Next year, Oriole Park at Camden Yards will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and it’s still great.
According to a survey of all 30 major league ballparks by Stadium Journey, it’s ranked the highest.
I’m often asked about my favorite ballparks. I’ve been to 53 major league parks—all 30 current ones—and 23 no longer in use.
Of the 30 contemporary ones, and I’m including Atlanta’s Turner Field, which will be replaced for next season by SunTrust Park, there aren’t any awful ones.
Even some of the ones that Stadium Journey ranks among the lowest—Milwaukee’s Miller Park, Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field, Miami’s Marlins Park and Oakland’s Coliseum, have some redeeming features for fans.
The park we’re most familiar with here has some competition for the top spot. San Francisco’s AT&T Park and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park have many champions and are highly rated in this survey. In particular, I’m impressed with the Giants’ home with its dynamic view of the Bay and intimate feel.
RELATED: OFFSEASON MOVES THAT CAN HELP ORIOLES RETURN TO POSTSEASON
Stadium Journey inexplicably rates Yankee Stadium 29th. Its atmosphere is great, if a bit busy, and though it’s extremely expensive, the ballpark remains impressive.
What’s most striking about the survey is that a ballpark that’s now in middle age is still so well regarded. Most of the parks that came after it, and 21 of the 30 are newer, are still well behind Oriole Park in many ways.
Three years ago the Braves announced they were going to replace Turner Field, built for the 1996 Olympics, and it hosted its first baseball game five years after Camden Yards.
While that was a shock, it shouldn’t then be surprising that Texas’ Globe Life Park in Arlington (opened in 1995) and Arizona’s Chase Field (1998) may soon be replaced.
The Orioles’ home doesn’t look much different than it did in 1992. It truly revolutionized ballparks, and those that were built just before it, Toronto’s Rogers Centre (opened in 1989) and U.S. Cellular Field (1991) look as if they’re from a different and faraway time.
A few years back, the Orioles added a roof deck in center field, but other than that, there haven’t been many major changes though the team continues to study improvements.
There are certainly a few things that be improved. Other than Boog’s Barbecue, the food choices, particularly for non-meat eaters aren’t great, the sound system isn’t wonderful, and compared with many newer stadiums, the scoreboard is small and sometimes hard to read.
Watching a game at Oriole Park is still wonderful. The view is great, and while it’s disappointing when the stands aren’t full, the ticket and particularly the parking prices, aren’t terribly expensive, especially when compared with Nationals Park.
One of my favorite parts of covering a game there are the fans. During the 2014 season, I began showing off their dedication by showcasing a jersey of a former Oriole each game.
Most fans wear a jersey featuring a current favorite: Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Manny Machado, but I enjoy finding an obscure one.
How many other parks have fans wearing jerseys of players from 40 40 or 50 years ago? This past season, I found fans wearing Luis Aparacio, Curt Blefary and Dave McNally jerseys.
While Oriole Park has yet to host a World Series, there’s still hope. When it was still new, Cleveland’s Progressive Field, then Jacobs Field, hosted World Series in 1995 and 1997.
At that time, it vied with Camden Yards as one of baseball’s top parks. More than two decades later, it’s fallen to the middle of the pack.
The hope here is that 25 years from now, Oriole Park will continue to provide joy to fans in this area, and that it will still be considered one of baseball’s best.
RELATED: ADAM JONES CLOSING IN ON LEGENDARY STATUS IN BALTIMORE