2012 MLB Spring Training: Ranking the 10 Coolest Stadiums

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIFebruary 28, 2012

2012 MLB Spring Training: Ranking the 10 Coolest Stadiums

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    Major League Baseball spring training is in full swing for most clubs, with games scheduled to start in about a week.

    For many fans, it's going to be their only chance to see their favorite players this year, as some fans have trouble just getting single-game tickets to regular-season games for their team.

    But spring training is also a chance to catch a glimpse of the future of your team, as veterans and rookies alike battle it out for final roster positions.

    To go along with the games, there's an atmosphere in spring training like none other. Fans will have the opportunity to be closer to their favorite players than they would attending a regular-season game. And don't forget the fact that it's a little more affordable for a family of four to attend a spring-training game.

    Here's a look at the 10 coolest stadiums for fans to see should they travel to Arizona or Florida for spring training.

10. Ed Smith Stadium

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    Ed Smith Stadium is the home of the Baltimore Orioles and brings a Baltimore feel into Sarasota.

    With all of its seats being recycled from Camden Yards, Baltimore fans can pay a little bit less to sit in the same seats that were in the big-league ballpark.

    One of the best features of this stadium is the entrance behind home plate. As soon as fans walk into the park, they can catch a glimpse of the entire field, which is not seen at many other spring-training facilities.

    After the 2010 spring training schedule, the stadium went under a $31.2 million renovation that gave it an old-school feel and showed off some of Sarasota's architectural history.

    The Orioles will have their Grapefruit home opener on March 5 in the split-squad game against the Pirates.

9. Champion Stadium

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    Home to the Atlanta Braves during spring training, Champion Stadium is located in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., seats 9,500 people and is inside the Disney Wide-World of Sports Complex.

    The stadium provides many of the same MLB game experiences to fans that Turner Field does, although there is also a grassy knoll for fans to enjoy—maybe even bring a picnic basket to.

    Among those visiting the Braves at Champion this year are the Detroit Tigers, who open up the home schedule for the Braves on March 3, the New York Yankees on March 10 and 28 and the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals on March 19.

    For those planning to go, single-game tickets range from $15-51, depending on the date and opponent being played.

8. McKechnie Field

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    McKechnie Field is home to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the spring and is located in Bradenton, Fla.

    Built in 1922, the stadium is one of the oldest continuously used fields in all of baseball. USA Today has gone so far as to dub the stadium as the "Fenway Park of spring training."

    One thing that makes this stadium a must-see for all fans is the extremely low prices compared to all the other ballparks. Grandstand tickets run for about $10, while box seats run for about $20.

    The Pirates will open their Grapefruit home schedule on March 4 against the Blue Jays.

7. Scottsdale Stadium

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    Scottsdale Stadium is currently the home of the San Francisco Giants, although multiple teams have played there over the years.

    Seating is great at the stadium and includes a berm that provides a lot of shade. The field is also host to batting practice, which isn't the case for most other Cactus League games.

    One thing to be aware of is there is a food bank-type collection point at each gate since nothing but bottled water is allowed to be brought into the stadium. So, prepare for your wallets to be empty when you leave.

    Food selection at the park is decent—about what you would normally expect from a spring-training stadium. It's not great, but it's not bad.

6. George M. Steinbrenner Field

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    Named for the late owner of the New York Yankees, Steinbrenner Field feels bigger than it really is.

    For the Yankee lovers who can never make it up to Yankee Stadium for a game, Steinbrenner Field hosts the largest collection of Yankees memorabilia in the Southeast. Located in the Legends Room, fans can buy various items representing the Yankees, their minor league affiliate in Tampa and Steinbrenner Field.

    One of the nicest things about the stadium is the open feel to the game. There's not a bad seat in the house. The concessions also offer a wide variety of food, with a lot of New York-style items to choose from.

    One of the downsides to this stadium is that tickets are hard to come by—even for a stadium that is the largest of all the Grapefruit League stadiums. 

    The Yankees have their Grapefruit home opener March 4 against the Phillies.

5. Camelback Ranch

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    Located in Phoenix, Ariz., the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox is one of the best in all of baseball.

    Camelback Ranch is brand-new and located close to the airport. For fans attending the game, it has a regular-season feel, as there is a huge Jumbotron for the fans' enjoyment. The grounds feature 13 practice fields, with a lake and river that are used to help irrigate the fields.

    For the fans who like to get near the clubhouses and practice fields to watch and collect autographs, the White Sox are blocked off from the public, while the Dodgers are in full view of the public.

    Although the look and feel of the stadium is nice, the one thing that it is lacking is food. With no independent food vendors and no Dodger Dog like most Dodger fans are used to in spring training, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out.

    Parking is another issue, as the main lots fill up quickly. However, parking near the practice fields is available, with either a short hike to the stadium or complimentary shuttle available to take you there.

    The Dodgers and White Sox will open Cactus League play against each other on March 5.

4. Maryvale Baseball Park

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    Home of the Milwaukee Brewers during spring training, Maryvale Baseball Park is an extension of the stadium the Brewers play in during the regular season, with its very fan-friendly attitude.

    The practice fields are accommodating, as everyone can interact with the players—assuming they're not too busy doing drills or practicing.

    The entire bowl-shaped stadium is below street level, which offers fans something that most other spring-training facilities don't: shade throughout the stadium. Both baselines are shaded for most of the games, which is a delight to many fans given the hot Arizona weather.

    The food is exceptional, and it is the only spring-training stadium that offers sauerkraut. In addition, they feature all the sausages featured in the sausage race, which is also done during spring training.

    Throw in all the free giveaways, and you truly have one of the best fan experiences in all of spring training.

    The Brewers will open up their Cactus League home schedule on March 4 against the Giants.

3. Bright House Networks Field

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    Home to the Philadelphia Phillies, Bright House Networks Stadium is located in Clearwater, Fla.

    One of the nicest things about the park is that fans can roam the entire concourse and not miss any game action.

    For those who enjoy a good brew during the game, a "Tiki Bar" just beyond the left-field fence gives fans a feel like Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium, where they can sit on a bar stool, enjoying their favorite beverage and their favorite team.

    The stadium is also one of the few that brings a flavor of home to spring training, as Phillies fans can still get their favorite cheesesteak to satisfy their appetites.

    And wouldn't you know it—the Phillies thought of the kids, too; there is a children's play area beyond the left-field line. (Hopefully not too close to the Tiki Bar—that could get a lot of people into trouble.)

    The Phillies will open their MLB spring-training slate with the Yankees at home on March 3.

2. HoHoKam Park

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    Located in Mesa, Ariz., HoHoKam Park is probably the most intense spring-training atmosphere I've ever witnessed.

    And why not? It's where the Chicago Cubs play.

    It's where fans have dreams of World Series glory, only to get back to the Windy City and realize all those hopes have been dashed—hopefully not for long, with Theo Epstein now in charge of the team.

    The first thing that catches the eye of anyone in attendance is the "batter's eye" in center field, which stands 40 feet high and 80 feet wide. In 2009, the Cubs set a Cactus League record with 203,105 fans attending games that year.

    The only issue I have is the parking. Getting out of there can be a mess, so if you don't leave before the game is over, relax and enjoy the walk out of the stadium.

    Also, make sure you remember what kind of rental car you drive. If you forget, you'll be searching for a long time.

    The Cubs will open up their Cactus League home schedule against the Athletics on March 4.

1. Peoria Sports Complex

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    There seems to be a theme with Arizona spring-training sites. No bias—just love the sites.

    The Peoria Sports Complex hosts the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners each year.

    The first two-team sports complex ever built, both the Padres and Mariners have six major-league-sized practice fields, 40,000-square-foot clubhouses and indoor and outdoor batting tunnels.

    And, right in the middle of the 150-acre site is an 11,000-seat stadium.

    Visiting a friend a few years ago who was in the Padres' minor-league system, I became infatuated with the layout and how fun the stadium atmosphere was. It didn't hurt that on the day I came out, the Padres were playing the South Korean national team as they prepared for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. That made the experience even better.

    One thing the complex can also guarantee is about four night games a year, which is great for the locals who can't take a full month off work.

    And yes, the only grass in Arizona seems to be on baseball fields and golf courses.

    Both teams will open their Cactus League schedules against each other on March 4 and 5.


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