To welcome the Major League Baseball season, ABCNews.com today offers its list of "America's 7 Best Ballparks." The subtitle of the piece authored by Scott Mayerowitz reads "These Baseball Stadiums Make It a Great Day Out Whether or Not Your Team Wins."
With the help of expert opinion, Mayerowitz lists "super-sized televisions, amazing views and high-end food" as drivers of the gameday experience in today's best parks, and he quotes Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Heyman, who adds of park design, "They've gotten away from the cookie-cutter park, thank goodness."
Mere mention of "cookie cutter" in describing dated ballpark design nearly makes me want to slash my wrists with one. So I'm not going to go there myself.
But I did go to MLB.com and looked up the 2009 home records of the clubs occupying Mayerowitz's magnificent seven to see which fans were most likely to have a great day out AND see their team win.
Red Sox Nation enjoyed the best odds, as Boston won 56 of 81 regular-season games played last year at Fenway Park — the oldest, quirkiest stadium in the bigs. San Francisco fans faired nearly as well, witnessing 52 wins at AT&T Park. Safeco Field in Seattle, Wrigely Field in Chicago, Citi Field in New York and PNC Park in Pittsburgh weren't as hospitable, with home victory totals of 48, 46, 41 and 40, respectively. The club least likely to cap a great day at a great park with a W? The Baltimore Orioles, the only team on the list aside from Pittsburgh with a losing record at home — in this case, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the design of which is often credited with spawning the retro-park revolution in 1992.
The eventual World Champion New York Yankees owned last season's best home record — 57-24 — and their now two-year-old stadium earned an honorable mention from Mayerowitz's experts. The worst home showing, by the way, belonged to the Kansas City Royals, who went 33-48 at Kauffman Stadium, which got no mention from ABC. Built with unique visual amenities (including a centerfield fountain) in the 1970s, the waning years of the — oh, I'll just spit it out — cookie-cutter era, the park has undergone renovation and incorporated ticketing innovation in an ongoing attempt to attract fans.
To what degree a park's appeal actually puts butts in the seats is difficult to pin down, as stadium capacities vary widely, but I checked ABC's list against team attendance rankings anyway. With league-wide attendance down 6 percent last season, none of the chosen parks cracked MLB's top-five destinations. However, Wrigley, Citi (in its debut season) and Fenway followed at numbers six through eight, and AT&T landed in the 10th spot.
PNC Park, meanwhile, saw fewer fans trip the turnstiles than 27 of the league's 30 teams. So when the Pirates host Los Angeles in their home opener Monday, here's hoping fans enjoy the view of Pittsburgh's skyline and riverfront, even if they lose interest in what unfolds on the field.