April 2, 2010— -- Super-sized televisions, amazing views and high-end food are just some of the latest features at Major League Baseball stadiums across the country. In the last decade or so, cities across the nation have made substantial improvements to existing ballparks and introduced a series of new fields that constantly amaze.
With another baseball season beginning this weekend, ABC News decided to revisit the ballpark and pick our favorite places to watch a game. Even if your favorite team isn't playing, it's worth taking a trip to check out these amazing stadiums.
"They've gotten away from the cookie-cutter park, thank goodness. The parks are a lot more interesting now," said Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Heyman. "They're borrowing from the old-time park. It's been an obvious change for the better."
In the 1970s, a series of new parks were constructed that could be described, at best, as "ugly." A better description for them might be "hideous" or "blights on the land." They were very symmetrical, often had fake grass and were, in most cases, built to accommodate football teams, as well.
Various cities and Major League Baseball have done a great job of getting new stadiums built where they were needed, Heyman said.
"There's definitely been a movement away from utilitarian fields like that, more towards ones that really capture the magic of what baseball is to so many people, which is sort of an escape from their ordinary lives," said Josh Pahigian, author of several baseball books including, "101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out."
That trend continues this year, with the opening of a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins, Target Field.
We spoke to the experts about what makes a great field and which parks they liked and then we picked some of our favorites. There are plenty of other great places to watch ballgames (including countless minor-league stadiums not included on our list.) Feel free to pick your favorite and tell us why in the comments section.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Md.: This baseball-only facility in downtown Baltimore became the official home of the Orioles on April 6, 1992, and is credited with launching the ballpark renaissance.
The one-time railroad center now seats 48,876 fans who enjoy games in a stadium meant to echo the great parks of the early 1900s.
"With the debut of Camden Yards ... there was a movement to combine the best of the old, as far as ballpark architecture, with the modern amenities that fans expect these days," Pahigian said. "There's a nice marriage nowadays, with the comfort that modern facilities provide with the old-time feel, old-time flavor of a ballpark more akin to Ebbets Field, for example."
Safeco Field, Seattle: This ballpark, opened on July 15, 1999, offers fans sweeping views of Seattle's downtown skyline, breathtaking sunsets over Puget Sound and great sightlines to the field itself.
Safeco seats 47,116 and has a retractable roof. It, along with neighboring Qwest Field -- home of the NFL's Seahawks -- was build to replace the Kingdome. The new stadium has a brick façade, asymmetrical field and, of course, new luxury boxes and upgraded food options. Fans can order food for delivery to their seat with their cell phones. Now, that's high-tech.
"Seattle is a very charming park," Heyman said. "It's the biggest upgrade because the Kingdome was an absolute dump."
Citi Field, New York: The banking giant might have a tarnished image and it didn't help for this new park to open at the height of the financial crisis, but the new home of the Mets has been a resounding hit. It gives a nod to old stadiums but still feels modern. A structural steel bridge motif throughout Citi Field symbolizes the Mets' connection to New York's five boroughs.
The park holds 45,000 fans who get a more intimate ballpark experience than at the old Shea Stadium. In fact, 42 percent of the stadium's seats are on the lowest level. And for those who can't afford those seats, there is a standing room area nearby giving anybody a close-up view of the action.
An honorable mention goes to the new Yankee Stadium across town. Both stadiums opened in 2009 and are major improvements over their replacements. We just chose Citi because it is such an improvement over the old Shea and we have been impressed with the food options there. (That, and Yankee Stadium loses points for its super-strict prohibition on bags, briefcases and just about anything else you might have on you for a post-work game.)
From upscale hamburgers and spare ribs to gourmet french fries and grilled shrimp po'boys, there is one thing that is certain: Fans won't go home hungry. There is even a beer stand featuring 28 different selections.
Both Heyman and Pahigian said that food has vastly improved at stadiums across the country. Many stadiums put an emphasis on local flavors, such a cheesesteaks in Philadelphia or pizza in New York.
"They've enhanced the menus by quite a bit," Heyman said. "There's many different offerings beyond the hot dog and Cracker Jacks."
Wrigley Field, Chicago: This baseball icon was built in 1914 and epitomizes the classic American ballpark. It is the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues and has been home to numerous historic moments, including Babe Ruth's famous "called shot." Back in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, Ruth allegedly pointed to a location in the bleachers before hitting the next pitch out of the park. Pete Rose had his 4,191st career hit there and Sammy Sosa's 60th home runs in 1998, 1999 and 2001 all took place at Wrigley.
"I hope they never replace Wrigley," Heyman said. "It's just a lot of fun to go there. It's probably not as easy for the fans there as the new parks. Still, the fun outweighs all the inconveniences."
AT&T Park, San Francisco: Opened on March 31, 2000, this stadium, which has gone through two name changes because Pacific Bell was bought out by SBC, which then merged with AT&T. Confused? Well so are some fans. But regardless of the name, the park offers wonderful views of the bay, where many kayakers will congregate during games, hoping to catch a home run.
"That is just a beautiful park and an incredible upgrade over" the Giants' previous home, Candlestick Park, Heyman said. "It reminds me that I'm not in Candlestick whenever I am there."
Fenway Park, Boston: This is America's oldest ballpark, dating back to April 20, 1912. Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski all played at this temple to baseball.
The park probably is best known for the Green Monster, a 37-foot-tall wall in left field that looms over the field. The park still has a manually operated scoreboard and is even home to the only ladder in play in the majors.
Yes, it has narrow seats and aisles, but that's part of the charm of this park, which seats only 37,000.
"I really like the intimacy of Fenway," Pahigian said.
Then again, he's a New Englander.
PNC Park, Pittsburgh: Opened in 2001, this is the fifth home of the Pittsburgh Pirates since the team's inception in 1887.
This riverfront facility combines the best features of yesterday's ballparks -- rhythmic archways, steel trusswork and a natural grass playing field -- with the latest in fan and player amenities and comfort.
But it is really known for the view. There are scenic vistas of the downtown skyline and riverfront, as well as pedestrian and riverboat access.
The playing surface of PNC Park is Tuckahoe bluegrass, which is a mixture of various types of Kentucky bluegrass.