If you have some extra time between now and the end of the year, you might want to plan some trips for 2013. There are some ballparks that just have to be seen.
In some ways, this is the golden age for stadiums. Oriole Park, which ushered in a new era for ballparks, is now 21 years old and believe it or not, only eight teams have played in their facility longer.
For those of us who grew up with baseball and football teams playing in the same venue, that has changed. Today only one, the Oakland Athletics share a home with an NFL team. The A’s have long been looking for a home of their own, but have tussled with the Giants over a possible move to San Jose.
The building formerly known as Network Associates Coliseum isn’t on the must-see list, but these five places the Orioles play in 2013 are.
1) Yankee Stadium
Next year I’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of attending my first major league game, which means I’m old! It was at Yankee Stadium, the old one before it was renovated in the mid-1970s. Yogi Berra played and Roger Maris hit a home run.
Today’s Yankee Stadium is much different. It’s loud, bright and a lot of fun. A recording of the sainted public address announcer Bob Sheppard introduces Derek Jeter, the fans call the roll of Yankees in the top of the first inning: “Mark Tuh-SHARE-uh.”
It’s expensive, but you can’t call yourself a real fan without a trip there.
2) Fenway Park
OK, let’s get this out of the way. I actually think Fenway Park is highly overrated. The seats aren’t great, the concourse is narrow and dank, and there’s no parking anywhere around it.
I much prefer Wrigley Field when it comes to older ballparks, but the Orioles don’t play the National League Central this year.
However, Fenway should be seen because there is no other place like it. It’s still intimate. The Green Monster is fun, and the renovations in recent years don’t detract from the park, they add to it.
3) Safeco Field
Along with Pittsburgh’s PNC Field, my favorite among the post-Oriole Park ballparks, it captures Seattle brilliantly. With trains passing by next store, there’s the remembrance of generations past. It also protects players and fans from rain, but not from temperature changes. Very inventive.
It replaced one of the worst stadiums in baseball, the King Dome. When a bad ballpark is replaced by an excellent one, it gets higher marks.
And, if you’ve never been to Seattle, you can visit the nearby Pikes Place Market where they throw the fish around.
4) AT& T Park
The Orioles play in San Francisco in August. This jewel is located not far from downtown San Francisco. It has lots of cool touches, the giant baseball glove, the boats in right field to retrieve the rare splash hits and a terrific view of what the natives arrogantly call: “The City.”
With the new format in interleague play, the Orioles play the NL West. They’ll visit, San Diego, San Francisco and Arizona in mid-August. San Diego’s Petco Park is one of just three current ones I haven’t seen. Minneapolis’ Target Field and Miami’s Marlins Park are the others.
They may not play in San Francisco again until 2019 if scheduling remains the same, so a summer trip out west is an excellent idea.
5) Progressive Field
There are inexpensive flights to Cleveland, lots of hotels within walking distance and the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is nearby.
Watch a game there and remember those great Orioles-Indians games of the 1990s. This year, you’ll be able to watch Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher, too.
-According to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Orioles have signed right-handed pitchers Chase Johnson, Marcel Prado and Zech Zinicola and shortstop Chris Wade to minor league contracts.
Johnson, a former Phillies farmhand, was 5-5 with a 3.66 ERA in 55 games with the Independent League Amarillo Sox. Prado, who was in the Dodgers organization for four seasons, was 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 44 games with the Independent League El Paso Diablos.
The 27-year-old Zinicola was suspended for 50 games for a second violation of minor league baseball’s drug rules. He was not suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, but for using recreational drugs. Zinicola was 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 21 games for the Nationals’ Double-A Harrisburg team.
Wade, who was originally in the Marlins chain spent the last two years with the Windy City ThunderBolts of the independent Frontier League. Last season, he batted .301 with five home runs and 37 RBIs.
Eddy also reports that former Orioles infielder Blake Davis signed with Milwaukee.