SPRING TRAININGS' BEST FOR 2004 - AND, WELL, WORST…
Back by popular demand, Joe Connor presents his annual shameless attempt at giving
‘People Magazine’s 50 Most Sexiest’ and that infamous ‘Worst Dressed List’ a run for their rankings!
Connor is the author of A Fan’s Guide To The Ultimate Spring Training Experience, which is available for purchase
at the Buy Joe's Guides page. This list leans heavily on a ballparks' fan atmosphere, followed
by its intimacy and accessibility.
ARIZONA’S TOP 9 TO PLEASE ITS BAKERS DOZEN
1. Surprise Stadium at Billy Parker Field (Royals & Rangers)
Why It’s Numero Uno: Modernity meets intimacy for Royals and Rangers
fans, plus who could pass up the chance to see Garth Brooks trying to play baseball - again?
2. Scottsdale Stadium (Giants)
Why It’s Numero Dos: Not as much intimacy as Surprise, but plenty
of characters, from young, plastic surgery cuties to old-timers. Oh, and some guy named Bonds just happens to hit here.
3. HoHoKam Park at Dwight Patterson Field, Mesa (Cubs)
Why It’s Numero Tres: How could they? Last season, the Cubs surrendered
the Cactus League attendance crown to the Giants (by just 26 fans). This spring? Hey, maybe Steve Bartman and his crew will
make a positive difference. Nah…
4. Tucson Electric Park (Diamondbacks and White Sox)
Why It’s Numero Cuatro: Swan song for the ChiSox in Old Pueblo? Well,
at least new Sox closer Shingo Takatsu will get to see the Tucson desert for at least one season. Roberto Alomar is sure to
treat him right.
5. Peoria Stadium (Padres and Mariners)
Why It’s Numero Cinco: Well, now this is what I call entertainment:
David Wells and Rod Beck on the same team. Hmmm, now will they convince Ichiro to go bald, too?
6. Phoenix Municipal Stadium (Athletics)
Why It’s Numero Seis: Much needed off-season renovations to "Muni"
moves this oldie, but goodie, back on our good side - and, hey, the views haven’t changed either. Moneyball
7. Tempe Diablo Stadium (Angels)
Why It’s Numero Siete: Is this the Angels sayonara to the frat boys
at ASU? Does a Goodyear await in 2005?
8. Maryvale Ballpark, Phoenix (Brewers)
Why It’s Numero Ocho: If only the Brewers weren’t, well, weren’t
the Brewers! When was the last time they made the playoffs? ’82? Wasn’t that when the VCR first came out?
9. Hi-Corbett Field, Tucson (Rockies)
Why It’s Numero Stinko: Why do you think the Indians left in 1992?
Welcome to baseball at the equator…At least Rockies fans can rest on the satisfaction that, well, hey, Willie "Mays
Hayes" once got a really good nights' sleep here.
FLORIDA’S 17 (used to be 21, could be 15 soon) FOR 18
1. Dodgertown, Vero Beach (Dodgers)
Why It’s Numero Uno: Wish you could have been Michael J. Fox in Back
to the Future? You can here.
2. Legends Field, Tampa (Yankees)
Why It’s Numero Dos: Three consecutive years of failure? Oh, George,
has got to be unpleasant all along 1 Steinbrenner Drive. What fun for the rest of us!
3. City of Palms Park, Fort Myers (Red Sox)
Why It’s Numero Tres: As if they weren’t all already mentally
ill, Red Sox Nation welcomes Schilling for What a Thrilling (what would Irene Cara think?) to clap in unison to start a rally
- before lineup cards are even exchanged….
4. Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater (Phillies)
Why It’s Numero Cuatro: As if it wasn’t Babe Central enough,
a new ballpark adds a ‘Tiki Bar’ beyond the left field fence. Well, they’ll be plenty of scoring alright…
5. Florida Power Park at Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg (Devil Rays)
Why It’s Numero Cinco: Tino’s back in town and Sweet Lou’s
back for an encore. Nothing better than a Piniella pre-season temper tantrum as sailboats peacefully meander in the distance.
6. Mets Stadium, Port St. Lucie (Mets)
Why It’s Numero Seis: What a difference a year makes: the long-time
lone recipient of the Antiseptic Concrete Jungle Award gets a much-overdue facelift. The results? Kazuo Matsui never
had it so good. And to think he was once training in the chill on Okinawa…it ain’t right!
7. Tigertown, Lakeland (Tigers)
Why It’s Numero Siete: Oh, the Tiger fans (what’s left of them).
At least they have Spring Training to look forward to and the pristine grounds of Tigertown where their hometown team, well,
hasn’t really lost - yet.
8. McKechnie Field, Bradenton (Pirates)
Why It’s Numero Ocho: It’s the home of the Pirates, so see,
um, like the Tigers.
9. Chain O’Lakes Park, Winter Haven (Indians)
Why It’s Numero Nueve: Well, apparently the apocalypse isn’t
upon us: the Tribe re-inked to stay in the heart of Central Florida for five more years. That’s a good thing, kids.
10. Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter (Cardinals and Marlins)
Why It’s Numero Diez: Care to make a prediction? Okay, which t-shirts
on fans will appear more this spring: "Cardinals red" jerseys or "Marlins World Series champs." Take a wild guess…
11. Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers (Twins)
Why It’s Numero Once: Hottest babes and hunks? We think not. But at
least the grub is laudable.
12. Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee (Astros)
Why It’s Numero Doce: Let’s see, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
Yeah, I think the smallest Spring Training ballpark just got a little more inviting. Move over, George Dubya, Sr. Someone
now actually wants to pay for that sweet box seat.
13. Cracker Jack Stadium, Kissimmee (Braves)
Why It’s Numero Trece: If you build it, that doesn’t mean they’ll
stay. The Happiest Corporate Ballpark On Earth welcomes back the Braves after a Double-A affiliate regular season tenant has
bolted for - RUN, FOREST, RUN! - Alabama!
14. Dunedin Stadium at Grant Field (Blue Jays)
Why It’s Numero Catorce: The Sunshine State’s simplest ballpark
meets Miguel Batista and the published poet and flutist lives happily ever after in perfect harmony.
15. Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota (Reds)
Why It’s Numero Quince: Why, there’s so much to look forward
to! Um, what exactly is there to look forward to Mr. Griffey?
16. Fort Lauderdale Stadium (Orioles)
Why It’s Numero Stinko: Let’s see here…the ballpark opened
in 1962 and the Yankees said the hell with it, so why is this place still around? Oh yes, the Orioles - for
some reason - thought it was a good idea to try and stay….What!
17. Space Coast Stadium, Viera/Melbourne (Expos)
Why It’s Numero Major Stinko: The poor ‘please find us a home’
Expos. If only the players and owners had gotten smoochie back in 1994, what might have been? Well, here’s what
it is today: their Spring Training pad is about as exciting as Olympic Stadium - only without a dome.