Welcome to Ballpark Ratings! My name is Cole Shoemaker, and this is my passion project that launched toward the tail end of the ballpark-building boom 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. It’s all in good fun, and here are three key takeaways outlining what this site has to offer if you’re new:
—The In-Depth Reviews with Comprehensive Ratings. Most of my ballpark reviews are detailed. Very detailed. Baseball stadiums represent everything I love—travel, architecture, sports business, hospitality, and of course, baseball—and that obsession is reflected in the depth of the writing.
We start with an overarching narrative in the introduction, often one that ties the genesis of the ballpark concept to its current state, then I dive into all of the particulars. Exhaustive long-form MLB stadium reviews go through everything from a ballpark’s surrounding neighborhood, architectural merits, and seating proximity to concessions, social spaces, and other amenities. I look at the totality of the ballpark experience, with each category proportioned appropriately of course. This is an encyclopedic volume of opinions on significant ballparks. Look for new features and articles too!
—The Photos. The 2010s in tech were more evolution than revolution compared to the 90s and 00s, but image sharing capabilities went off the charts in the last decade. Smartphones paved the way, then Instagram changed the game. That being said, it takes a bit of effort to find an extensive repository of photos regarding a niche subject.
For the ordinary baseball fan, Ballparkratings.com’s primary appeal is the vast collection of photographs of all MLB and spring training ballparks. Each ballpark review features a gallery of 300+ photos, showcasing not only interior and exterior shots, but pictures that are more difficult to find, such as ballpark concourses, club lounges, suites, concessions, restaurants, memorabilia, etc. Images of virtually every space of MLB parks accessible to fans. All in one place!
—The Passion. There’s a robust community of traveling baseball fans and ballpark enthusiasts, but much of this stuff is in the weeds even for a ballpark nerd. It can get pretty esoteric! So, what am I doing here? I obviously write with the intent of sharing my passion with fellow baseball fans, but frankly, I do it for me.
The perverse incentives inherent in creating revenue-generating online content are not a factor in this clickbait-free space, because this is not a business. Almost no ads. No paywalls. No sponsored content. No affiliate links. No crowdfunding solicitation. No selling of merchandise. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making money off such a platform, but I simply love ballparks (here is the “why”) and see this as a vehicle to voice my opinions and post my photos.
I’ve been to 37 MLB ballparks (all 30 active), all before the age of 30. I’ve been to 32 spring training complexes (all 24 active) and attended spring training for 22 consecutive years, including the last two. I revisit 10 or so MLB parks each year. Most of all, I pride myself on having seen almost every section and area of every ballpark to get the fullest possible perspective.
Where to begin? Start with my long-form piece ranking, rating, and briefly reviewing the current MLB ballparks all together for the broad sweep.
Too long, didn’t read? Try my best and worst features of each Major League ballpark piece, which ranks and rates the ballparks more succinctly.
Ballparkratings.com at Facebook
See the latest ballpark news, real time ballpark revisits, newest photos, and site announcements at our Facebook page! If you have any questions, drop me a line. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but Facebook will be quicker.
Covid in the Rear-View Mirror?
As of July 5, all 30 MLB clubs are hosting fans at full capacity, with the caveat that the Blue Jays are still playing in Buffalo. The Jays plan to return to Toronto in the second half of the 2021 season.
2021 All-Star Game moved to Denver’s Coors Field
Chicago, Milwaukee, and Kansas City were reportedly in the mix to replace Atlanta as the host of the 2021 MLB All-Star Game, but Denver was always the most sensible replacement. Coors Field had a relatively long ASG drought (1998), and the Rockies will be able to show off a slew of wonderful enhancements completed in the mid-2010s and showcase the brand new McGregor Square that just opened adjacent to Coors.
There’s also the logistical issue: MLB needed a city/ballpark that had already submitted a bid in the past for the 2021 game given the quick turnaround (Denver had. Milwaukee and Kansas City, perhaps cities better fit for the moment, had not).
I had already budgeted to attend the festivities in Atlanta, so I’ll be there! First All-Star week since 2005. I’m not a big All-Star Game guy—exhibitions at World Series prices when I’ll see most of the stars throughout the year anyway—but the unexpected change meant some amazing hotel deals if you knew where MLB was headed.
I released an updated in-depth Coors Field review in anticipation of the big event!
My 2021 Itinerary
After revisiting new Globe Life Field in April (we were on hand for the inaugural 2020 neutral site NLCS games), I’ve scheduled a healthy series of ballpark revisits for July-September:
—July 9-11, Tigers at Twins, Target Field, Minneapolis, MN
—July 12-13, Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, Coors Field, Denver, CO
—September 4 (doubleheader!)-5, Mets at Nationals, Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
—September 11-12, Marlins at Braves, Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
—September 18-19, Orioles at Red Sox, Fenway Park, Boston, MA
Perhaps more to come. I post real-time photos, reviews, and impressions on Facebook during the games.
NEW Photo Galleries!
While I emphasize these reviews are *not* yet necessarily up to date, I have new galleries of photos taken from 2018-2020 of the following parks, on top of older ones from the past:
On a desktop, just scroll to the bottom of the page (on a mobile device, the images become clear once you click on them). 500+ photos each. Every conceivable area of the park accessible to fans. Now high resolution.
New photos coming soon of
Miller Park American Family Field (ugh) in Milwaukee, loanDepot Park in Miami, and Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. As I type this, I swear it was a hilarious coincidence that these are the ballparks with the new bad naming rights!
During the Pandemic, I felt compelled to write a piece that encapsulates a part of the Major League ballpark experience that I thought may not be the same for the foreseeable future, even when we can return to ballparks. I hoped it didn’t turn out to be a decade-long retrospective, but stadium cuisine was a defining element of the ballpark experience in the 2010s.
Luckily, ballpark operations are (almost) firing on all cylinders once again in July 2021, so this piece has new relevance. Not all grub and suds detailed have returned (most will eventually), but the rankings and ratings are up to date.
Globe Life Field review. New Home of the Texas Rangers.
Despite opening against the backdrop of Covid, I’ve given considerable attention to Globe Life Field. In the summer of 2020, I extensively explored the site, toured the ballpark, and possessed an intimate knowledge of the planned gameday experience had the ballpark opened as originally expected. In the fall, I attended the first ever games at Globe Life Field for the neutral site NLCS. In April 2021, I attended some of the first Ranger games ever played here. I’ll mostly let the piece speak for itself, but I remain deeply unimpressed.
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.
More photos from 2021 and rankings/ratings coming soon.
___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 21 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.