Category Archives: philadelphia phillies

Ballparks for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Spring Mobile Ballpark, Salt Lake City, Utah

Spring Mobile Ballpark, Salt Lake City, UTAH

Number of states: 31
States to go:  19

Number of games:  1
First game:  July 4, 2010 (Tacoma Rainiers 10, Salt Lake Bees 4)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

2010 brought about perhaps the most ambitious 4th of July Minor League Baseball Road Trip in Hamann family history.  The first couple of years brought us the nearest

ballparks–Spokane, Tacoma, Salem-Keizer.  One year we flew to northern California.  But a friend’s wedding in Montana on July 12 led us to make 2010 a huge drive–all the way to Utah.  Add a toddler to the mix and the desire not to drive more than 4-5 hours in a day, and you’ve got yourself quite a trip.  It could have backfired horribly, but it actually went very well.  Three days from Portland, we found ourselves staying in downtown Salt Lake City, just a few blocks from the gorgeous Spring Mobile Ballpark.

The ballpark’s location is as excellent as you’d want any ballpark to be.  Since Salt Lake City has the fortune of being west of the mountains, unlike its unfortunate PCL cousin in Colorado Springs, there are gorgeous Rocky Mountain panoramas

visible from every seat in the ballpark.  The setting sun reflects off the mountains, making for an excellent distraction during the game.  And its quick, accessible location from downtown SLC is also quite welcome–I was able to walk there from my hotel in about 40 minutes, but there’s a ballpark stop on SLC’s light rail system, so that walk wasn’t really necessary.  While circumnavigating the stadium, as I like to do, wasn’t possible (maybe because of fireworks setup), there was still a good atmosphere set up for the July 4 game, with people lining up outside early.

My family was among those lining up early, since for the first time in my ballpark travels, I had secured general admission seats for a game.  We didn’t know we would be doing this trip until all other seats for the big fireworks game had sold out, so we grabbed our baseball picnic blanket, a

couple layers of clothing, sun goop, and a few toys for the boy, and prepared to set up for the game.

I knew that there would be a pretty big rush for the best spots in general admission, so we got to the ballpark early.  Michelle put Steven on our monkey leash, which was admired by our line-mates.  In fact, as she let him burn off steam on his leash, one octogenarian woman approached Michelle and complimented her on the choice to use the leash. She used to get a lot of lip from strangers back in the day, she said, so she was happy to see someone using it.  (This was an especially refreshing compliment after a batty old bag said something shitty to us about the leash the previous day at the Boise Zoo.)  Anyway, all was right with the world:  we were at the front of the line, and I knew where I wanted to sit on the

outfield berm.

But then something went wrong.  About ten minutes before the gates opened, an usher came by to zap everyone’s tickets.  Ours were invalid.  Huh?  I think they sent us multiple copies of the tickets and I printed out the wrong one.  I was a little annoyed when she told us to go to the main ticket office to get everything straightened out, since we’d lose our choice spot in line that I planned ahead for.  My wife–usually the one who gets upset at customer service–told me to chill out, that I could come back tomorrow if we got a lousy seat.  So I said goodbye to my wonderful line spot and went to the ticket booth, who worked out the problem.  We then got back to the back of the line.

Here’s where I became a big fan of the fine people of Utah.

While I was in the back of the line cursing my luck just a minute or two before the gates opened, incredibly, a woman came back to us from the front of the line and told us that nobody would mind if we went back to our previous spot. 

“You earned it…you were here early,” she said.  Highly grateful, we went back there and offered to buy anybody who wanted it something to drink.  Everyone declined.

Thanks, Utah.  I deeply appreciate your generous spirit…and actively seeking us out to bring us to the spot I wanted.

We immediately zipped to exactly the spot I wanted…about halfway up the berm, about thirty feet off the foul pole.  I figured that people would eventually edge in front of us, and they did…but from their spot, they had to peer through the fence.  Had we been up higher, we would have had to deal with many, many people walking around, in, and out in front of us.  Here, we almost never did.  People mostly honored (though not always, as the photo shows) the edict to stay back from the wall, so the view wasn’t actually all that bad. 

But the atmosphere, not surprisingly, wasn’t too baseball-based out on the picnic blankets.  And, while I’d be bugged by that in the stands, I was totally fine with that out on the grass.  It was a carnival-family atmosphere there that was kind of nice, and while that might sometimes bother me, enough people watched the Bees get slaughtered that one could follow the game without appearing strange.  It felt right to watch the ballgame surrounded by families hanging out together–I got the warm fuzzies.

Which led me to another realization.  I can barely remember what I did on July 4th before Michelle and I began this tradition eight years ago.  I seem to recall two ways to celebrate.  One was watching while your crazy neighbor set off illegal fireworks while listening for the cops.  The other was

finding a sanctioned show, setting up a blanket, and killing time for several hours while the sun set, sincerely hoping that rain didn’t ruin everything.  As a kid, I found those hours mercilessly boring.  Really, going to a ballpark just gives you a game to fill all those hours in with.  It was a nice feeling.  And, this being Utah, there were a lot of kids around.  Some watched the game, and some didn’t, but all were well behaved, perhaps because those who wanted to whale on each other were segregated off to the other side of the grassy hill, out of range of both the picnic blankets and the ballgame.  So really, what the fourth of July general-admission ticket does is provides something to do for the waiting period before the fireworks.  Sold.

The Bees did a fabulous job of providing stuff to look at between innings without negatively impacting the baseball experience.  There was nothing to interrupt the baseball, which was particularly important at such a high level.  And between-innings distractions were rather rare as well.  It wasn’t until after the game that I realized how masterful the Bees were at handling fan experience.  The fireworks didn’t get started until about 15-20 minutes after the final out.  In most ballparks, they might play a little music, but they mostly just make you wait. 

At Spring Mobile Ballpark, instead, they had several fan-participation promotions during the gap.  This shows such common sense that I can’t believe more teams don’t follow suit.  At the moment that people might get bored, when there’s no baseball to be seen–that’s the best possible moment to do some silly promotions and put them on the scoreboard.  It was a splendid idea and well-executed.

Speaking of promotions, this particular game featured a marriage proposal.  Now, I’m 100% on record as being against a ballpark marriage

proposal.  But this one was a little, um, strange.  There was a competition where two people had to sing the jingle for Whipple Plumbing (which is to the tune of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song,” with “Whipple” where “Day-O” would be…I assume it’s ubiquitous in Utah for everyone to know it).  This man sang it (poorly), then a woman sang it and won.  But then it became clear that the man and woman knew each other because then the promotions guy said “Well, there’s one more thing to do…” and then let the man propose to the woman, who said yes.  I certainly wish them well…but I think they’ve set up a future problem.  When people ask them how he proposed, they’ll have to use the words “Plumbing” and “promotion” in their response.  In all honesty, even among ballpark proposals, this one is on the bottom side.  Why must all of our important life moments now be public rather than private?

Beyond this man’s marriage proposal, there were a couple ofsmall irritants I found at the ballpark.  While the stadium’s positioning next to the Rockies cements its local feel, I think they could have done better on the inside of the park to make this a place more

definitively Utahan.  For instance, they had many homages to baseball all-stars up throughout the ballpark.  But there was no connection to Utah.  I’d much prefer “Hall-Of-Famers from Utah” or “All-Stars who played in Salt Lake City.”  As it is, it felt incongruous.  More incongruous were the strange movie posters all around the joint.  I don’t care how much money they get for the posters, they didn’t fit in.  Additionally, they were for month-old movies that surely had already succeeded or failed at the box office on their own merits.  Who would go to get some nachos and decide they needed to see a film?

Still, there was much to love about this place, and its high score is richly deserved.  In fact, I loved it so much that I returned the next day, dropping $24 for a behind-home-plate ticket while my wonderful wife took care of the baby in the hotel.  But there was a major test that night…the baby was majorly cranky, and when I got a text from wife-at-her-wits-end, I left the game in the fourth inning–before it became official.  So I can only give myself credit for going to one game here, but I think I proved that, as much as I loved Spring Mobile Ballpark, I love my wife more.

I hope to return here.  It was simply gorgeous.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7.5/10
I’d like a little more in the concourse to tell me I’m in Utah:  the baffling Hall of Fame baseball photos celebrate baseball history, but not local baseball history.  Nevertheless, you just can’t argue with that mountain view.

Charm:  4/5
Again, the view.  The ballpark itself is not terribly unique, but it’s still lovely.

Spectacle:  4.5/5
The Bees have mastered the art of well-timed promotions that do not detract from baseball.  And the fireworks show is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Team Mascot/Name:  3.5/5


“Bees” is completely appropriate to Utah.  The mascot himself, Bumble doesn’t do too much for me (dull name), but isn’t too bad, either.

Aesthetics: 4.5/5
Lovely view.  Minor deduction for the ballpark itself being not gorgeous, but with the mountains, who cares?

Pavilion:  4/5
Like the circumnagivability of the place, and the way they segregate those who want to whale on each other from those who want to watch the game.  Would like a bit more local flavor.

Fans:  5/5
Lots of great people.  Wonderful human beings in the ticket line did my family and I a wonderful favor at absolutely no benefit to themselves.  They made their city and state look wonderful.

Intangibles:  5/5
Can’t argue with that first night there…a beautiful night, a fantastic pitching performance, and the best fireworks show I’ve seen at a ballgame (and I’ve seen a few).

TOTAL: 43.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Rainiers’ Michael Pineda, a 21-year-old making only his 3rd Triple-A start, steals the show.  He throws 6 perfect innings before getting knocked around a little in the 7th, but appears to be a stud in the making.

Chris Woodward and Mike Carp provide the lion’s share of the offense.  Woodward gets three hits–two off battered starter Fernando Rodriguez–and Carp hits a mammoth home run over our heads in right field.

(Written July 2010.)

Citizens Bank Park

Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA

Number of games:  1
First game:  June 12, 2005 (Phillies 6, Brewers 2)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Work brought me to Citizens Bank Park for the first time–taking student debaters to the National tournament in Philadelphia.  I’m glad it did, too.  Citizens Bank Park isn’t derivative of the 1990s new wave of ballparks; it didn’t exactly remind me of Coors or Jacobs or Camden Yards.  I was glad to see that–by the time this ballpark debuted in 2004, to copy those ballparks, as beautiful and wonderful as they are, would have felt like a cop-out.  Citizens Bank Park is its own park, and a gorgeous one.  It is unquestionably a top-ten ballpark.

There are subtle but significant differences between it and the others–differences that make the ballpark unique and charming.  For starters, there’s the red brick.  Yes, a lot of ballparks are made of red brick–San Francisco’s comes to mind.  However, the red brick isn’t central to the decor as it is in Philadelphia.  And, for reasons I can’t communicate properly, red brick is gorgeous in a ballpark.  Second, Citizens Bank Park has bucked a recent trend towards baseball green seats.  Don’t get me wrong–I love the baseball green.  But it’s been duplicated enough lately that the deep blue seats in Philadelphia are a refreshing, character-giving change.

Philadelphia also has an interesting reversal in design compared to Coors Field, Safeco Field, and probably a couple of ballparks I’m forgetting.  At Coors and Safeco, fans can look out onto the field from the concourse…but only on the first level.  The upper concourse is enclosed behind the seats, and fans can’t see the interior of the ballpark from there.  At Citizens Bank Park, this is reversed.  The lower levels are enclosed, and it is difficult to see the field from there.  On the third level, one can see the field.  It’s a refreshing difference–giving the folks in the

cheap seats a panorama of both the field and downtown Philadelphia wherever they are on the level.  (“Cheap seats” is a relative term, I’m afraid…the cost of a third-level seat at Citizens Bank Park was well above the cost at any park I’ve ever been to.  There are not “cheap seats” there.  Can we work on that, Phillies?)

Another creative touch in design is that fans can look directly down on the bullpen while looking at a sign that provide information about what various pitches look like.  It’s a nice touch, also, to be able to watch bullpen warm-ups from such a nearby vantage point, with no fence barrier.  All in all, the design of Citizens Bank Park is beautiful.  It integrates the texture of the game.

I was a little bit troubled by the atmosphere back in the kids’ corner…the carnival games were in danger of becoming flashy and distracting like those at Comerica Park.  But in

Philadelphia, it’s a little bit different…a carnival game (like the giant pinball game or the competition where kids–or adults–run in place as fast as they can to manipulate a player icon around the bases) is participatory in a way that a carousel or Ferris wheel is not.  For whatever reason, it felt like a celebration of baseball rather than an escape from it, so I don’t view it as a strike against the ballpark.

Part of the reason is that Citizens Bank Park celebrates baseball in a wonderful way throughout its center field pavilion.  There are plaques dedicated to great Phillies at each position.  There are bricks in the ground commemorating Phillies’ all-stars at each position.  There is a mini-museum behind

the brick wall in center field about Phillies and Philadelphia Negro League history.  “Ashburn Alley” is an excellent example of an open outfield pavilion area, all surveyed by a statue of Richie Ashburn.  Perhaps best of all is the bullpen.  This is consistent with the ballpark’s sense of history throughout…there’s a statue of Connie Mack outside the ballpark, put up by a group dedicated to promoting Philadelphia A’s history (what there is of it, anyway).

In addition to the design, the atmosphere in Citizens Bank Park further adds to its charm.  I’ll admit I had a preconception of Philadelphia and its fans coming into my visit.  I was expecting the fans to be rude and surly throughout.  It was in Philadelphia, after all, that Santa Claus was booed, J.D. Drew risked bodily harm, and even Mike Schmidt faced chants of “Choke!  Choke!”…from his child’s classmates on a school bus. So, when my smart and smart-alecky debater boy decided this would be a good place to root for the visiting team, I let him know he was doing so at his own risk.  It didn’t turn out to be a problem…we didn’t get a cross look all day.  Maybe it’s because the Phils were playing Milwaukee that day, and nobody could reasonably expect any human being to actually root for the Brewers.  They knew my student was faking it.  But I don’t think so.  I

think, quite simply, that these were genuinely cool baseball fans surrounding me on this unconscionably muggy Sunday afternoon.  Case in point:  As I walked to my seat, I passed a couple of Phillies fans talking on cell phones.  Usually, in other cities, this turns me off–I hear snippets of business deals or stupid “Yippee!  I’m at the ballpark!” talk.  Both of the individuals I passed at Citizens Bank Park were talking baseball…the day’s pitching matchups, the Phillies’ recent hot streak, and the like.  It was a fine group of intelligent, engaged, dare-I-say pleasant fans.  I hate to blow Philadelphia’s hard-earned reputation, but I’ve got to call it like I see it.

So, all in all, an excellent day at a fine ballpark surrounded by good baseball fans.  Who could possibly cry over the loss of Veterans Stadium when they have this gorgeous ballpark to replace it?

Veterans Stadium

Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, PA

Number of Games:  1
First and Last Game:  June 22, 1993 (Phillies 5, Braves 3)

Veterans Stadium was demolished on March 21, 2004.

First the stadium:  see Busch, Three Rivers, and Riverfront.  A circle.  Turf.  Boring.  The Phillies have since moved out of here, and that’s good.  No reaction whatsoever to this cookie-cutter ballpark.  That’s it for the stadium.

The Vet, however, marks the first time I ever took a date to a baseball game.  When you’re as much of a glove-wearing, game-scoring nerd as I am, the first game is a little bit of a worry.  The general rule for me is, unless the woman spontaneously indicates an affinity for baseball, to wait until I know her at least a month before letting her see me in this context.  Shelly met this standard.  I’d known her for a couple of years.  She was a close friend of the woman with whom I was to be living in sin that summer–the one whose breakup with me sent me fleeing to the stadiums in the first place.  Shelly did the absolute best thing possible for a man in my situation…she seduced me (or let me seduce her–the line is awfully blurry).  This love connection, I believe, was very good for me and probably not so good for her in the long run.  She volunteered herself to be the primary stop on the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.  She flew down to Pittsburgh from her place outside of Cleveland, drove with me across the state to Reading, where we house-sat for friends of hers, then drove with me back to Cleveland.

This would be the only week I would ever spend with her one-on-one.  We spent one day of touristing in Philadelphia.  Me and the tall redhead.  We looked good.  We looked happy.  We must have been stopped ten

times by horse-and-carriage-ride offers. We saw everything there was to see.  We tried to get to the stadium and accidentally wound up in New Jersey.  She put up with my reaction to the stress of being lost in a strange town.  We righted ourselves and put ourselves in the left-field bleachers.  She did the Kids’ Page in the program…every maze, every fill-in-the-blank crossword.  She said the Phillie Phanatic was sexy.  She took me back to Reading.  She took me to bed.  She drove with me to Cleveland–even went with me to another game there.  She listened to me rant.  I was a mess.  She took me for a weekend at a condo by Lake Erie (actually very beautiful in the summer).  She took me to back to bed.  She kept my car at her place while I took the train across the country to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Montana.  She picked me up at the train station at 2:30 AM when I returned.  I was still a mess. She took me back to the lake, back to the condo, back to bed.

How does this all turn out even?  This relationship where I whine about my ex nonstop, and this brilliant, gorgeous woman not only puts up with it, but also repeatedly seduces me (or is seduced)?  Maybe she intentionally did this to set up her life so that she was owed so much relationship karma by the time we were through that she would be due a fantastic permanent Prince Charming.   Our inevitable ugly falling out came a few months later, and she went on to become a minister at an inner-city church.  Maybe this betrays that she has a thing for the needy, because that’s sure what I was that summer of 1993.

I don’t want to make Shelly out to be a saint–she had some significant problems that were especially evident in the ugly falling out.  And now that I gather my thoughts on my time with Shelly to write this, it all looks terribly messed up, but it surely didn’t feel that way at the time, perhaps because of our youth.

They’ve since knocked down that worthless hunk of cookie-cutter concrete, and good riddance to it.  But I’m not going to remember it for its obvious flaws.  I’m going to remember a tremendous game.  I’m going to remember one or two specific moments in time–which is, in the end, what we all remember from any place or any person.  That’s how I’ll force myself to remember Veterans Stadium, and that’s how I’ll force myself to remember Shelly, the center of the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.  Shelly, my first baseball date.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Braves/Phillies matchup turned out to be a preview of that year’s NLCS, and the Phillies’ victory anticipated the result.

Pete Incaviglia hits the difference-making three-run homer in the fifth inning.  My fellow left-field fans cheer him passionately when he runs out for the following inning.

Francisco Cabrera hits an absolute monster homer into the upper-deck above me.

Mitch Williams gets the save.

(Written August 2001.  Updated April 2004.)