Ascension Athletics: Ballparks to include in vacation plans _lowres

Photo by RICH LOUP --The current Busch Stadium in St. Louis opened in 2006, and the Cardinals celebrated by winning the World Series that season.

We’re now in the vacation season, and that means a lot of things to a lot of people.

To many sports fans, a trip to a baseball park can be a memorable experience, whether the game is the center of the vacation or just one small part of the itinerary.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to visit many of the stadiums where professional baseball is played.

So sticking to that list, here are some places to consider visiting if you need a pro baseball fix and you don’t mind traveling a bit:

Close to home

Zephyr Field, Metairie: Check out a game on Thirsty Thursdays when you can enjoy a beer at a lower price. It’s also a good place to see some minor-league baseball, especially if you’re a fan of a major-league club that has an affiliate team on the Zephyrs’ schedule.

Minute Maid Park, Houston: Thank goodness for the retractable roof during the summer. It’s a stadium that is much more appealing when the roof is open, so a better time to go might be in April. I’m biased about the place because it’s the home of my favorite team, the Astros.

Eastern Standard Time

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore: This is the place that set off a new stadium wave in Major League Baseball when it opened in 1992. The B&O Warehouse provides an interesting backdrop in right field, and the sightlines are next to none. Plus, the cozy field dimensions combined with the propensity of the ball to carry well in warm weather can lead to some high-scoring contests with plenty of home runs.

Fenway Park, Boston: I put this on the list merely because you’d probably wonder why it wasn’t listed. But Fenway struck me as a dump. Navigating the concessions area under the right-field stands was like walking under the South end zone seats at Tiger Stadium during an LSU football game. Fenway has undergone renovations in recent years, so perhaps there have been improvements since my visit in 2001.

PNC Park, Pittsburgh: The bright yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge behind left field is eye-catching, as is the city’s downtown area that’s visible from center to right field. This stadium with beautiful toothbrush lights sits on the banks of the Ohio River, just a couple of Clemente throws from Heinz Field, the home of the National Football League’s Steelers. You can also enjoy the Great Pierogi Race, a blatant, but still entertaining rip-off of Milwaukee’s Sausage Race.

Middle America

Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati: Another stadium that neighbors the Ohio River, though without the name the park’s predecessor originally carried (Riverfront Stadium). You can park in the neighboring state, walk across a bridge and make it to the stadium in about 15 minutes. Of course, not everyone sees that as a plus. A friend who suffered through the Reds’ lean stretch that coincided with the team’s stadium move in 2003 noted, “Every new stadium built these days overlooks the city. The Reds build a stadium, and it overlooks Kentucky.”

Busch Stadium, St. Louis: Busch blows away its concrete doughnut predecessor that shared the same name. Its open outfield allows you to get a peek at the Gateway Arch behind right field.

Wrigley Field, Chicago: Won’t bore with you details that have long been lauded and that you can read about elsewhere. Just know that Wrigley’s supposed charm lives up to the hype.

Head West, young man

PETCO Park, San Diego: The weather alone might be worth the visit. But the outfield bleacher area of seats, grass and sand, and a berm area beyond the stadium’s gates are just a couple of the park’s unique features. PETCO is a perfect mix of climate and stadium.

Safeco Field, Seattle: A retractable roof stadium that’s perfect for the mild summer climate of Seattle. It’s another visit you could make just based on the weather alone. But the optimal outdoor experience has a small window. A tour guide for the Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field that sits next door to Safeco told our group last year that Seattle’s “rainy season” ends in early July and that dry patch lasts until September.

Rich Loup covers sports for The Ascension Advocate. He can be reached at or at