I spent the last three evenings watching baseball in Denver, and have concluded two things ...
First, Mike Stanton is a seriously powerful human being. Monday night, Stanton hit one 474 feet, the third longest in the majors this season. Tuesday night, he hit one 433 feet. Wednesday night, he hit one 466 feet. When this man hits them, they stay hit.
Stanton might never hit for a high enough batting average to rank as a truly brilliant hitter; he still strikes out a lot, and doesn't walk much. But the kid's 21. Maybe we should cut him a little slack.
And second, Coors Field is the greatest baseball stadium built in the last 50 years.
Granted, I haven't been to all of them. I haven't been to either of the new ballparks in New York, or the new ballparks in Minneapolis or San Diego or Philadelphia or Detroit or Washington. But I've read the reviews of all of those, and I've seen them on TV innumerable times. It's certainly possible that I've missed something important, but I have a tough time ciphering how one of those yards can match the Rockies' home.
I'm not going to list all of Coors Field's positives, but here are some bullet points for you (without any bullets because bullets are scary):
Coors is integrated brilliantly into the neighborhood, both architecturally and culturally. This is one of the few cases where a ballpark actually did revitalize an urban area. Plus, The Tattered Cover -- one of America's great bookstores -- and gorgeous Union Station are both just a few blocks away. Confluence Park is nearby, too.
Coors is constructed in a way that allows you to see the field from almost anywhere as you walk around the main concourse. There are other stadiums with the same views -- Safeco Field, to name just one -- but too many of the newer parks didn't get this incredibly simple thing right, which means you wind up standing in lines and watching the game on a monitor.
With the upper deck beyond right field supported by major beams cutting through the lower deck, you get that old-time feel of places like Tiger Stadium and various other now-gone yards. You get the same thing in Arlington, except there all the old-timey touches are so polyglot that they feel artificial, grafted on merely for effect. Coors' upper deck looks completely at home.
And speaking of the upper deck, the purple row of seats -- which is exactly a mile high -- in the upper deck was a brilliant stroke of genius and whoever thought of that should be nominated for baseball sainthood. There's a miniature forest beyond the outfield fence, running from right-center to straightaway center. The batter's eye is covered in ivy.
Along one exterior wall is a really cool neon animation; near an entrance on the other side of the ballpark is a gateway with 108 tiles depicting the evolution of the ball. Ringing the ballpark's exterior facade, so subtle that you have to look for them, are terra cotta tiles with a design of the columbine, Colorado's state flower. They're lovely.
The between-innings music is too loud, and Coors Field does lose a few points for that. But the in-stadium advertising is less obtrusive than in most other ballparks.
Oh, and the sky that blankets Denver is, in my experience -- and I've spent a fair amount of time here -- among the most dramatic in the major leagues, night in and night out (even leaving aside the mountains, which can't be seen from most of the seats in the ballpark).
I'm no connoisseur of ballpark food, but Wednesday night I sampled what I quickly realized is probably the most guiltily delicious item that one will find in a ballpark: the Tornadough. I'm going to have to skip two meals today, but it was worth it.
There are certainly other candidates for the title of Best Relatively New Ballpark, and I'm willing to reserve my judgment until I've visited Target Field. But if you're making a list of all the things a modern baseball stadium should do, I'm fairly sure that Coors Field is going to hit more of those things than any other.
The view from my seat, Wednesday night in the middle of the game: