Trip 3: William Penn Fan Club
Pennsylvania's founding father would appreciate this trip that winds westward through the state after launching in the New Jersey city of Camden. From the majors to the minors and from an independent league to Little League, the tour offers a glimpse at parks built for all facets of baseball and spanning several eras. And for anyone with a sweet tooth, a side trip to Hershey -- the land of chocolate -- is a detour that's more than manageable.
Look for dates for this trip in the Baseball Road Trip Planner
(Schedules for minor-league teams in independent leagues are not available)
Philadelphia: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
Pittsburgh: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
Ballpark: Campbell's Field
Address: 401 N Delaware Ave, Camden, NJ 08102
Team: Camden Riversharks
League: Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (Independent)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)
Stroll into Campbell's Field and you can't miss it: The looming Ben Franklin Bridge commands the attention and awe of even the most nearsighted of spectators. Campbell's is situated on the banks of the Delaware River, right at the base of the steel-suspension behemoth that connects downtrodden Camden to Philadelphia, and while the bridge is by far the most dominant feature anywhere in or around the field, a seat in right field offers the additional bonus of a view of downtown Philly.
The Riversharks may not be affiliated with any major-league team, but they haven't skimped on the posh amenities. The park itself includes a unique motif to go with its upper-deck suites. Rather than a single flat, sloping roof atop the second level, the suites are peaked -- looking almost like a series of miniature houses that loop around the infield -- and glass-enclosed in a style reminiscent of a horseracing track. For the common folk, the comfortable grandstand is close to the action and, of course, dominated by the incredible view.
Driving distance from Camden to Philadelphia: 8 miles
Ballpark: Citizens Bank Park
Address: One Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
League: National (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule
Good riddance, Veterans Stadium. Citizens Bank Park opened to much fanfare in 2004, tag-teaming with the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field to replace the much-maligned Vet. With the red exterior brickwork and snug dimensions shared by many of the neo-retro parks, Citizens Bank is a terrific place to see a ballgame, and the best vantage point might not be from your seat.
Out in center field, Ashburn Alley -- named for Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn -- features an array of food options, historical exhibits and views of both the field and downtown Philadelphia. Memory Lane, the Wall of Fame and the All-Star Walk all commemorate the evolution of baseball in Philly and the greats in franchise history, while Harry the K's Bar and Grille -- named after broadcaster Harry Kalas -- occupies two levels at the bottom of the scoreboard. Of course, the city's signature food -- the cheesesteak -- is a must at the game. Several concessionaires serve up this sandwich of the cholesterol gods, but if you have the inclination to wait in line, don't settle for anything less than Tony Luke's, also located in Ashburn Alley.
Driving distance from Philadelphia to Reading: 64 miles
Ballpark: FirstEnergy Stadium
Address: 1900 Centre Ave, Reading, PA 19605
Team: Reading Phillies (Phillies)
League: Eastern (AA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)
Constructed in 1951 and the oldest stadium by far in the Eastern League, "Baseballtown" prides itself on the upgrades it's made over the years to make fans comfortable while still retaining the ol' ballpark atmosphere. It's also worked. Appealing to adults with comfort and amenities, and to kids with fun and games -- including a miniature train that children can ride around the outfield before the game -- the R-Phils regularly pack the house and lead the league in attendance.
The team is constantly making improvements. Just within the last ten years, it's expanded the right-field food court, constructed the Classic Café under the bleachers along the first-base line, installed an enormous high-resolution video screen and erected a boardwalk and picnic area in left field. It's also the only park in the league where fans swap their caps and replica jerseys for a swimsuit. A swimming pool pavilion out in right field (reserved for groups), includes a 1,000-square-foot heated pool, a catered buffet, private locker room and cable televisions on picnic tables.
Driving distance from Reading to Williamsport: 131 miles
Ballpark: Howard J. Lamade Stadium
Address: 539 Montgomery Pike, Williamsport, PA 17702
Capacity: 40,000 (Stands: 10,000)
Web site | Schedule TBD (Aug 18-27)
Every August, Little Leaguers from all over the world converge on tiny South Williamsport for the experience of a lifetime. The Little League World Series is a joyous event for the players (excepting those who are secretly 15 years old and under investigation), and their simple enthusiasm for playing baseball is infectious.
Lamade Stadium itself is an uncomplicated park, constructed on a hill and offering scenic views of the surrounding countryside. The seats behind the plate and along the baselines are covered, and there are additional sections of metal benches that stretch into the outfield. Most fans, though, just bring their lawn chairs and set up camp on the knoll behind the outfield wall to root on the youngsters.
Also in Williamsport is the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence, which was built to recognize former little leaguers who became role models as adults. Enshrinees include George W. Bush, Bruce Springsteen, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dan Quayle.
Driving distance from Williamsport to Pittsburgh: 211 miles
Ballparks just don't come much better than this jewel in Pittsburgh. For starters, there's the view. PNC sits on the banks of the Allegheny River, opposite downtown Pittsburgh, and the city skyline fills the sweeping panorama behind the outfield wall, with the bright yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge spanning the foreground. When the Pirates are playing, the bridge is closed to traffic so fans can walk across it to the game.
The park's façade is limestone, a sharp departure from the red brick used for so many new stadiums, and provides an attractive contrast to the black and blue ironwork that is both decorative and functional. Three statues honor Pirates legends Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. Inside, there isn't a bad seat in the house. PNC is the first two-deck stadium to be built since the 1950s (no seat is more than 88 feet from the field), and with the additions that Boston's Fenway Park has made in recent years, it now has the smallest capacity in the majors. Not that the hapless Pirates are a top draw; they haven't had a winning season since a svelte Barry Bonds led them to the division title in 1992.