Commentary

Take a seat in the majors

Updated: May 1, 2009, 4:21 PM ET
By Josh Pahigian | Special to ESPN SportsTravel


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

1. Fenway Park, The Green Monster Seats

No, the Red Sox didn't make use of any pre-existing structures when they built Fenway Park in 1912. But they did face the challenge of squeezing Beantown's new ball yard into the confines of an actually city block. As a result, right field wound up extraordinarily large, and left field, unusually small.

Baseball's Best Seats - The Majors
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesEnjoy the fantastic confines of Fenway Park.
For two decades, a large mound that came to be known as "Duffy's Cliff" (owing to Red Sox left fielder Duffy Lewis' special skills in scaling the hill to track down fly balls) kept balls hit to left in play. Then in the early 1930s the team built what would become Fenway's signature design flourish, the famous left field Wall.

Nearly seven decades later, in 2003, the new Red Sox ownership group announced that it would be adding 294 seats atop the Wall. And many New Englanders cringed.

First John Henry and company had wrested the franchise from a group of prospective local buyers, Red Sox fans figured, and now they were going to desecrate the city's beloved ballpark. Fenway's charm was rooted in nostalgia, fans thought, and to remodel it was sacrilege. Boy, were the fans wrong.

In tearing down the 23-foot-high screen that had stood atop "the Monsta" for generations and replacing it with four rows of steeply rising seats, the Red Sox created not only the most unique seating location in baseball, but the perfect aesthetic topper to their green giant.

From the very start the seats looked like they belonged, making fans wish they could airbrush away that ratty screen from their old Fenway photos. With a first row that places ticket holders 37 feet above the field and as close as 310 feet from home plate, the Green Monster seats welcome fans who wear gloves and wait for the latest Manny Ramirez moon shot to come zooming their way.

2. Wrigley Field, The Bleachers

While the experience of sitting high atop Boston's green wall might be described as high in intensity, at the opposite end of the spectrum lazing away a game in the Wrigley bleachers is about as relaxing as Major League Baseball can get.

Yes, North Siders love their Cubbies, and contrary to some pundits' observations they really do care about whether the home team wins or loses.

But they also appreciate the pleasures of basking in the summer sun on a weekday afternoon, sipping Old Style, mingling with other fans and embodying all of those other not-so-baseball-centric characteristics that first earned them the moniker "Bleacher Bums" back in the 1960s.

"The best thing about being in the bleachers is that you are truly surrounded by true Cub fans enjoying good food, cold beer and great baseball," said David Strauss, manager of the popular Wrigleyville sports bar Sluggers.

"Whereas the regular seating is much more controlled, it's almost as if the fans make the rules in the bleachers."

3. U.S. Cellular Field, Bullpen Sports Bar

While it may be impossible for the White Sox to match the unique ballpark experience Wrigley offers, and while the White Sox made several well-documented miscalculations in designing their "new Comiskey" too large and too sterile for many fans' liking, one thing done right at U.S. Cellular Field is its Bullpen Sports Bar.

This right-field watering hole offers seating at field level right along the chain-link outfield fence. Tables are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Meanwhile, patrons inside find the long, wooden bar decorated with pictures of favorite White Sox and large windows that make the Bullpen Sports Bar the place to be on those rainy (or snowy) April nights.

4. PNC Park, Second Deck

For years fans visiting the ballpark in Pittsburgh "enjoyed" an outfield view that consisted of three levels of usually empty seats and lots and lots of concrete.

The towering multi-sport facility known as Three Rivers Stadium sealed in the game from the outside world so completely as to make its name irrelevant. Sure, there was a river or three nearby, but what did it matter? Well, it matters now.

When PNC Park opened in 2001, it not only put the steel back in the Steel City's hardball cathedral, but it endowed the 'Burgh with one of the most panoramic ballpark vistas in the sport.

From the second deck fans enjoy views of the Allegheny River, the arching Roberto Clemente Bridge and the downtown skyline.

This makes PNC the rare example of a ballpark where first-time visitors should shoot for seats upstairs.

"Believe it or not, the original Three Rivers Stadium plans called for it to be open ended, much like panoramic PNC Park today," said Chuck Finder, who covers the Pirates for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

"As far as Pittsburghers care, the only beauty missing from the new North Shore ballpark is a .500 team to watch. More fireworks nights might please them, too."

5. Miller Park, Uecker Seats

OK, these upper-deck seats admittedly make the list based on their comedic value, seeing as they offer the chance to yell, "He missed the tag," from a vantage point even more remote than the outfield perch where the Brewers are stashing Bernie Brewer these days.

In all seriousness, though, the Uecker Seats – located in the uppermost reaches of the upper deck, behind home plate – really are named after longtime Brewers radio play-by-play man Bob Uecker, who heckled the umps from afar in those hilarious Miller Lite commercials back in the 1980s.

Best of all, these seats – which go on sale 90 minutes before the first pitch – cost only one dollar. That's right, they sell for less than you pay for a pack of baseball cards.

"We think it's the best deal in baseball," said Brewers spokesman Tyler Barnes. "And with many of our games now played in front of capacity crowds, we often have lines waiting to purchase these seats when they go on sale."

6. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Right Field Corner

For the fan who treks halfway across the country to visit a ballpark for the first time, there's nothing more frustrating than buying the most-expensive ticket available (figuring it offers the chance to sit in the best seat available), then arriving only to discover a cheaper seat would have provided a better view.

But just about every ballpark has its share of these pricing inequities. For the savvy fan who knows the local landscape, that's just fine.

In Baltimore, the best chance to exploit the ticket grid comes in the form of Section 4, a wedge of reserved seats tucked between the right-field foul pole and the Lower Boxes along the foul line. The rest of the reserved seats are located behind the Lower Boxes, and behind a pedestrian walkway, and behind the Terrace Boxes. But this special, reserved section is right along the field.

Aside from just saving a sizeable chunk of change, folks sitting in Section 4 enjoy the game from seats angled nicely toward home plate in prime foul-ball territory. Best of all, O's fans wishing to put those bucks they saved to good use find Boog's Barbecue right around the corner.

7. Coors Field, Mile High Seats

Long before they started soaking baseballs in a humidor to minimize the effects of the Rocky Mountain air on the flight of the old horsehide, the Rockies were more than happy to embrace their status as baseball's most altitudinous team.

Upon moving from Mile High Stadium to Coors Field in 1995, in fact, they unveiled in the upper deck a row of purple seats amidst a sea of what are otherwise green stadium chairs.

This purple row that rings the entire upper level marks the spot that's a mile – 5,280 feet – above sea level.

But fans don't have to sit in Row 20 to get a rise out of the upper level at Coors, because just about every upstairs seat offers breathtaking views of the surrounding purple peaks and gorgeous sunsets.

8. Petco Park, The Beach and The Park at the Park

Believe it or not, Petco Park's most unusual seating option isn't even found within the aforementioned Western Metal Supply building that stands in its left-field corner, but rather in right field, where fans find The Beach.

The sandy spot just behind the outfield fence provides a place for fans to spread out and watch the game … southern California style.

Yet another breath of fresh air at this innovative stadium lies behind The Beach, where an elevated grass hillside called The Park at the Park provides the type of casual berm viewing that has become a staple of spring training and minor-league ball in recent years.

"I don't know of any other big-league park that has an actual park in it," said Padres fanatic Michael Hernandez. "There are always lots of families out there and other people who wouldn't be able to afford to go to a big-league game otherwise.

"Tickets only cost $5, you can bring your own food into the park in a picnic basket and there's even a little baseball diamond where the kids can play Wiffle ball while keeping an eye on the game."

9. AT&T Park, Upper Deck Seats and McCovey Cove

Any debate concerning which ballpark offers the most stunning outfield views must inevitably arrive at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Simply put, the view from the upper deck behind home plate is second to none.

In the foreground, fans enjoy a beautiful green field, while just a long fly ball away the sparkling waters of McCovey Cove complete the perfect ballpark panorama.

Every fan also should consider experiencing at least one game from the waters of McCovey Cove. There, behind the right-field stands, kayakers can look up at the arched wall separating the ballpark from the sea, at the back of the right-field foul pole and light towers, and at the folks sitting in those great upper-deck seats around the infield.

And every time a high fly ball leaves a hitter's bat, fans are treated to a fleeting glimpse of the baseball. The best bet is to rent a kayak on the Embarcadero and to paddle out to the Cove with a radio, a telescoping fisherman's net and some peanuts and Cracker Jack.

10. Dodger Stadium, Right Field Pavilion

Perhaps the Dodgers were following some counterintuitive logic when they decided to offer an all-you-can-eat ticket deal for their Right Field Pavilion. After all, this is L.A. – the land of sculpted bodies, vegetarians and late-to-arrive, early-to-leave rooters.

The chances of seeing the Dodgers faithful eat their team out of house and home would seem less likely than, say, the heavy-eating fans of the Midwest, should one of their teams ever offer an unlimited bratwurst deal.

Just the same, for the reasonable price of $35 fans sitting in the very seats where Kirk Gibson's legendary home run off Dennis Eckersley landed can enjoy as many Dodger Dogs, nachos, peanuts and sodas as they can consume.

• Travel Ten: Best Minor League Seats

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