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Ultimate ballpark guide: AL Central

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CHICAGO WHITE SOX

 

Ballpark

U.S. Cellular Field opened in 1991 as the “new” Comiskey Park. It became an almost-instant anachronism a year later when Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened, starting the retro wave throughout baseball. Comiskey lacked the charm or old-time feel of the new-wave, faux-old ballparks. That was addressed during a 2001 to 2005 renovation that chopped 6,600 seats off the top deck, added fan-friendly features and swapped blue seats for green.

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The Cell, as it has come to be called, now has a more open feel. It features a fan deck in the center field that serves as a popular gathering place. Kids can participate in skills clinics in a play area behind left field. The White Sox Hall of Fame is on the main concourse behind home plate, and statues of team greats are in the outfield concourse. A Frank Thomas statue will become No. 8 when it’s unveiled on July 31. The old Comiskey gets a nod with the scoreboard, based on the original designs of legendary White Sox owner Bill Veeck. And yes, the shower made its way from old Comiskey. Fans can cool off on hot days near section 160.

Fans

Sox fans are fiercely anti-Cubs. They play second fiddle in Chicago and they have a chip on their shoulder. Even the 2005 world championship hasn’t changed that dynamic. And the fame factor of Sox fans skyrocketed with the election of President Obama. Don't try throwing a home run ball back like they do at Wrigley or you'll get kicked out.

Food

It’s Chicago, so bratwurst and pizza are plentiful. But would you believe Tex-Mex? Three concession stands allow you to build your own tacos, nachos and fajitas. Churros, too. There are also plentiful vegetarian and gluten-free options. Then there's the bar next to the visitor's bullpen in right. Food, drinks and, for a nominal charge, sit in the two-tiered, open-air section, also used for group outings. You can buy an upper deck ticket for less than $10, then pay $5 to get in the bar, and if you're early enough you can just grab a table outside, by the 'pen in front of those folks who paid $20 to $30 for their front-row outfield tickets.

Music and entertainment

Postgame fireworks displays on many Friday and Saturday nights are synchronized to music, with each show a theme. The June 11 “Rat Pack” fireworks show promises to be interesting.

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Neighborhood

The surrounding Armour Square and Bridgeport area ain’t Wrigleyville. The good news is tailgating is allowed in White Sox parking lots two hours before each game. Bring your barbecue. And the new train station is a big deal for South Side Sox fans.

Vacation planner

Chicago has two major airports — O’Hare and Midway, which is closer to U.S. Cellular. The lakefront is a big draw during the warm months. The boardwalk at Navy Pier features a 150-foot Ferris wheel. If that’s not high enough for you, visit the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) for incredible views of the city. The museums of Grant Park are worth a visit, particularly the Field Museum, with the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. Shoppers will head for State Street, while the "Miracle Mile" down Michigan Ave. offers shops, historical buildings and more.

Nearby MLB cities

Chicago is a two-team town, of course. Wrigley Field is about 10 miles to the north. Your best bet for a two-ballpark doubleheader? Aug. 19, when the Cubs host the Cardinals at Wrigley in the afternoon and the Sox host the Rangers at night. It’s also only 95 miles up Highway 41 to get to Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

CLEVELAND INDIANS

 

Ballpark

Progressive Field, the re-named version of Jacobs Field, was built in the early 1990s during a Cleveland building spree that saw professional basketball move back to the city, the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the exit of Art Modell in a huff after Cleveland built a single-purpose baseball facility without building one for his Browns.

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After decades in the decaying, cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the new ballpark's more cozy confines and the rare success if the 1990s-era Tribe helped inspire a stunning succession of 455 straight sellouts. The signature "toothbrush" lights make the stadium far more recognizable than its predecessor, and brought Indians fans the largest scoreboard ever when the new bleacher scoreboard was installed in 2004.

Progressive also has its fair share of quirks, including non-uniform wall heights and bullpens elevated so that fans can see the pitchers that are warming up.

Fans

After a huge influx of new fans in the ’90s, Progressive Field's attendance has been steadily falling in the Larry Dolan era, dropping from a peak of just less than 43,000 fans in the "sellout years" to an average of 22,357 last season, nearly matching 2003 as the worst attendance season since the club moved to the new park. The good news in this is that the fans who attend tend to be more dedicated and knowledgeable, and earnestly support the franchise despite remote prospects of success in 2011.

Food

There is a large Terrace Club facility with a view of the game from left field, as well as the usual dining options for well-heeled Club Seat ticketholders. Elsewhere, the attractions are the still-magnificent Stadium Mustard, which can be applied to the readily available variety of hot dogs and brats at the ballpark. Local favorite Pierre's Ice Cream is also found in abundance at the facility, generally at the end of longer lines during the summer months.

Music and entertainment

There are a lot of activities scattered throughout the ballpark for fans, including the Heritage Park in center field. Part of what gives the ballpark a unique ambiance is the frequent presence of drummer John Adams, who generally occupies highest seat in left-center field and pounds on his bass drum at opportune times.

Neighborhood

The construction of Progressive Field in the 1990s helped to revitalize that area of town, which is easily accessible from route 90 through Cleveland. It is located right next to Quicken Loans arena and has many restaurants now within walking distance. Cleveland will be building a casino in the coming years, increasing the value of visiting this part of Cleveland.

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Vacation planner

Fly into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Cleveland's hotel situation improved vastly since its days as a source of easy jokes for comedians, and fans can now find several hotels within walking distance of the ballpark. The downtown area also hosts the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center and will soon to be home to a world-class casino.

Nearby MLB cities

Pittsburgh is a two-hour drive from Cleveland, and actually much closer than supposed "rival" MLB town Cincinnati. Fans wanting to see the newer generation of ballparks can see both in a weekend, although the quality of actual baseball may not be the highest.

Follow the Indians at FOXSportsOhio.com.

 

DETROIT TIGERS

 

Ballpark

Comerica Park provides a great panorama of downtown skyline, wide concourses and a family-friendly atmosphere: a carousel, a ferris wheel and a mammoth water feature in center field that can be choreographed to any music .

Touring the main concourse, fans are taken through time on a tour of baseball and lifestyle history. The concourse is divided into different eras from the 20th century, and as the fan progresses on his or her walk, they move into a different time frame of history.

Fans

Tigers fans rarely boo their own players. There is tremendous passion for the team, even when it isn’t necessarily going to the playoffs. Fans in Michigan are just glad that the team is competitive, and they are happy to be outside when the weather is nice. You see good crowds into September, even if the team isn’t in first place. It’s pretty amazing, considering the economy.

Food

Typical ballparks have a point of sale (register) for every 200 fans; Comerica Park abbreviates the wait with one point of sale for every 125 fans. Among the features are the Brushfire Grill barbecue area behind third base and the Big Cat Court food area behind first base, with a wide range of snacks, sandwiches, frozen treats, and other great munchies. Leo’s Coney Island is a fan favorite.

Music and entertainment

Motown songs (“Dancin’ in the Streets”) are played after the Tigers win. Fans get into it when they play “Don’t Stop Believin’” because of the reference to South Detroit … even though there isn’t such a thing as South Detroit. When you go south of Detroit, you are in Canada.

Kids can enjoy the full-size carousel (with tigers rather than horses, natch) and the ferris wheel with baseball-shaped seating compartments.

Neighborhood

Nemo’s is the iconic Detroit sports bar on Michigan Avenue that’s located a couple blocks away from what used to be Tiger Stadium. The walls are covered with Detroit (and Michigan) sports lore. Friendly service. Good, cheap food. And they run a shuttle to and from Comerica for the sentimentalists who refuse to acknowledge that Tiger Stadium isn’t there anymore.

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Vacation planner

The closest airport is Detroit Metro Airport (25-30 minutes away from ballpark on I-94). Stay at the Westin Book Cadillac or the Atheneum. Both are downtown. Marriott Renaissance Center is good, too. Best restaurants are in Greektown and there are some excellent Italian places on the East Side, too. Giovanni’s is the big Italian place in Southwest Detroit — the food is amazing, but the surrounding area is a little dicey.

Local attractions include the Motown Museum, the Henry Ford Museum and the Detroit Institute of Art, including the famous Diego Rivera mural. Visit Ann Arbor (45 minutes away) and see the Big House at U-M; if the weather is nice, drive three hours to Lake Michigan (Saugatuck or Grand Haven) for a day or night.

Nearby MLB cities

To get to Toronto, take the Detroit-Windsor tunnel into Canada. (Don’t forget your passport!) Hop on the VIA Rail — Canada’s version of Amtrak — and you’ll be in downtown Toronto four hours later. Tickets to Jays games are very cheap.

Follow the Tigers at FOXSportsDetroit.com.

 

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

 

Ballpark

Kauffman boast the Crown Vision HD Board, the largest video board in Major League Baseball.

The iconic Kauffman Stadium fountains have been in place since the park opened. Now, fans have the opportunity to sit in front of and behind the fountains. The Outfield Experience is an entertainment area with play areas for the kids (John Deere Little K, the Carousel and Sluggerrr's Mini Golf at The K to name a few), Rivals Sports Bar, Bud Light Party Deck, Sheridan's Frozen Custard, Miller Lite Fountain Bar, DRI DUCK Fountain Seats and the FOX Sports Broadcast booth.

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Also in the Outfield Experience is the Royals Hall of Fame, which has an interactive exhibit free with a game ticket. Features include the Dugout Theatre Film, where fans take a seat in an authentic replica of the Royals dugout and enjoy a tribute to the history of baseball in Kansas City.

Fans

A Sept. 15, 2010 article in the Kansas City Star says it best:

“Maybe it was because the score was 11-3, or maybe it was because it was the right thing to do. But when Oakland rookie Eric Sogard recorded his first big-league hit — a single in the eighth inning — the Kauffman Stadium crowd politely applauded.

Oakland manager Bob Geren noticed.

“It was an extremely classy move,” Geren said. “That’s what baseball is all about.

“Everybody on our team was extremely impressed by that.”

Food

A pitmaster runs the KC All-Star Barbecue located in the outfield with two 2,400-pound smokers that allow us to offer Burnt Ends and Spareribs, plus sides like Cheesy Corns. Two signature items are the Ribeye Stack, which won the Fan Favorite contest at the All Star Game at Anaheim Angels Stadium last summer, and the Royal Bacon Blue Dog — a hot dog topped with blue cheese dressing and crumbles, and fresh bacon.

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Music and entertainment

Closer Joakim Soria, runs out to “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses. Crown Vision features video of Soria holding a baseball with an animation of fire coming out of the baseball. Our outfield ribbon boards have a “blazing fire” look while this happens.

At an inning break, we have Garth Brooks’ Friends in Low Places. We have several different video entrances of the song from Garth, then the fans sing along to the rest of the song.

Fireworks Fridays are a hit with the fans.

Neighborhood

Tailgating is the thing to do before and after games in Kansas City. For a Saturday evening game, arrive a 1 p.m. for the 6:10 start. It’s common to see fans grilling, enjoying a beverage and playing catch at that hour.

Vacation planner

The closest airport is Kansas City International (MCI). The following hotels are within walking distance of the stadium: Clarion Hotel Sports Complex, Drury Inn & Suites Kansas City Stadium, Holiday Inn Sports Complex – features the CoCo Key Water Resort. Many fans choose to stay at hotels located in or near the Country Club Plaza, which is a 15-20 minute drive to the stadium. The area features shopping and many fine restaurants.

No trip to Kansas City is complete with barbecue. Some of the local favorites include Arthur Bryant’s, Fiorella’s Jack Stack and Gates.

Local attractions include the College Basketball Experience (features the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame), Country Club Plaza (dining, entertainment and shopping), National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Negro League Baseball Museum, American Jazz Museum and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Nearby MLB cities

The St. Louis Cardinals are just a four-hour drive. And Omaha (three hours away) is home to the College World Series each June

Follow the Royals at FOXSportsKansasCity.com.

 

MINNESOTA TWINS

 

Ballpark

Target Field was carefully planned so that the history of Minnesota baseball, and the players that made that sport great, would not be forgotten. From the entrance gates that carry the numbers of Twins legends, to the Town Ball Tavern inside the ballpark that displays pictures of the ballparks that made up Minnesota’s town ball history, to the bronze Legend Statues on Target Plaza. The open air game is something that an entire generation of Twins fans had never experienced before. Enjoy a spectacular view of the Minneapolis skyline while you watch the game. You're on top of the action from most every seat in the park.

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Fans

Minnesotans sports pride is contagious, and you can’t help but get pulled in by it even if you aren’t an avid fan. Twins fans have dreamed of a new ballpark for so long, and Target Field has revitalized them. We have players who have spent their entire career with the Twins, and I think that is as much a testament to the fans as it is to the front office and the management style.

Food

If you purchase a seat in the Legends Club area of the ballpark to watch the game, you have access to food options that are not offered in other areas of the ballpark, including salads, fruit plates, and buffet-style meals (and you can eat those food items and watch the game at the same time while sitting at a table in a climate-controlled area overlooking the field).

Favorite culinary options available to all fans are Cuban sandwiches, local favorites like Kramarczuk Sausages & Murray’s Steak Sandwiches, roast beef sandwich from the Carvery, as well as many Minnesota State Fair favorites served on a stick.

Music and entertainment

Target has the usual races on the big screen to keep you entertained. They also pick fans to play a “bingo-type” game for prizes. But fans still miss the Hormel Row of Fame song ("You will be a weiner winner, in the Hormel Row of Fame"). And you can always visit the hall of fame.

Neighborhood

Because the ballpark is in downtown Minneapolis, there are a lot of restaurants nearby that broadcast the game. There is also a restaurant that was opened when Target Field opened that is owned by a former Twins player, Roy Smalley. Fans gather on the Plaza before and after games to take pictures in front of the bronze Legend Statues, to read the names on the Tradition Wall, to shop in the Clubhouse Store. There are dozens of bars and restaurants in the Warehouse district and the Loop area. Even if you park a distance from the ballpark, there are lots of pit stops along the way to keep you entertained and hydrated.

Vacation planner

Closest airport Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. There is a lot to do and see downtown near Target Field, so they should try to take in as much as they can, but they should also plan to visit the Mall of America and the Walker Art Center. You can also take a tour of Target Field, but those are only offered on certain days (when the Twins are out of town or have an off-day), but if a visitor could arrange to be in Minneapolis on a day the tours are offered, it is well worth the price!

Nearby baseball cities

The Minnesota Twins are a bit isolated from other major league teams. The closest squad is the Milwaukee Brewers, about a six-hour drive southeast of Minneapolis. A little over seven hours away to the southeast, Chicago boasts two teams — the division rival White Sox and the Cubs. The Kansas City Royals are also a little over seven hours from Target Field.

Follow the Twins at FOXSportsNorth.com.
 

Tagged: Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Royals, Twins, Athletics, Cubs, Nationals, Padres, Marlins, Rays, Heath Bell, Ian Desmond, Eric Sogard

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