There have been some high-profile issues at Dodger Stadium in recent years, and in baseball writing circles, it's known as also being a bit of a nightmare logistically.
The elevator that takes you to the press box is infamously slow -- it's not uncommon to wait 10-15 minutes for it to arrive -- and the journey to the visiting clubhouse is the longest in the league. It's the only place where you can go talk to the manager and players, take your time on a story, pack up -- and still end up in traffic leaving the parking lot.
Having said all that, I've always loved covering games at Dodger Stadium. You can sense the history of the franchise when you watch a game there, and they fully embrace the Hollywood vibe. There are movie stars in the first row, Lakers sitting alongside the dugout and loud music blaring at all times. It's a show, they go all-in, and the fans are some of the loudest in the league -- after arriving in the third inning.
Throw in the hills in the background and the beautiful SoCal sunsets and it's a hell of a place to watch a baseball game. It is not, however, this:
This isn't even bias speaking. Do a real poll of fans, players, media, managers, team employees, etc. and you'll find overwhelming support for Oracle Park. It's a jewel of a ballpark, and it's widely considered the best ballpark in Major League Baseball. Even if you set that aside, Petco Park is easily the second-best ballpark in the NL West.
But, the people who voted in that poll are allowed to have their opinion. So am I, so here's my ranking of the NL ballparks (I excluded Oracle Park because that's basically my office), some of which I've been visiting for a decade:
14. Marlins Park, Miami -- I actually don't hate it as much as most people, although I have no idea why they took the center field statue away. If you're going to build a Miami-themed stadium, go all the way. That monster fit perfectly, along with the nightclub in left. This place needs a reboot. More color, more flair, more Miami. As is, it's just kind of boring.
13. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati -- I realized the strength of the NL when putting the Reds second-to-last. The ballpark is fine. There's nothing really wrong with it, and I like the way they set up the seats in left and right. But there's not a whole lot that stands out, especially compared to the rest of the league.
12. Truist Park, Atlanta -- It looks like something you would build on franchise mode in a video game, but they generally did a nice job. There's a ballpark village with bars and restaurants leading fans into the game and they did a good job of placing statues and honoring the team's history. There's just no creativity here.
11. Nationals Park, Washington D.C. -- Ironically, it was cooler before they built up the surrounding area. You used to have a view of downtown and the capital building, but now the ballpark is surrounded by high-rise apartments. It's pretty cookie-cutter for a park in such a famous city, and they don't at all take advantage of the fact that it was built literally alongside the Anacostia River.
10. Chase Field, Phoenix -- There's a bit of an airplane hanger vibe, but all things considered, when you're playing games in 110 degree heat most of the summer, I think they did pretty well. It's spacious and the concourses are packed with good food and entertainment options for fans. The TGI Fridays is a nice target for the Madison Bumgarners of the world during BP, and the pool in right-center is a fun target during games. You should roll your eyes when you see stories about them wanting a new place. This one is just fine.
9. Busch Stadium, St. Louis -- The view of the arch is great and the ballpark village across the street is a model for every other MLB organization. It's amazing to me that the Giants haven't duplicated that already. The Cardinals do a good job of embracing their team colors, but there's not a whole lot that sticks out.
8. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia -- You can't tell from watching games, but the ballpark is in a gigantic parking lot about 20 minutes from downtown, along with the facilities for the Eagles and 76ers. There's nothing else there, but at least they built the ballpark to have a view of downtown. They get points for embracing Philadelphia's history a bit, the great and accessible bullpen setup, and the fact that the park has an offense-first design without turning games into a joke.
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7. Coors Field, Denver -- You don't play real baseball here, but that's not their fault. Coors Field is well located and has a great aesthetic, and the fountains and mini forrest in center field were a nice touch. They get a ton of points for tearing up the upper deck in right field a few years ago and building a party deck with bars, comfortable seating and fire pits. The Giants have considered doing something similar and they really should. I take points away because there's a pet food factory somewhere in Denver and every once in a while that stench drifts over and takes over the ballpark.
6. Citi Field, New York -- Not enough ballparks embrace their city's feel, but if you sit behind the plate here you can look out and see a gigantic apple, along with a Shake Shack. It can be distracting to have planes flying overhead on the way to LaGuardia, but even that fits right in with this being a ballpark in the country's busiest city. Citi Field is huge, but the concourses are wide and they have escalators everywhere, making it one of the more walkable ballparks in the NL. The food is outstanding, too.
5. Miller Park, Milwaukee -- Built near a freeway a few miles from downtown, Miller Park is really well-designed on the inside and has plenty of quirks. The slide gets all the attention, as it should, but they also have a random Toyota SUV out there that hitters can take aim at and they spread the seats out well. There are random statues and benches all over the ballpark and they center a lot of their feel around the sausage race. We need more weird things inside parks. Good for the Brewers for realizing that.
4. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles -- Summarized above. The one thing I'll add is that the food is awful, especially compared to the other two NL parks in California. It's baffling that a park in such a trendy city could have such boring concession options.
3. Wrigley Field, Chicago -- It's a time portal as much as it is a ballpark, although the Cubs have put millions into the facility in recent years to modernize it. That's appreciated, especially when it comes to the crowded concourses and bathrooms. Wrigley still has all its charm, though, from the footprint in the middle of a neighborhood to the bleachers and home runs that land in an adjacent street. They're playing more night games these days, but this remains the best place to be on a summer afternoon.
2. Petco Park, San Diego -- If they had found a way to build this exact ballpark near the water, it might be the best ballpark or stadium in America, but it's hard to argue with placing it in the Gaslamp. If you ever get here, or get here again, take a lap around the entire ballpark. It's just beautifully set up, with plants growing up walls and floating walkways and long escalators. The Western Metal Supply Co. building in left is one of the coolest ballpark features around.
The view in center has gotten better over the years as construction has been finished, and the Padres are finally starting to fill this place up as they've put together an intriguing team. This is an unbeatable place to spend a Friday night.
1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh -- There isn't a cooler way to get to a ballpark than walking across Roberto Clemente Bridge, the ballpark opening up to you as you get closer and closer. Then you get inside, turn to the field, and find that the opposite view is even more spectacular. The ballpark was built to give a perfect view of downtown, the river and the bridge:
The actual ballpark has everything you would want, too. Wide concourses, decks that overlook the water, interesting food, plenty of cool places -- including the water -- for a ball to land. This is easily my favorite one to visit. If you're checking ballparks off your list, this needs to be at the top.