I'm not sure if it's okay to talk about this on the Internets, but ... well, I'm in love.
Thursday night, I visited Citizens Bank Park, the summer home of the Philadelphia Phillies. And I don't think my life will ever be the same.
It started on the way to the ballpark. The subway in Philadelphia still uses metal tokens. Tokens! I thought those went out with Nehru jackets and LSD, but they've still got 'em in Philadelphia. Upon arriving at your stop, you're a five-minute walk to the ballpark and pass a couple of large bronze statues -- one depicting a couple of football players who might or might not have romantic designs on one another, the other a couple of relatively unfriendly baseball players -- that remind one of Diego Rivera's vaguely communistic murals from the '30s. Hey man, power to the sporting people.
Then you arrive at the ballpark to find ... well, mostly just a ballpark. Outside, there's a big (but elegant) Mike Schmidt statue, along with a strange-but-impressive statue of Robin Roberts that looks like a black-and-white photo (inside the ballpark, there's also a Richie Ashburn statue). Inside, Citizens Bank features one of my favorite modern conveniences: a wide concourse that allows one to circle the playing field while watching the game, except for a short segment beyond straightaway center field. This is in direct opposition to Pittsburgh's PNC Park, where the concourse is narrow and crowded and doesn't generally allow for an easy view of the game. We might just describe Citizens Bank -- along with Safeco Field, Coors Field, and I'm sure a few others -- as "a good walking ballpark" ... which isn't a phrase I've ever seen before, but darn if I don't like the sound of it.
This is possible, by the way, partly because Citizens is uncluttered by air-conditioned clubs and restaurants and the like. What it feels like, more than anything else, is just a place where you might want to actually watch a baseball game. Which, while seemingly an easy and obvious thing, is sorely lacking in too many of the latest yards.
Other things ... For five measly dollars, one may purchase a set of six lovely color postcards ... and there are two sets! One includes four Citizens Bank Park images, plus two with the Phillie Phanatic; the other contains five different Phillies (including Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard, but hey nobody's perfect). Again, each set is five dollars. At Yankee Stadium, ONE POSTCARD IS FOUR DOLLARS.*
* We must be reminded of this revolting fact at every possible opportunity.
If you buy a microbrew, your brew comes in a lovely plastic cup that ... Well, first I should mention that I despise plastic cups. It's just an uncivilized way to drink a relatively sophisticated beverage. Or any beverage, really. But as cups go, these are outstanding, because they come adorned only with images of the Phillies' P logos over the years, from 1911 through 1992. That's right, folks: Spend eight bucks on a beer and you'll get a nice little history lesson. The advertising inside the ballpark isn't as garish or overwhelming as I've seen in other ballparks. The ushers don't allow fans to return to their seats during a plate appearance. The Phanatic's act is pretty good. Also, hot donuts.
There are just a whole bunch of things I like about this place, and very few that I don't. I suppose it would be nice if the ballpark seemed a part of the city, which it doesn't, even remotely. I hate the building's name, of course. And I know some people prefer a view of the skyline or the mountains or something, but I care a lot more about what's happening on the field than whatever's beyond the grounds.
Anyway, my updated rankings:
1. Fenway Park
2. Wrigley Field
3. Dodger Stadium
4. Coors Field
5. Camden Yards
6. Citizens Bank Park
7. Safeco Field
8. PNC Park
9. AT&T Park
With a bunch of others tied for 10th. I'll be visiting the Nationals next week, which will still leave the new ballparks in San Diego, Miami, Detroit, and St. Petersburg unvisited by your intrepid stadium reviewer.