12 Surprising Features of Your Favorite Baseball Stadiums
As a boy, Southie native Jack Maxwell basked in the "magical days of summer" and rooted for the Boston Red Sox. These days, Booze Traveler takes him to Fenway (where he threw a first pitch to Ryan Dempster this September) and to ballparks over the country. Nice work if you can get it, no? In the spirit of Jack's explorations, consider some of the quirkiest regional features of America's favorite game.
Photo By: Winslow Townson
Photo By: Jason O. Watson
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Photo By: Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red Sox
Fans of farm-to-table dining gobble up stadium-to-table herbs and veggies at Fenway Park, where gardeners at "Fenway Farms"—that is, a massive rooftop plot behind the facade at Gate A—tend a rotating roster of seasonal crops. (For a taste of the latest harvest, head to the Dell EMC Club on the lower level behind home plate.) The garden also yields energy savings, since it insulates the building below it and cuts down on heating and cooling needs, and serves as an educational tool for students and local youth groups.
San Francisco Giants
The giant, old-fashioned mitt behind the bleachers at AT&T park is hardly a secret, given its size and prominence—it "might be the sports world’s best-known sculpture of an object," as The San Francisco Chronicle put it. Its contents, on the other hand, might come as a bit of a surprise to the average spectator. "The team that worked on [building the sculpture] were eight or nine women," Ron Holthuysen of Scientific Art Studio, the firm that created the mitt, told the Chronicle. So what’s tucked in between all those layers of fiberglass and epoxy? "[W]hen they were done they thought it would be funny to put their bras in it."
New York Mets
Some New Yorkers consider surviving the neverending line at Shake Shack a local rite of passage—the most monstrous column at the eatery’s original Madison Square Park location was more than 400 customers long—but that queue can be particularly painful when it costs hungry ShackBurger fans at Citi Field a few innings of game play. It can also be avoidable, if you happen to be sitting in the right section: In-seat Shake Shack service is available for spectators with tickets in sections 11-19, 111-114, and 121-124. (Citi Field secret #2: The neon Mets skyline sign above Shake Shack’s portion of the Taste of the City dining area was transplanted from Shea Stadium, which was demolished in 2008.)
Soon after opening its doors to the Mile High City in 1995, Denver’s Coors Field gained notoriety as a "hitter’s paradise." The stadium’s thin, moistureless air—it’s 5,200 feet above sea level, after all—inflated hitters’ statistics (and inspired the media to dub the park "Coors Canaveral"). A stadium engineer, reasoning that baseballs were flying high and bouncing like crazy because they were drying out, drew up plans for a full-sized humidor—and in 2001, he convinced the team’s owner to create space for about 400 dozen balls in a climate-controlled room behind the Rockies’ clubhouse (right next to a room that cools kegs of beer).
Visitors who want a taste of an only-in-Denver concession can head to Coors Field’s Stand 144 for Rocky Mountain Oysters—that is, sliced bull’s testicles which are battered, fried and served with a side of cocktail sauce. (According to a regional manager from the concessions team, they have a "small but hard-core following.") Rockies fans interested in an adventurous-but-not-quite-that-adventurous local snack can order apple pie nachos—cinnamon sugar chips smothered with apple pie filling, shedded cheddar cheese and whip cream, then drizzled with caramel sauce.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger Stadium is a marvelous place to be at game time, of course, but it’s also an excellent spot for a picnic when there’s (almost) no one there at all. Locals report that on any day of the year when there isn’t an afternoon game, visitors can perch up in the bleachers and enjoy the view for free. Just drive to the main Elysian Park entrance and tell the guard you’re going to the gift shop, leave your car in Parking Lot P and walk through the stadium’s main door—then instead of turning right into the store, walk straight through into the upper deck and enjoy. "There are a lot of fans who refer to the top of the park as the best-kept secret lunch spot in Los Angeles, and it’s hard to argue with them," a Dodgers spokesman told the Los Angeles Times. "While we don’t openly encourage it, the fact that it has become known this way is a reminder of just how special Dodger Stadium is to our fans, even when it’s empty."
According to PETA, the most vegan-friendly ballpark in the country is...Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, where meatless eaters who find themselves in cattle country frequent the Ballpark Vegan cart in Section 16 (built after a hungry fan who helms vegan Rangers Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts reached out to request more food options). A Dallas Observer taste tester reported that "[my] carnivorous dining companion, who tried the vegan dog and a standard hot dog, said he actually preferred the meat-free version."
To infuse the stadium with a bit of unique flavor, the concessions team at Safeco Field invited Poquito’s (a Mexican eatery on Pike Street) to start slinging their chapulines, or grasshoppers toasted with chile lime salt, for Mariners fans. A team spokeswoman told ESPN that visitors bought 901 orders over the first three home games of the season this spring, which works out to about 18,000 grasshoppers, or more than Poquito’s sells at their Pike Street location in the course of a whole year. Starting in April, the stadium began to limit itself to 312 orders per game, in honor of celebrated Mariner Edgar Martinez’s career batting average (.312)—so insectivores-to-be need to move fast next season.
It goes without saying that Wrigley Field is hallowed ground for Cubs fans, but Windy City fans and visitors can also take only-in-Chicago seats for home games on "Wrigley rooftops." These perches in the sky atop buildings scattered in the neighborhood around the stadium offer all-inclusive admission, food and drinks (and comparatively line-free restrooms) for spectators interested in one-of-a-kind vantage points. Some offer single tickets, while others can accommodate gaggles of up to 200, and each rooftop has its own character.
Toronto Blue Jays
Since 2015, baseball fans north of the border have been able to upgrade their 500-level tickets to a 200-level view (for free!) on the WestJet Flight Deck, a standing-room-only section under the main video board at downtown Toronto’s Rogers Centre. The section is available to anyone with a ticket to the game, as is a veritable cornucopia of poutine, the best thing that ever happened to French fries (look for it at MYM Gourmet Frites in Section 220, T.O. Street Eats in Section 135, Hogtown Grill in Section 120 and 128 and Muddy York Market in Section 109).
When Chase Field opened in Phoenix in 1998, it boasted an unprecedented sight in right field: On the other side of the fence, umbrellas and deck chairs flank a kidney-shaped, 8,500-gallon swimming pool and hot tub that would look right at home in an upscale backyard. That’s no accident: "Trying to find something unique and identifiable that would give this ballpark distinction and personality from others, everyone thought a swimming pool was ideal," the Diamondbacks’ president and CEO said. "We want the stadium to resemble features we have at our own homes." If you want to host 34 of your closest amphibious friends, call early and start pooling your funds (no pun intended) now: The suite is snapped up for every game and starts at a reported $4,750.
A surprise hit in Phoenix this season? Per Thrillist, it’s worth your while to save room for the Sonoran Vegan Burger at Red Hot Grill in Chase Field’s Section 139. Included in the site’s best-of roundup, "this meat-free burger is made up of a vegan patty, imitation [p]epper jack cheese, soy chorizo, chipotle veganaise, cowboy caviar, guacamole and a vegan bun." The new menu offering riffs on Red Hot’s Sonoran Dog, which debuted at the stadium in 2013 and has since become a classic: It’s a hot dog wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon, then grilled and topped with pico de gallo, ranch-style beans and a drizzle of mayonnaise.