business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got a lot of email last week in response to my pieces about having visited all the major league baseball parks, and the business lessons learned from the adventure. Here are just some of them...

MNB reader John Phillips wrote:

Took a tour of all of the east coast ball parks last year. I totally agree with your assessment on the new Yankee Stadium. Citi Field was so inviting and inclusive from the food court to the stadium set up. A really great job on their part- they should be proud of that park. The seats are really excellent. I thought Yankee stadium was too exclusive (for the average fan). If you weren’t part of one of their inane clubs you were excluded from much of the good food and the stadium. The interior set up of the stadium was poorly conceived.

I would have included Dodger stadium with the rest as part of your ranking. To me,Fenway (104 years old) and Wrigley (a younger 102), are completely unique and distinct from a historical perspective and you have a different sensory experience than you do in Dodger Stadium. One other key point is you have to “rough it”  sometimes in Fenway and Wrigley whereas you get pretty consistent weather in LA.

I look forward to your next bucket list activity (perhaps visiting all of the teams spring training facilities)!

It isn't exactly bucket list stuff, but I do have two short term goals. I want to go to Alaska because it is the only US state I haven't been to, and I want to go to Antarctica, because it is the only continent I haven't visited.

MNB reader Ryan Murphy wrote:

I enjoyed reading your recent post ranking baseball stadiums.  I used to live five blocks from Wrigley Field and am a bit biased myself.  I can relate to your taste in stadiums.

I moved down to Florida about a decade ago and live in a small town in the Tampa Bay area.  It just so happens that I'm in the epicenter of spring training sites.  I'm about twenty minutes from the Phillies, Blue Jays and Yankees and about an hour from the Tigers (Lakeland, home of Publix) and Pirates (Bradenton).

This may sound like blasphemy, but I've come to enjoy spring training games more than the regular season (the Maddon-less Rays and Tropicana Field may have something do to with my preference).  Nothing beats being so close to the field and players, seeing young players hustling to make the team, and occasionally getting a glimpse of a retired legend.  And you can't beat the weather.

If you can find your way to this area in the spring, I'd enjoy the opportunity to take you to a game.  I don't work in the retail industry (I'm in healthcare technology), so I won't be able to talk shop.  I came across you blog after seeing you speak at a conference in Las Vegas years ago and have been a fan for a long time.  Even though I'm not in retail, your blog has lots of lessons apply to any industry, which is why I'm still a reader.  I'd appreciate the opportunity to thank you in person in a venue you'd enjoy.

In the spirit of your recent post, I've ranked the local spring training stadiums for you.  All of them are great - you really can't go wrong, but I have my preferences:

5. Yankees - Tampa, FL
Replica of Yankee Stadium with the gables and all.  NY-style pizza.  It's a larger stadium and there's always a good crowd, as there are lots of local transplants.  Off of a major road near the airport in Tampa.

4. Phillies - Clearwater, FL
A relatively newer park with lots of amenities, including a Tiki bar in the outfield if you like that.  Philly cheesesteaks galore.  Much of the outfield has a berm which is a great place to relax.  Always a good crowd here as well - Philly fans travel.  And Larry's restaurant nearby is full of Philly nostalgia.

3. Pirates - Bradenton, FL*
Might be the oldest stadium in the area, built in the 1920's in the middle of a neighborhood.  No lights so only day games.  Going there feels like turning back the clock.  The "coziest" of the nearby parks.  However, they did a renovation last year and I haven't been since, but I've heard good things (hence the asterisk).

2. Tigers - Lakeland, FL
Many think that the stadium and surrounding "Tiger Town" is the crown jewel of the Grapefruit League.  Stadium is gorgeous stucco and tile.  You can see the practice fields and complex from the stadium, putting the training in spring training.  A large, comfortable outfield berm (I know this because I took a nap for a couple innings out there once).

1. Blue Jays - Dunedin, FL
Nestled in the heart of little Dunedin, the stadium is the most intimate of the local spring training venues.  It's small and you are right on top of the action.  You can literally stand right beside players as they warm up in the bullpen.  Does not have large concourses, Tiki bars or other amenities that you find in some of the other parks - but that's part of the charm.  They bring their vendors down from Canada and the most colorful beer vendor I've ever seen works these games (slinging Molson, of course).  What puts this stadium over the top is the location.  Downtown Dunedin is a short walk away with lots of good bars and restaurants in a laid back Florida atmosphere (nearby Dunedin Brewery has some good brews).  It draws a good size crowd, but you can still get a ticket on gameday (unlike Yankees or Philly), and they're all friendly Canadians.  A renovation is being discussed so if you want to see it in it's current state now is the time to come.

If you're interested, you've got an open invitation.

You have a deal. We'll touch base early next year.

By the way, I'm a big fan of spring training. A couple of years ago, I did a piece about one spring training trip that I took that had a lot of meaning ... and you can access it here.

From MNB reader Jeff Gartner:

I really like the Great America Ballpark in Cincy (our oldest daughter and her family live there). It's small and intimate like Wrigley, with great sight lines, and you feel closer to the field.

MNB reader Mary Schroeder wrote:

I agree with both your first and last ranking, as well as your decision to remove the classics from contention.  I’ve never been to Fenway, but how can you possibly compare anything with Wrigley?

One thing about the Oakland Coliseum, with BART right next door it’s a challenge on game days getting home to our part of the East Bay from the Financial District.  One day as usual, the train was jammed.  Suddenly the packed car started to quiet and you heard it…a four or five year old was looking out the window at the park with his A’s hat on backwards singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.  We all sat or stood and listened to him.  Many a smile, a little humming, a tear or two and a lousy commute turned into the best one ever.
My, probably only, one shining memory of the Coliseum for baseball.

MNB reader Rich Gillmore wrote:

While I quickly glanced at your rankings of Baseball parks, I of course quickly jumped to the list.  I searched up and down several times and almost began to panic.  “How can he rank stadiums and not give Dodger Stadium a spot?” and “I just lost all respect for this guy” ran through my mind.

Once I calmed down and actually went back to read the details I couldn’t agree more.  Dodger Stadium is not comparable to the 27 you have ranked.  It is an “experience” just to sit there and witness the tradition and grandeur of this icon.  It won’t be the same without Vin in the box to salute during the 7th inning stretch, but it will always be what baseball is supposed to be.

I love Dodger Stadium. There's a pic above of Mrs. Content Guy, my son Brian, and me there ... and I'm wearing my treasured Brooklyn Dodgers cap.

MNB reader Jeff Moore wrote:

What was it about Petco Park that you ranked it 3rd?  I find that surprising…. Especially being the Cardinal and Baseball fan I am.  Absolutely agree though on AT&T!

I do think that one of Petco's great advantages is that when the game is over, you walk outside and you are in San Diego. It also is just a beautiful ballpark, with great food ... terrific beer ... and I just love how it is nestled into downtown. And did I mention it is in San Diego?

MNB reader Jim Swoboda wrote:

It would be interesting to see your list including the three you omitted, of the best of the old which are no longer here, e.g., Tiger Stadium, Comiskey, etc. ?

I specifically avoided ranking the oldest three so I wouldn't have to choose. (I'd probably say Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium and then Wrigley Field ... but then I'd think about it and reverse myself for various reasons.)

As for the old stadiums ... I have to say that I probably have the softest spot in my heart for the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit. I remember going there on a lousy day, walking up to the box office with Bob Hughes, a friend/co-worker, and getting front row seats right behind home plate for next to nothing. I also fondly remember the old municipal Stadium in Cleveland, but mostly because I went to an Indians-Orioles game there that was played as it snowed in April, and there were about 200 of us in the stands - the vendors would come up to us individually to ask if we wanted or needed anything. And Earl Weaver, who was managing the Orioles at the time, kept walking onto the field and looking up in disbelief. I also loved Candlestick Park - I remember going there one weekend for a Sunday doubleheader - I had the flu, I sat in the upper deck, it was a gorgeously sunny and warm day (go figure...that wasn't always the case at Candlestick), and I sat there and healed for 18 innings.

Ah, memories.

And finally, from MNB reader Ken Wagar:

I sure don't share your passion for the game of baseball in spite of growing up during a similar time and spending time at a number of Redlegs games both in old Crosley Field and in Riverfront. I lived in that area and was a fan during the years of the Big Red Machine. But somehow the game lost it's fascination for me. I haven't been to a game in decades and have little interest in the game today. Soooo ... my first reaction to the Vin Scully report and the Baseball Park rankings was sort of a why is Kevin wasting space on this stuff?

Then I stepped back and thought about things that I am passionate about and experiences with my father that had an incredible impact on my life and the things I like to do and realized that I have been blessed to have a passion for road trips on blue highways, national and state parks, and flora and fauna that is equal to or greater than your passion for baseball and that the moments I most remember and value of my father were while doing such things with him.

I also realized that these are the things I hold most dear to my heart and are the stories I most often tell to others. I visit, enjoy and rank National and State parks and scenic highways and byways much like you do the ballparks, I have a bucket list of places yet to see and a list of places to which I want to return.

So I have to apologize for my initial thoughts about your baseball postings and compliment you for your passion with respect to the game and everything to do with the game. I realize it's not about the game or my travels or anything else except for having passion, following that passion, and honoring important memories of family members, and in particular for your passion and mine, time with our fathers.
I sincerely hope you continue to pursue your passion with regard to baseball and I thank you for your postings regarding the game as it provides insight into who you are as a person.

Thanks, and no apologies necessary.

By the way ... Vin Scully went out like a champ yesterday, when he called the final regular game of the season between the Dodgers and Giants. You can see it here.

Class act, all the way.

KC's View: