Ballparks Help Renew America’s Favorite Game

By Sean B. Gormley Hoya Staff Writer

If isn’t your home page, or you don’t get a kick out of reading every single baseball story that crosses your path, you may not have realized that three Major League Baseball teams are sporting new stadiums this season. They are the latest in a recent boom of retro stadiums that commenced with the building of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992.

San Francisco’s new park is Pac Bell Stadium, a wonderfully unique facility that sits on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, yet is not victim of the vicious crosswinds that ruined Candlestick Park and gave many a fan terrible frostbite. Sitting out just beyond the short (309 foot) right field fence and a walkway that gives the non-paying public a chance to view a baseball game is the Bay, waiting to engulf any home runs that Barry Bonds powers out of the park.

Looking at overhead views of Pac Bell, it is a magnificent site, with the stadium seemingly teetering on the edge of the Bay, ready to fall in at any time. Instead of fighting terrible traffic to find your way to Pac Bell, you can hop in your boat and cruise on over to the stadium and park out in the right field Marina, arriving in plenty of time to be a target for batting practice.

Enron Field out in Houston is the second new baseball facility that has made its debut this spring to rave reviews, much like Pac Bell. Enron is a retractable-roof facility – necessary in Houston to avoid the relentless heat – that actually has grass and sports some of the most distinctive aspects of any facility in baseball (or any sport for that matter).

Enron’s center field is home to two obstacles for National League outfielders to overcome, both of which are cues to long-gone stadiums. First, there is a hill out in center field, a 30-degree incline that climbs to the fence that may drive Houston Astros center fielder Roger Cedeno to drink by the end of the season. To top things off, planted at the peak of the hill is a flagpole that is in play, just waiting for unsuspecting center fielders to scale the mini-mountain only to do a face-plant into the 30-foot pole.

Oh yeah, and Enron is giving up home runs at a rate even greater than Denver’s Coors Field, the park that single-handedly made the home run mundane.

The third new facility that has made its debut this season is Comerica Park in Detroit, which replaces old Tiger Stadium, the oldest stadium in the majors when it closed at 88 years young. Comerica is the antithesis of the other two stadiums in that it is anything but a home run launching pad – it sports some of the longest walls in the majors from line to line, which will combine with the plush (a.k.a. extremely long) outfield grass to produce more than its fair share of low scores.

Comerica is also home to the largest scoreboard in the majors, approximately the size of Rhode Island. Sitting behind the outfield stands is a Ferris wheel that will prove to be more popular than the stadium itself if the Tigers continue to be as bad as they have been in recent years, and you might even see a Pedro Martinez or Nomar Garciapara out there riding it if a team such as Boston is blowing out Detroit.

Each of these three stadiums is a fantastic addition to their cities, baseball and, of course, the teams, and they join numerous other facilities that are combining to change the face of baseball. Being phased out are the ugly domes and boring multi-purpose stadiums that once dominated baseball and are gone or soon to be gone in cities such as Seattle, Houston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Texas.

New stadiums give fans a chance to see the game played like it used to be, and still is, in the venerable old facilities of the Cubs and Red Sox, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, two places that many people hope will never disappear. These retro stadiums offer the best of both worlds, combining the experience of a unique and architecturally inspired park with the best and newest technology and facilities.

Just make sure that if you visit Safeco Field out in Seattle that you stay away from the $5 hot dogs. The vendors out there don’t see eye-to-eye with the health inspectors, which is probably not a good thing.

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