Print and Go Back SportsTravel [Print without images]

Thursday, May 8, 2008
Updated: August 1, 11:48 PM ET
Sweet Seats: Exceptional vantage points in majors, minors

By Josh Pahigian
Special to ESPN SportsTravel

• Photo galleries: Vintage views in the Majors | Sweet seats in the minors

• Take a Seat in the Major Leagues
• Take a Seat in the Minor Leagues

From the big league stadiums that rise in our Major League cities, to the bush league yards that dot the landscapes of smaller-town America, baseball offers fans the chance to enjoy an idiosyncratic language, a nightly set of rituals and a menu all its own.

And yet, as transferable as the "ballpark experience" may be, every one of our green cathedrals somehow finds a way to offer a game-day environment that is unique unto itself.

Baseball's Best Seats - The Majors
The Roost Seats hang out over the right field corner, offering Toledo Mud Hens fans lucky enough to sit in them a unique vantage.
Due to the very nature of baseball's "diamond," to its irregular outfield dimensions and to its teams' tendency to place ballparks in locations where they may show off the best attributes of their cities, the game offers fans a wide range of stadium designs.

And within each of these can be found nooks and crannies from which to watch the action that enhance and amplify the viewing experience.

Among the most interesting ballpark design innovations to come along in recent years is one that has brought about the merger of pre-existing buildings with new stadium construction projects in some cities.

The most well-known example of this phenomenon exists at Petco Park in San Diego. The Padres' home park offers several different viewing areas that are only made possible due to the inclusion of the Western Metal Supply Building that rises in left field home run territory.

The second and third floors of the century-old structure feature private party suites that come complete with airy balconies. These porches, as you might expect, are great spots for ball hawks to set up shop during batting practice. The fourth floor, meanwhile, houses an in-stadium bar and grill. And the rooftop boasts some of the most altitudinous bleacher seats in the big leagues.

In the minor leagues, Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium presents a one-of-a-kind viewing experience for fans of the Southern League's Montgomery Biscuits within the second level of a long, narrow building that runs along its first-base line.

The building, which once served as a storage facility or "train shed" for a local rail line, has stood since 1898. Its lower level provides space for concession stands and rest rooms, while upstairs there are six luxury boxes.

Another minor league team to capitalize on this what's-old-is-new-again design approach is the Toledo Mud Hens.

The International League team's Fifth Third Field is home to a section of "Roost Seats" courtesy of a deck that extends off the third floor of a renovated six-story warehouse down its right-field line. Believe it or not, the first three rows of the 282-seat Roost actually hang right out over the playing surface.

Mud Hens spokesman Jason Griffin explained the thinking of team management, Lucas County administrators, and the architects at HNTB who made the group decision to transform what was an abandoned property into a signature ballpark feature.

"The building adds a lot of character to the field," Griffin said. "It might have been cheaper to knock it down, but if we had done that, the field wouldn't have the same charm. And fans wouldn't have the chance to watch the game from such a unique location."

In addition to housing team offices, banquet facilities and what Griffin claims is the largest souvenir store in minor league baseball, the building's trademark feature, the Roost, was designed to replicate the effect at old Tiger Stadium, which once offered a similar overhang to fans of the Mud Hens' big league parent club in Detroit.

While the Padres, Biscuits, Mud Hens and a handful of other teams have done well to embrace and renovate their cities' historic buildings for the sake of seating variety, this is just one of many measures teams utilize to make a day at the ballpark extra special.

Just about every ballpark has its share of special seats, but here are 10 Major League stadiums and 10 minor league parks that stand above the rest when it comes to offering original ways to enjoy the game:

• Take a Seat in the Major Leagues
• Take a Seat in the Minor Leagues

Our Maine freelance contributor Josh Pahigian is the author of six books, including
"101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out."

Editor's note: This is an updated reprise of a previously published feature.