Minute Maid Park all ready for Opening Day! Photo courtesy of Julia Morales (CSN).
Minute Maid Park all ready for Opening Day! Photo courtesy of Julia Morales (CSN).

Fan Follow Friday puts the spotlight weekly on one of my readers, as they share their favorite ballparks and baseball memories. Hope you enjoy hearing their stories!! This week we get to know a Texas fan, Brad Anderson:

brad anderson, rangers, astros

Name: Brad Anderson

Age: Old enough to remember Bat Night at Arlington Stadium

Hometown: Houston (born and raised in Arlington)

Favorite team(s): Texas Rangers, Houston Astros

How did you get into the sport of baseball?  My dad coached my little league team and introduced me to Topps baseball cards while I was in elementary school.  He took me to several Rangers games where my favorite players were Ruben Sierra and Oddibe McDowell, the latter primarily for his speed and just because he wore number 0 which I thought was cool.  I also had one of those lunchboxes with all of the team logos and especially enjoyed the creativity in the old Brewers glove logo.

During high school, I began visiting other ballparks during the summer – usually 1, occasionally 2 per year.  This was a hobby that I shared with my dad for 20 years, and it was our goal to eventually complete the circuit.  He, unfortunately, passed away shortly after our trip to Petco Park in San Diego last year.  Although we did not get to complete this journey together, the time I got to spend with him enjoying the greatest sport is what I will always cherish.

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Favorite ballparks (and why):  I have had the privilege of attending a game at 18 of the current ballparks (plus 10 former ones).  Unobstructed panoramic views are a huge factor in where I rank the parks, which is why I rate the open-air stadiums higher than the retractable roof parks.  AT&T Park in San Francisco and PNC Park in Pittsburgh would top my list for that reason.  My favorite seat location at a Giants game is top upper deck down the 1st baseline in RF for great sight lines of the Bay Bridge plus any splash hits – which I did see Lance Berkman accomplish at one of the games I attended there.  As far as the Pirates, their park’s backdrop combines my two favorite elements: water and city.  Loved seeing boats drift by with the Jolly Roger displayed during the game.

Other exceptional fields: Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati (terrific museum and riverboat theme), Camden Yards in Baltimore (warehouse is awesome and love the prevalence of orange during games), Petco Park in San Diego (interesting concourse with the hanging plants plus the city view is outstanding) and Comerica Park in Detroit (tiger-themed façade, franchise history on concourse, outfield view – perfection) .  For a retractable roof stadium, Arizona is not too bad, either.  Of the two Texas ballparks, I prefer the one in Arlington – better game day atmosphere, fascinating exterior . . . always reminded me of a fortress esp. when approaching from the I-30 side plus the illuminated baseball globes ringing the top concourse are striking and the RF home run porch has a great design – roof makes it look like a multi-story house has been dropped into the park.

brad anderson, rangers, astros

Least favorite ballpark (and why): As many games as I attended at Arlington Stadium, it is by far the worst of the lot due mainly to its plain appearance.  The only original thing about that converted minor league stadium was the scoreboard with the shape of Texas that contained the lineup and relevant stats.  Otherwise, it was very unimpressive and when that scoreboard was replaced with wind screens and ad boards, it became unmemorable.  Six Flags was right next door and when the games got boring, I would run to the top of the outfield bleachers to watch the roller coasters.  Once I learned how much fun it was to dump stuff (candy, peanuts, coke, whatever I could grab) off the top of the stadium, that became my preferred between-innings entertainment until an outfield whooping from my old man changed my attitude.  Seem to recall the PA Announcer having to address the crowd on multiple occasions not to chuck anything over the railings so clearly this diversion was popular.  Also, the huge expanse of aluminum outfield bleachers served a couple of purposes: 1) gave us something to hit with the full-size wooden bats given out on Bat Night and 2) inflicted deep burns during day games in the summer… Texas heat is no joke – someone once referred to this park as the world’s largest open-air roaster.  And the lighting was not too great in some parts of the outfield seating which meant ballpark security stayed busy hauling out the drunks.

What is your top ballpark memory (and why):  Kansas City: Meeting Mark McGwire after an Athletics-Royals game in 1987 in which he homered.  This was his first full season when he won AL ROY.  I really wasn’t expecting any players to hang around for autographs after the game but he was extremely generous with his time to sign for me and all of the other kids who were crowding around the A’s bus.  A month later I visited Oakland right before the city hosted the All-Star Game and saw him hit two more on his way to a season total of 49.

brad anderson, rangers, astros

 

brad anderson, rangers, astros

Advice for fans visiting your home ballpark (how to have in your opinion, an authentic experience):  If you come to Houston, tickets will be plentiful.  Easy to find street parking downtown plus there is no difficulty leaving after the game.  That is what three straight 100-loss seasons will do for fan support.  The ballpark is a little quirky inside with the arches and Tal’s Hill, but it is a very beautiful place to catch a game, especially with the roof open – best bet is April or early May.  Once summer hits, the weather becomes unbearably hot and muggy and the retractable roof becomes a necessity for a large portion of the schedule.  Be sure to take in an inning from the Home Run Porch in left center field.  Really the only minus for me at MMP is that I have never liked the Chick-Fil-A-sponsored foul poles.  FiveSeven Grille in CF is actually very good if you are looking for fare beyond the usual ballpark eats.  And Houston overall has excellent Mexican food establishments to check out before first pitch.  If you are into craft breweries, take a tour at the Saint Arnold Brewing Company in the afternoon before a night game – about 5 minutes away from MMP.

brad anderson, rangers, astros

Also make a trip to Constellation Field in Sugar Land to watch the Skeeters, managed by Gary Gaetti – about 30 minutes southwest of MMP.  The Atlantic League has some quality parks, and this one is a gem.

****Would you like to be my next Fan Follow Friday?? Just email your responses to the bold questions and a couple of pictures to me at aliciambarnhart@gmail.com. Don’t worry you don’t have to be a baseball blogger, just a baseball fan!!!

Past Fan #FF:

3/21/14 Bryan Mapes, Atlanta Braves

3/28/14 A.J. Martelli, New York Yankees

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