I love “The National Pastime.” I’ve seen a home game in every major league city in America.
On those rare nights when my plane lands in a big city before 6pm, I always check the Major League Baseball schedule. If there’s a home game, you know I’ll be there.
The green grass…the warm summer nights…the cold beer…
…the local twists on stadium junk food.
But every ballpark is different.
Some ballparks don’t sell anything more creative than microwaved hot dogs and Bud Light. If the home team is playing indoors, you can forget about that warm summer breeze.
And guess what? You can’t grow grass indoors either.
One historic ballpark doesn’t even have beer guys, for cripe’s sake! What kind of Communist totalitarian regime doesn’t want to make it easy to sell you a $12 beer??
Well, keep reading and you will find out because this is my countdown of the five WORST Major League Baseball stadiums.
But first, you might want to check out my countdown of the ten BEST ballparks, in my opinion, by clicking here.
Of course, opinions are like, well…
…you know. Let’s just say everyone’s got one.
So before you read my countdown of America’s five worst ballparks, I feel like I owe you a bit of insight into my preferences when it comes to enjoying America’s favorite pastime.
History and Nostalgia Matter
First of all, I love the history of baseball and the sense of nostalgia you feel when you can walk in the footsteps of the baseball legends.
Unfortunately, outside of Wrigley and Fenway, most of that baseball history has fallen victim to the wrecking ball, with greedy billionaire owners demanding new taxpayer funded stadiums every decade or two. But the best modern stadiums keep their connections to the past.
Downtown Is Always Better than Acres of Asphalt
I prefer the convenience, amenities and neighborhood feel of downtown stadiums, as opposed to the soulless expanse of asphalt parking lots that surround suburban stadiums.
First of all, I am cheap. And I don’t mind walking. And I have an unhealthy disregard for my personal safety.
You know where I’m going with this — I like free parking.
You know the type. I’ll spend 30 minutes cruising back alleys for that super-secret free parking spot.
A downtown stadium means I can ALWAYS find a free place to park (it’s a rental — I’m not vouching for what condition it will be in after the game).
A suburban stadium means I have no choice but to fork over $20 or more to park. That’s TWO beers! (OK, one beer at Yankee Stadium or Nationals Park.)
That just makes me grumpy.
Plus a great urban ballpark like Wrigley is an integral part of the surrounding neighborhood. Especially if that neighborhood offers fun places to eat, drink, and celebrate that sweet victory game — and a hotel you can walk back to!
At a suburban stadium, the only thing you are doing after the game is sitting in gridlock traffic, wondering if the five beers you drank will wear off before you finally make it out of the parking lot.
Room to Wander
You also need to understand that most of the time I’m traveling by myself. I’m not looking to impress or entertain anyone else. Just give me the cheapest ticket I need to get in the gate — and let me wander around the stadium and explore the amenities.
And whether those amenities include fun skydecks with great views of the game, or standing room behind home plate with just a ledge to put my beer down while I try to eat my $10 hot dog, I’m going to be pretty happy. If you won’t even let riff-raff like me onto the 100 Level Concourse (I’m looking at you Yankee Stadium), you aren’t going to score very high in my rankings.
Local Character Counts
Finally, I love stadiums that showcase the taste and feel of its city’s character.
That means great views and local food and beer.
Man cannot live upon hot dogs and Bud Light alone. If your stadium offers a taste of some local delicacy — and a local craft beer to wash it down with, I’m in hog heaven.
If the concession area looks like an Anheuser-Busch tap takeover, and offers nothing that doesn’t come already premade in a foil wrapper, I am not going to be happy.
…nostalgia, neighborhood, convenience, character, and local food and drink.
If you agree those are good criteria by which to judge a ballpark, then read on. I’ve done all the work for you.
If not, feel free to heckle me in the comments section.
Let the worst ballpark countdown begin…
5.Boston Red Sox
Fenway Park: Boston, MA
Yeah, I’m going to catch a lot of flak from my family and friends for this one. You know how those Red Sox fans can get.
But let’s be honest. While the history and nostalgia of the Green Monster, the Ted Williams Red Seat, and the Cask ‘n Flagon across Lansdowne St. can’t be surpassed, Fenway is kind of a dump — as if history and nostalgia alone offers a 100% lifetime guarantee against ever having to adapt to modern conveniences.
The first sacrilege is that roving beer guys are BANNED in Boston. There is no Boston cry of “COOOLD beeeh heeeeh!” If you get thirsty, you have to go stand in the beer line in the bowels of Fenway yourself and hand over $12 for a can of Sam Adams, missing several innings of action.
Unfortunately, Fenway is the one ballpark you really need a beer guy.
If you are stuck in the middle of a row in the “historic” wooden blue seats (designed for 1934-sized miniature Americans), you won’t be getting up.
It’s worse than being wedged into the middle seat of a transcontinental Spirit Airlines flight.
And the seats face the outfield, not home plate! So you have to turn your neck 90 degrees for three hours if you want to actually watch the game. And no you can’t simply twist your body to face home plate because your shoulder blades will be fused to those of your neighbors on either side of you.
And the poor guy in front of you? You need to spread your knees open a few inches to make room for his head. As your kneecaps cup his earlobes, you’ll both be glad you didn’t wear shorts.
The worst thing about Fenway is that nobody seems to care how completely uncomfortable and out of step with modern conveniences the ballpark has become.
For example, my most recent game at Fenway had last call for beer in the 4th inning.
After a 2 hour rain delay, the UNITE-HERE union work rules of the beer dispensers (and again, they are stationary — it’s not like there is much physical exertion involved) kick in and they all go home at 10:30 — even though the game was only in the 4th inning. Despite the fact that there is a $10 profit margin to be made on every beer sold, they will not take your money.
Union work rules. Welcome to Boston.
4. New York Yankees
Yankee Stadium: Bronx, NY
Yankee Stadium is a $2.3 billion soulless Greek columned shrine to the bubble economy.
When it opened in 2009, Yankee Stadium was the most expensive stadium ever built. And they sure didn’t have common fans like me in mind.
As I’ve previously mentioned, when I am traveling by myself, I prefer to buy the cheapest ticket I can and just wander around the standing room areas of the ballpark.
Don’t even think about trying that at Yankee Stadium.
Commoners like you and me aren’t allowed anywhere near field level. You have to be a personal acquaintance of Mayor de Blasio to even get down to the 100 Level.
I don’t know what the union bosses and hedge fund managers in the 100 Level are drinking, but the beer selection on the 200, 300 and 400 levels leave much to be desired.
Yankee Stadium’s idea of craft beer is a “Beers of the World” stand out beyond center field. The selection includes exotic options like Yuengling, Heineken, and Blue Moon (insert sarcasm here).
The food was even worse. It’s nothing like the Shake Shack or Blue Smoke Barbeque you can find at the much superior Citi Field across town.
I couldn’t even find a sausage or hot dog stand that offered grilled onions. Just plain, foil-wrapped, preheated dogs for eight bucks.
But I refused to give up my search. When I finally made it all the way around to the other end of the stadium, I found one stand behind the home plate luxury suites selling “Bronx Bomber Dogs” with onions for ten bucks plus another $15 for a Miller Lite.
The dude spooned some soupy, greasy onions onto my dog, which immediately reduced the bun into a sticky disintegrated paste.
Now what? Where do I go to eat it?
I wandered over to the standing room ledge and plopped down my $25 dinner just in time to catch Derek Jeter at the plate.
No sooner had I taken my first bite, than some Yankee Stadium usher-Nazi came over to me and said, “You can’t sit here, eat here or stand here. You have to leave. These spots are reserved.”
Reserved? For whom?
Sure enough, the standing room rail was emblazoned with Yankee blue signs reading in no uncertain terms: “RESERVED”.
Never mind that on this sparsely attended Tuesday night game against the last place Blue Jays there was not a single person in the entire stadium using the standing room ledge.
When usher-Nazi wasn’t looking, I slipped into the top row of vacant seats to try and enjoy my $10 hot dog and $15 beer in peace. Barely room temperature and no more than four or five bites, it was the least satisfying meal on which I’ve ever wasted 25 bucks.
I’ve always considered spending an evening at a Major League Baseball game one of the most fun things you can do while traveling in America on business. Unfortunately, the Yankees try to squelch all the joy out of the experience at every opportunity.
But the Yankees don’t care.
“See you tomorrow,” said the usher as I walked out into the Bronx night.
Don’t bet on it.
3. Kansas City Royals
Kauffman Stadium: Kansas City, MO
This was the last ballpark I checked off my list.
What a disappointment.
Like all baseball fans, I had heard so many glowing reviews of Kauffman. Maybe because Midwesterners are just so darn nice, no one wants to state the obvious…
…that Kauffman Stadium kinda sucks.
First of all, it is one of those suburban ballparks surrounded by acres of blacktop where the privilege for parking your rental car will set you back more than your ticket to get into the game. Forget about any fun downtown bars, restaurants — or secret free parking spots you can walk from like in downtown ballparks.
Kauffman is old without being quaint. It’s basically one of those 1970’s cookie cutter ballparks that’s been spruced up with some fountains.
And the beer selection has to be among the worst in all the Major Leagues. It’s a Miller-Coors-Boulevard tap takeover.
The only local craft beer sold is a 12 ounce can of gluten free beer, whatever that means. And it is called Yoga Pants.
Yeah, I’m not buying that.
Yes, I am discounting Boulevard as a local craft beer. If I can get it at my home 1200 miles away, it’s not a local craft beer. Yes, I am a beer snob.
I also like my beer cold. The $12 Boulevard IPA I paid for was room temperature. Unacceptable.
The food was pretty lackluster too — except for a lonely BBQ pit hidden behind the cinderblock/tornado shelter bathrooms out in center field. $20 for some burnt ends and two sides made onsite. It was pretty darn good for ballpark BBQ.
Unfortunately, there was nowhere to eat it. Oh sure, they set up some picnic tables behind the bathroom wall. But you know…
…I kinda want to watch the game. Call me crazy.
I had to balance my $35 worth of food and alcohol on a one-inch wide railing behind the fountains in centerfield. Most modern ballparks actually want to encourage you to consume $35 worth of their marked up concessions by giving fans a wide ledge to stand and eat their meal while watching the game.
These are the modern conveniences you will NOT find at Kauffman Stadium.
2. Oakland A’s
Oakland Alameda Coliseum: Oakland, CA
I’m not a fan of welfare for billionaires. Why should taxpayers have to pay to build ballparks for billionaire team owners? Go build your own darn ballpark. Stop asking me for money.
That disclaimer aside, the Oakland A’s really do need a new stadium.
The A’s are the last Major League team still required to share their stadium with an NFL football team.
So basically the A’s are forced to play baseball in a football stadium built during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. As a consequence, even front row seats behind the dugout are hundreds of feet from home plate. And an unsightly “mountain” of tarps concealing empty seats rises in the outfield.
Oakland Alameda Coliseum is an ugly sprawling monstrosity of a ballpark, hard against the 880 on the west, and encircled by three square miles of parking lot on the other three sides.
There’s nothing quaint or fun about the place.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
Tropicana Field: St. Petersburg, FL
If you were looking for some counterintuitive surprise for “worst ballpark”, sorry to disappoint you. Like bullying some kid with a disability, I almost feel bad about it. Everyone knows Tropicana Field is an abomination to the sport of baseball.
First of all, God intended baseball to be played outdoors.
Yeah, I know. It gets hot in Florida in summertime.
Almost all Major League Baseball games are played at night. We aren’t talking about life or death here, despite the fact that St. Pete, Florida is unofficially known as “God’s Waiting Room.”
Besides, I have it on good authority that cold beer was specifically invented for hot summer nights at the old ballpark.
Unfortunately, Tropicana Field isn’t a ballpark at all. It’s a 28-year-old concrete dome completely incompatible with baseball.
Batted baseballs hit the steel girders holding up the concrete so often, Tropicana Field has its own set of rules to dictate what happens when the ill-conceived architecture of the dome disrupts the play of the game.
I’m pretty sure if your stadium is so poorly designed it requires a separate chapter in the baseball rulebook, you should just implode the darn thing and start over.
And don’t even get me started on the ugly artificial turf the poor Rays have to play on 81 nights per year. Does it even need to be stated that baseball is supposed to be played on grass?
The Rays have just recently attempted to improve the concessions.
But up until a few years ago, the closest thing you could get to local cuisine was a bloomin’ onion from an outpost of Tampa Bay headquartered Outback Steakhouse. Fortunately, I hear a few local restaurants have been allowed to open concessions since my last visit.
Dark and dingy, watching a game at Tropicana is like camping out with the bums for a night underneath a highway overpass.
Only less crowded.
The Rays consistently rank near the bottom of the attendance standings year after year, even when they have a winning team.
With more breweries and beautiful beaches than any other metropolitan area in America, Tampa Bay offers plenty of competing entertainment choices. So can you really blame Rays fans if they choose one of those options over a night under the concrete at Tropicana Field?