the Texas Rangers’ brand-new Globe Life Field has been released.
The review is based on an extensive exploration of the site, a tour of the ballpark, and an intimate knowledge of the planned gameday experience had the ballpark opened as originally expected. However, because of the impossibility of actually gleaning anything close to the full “fan experience” during COVID times, I am not formally “rating” Globe Life Field. I do provide a tentative ranking at the bottom.
While not completely lacking in redeeming qualities, Globe Life Field is ultimately a $1.2 billion failure of imagination and the most disappointing new Major League venue since New Comiskey Park in 1991.
Agree or disagree with my criticism, everyone can enjoy the photo gallery of 300+ images from all around the ballpark, including the interior, exterior, Texas Live!, concourses, concessions, premium clubs, suites, statues, other Rangers’ historical references, etc.
___As the last decade came to a close, we released a special feature on the trends that defined MLB ballparks in the 2010s.
From the advent of “social spaces” to the dawn of mixed-use development communities surrounding ballparks, enhancements were aimed at attracting nominal baseball fans to ballparks as destinations in their own right.
___During what was the 2020 “season,” I was very fortunate to catch a handful of early spring training games.
For 20 straight years, I almost always sought to cover a fair amount of ground in mid-March for spring training baseball, driving up and down the coasts in Florida or exploring both sides of the Valley in Phoenix. This year, I did things a bit differently.
For the first time, I was on hand for the inaugural slate of February games, in order to get a first look at a couple of ballpark renovations and some fairly significant games.
Here are the relevant ballparks we saw:
—–Saturday, February 22nd, 1:10: Marlins at Mets (ss), Clover Park, Port St. Lucie, FL.
First game at the New York Mets’ enhanced (and renamed) facility. While the project wasn’t at the level of other renovated ballparks due to budget cuts (i.e. no 360-degree concourse), the re-envisioned Clover Park has a new exterior design, an expanded grand entrance, new seats, the new Jim Beam Bar in left field, and a widened main concourse. Memorable nods to Mets’ history are the highlight.
—–Sunday, February 23rd, 1:05: Tigers (ss) at Braves, CoolToday Park, North Port, FL
After over 20 years at Disney World, the Atlanta Braves began their first full spring at the new CoolToday Park. Only one game was played here in 2019, so I enjoyed seeing the ballpark operation in full swing at the beginning of 2020.
—–Monday, February 24th, 1:07: Braves at Blue Jays, TD Ballpark, Dunedin, FL
The grand reopening of Dunedin’s facility represents the most ambitious spring training ballpark renovation of 2020. Changes include a re-envisioned exterior aesthetic, new seats, a 360-degree concourse, an outfield boardwalk, a destination tiki bar, a climate-controlled left field pub, new group spaces, and a videoboard.
___We enjoyed our trip, and have now released the updated 2020 piece ranking, rating, and reviewing all spring parks! Renovated TD Ballpark, enhanced Clover Park, and new CoolToday Park are included. See how they did! Here it is:
It’s just so unique in sports to have a separate pre-season venue that is in many ways better for experiencing baseball than the primary venue.
Only in baseball do fans travel hundreds of miles to see their team in sold out venues at cheaper prices. Baseball had the ingenuity to make it a win-win for fans, while basketball and football fans pay high prices at inappropriately scaled regular season venues for pre-season games.
Spring training provides for lower ticket prices, better sightlines closer to the field, unencumbered access to players in unusually quaint situations, sold-out crowds, and laid-back atmospheres, but often with some of the amenities resembling major league parks such as varied concessions, destination tiki bars, social spaces, premium clubs, party decks, and kids’ play areas.
Beyond the relatively high and renewed quality of the venues, spring training baseball is especially conducive to comparing teams and ballparks.
It may take a lifetime for a die-hard fan or ballpark fanatic to see all 30 major league venues, but fans can easily see all 23 spring training ballparks (seven clubs share parks) in two springs. Even I can’t easily experience the year-to-year changes at every MLB park, but any stadium nerd can experience most (or all) spring training ballparks on a yearly basis.
There’s also something incredibly cool about teams importing their particular regional tastes, local flares, local fans, and various signature elements all to one region.
___Last year, we updated our comprehensive, long-form essay rating and ranking the current MLB ballparks!
The piece starts with a lengthy preamble, which 1) explains why I do this, 2) illustrates the importance of the ballpark to the game of baseball, and 3) briefly outlines our criteria before diving into the rankings/ratings/analysis.
Part 2, which goes into the top tiers ending with the #1 park, is linked at the bottom of this page, Part 1. Enjoy!
In a long overdue effort to provide up-to-date content not specific to one ballpark review, I will be writing more blog style articles in 2019-2020 consisting of news, features, rankings, comparisons, special profiles, and more. I’ve realized long 10-15,000 word in-depth reviews simply aren’t optimal for dispensing, consuming, and sharing information in today’s social media environment, although such long-form ballpark reviews will continue to be released for those who enjoy the depth of the analysis. I hope you guys enjoy a more rapid stream of pithy and accessible original content this year.
That starts with a newly released article (2/25) outlining 2018 spring training ballpark changes.
Here is our feature article for the spring: Comparing spring training ballparks in Florida to those in Arizona.
3/23: Most family-friendly spring training ballparks
Throughout the 2018 and 2019 seasons:
We provided some much needed new content throughout 2017, and we plan to take that to the next level throughout 2018. Much of the original content, especially the independent articles, date back from 2010 (written before website launch) to 2014. 2018 is a huge year for ballparks all across spring training and Major League Baseball, and we want ballparkratings.com to be a part of that. I will be using the Facebook page for periodic updates and announcements relating to everything above.
Times change, and the ratings have been slightly altered for the first time since 2011:
I am excited for my 20th consecutive year of spring training! After returning to the Cactus League last spring, we turn back to Florida with an ambitious schedule. We will cover a good amount of ground in Florida, starting in the Jupiter/Palm Beach area, then going all across the west side of the state before ending at the Disney complex near Orlando.
Here is what is on the docket for March 2019:
–Saturday March 9th, 1:05: Astros at Cardinals, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Jupiter, FL
–Saturday March 9th, 6:35: Marlins at Nationals, FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, FL
–Sunday, March 10th, 1:05: Nationals at Astros, FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, FL
–Monday, March 11th, 1:05: Tigers at Twins, Hammond Stadium, Ft. Myers, FL
–Tuesday, March 12th, 1:05: Tigers at Red Sox, JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Ft. Myers, FL
–Tuesday, March 12th, 6:35: Orioles at Yankees, Steinbrenner Field, Tampa, FL
–Wednesday, March 13th, 1:05: Blue Jays at Orioles, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota. FL
–Wednesday, March 13th, 6:35: Phillies at Yankees, Steinbrenner Field, Tampa, FL
–Thursday, March 14th, 1:05: Red Sox at Tigers, Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, FL
–Friday, March 15th, 1:05: Blue Jays at Phillies, Spectrum Field, Clearwater, FL
–Friday, March 15th, 6:05: Rays (ss) at Pirates, LECOM Park (McKechnie), Bradenton, FL
–Saturday, March 16th, 1:05: Pirates at Tigers, Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, FL
–Sunday, March 17th, 1:05: Astros at Braves (ss), Champion Stadium (Disney), Lake Buena Vista, FL
10 of 13 Grapefruit League venues will be visited this year. I will post profiles from past visits of the other 3.
Here is our tentative itinerary for the 2019 season:
–Houston at Detroit, Comerica Park, May 14
–Houston at Detroit, Comerica Park, May 15
–Baltimore at Cleveland, Progressive Field, May 16
–Los Angeles Dodgers at Cincinnati, Great American Ballpark, May 17
–Los Angeles Dodgers at Cincinnati, Great American Ballpark, May 18
–Toronto at Chicago White Sox, Guaranteed Rate Field, May 19
–Philadelphia at Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, May 20
–Cincinnati at Milwaukee, Miller Park, May 21
–Cincinnati at St. Louis , Busch Stadium, June 4
–Washington at Miami, Marlins Park, September 20
–Washington at Miami, Marlins Park, September 21
–Washington at Miami, Marlins Park, September 22
–New York Yankees at Texas, Globe Life Park, September 28
–New York Yankees at Texas, Globe Life Park, September 29 (Globe Life Park Final Game ever)
SunTrust Park has opened to generally positive reviews. Atlanta’s pad is seen as the model for ballpark mixed-use development, and it’s amenities will burst the scale in our ratings. But it’s the only ballpark I can remember with so little spoken about its architecture and aesthetics upon opening, which is telling. Perhaps that no longer matters.
Minute Maid Park underwent the most significant renovations in major league baseball in 2017. Tal’s Hill was removed, and a bevy of new amenities were added in and above its former location. Most notable are three different bars, the addition of Shake Shake and Torchy’s Tacos, and the new centerfield group space.
Yankee Stadium added a number of fan friendly social spaces in the offseason. New places to hang out were added in the outfield, main concourse, and the upper deck. They also added a new kids area. The amenities were always great at Yankee Stadium, but they’ve now been democratized for all fans.
On the edge of McCovey Cove, the Giants ballpark has the best views in all of baseball. While Camden Yards is generally seen as the poster child of the ballpark building boom, AT&T Park is the biggest success story of the era, constructed with private financing and generating a huge boost in attendance. Like I said, no ballpark transformed a team and its fan base quite like this. Once you couple these factors with transcendental water views and amazing amenities, you easily have one of the best ballparks in baseball.