With all due respect to the new palaces of pop in New Yawk, I have been to a lot of minor league ballparks and arenas. As for the national pastime, quite frankly, they smoke anything that MLB has to offer if you love the game of baseball, and not the celebrity cult of MLB.
First, you're closer to the game, for a fraction of the price. No $3,000 seats here. $3,000 might buy you most of the seats behind home plate. Take a few friends. Your office. A Little League.
Second, you're more apt to see real baseball played. Not that over-sanitized, sabre-metrically castrated version. Pitchers pitch more complete games in the minors. They have to learn how, just in case their skipper pulls out an Uzi in a fit of rage and kills off all of the middle-relievers. You will see players steal more bases, steal home, and take more chances because they are not being protected from injury the way that the game has been recrafted by MLB to coddle its merchandise-makers.
Last, the ballparks themselves rock. HOK Sport, which does the large majority of these new parks, has really developed a nice feel to a regional ballpark that big league parks, even ones designed by HOK, can't really duplicate. They are spacious, and open, and offer a few thousand fans the best seats in the house, 360 walk-around fiield views for the parent with the bored toddler, and spaces for everthing from games and play areas to field-side hot-tubs and swimming pools. Round Rock, home of the Dell Diamond, even has a meeting/wedding space. You can say "I do" as everyone stops to watch Jason Smith or J.R. Towles blast a ball past the back windows. If you said "Who?" major league fan, check the Astros roster in 2010 or 2011.
I love minor league hockey and hoops as well. Same reason. Close to the action, great fans, and a lot to round out the evening, from the occasional Turkey Bowling at holiday time to the same food and fun on the concourse of most of these venues.
My favorite parks and arenas? They tend to be the big, loud noisy parks of the Triple-A. The DBAP in Durham, AutoZone Park in Memphis and Raley Field in Sacramento are big stand-outs, but I think that Isotopes Park in Albuquerque and the Dell Diamond in Round Rock (Suburban Austin), Texas are just the all-around best. I have to admit though, to have yet to get to WhatABurger Field in Corpus Christi, last year's winner of the MLN VotefortheBest awards.
Speaking of which, though, it would be great to hear from AGM readers what are the best minor league ballpark, food, entertinament amenities and fun.
Click here to take this year's MLN Vote for the Best and tell the Survey Monkey what you think!