The quest to see 30 Major League ballparks offers its own twists over a nine-year span. Times change, and so do baseball stadiums.
The brand-new Marlins Park in Miami offers the look and feel of the big leagues in the 21st century. If you want a non-traditional experience, head to South Florida.
Miami, the 27th MLB park on my tour, may be the most unique stop yet. It’s the South Beach of ballparks with flare and uniqueness unlike any other stadium.
One year ago, this tour stop would have featured a 67,000-seat, open-air football stadium that hosted baseball in the offseason. Last month, I saw firsthand the 37,000-capacity ballpark with fish-tank backstops and lime-green outfield walls.
While many newer ballparks aim to replicate Camden Yards in Baltimore, Marlins Park goes in the opposite direction.
Most home games in Miami are played with the retractable roof and outfield glass panels closed. The park’s air conditioning hits the back of your neck like a movie theater chill on a hot summer day.
Citi Field, the home of the Mets, has the Home Run Apple. Marlins Park boasts a 75-foot, head-shaking, tropical structure with bright pink, blue, aqua and orange colors with many moving parts (Austin Kearns homered to set off the contraption).
While many other ballparks feature museums that highlight bygone eras of a franchise, Marlins Park focuses on the recent history of a baseball collectable — the bobblehead. The stadium has a bobblehead museum and each one bobbles in unison.
Even after the game, the Marlins Park seems the place to be for nightlife. The postgame entertainment: Hip-hop star LL Cool J.
If Fenway or Wrigley is your type of park, Miami might not be your next stop. But it’s truly a sight to see.
Then, there’s Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga.
Somewhere between contemporary structures and old-time ballparks stands Turner Field. Built in the mid-1990s, it has the vanilla taste to some baseball fans.
A cookie-cutter outfield, no discernible frills, and typically lackluster attendance give the perception that this park is not among nicest in baseball. But don’t judge a book by its cover.
Upon entering the ballpark, you discover there’s plenty to see and enjoy. Perhaps the best trait is its simplicity.
The park features many of the amenities of the newer buildings. There’s a variety of food options, plenty of luxury seating — The Delta Club seating in left field will definitely help you cool off — and attractions for kids. The outfield concourse area offers fans of all ages something to see, do or eat. What more can you ask for?
Unlike the brief history of the Marlins, the Braves have an extensive past. And Turner Field acknowledges it.
The Braves’ Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see. Displays such as Hank Aaron’s record-breaking home run ball and an actual train on which players used to travel from city to city years ago spark memories of past generations.
History was also on the field. Chipper Jones, the Braves’ future Hall of Fame third baseman, was in the lineup.
And despite the low attendance on a Monday night against Cincinnati earlier this year, the fans who show up clearly know the game of baseball. Although I’m a Mets fan, even I was caught up in the traditional “Tomahawk Chop” during an intense eighth-inning rally.
So, if you’re traveling through the South and want to take in two unique park experiences, Miami and Atlanta offer two options — both with something different to offer.
Ernie Bertothy is a contributing sports writer for the Citizen’s News.