MLB Ballparks: A Ranking of the Coolest Feature of Every Stadium in Baseball

Joshua HayesCorrespondent IIJuly 14, 2011

MLB Ballparks: A Ranking of the Coolest Feature of Every Stadium in Baseball

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    This article ranks the coolest features of every MLB ballpark in ascending order, celebrating the iconic attributes that help give baseball's wide array of stadiums their unique identity.  For those who plan to skip the reading and get right into the list, I will warn in advance that not all of today's stadiums are very flattering to the game, and the first few slides aren't truly features at all...

    ...but as you read along, I believe you will be satisfied!

    A plethora of remarkable new sports arenas have been financed in the past decade, and as antiquated structures fall to rubble, the new and improved works of art make attending events all the more enjoyable.  Baseball shares in this spirit of reinvention, and each season it has the opportunity to show off another of its breathtaking parks during the MLB All-Star Game. 

    Certainly, fans have lost some iconic venues. Yankees Stadium was the most storied site in baseball, and while a new age of amenity and luxury driven sports economics demand change, many fans would have preferred to stay in the classic and aura-filled park.

    Nevertheless, with few exceptions, the game is better for these vibrant new "24-karat" baseball diamonds.

    Cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadiums are becoming the minority.  Gone are circular bowls of elliptical plainness, replaced by fan-friendly architecture that must be deemed works of art.

    Yet, for all of the technological savvy and close-up viewing that go along with modern parks, the experience that will stay with fans means far less without that one distinct feature that makes every trip to an American baseball city unique. 

    As an example, designers understood that new Yankees Stadium would be nothing without the lattice work that served as more than a mere gorgeous design.  It was the distinguishing characteristic of the classic Yankees Stadium, stamping all in its company with a nostalgia that will bring their minds back to that "first game."

    Across town, Citi Field pays homage to the "apple" that was such a distinguishing characteristic of the Mets' old home, Shea Stadium.

    From ivy fences to waterfalls, many of today's baseball stadiums offer wonderful distinguishing characteristics. 

    With a playoff roster that is narrow, the All-Star Game represents a fine method with which to familiarize fans with these striking, portrait-worthy venues.

    The following countdown is a list of the most memorable feature from every field in Major League Baseball.  Whether its scenery, interactive entertainment, traditions that occur amongst the fans, or a classic structure, here are the defining characteristics one could cherish forever after a trip to America's great ballparks. 

    Additionally, the selections will be presented in ranking order in order to determine which venue has the single finest feature in all of baseball. 

    Keep in mind that park features are not necessarily physical structures, including those literally attached to the arena.

30) US Cellular Field: Hardcore Fans Who Hate the Field

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    The White Sox had enough!  They were going to leave Comiskey Park come hell or high water!

    They chose hell.

    Fans have hated the park since it opened, evidenced by multiple renovations and a complete lack of esteem regarding the facility. 

    According to "Ballparks of Baseball," the venue was well-liked initially, but newer parks in the years that followed blended better new-age features with a more nostalgic atmosphere, causing the disconnect.

    Off the top of my head, nothing came to mind regarding US Cellular Field.

    When an internet search for "US Cellular Field Great Features" comes up with this article at the top, you know something is wrong.

29) O.co Stadium: Encountering a Raiders Fan in Full Costume

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    Despite multiple renovations, this outdated stadium takes the honor for:

    -Worst NFL venue

    -Worst MLB venue

    -Worst "anything else that is played there' venue

    The outdated stadium is in great need of demolition.  It amazes me that Al Davis can litigate over the issue of turning his team into a group of nomads, yet he can't aspire the wheels of change to spit out the Raiders, one of the most storied NFL franchises, a new stadium!

    The Athletics suffer through this plague as well, their best bet for a memorable feature being a Jose Canseco flashback or bumping into a fully adorned member of the NFL's "Black Hole."

28) Sun Life Stadium: Dan Marino's Retired No. 13

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    To quote my introduction: "From ivy fences to waterfalls, many of today's baseball stadiums offer wonderful distinguishing characteristics."

    Operative word:  many.

    Not all.

    Among today's beauties exist cookie-cutter structures that all but assuredly embarrass the franchises that play in them.

    In minor league baseball, the Altoona Curve have a roller-coaster in the outfield of Blair County Ballpark.

    The Marlins?

    They have a great need for a new stadium, in the works and not ready to open soon enough!

27) Rogers Center: The First Retractable Roof

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    Blue Jays games are played indoor or outdoor, rain or shine. 

    Well, I guess that would have been a bold statement in 1989.  Today, many venues boast retractable roofs.

    Yet, Rogers Center was the first, giving it bragging rights where it otherwise would not have any!

    Anybody love watching paint dry?  If so, check out the video!

26) Target Field: Minnie and Paul

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    Target Field's home run feature resembles that of the "Liberty Bell" of the Phladelphia Phillies.

    What makes this particular device so memorable is that it honors the original logo of the Minnesota Twins.

    Two characters, Minnie and Paul, light up in neon colors and shake hands to celebrate every home run hit at Target Field. 

    It's a cool throwback to the past and surely stays in the minds of those who experience Twins baseball. 

    Yet, in the video, I see two blinking letters (the "t" and "s" of Twins). Surely there is so much more potential with this prop.  How about some buzzers or more border lighting....or have it sway.....or....anything else?

25) Nationals Park: The Red Porch and Red Loft

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    One of the finest new parks in baseball, Nationals Park is breathtaking from the moment fans enter. 

    One of the first sights they encounter when entering via the outfield is likely the stadium's finest, the Red Porch and Red Loft, where fans can enjoy the luxuries of box seating with the sun on their face and a breeze in their bonnet!  The loft is perched above the porch, where fans have an outdoor view of the game from high above while still enjoying standard indoor amenities.

    These outfield sections are a unique experience, and they present a visual highlight in the outfield. 

    Narrowly missing the mark are cherry blossom trees that span the outfield, a unique contrast to the typical green pines and ferns seen at many MLB parks.

24) Chase Field: Swimming Pool

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    At this year's All-Star Game, fans were given the opportunity to marvel at a modern structure of baseball indulgence, Chase Field. 

    The home of the Arizona Diamondbacks has an incredibly unique feature, a swimming pool behind the right-field fence. 

    For anyone disputing this selection, how many stadiums can offer pool-side seating?

    That's what I thought!

    While it doesn't stand out as a visual stunner like those in other ballparks, the refreshing scene must be enticing during the hottest summer days and fans look down upon the luxurious combination of ballgame and backstroke.

23) Safeco Field: Umbrella Roofing

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    Safeco Field may be the prettiest field in all of baseball, an absolute beauty of modern design and engineering.

    The retractable roof design for Safeco is not really a roof at all- but a mobile overhand that serves more like an umbrella that can be moved atop the field in the case of Seattle's frequent rain showers.

    This design, when covering the stadium, blends the feel of an indoor baseball game with the ambient lighting that comes in from the open perimeter.  This gives the Mariners home a distinct feeling.

    The stadium is very versatile, having hosted everything from baseball to WrestleMania.

22) Tropicana Field: The Touch Tank

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    Indoor baseball in Tampa Bay, Florida?  It's a reality for the Rays, playing in a stadium built out of consideration to the considerable rain fall received over the summer months.

    The Marlins also play in Florida, right?

    In any case, Tropicana Field is considered one of the worst sites for baseball, largely due to the obstructive layout, both for audiences and the game itself.  Many balls have hit catwalks that rest atop the field, which were originally considered in-play but appropriately changed.

    Nonetheless, for all of its mediocrity and criticisms, the "Trop," as it is called by locals, features a great feature with the Touch Tank.  Unlike any other ballpark feature in baseball, this tank gives fans the opportunity to experience rays up close and personal.

    Baseball is a family game, and attractions that heighten the experience for both adults and children have to get major kudos.

21) Coors Field: Thin Air

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    The Rockpile at Coors Field is located behind the outfield fence.  A mix of pines and large stones, the scenic backdrop is likely the arena's most visually enticing feature. 

    Really, though, the greatest feature of the Colorado Rockies home is simply air.  The thin mile-high air allows baseballs to travel further distances, giving this unique locale more action than witnessed at other stadiums.  At such a high altitude, it is believed by some experts that baseballs carry an additional 25-30 percent, resulting in a 50 percent increase in scoring and home runs.

    Imagine the game's greatest all-time sluggers calling Coors Field their home.  It's almost an unfair handicap, and it's a statistical oddity that nobody who played for the Rockies threatened the home run records.  In their prime, Larry Walker and Andres Galarraga "only" hit up to 49 homeruns, the equivalent of 33 in other locations.

20) Progressive Field: Downtown Cleveland

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    Formerly known as Jacobs Field or "The Jake," this stadium's claim to fame is the intimacy that Indians fans enjoy with seating as close to the action as any ballpark in America.

    From the outfield "Heritage Park" (which includes an Indians' Hall of Fame) to the left field concourse, the field features a number of great features that aren't readily apparent to the naked eye. 

    What is apparent are the giant billboard/screen, and the spectacular views of downtown Cleveland.  Long before most parks were laid out for this type of backdrop, Jacobs Field showcased Cleveland in breathtaking view.

    The stadium gets bonus points for preceding its time and setting a new trend.  The field is so intimately woven with the city that passers-by on the street can see the game from certain select spots!

19) Busch Stadium: Backdrop of the Gateway Arch

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    The Gateway Arch is a renowned, distinguishing mark in the city of St. Louis, Missouri.  Attracting tourists during all seasons, the unique design represents the westward expansion of America, and it is the tallest man-made structure in the country.

    While one could argue that it is not a part of Busch Stadium, it actually is part of that venue.  Like a number of great modern fields, the backdrop fans see as they gaze upon a beautiful outfield is very intentional.

    The backdrop at Busch is the St. Louis skyline, and one cannot help but to single out the Gateway Arch.  Fans eyes are naturally drawn to its size and beauty, and the image surely stays with them.

18) Citi Field: The Big Apple

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    Citi Field is a dynamic venue, an underrated gem in the MLB ranks.  It's bold color scheme perfectly blends subtle hints of near-neon orange, and one could gather before ever knowing the teams slated to take the field that this is the home of the Mets.

    Mr. Met is the most iconic symbol of the team, but the memorable image one will take with them from Citi Field is "the Big Apple."

    Paying homage to old Shea Stadium's apple, a replica is placed behind the center field wall that rises every time a Mets player hits a home run.  It's a great nod to tradition, proving the old saying:

    "An apple a day keeps the opponents at bay!"

17) Citizens Bank Park: The Liberty Bell

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    Like fans at Citi Field in New York, Philadelphia Phillies fanatics celebrate home runs with the assistance of an iconic symbol.

    After a Phillies homerun, the replica Liberty Bell, complete with the necessary crack, turns neon, as the bell and clapper swing back and forth, vibrating and pulsating.  The distinct ring chimes through the ballpark while celebratory music accompanies the exciting atmosphere.

    For whom does the bell toll?  Now we know!

16) Comerica Park: Center Field Fountains

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    For most beautiful use of a water prop, our award goes to:

    Comerica Park in Detroit!

    Fans who attend a baseball game in Hockey Town are greeted by a few enormous tiger statues before entering the teams' lovely new home since the turn of the century.

    The "Chevrolet Fountain" or "Fountain at Comerica" (don't you just love marketing?) is the most memorable feature of a lovely park.

    Not satisfied with a mere continuous flow, the water fountain has dynamic motion, even replicating fireworks when the team wins or hits a home run.

    Seriously....Chevrolet Fountain? 

    This feature is pretty snazzy, until you consider a couple of other water-themed features later on the list.

15) Dodgers Stadium: The Wavy Roof

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    Dodgers Stadium is honored by many experts words, being described as one of the most fan-friendly and clean ballparks in all of the U.S.A.

    From Tommy Lasorda to Mike Piazza, many MLB greats have graced the 45-year-old field that has somehow managed to not out-date itself.  The stadium is a testament to forward thinking and consistent maintenance.  No venue nearly a half-century in existence is so cherished without having a wonderful atmopshere.

    The most unique feature in the future of Dodgers Stadium could be the views of L.A., but for current times, there is a awkwardly beautiful attribute to the outfield seating that catches the eye.

    The wavy roof stands out, giving the park a charm while protecting the fans located in left and right field.  It is one of the most unique outfields in baseball, with two scoreboards above the roofs at either side.

14) Camden Yards: B&O Warehouse

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    One of the distinct strengths that Camden Yards has over its peer venues is the open concourses, grass fields, and abundant walkways that make the ballpark experience in Baltimore very relaxing.

    For all of these liberating options—who wouldn't want to stretch out, lie back, and take in a live ballgame?—there is one other gorgeous feature that defines the look of Camden.

    The B&O Warehouse stands directly behind right field, its eight stories spanning the entire length from center field to the outer perimeter of the stadium.

    The beautiful, reddish Goliath dominates the outfield panorama, which isn't a bad thing.  The view only enhances the nostalgic, and even rustic, old-time feel that comes with an Orioles home game.

13) Turner Field: Tomahawk Chop and Chant

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    A game at Ohio State is highlighted by the ritual of the marching band "dotting the i" as the marching band forms the word Ohio.

    Often, just as it is at OSU, the greatest atmospherics aren't derived from aesthetic pleasures so much as the electricity in the stands. 

    I can only imagine what Braves players felt like, coming up to bat in the late innings of the NLCS or World Series, looking over at a man on third base.  If that isn't enough to send chills down the spine of a batter, there was always one more card the fans could play to get the hair standing on the back of everybody's necks.

    One of the most recognizable themes in baseball, the tomahawk chop at an Atlanta Braves game is crowd energy at its finest, especially when there is a sea of red tomahawks going back and forth in the stands.

    When the Braves played in October, it was difficult to determine what was more exciting:  the pitching rotation, Chipper Jones' at-bats, or the "chop."

12) Minute Maid Park: Steam Locomotive

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    One good panoramic look at the Houston Astro's home reveals an iconic western image that local fans can easily embrace.

    Above the left field fence is an 800-foot railroad platform with a steam locomotive resting atop of it.

    Yep, it's a big train!

    The iconic image likens to the 19th century Wild West, and fans enjoying the Minute Maid Park dynamics on their vibrant, high definition televisions surely can't help it as their minds set adrift into visions of long, leather boots with sharp spurs.

    Aside from Bum Phillips' cowboy hat, few things in sports have ever been more Texas.

    Adding to the beauty of left-field is the backdrop of downtown Houston, seen behind the train.

    Perhaps the locomotive is fitting for a stadium once licensed by the bankrupt former corporation known as Enron name.  After all, in many classic westerns, the robbers go after the train, right?

11) Petco Park: The Western Metals Supply Co.

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    A number of old buildings and factories are demolished in cities around the world everyday.  Many of these warehouses are destroyed in preference of modern sites and facilities.

    The San Diego Padres play in Petco Park, one of baseball's newest stadiums. Like any new venue, it succeeds other buildings and landmarks of the former area.

    In an act of preservation, one building was not only kept as a monument, but also incorporated into the stadium.

    The Western Metals Supply Company still stands, refurbished with team supply stores and other fan amenities.  It stands directly behind the left field fence.

    The building is so blended into the stadium's layout that the left field foul pole runs along the front, right corner of the former business.

10) Rangers Ballpark: Arlington Stadium Bleachers

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    Possibly the only new stadium to truly blend old and new venues, Rangers Ballpark is unique for having old bleachers from the former Arlington Stadium.

    Not only are these seats used in the new park, they dominate the center of the outfield seating area, creating a unique blend of "then and now."

    The seats stand out distinctly, their design countered against the aesthetic of the new structure with no attempt to blend either in with the other.   

    Essentially, a chunk of Arlington was placed directly in the center of Rangers Ballpark.

9) Kauffman Stadium: Outfield Fountains

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    The Tigers and Royals are division rivals, and so are their fountains.

    In this battle, the Royals' fountain easily takes the victory.

    It stretches across a much larger portion of the outfield, originating from two pools of water that travel to the traditional fountains (springs of water) and waterfalls behind center field.

    Visually breathtaking, the watery scene paints the entire backdrop of the stadium with an elegance that gives the park a much younger feel. 

    It's truly hard to believe that this dazzler opened in 1973!

8) Great American Ballpark: Riverboat and Smokestacks

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    In Cincinnati, another great monuments stands.  Unlike the "Big Apple" or "Liberty Bell," this backdrop serves as a beautiful aesthetic in the outfield, atop of its being utilized for celebrations and home runs.

    Just past the center field wall is a two-story riverboat, a fitting and visually stunning feature for this great venue located along the Ohio River.  The riverfront location makes the decor incredibly charming.

    Beside the boat are a set of smokestacks that are not only used for smoke and fog, but also celebratory fireworks.

    Credit Cincinnati for having one of the finest outfields in Major League Baseball without any dependence on the city skyline. 

7) Miller Park: Bernie's Dugout

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    "Get up..."

    "Get up..."

    Get outta' here!"

    "Gone!"

    And with that home run, Milwaukee Brewers fans excitedly invite Bernie, the team mascot, to leave his playful dugout, take off down a winding, yellow slide, and celebrate with them from his platform above center field.

    Sounds like fun!  To take in a cold beer (after all, these are the Brewers, it's in Milwaukee, and it's Miller Field...), launch down a winding yellow slide, and be the center of attention.

    Well, scratch that last part!

    Now, to figure out how he grows such a fine, blond 'stache!

6) PNC Park: The Roberto Clemente Bridge

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates hope to finally field a winning team in 2011, something that would be fitting for such an illustrious ballpark.  This gem of a baseball diamond certainly deserves to see playoff baseball during its prime.  PNC Park is considered by many, if not most, baseball fans as the finest park in America.

    Breathtaking views of Pittsburgh's downtown skyline are immaculate, the backdrop resting so intimately close with the fans in the stands. 

    What separates this field from others that display an outfield skyline is the Roberto Clemente Bridge, its vibrant yellow length spanning from the park's entrance to downtown Pittsburgh.  Traffic is stopped on the bridge for Pirates gamedays, allowing fans and spectators to walk the length unimpeded.

    The "RCB" (radically cool backdrop?) really pops in front of baseball's most magnificent outfield view.

5) Fenway Park: The Green Monster

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    Did you expect this to be No. 1?

    Lovingly nicknamed "The Green Monster," the large left field wall is perhaps the most iconic feature in baseball. 

    Known by every fan of Major League Baseball, the tall wall breathes life into Fenway Park, causing the stadium to seemingly say out loud, "Can you hit the baseball over here?"  

    From All-Star Home Run Derbies to playoff games, the challenge of hitting a home run over the aptly named monster comes with the promise of notoriety and bragging rights, thus directing every fan's attention to its corner of Fenway.

    Adding to the wall's charm is the in-game scoreboard, a classic feature that is adjusted manually by sliding metal plates into the appropriate slots.  Not too many Americans have a pay from operating a baseball scoreboard anymore!

    Fenway Park is considered by many to be one of the most over-hyped venues in all of sports, garnering criticisms such as "ugly" or "out-dated."

    Despite some harsh words (including my own), the appeal and popularity of its greatest feature are only part of what make the site great for the game.  Critics of such harsh stances have an easy rebuttal, replaying, "History, baby!"

4) Angel Stadium: California Spectacular

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    Angels Stadium is one of the most beautiful venues in baseball, largely for its gorgeous backdrop and its most attractive feature.

    At center field is the "California Spectacular," a waterworks feature that includes geysers, steam, and waterfalls that cascade over artificial rocks and authentic greens (shrubbery and trees).

    A close look at the picture reveals a gorgeous background.  Imagine the majesty of this feature up close and personal!

3) Yankees Stadium: Lattice Design

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    Yankees Stadium was the most storied ballpark in baseball history before its final game was played in 2009. 

    In 2010, Yankees fans, many begrudgingly, migrated to a new Yankees Stadium.  There are mixed opinions comparing old and new, and "Yoi'kas" are ever so adamant to their respective stance.

    Thankfully, some elements of the old stadium shine through in the new edition; the most critical was the single most defining characteristic of Yankees Stadium and baseball in New York.

    The lattice work.

    Lattice work is perfectly replicated at the new location, rimming the outfield wall just like the original park.  the design is also seen serving as an overhang from locations above the infield seating.

    Whether they prefer new or old, this critical, historical element of Yankees baseball continues to live on into the future decades. 

    More than the "Green Monster" or any modern monuments to the game, this design will always be associated with Yankees Stadium, home of the most successful team in MLB history.

2) AT&T Park: The Bay

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    In a difficult decision, I had to toggle between a replica Coke bottle, the world's largest baseball glove, or...the PACIFIC OCEAN.

    While I struggled through the process for a while, I narrowed my options with one critical question: how many stadiums allow hitters to send baseballs plunking directly into the sea?

    Aerial views of the stadium often look surreal, with the normal parking and landmass on one side and an endless span of blue to the other.

    Who can forget the Homerun Derby held at this venue, as viewers and live spectators watched in anticipation of long balls landing in the P-A-C?

    Anywhere else, the baseball glove would have been a lock!

1) Wrigley Field: The Ivy Wall

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    Could it be any other?  Not at Wrigley!

    The Cubs have a number of great traditions, and while the excitement surrounding the seventh inning stretch in Chicago would garner a selection at most venues, the unique outfield walls easily take the cake at this park. 

    From barren first weeks of the season to the fully-flourished mid-summer months, the ivy grows back in full over the span of 81 home games, marking a unique means of illustrating the progression of the baseball season.

    With outfield seating on rooftops, amazing fan interaction, a great seventh inning, and those iconic ivy walls, attending a Cubs daylight contest is a must-do event for any real baseball fan.

    Wrigley Field is one of the few classic ballparks that have stood the course of time- and one of the even fewer venues to stand that course outside of media hype and hysterics (Hello, Fenway!).

    With its classic, intimate feel and unique facets, Chicago fans can be proud to call this ballpark home!