The summer is generally a slower time in sports, and with the NBA and NHL seasons wrapped up and NFL training camp still weeks away, it’s the time when sports fans and the media turn to ranking random things.
It’s a far more extreme situation right now.
We unveiled our own list a couple of weeks ago, providing rankings of the top ballparks in the National League aside from Oracle Park.
Why not put Oracle in, too? Because the consensus is that it’s an easy top choice, and we’re pretty biased about that here in the Bay Area.
USA Today did their own ranking of Major League parks recently and came to the same conclusion (politely ignore the fact that they called it Oracle Field). Since it might be a while before fans get to step through the gates, here are five reminders of why the park the Giants call home is so highly thought of …
This is an easy one. I could write 400 words on the view, but all you really need is one photo:
Fun fact: While Alex Eats has turned into a competition to see what types of awful creations can be found on the road, the first video was actually a recap of all the creative new offerings at Oracle Park last season. The garlic fries get all the attention, but the ballpark also has crab sandwiches, the outstanding Cha-Cha bowl, jerk chicken nachos, flatbreads, made-to-order salads (for the healthy people), tuna poke, sushi, chowder, Greek wraps, Ghirardelli sundaes and much, much more.
Most other ballparks can’t even come close to offering that kind of variety, and I hear about it from visiting writers all the time. For what it’s worth, their go-to seems to be the Asian-themed bowls you can find at different spots.
One quick negative note: The ranch dressing situation at Oracle Park is not great. If they have tubs of it lying around, it’s impossible to find. If anyone from the executive team is reading this, please upgrade your condiment stands.
(UPDATE: Per a league source, the Giants plan to look into the ranch dressing situation)
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As a franchise, you’re selling much more than just the product on the field. The Giants want a trip to their ballpark to be an experience, and they did a nice job of filling in the gaps. There are few fan experiences better than walking along the arcade with the water on one side and the outfield on the other. The Coca-Cola slide and giant glove have kind of faded into the background, but if you’re a first-time visitor, they’re still big attractions and much more interesting than what you’ll see most other places.
Then there are the five statues, with more surely on the way. Even after 20 years, the Willie Mays statue is still a go-to spot for fans before and after games. In recent years, the Giants have added a bowling alley, garden, the Gotham Club and a new scoreboard to stay a bit more modern.
The Giants are doing the right thing by moving the bullpens, but they are losing a tiny bit of the ballpark’s charm. The last thing you want to be is cookie-cutter, and Triples Alley is truly a distinguishing feature that makes games more interesting. Yes, it cost Brandon Belt a ton of homers, but you should still appreciate the fact that the ballpark has a unique feel.
The Giants built Oracle Park on land that had a small footprint, but they took advantage, shortening the outfield in right and building a high wall. They couldn’t have predicted it would work out so well. A homer into McCovey Cove is a memorable feat for any left-handed hitter.
I’m not going to pretend it’s easy to get to Oracle Park. It’s a nightmare to try and get off the freeway at rush hour, there’s very little parking on the downtown side of the park, and you can spend half an hour inching your way up Second or Third Street after a game.
But … all things considered, it’s a pretty good situation compared to most other ballparks.
There are few things worse in baseball than trying to get in or out of Dodger Stadium in a car. The Braves are randomly in the middle of a suburb. Same with the Marlins and Brewers. The Phillies play 20 minutes south of downtown with nothing but other sports facilities nearby. The Los Angeles Angels aren’t really in L.A. The Mets are a long subway trip from downtown New York. The A’s have spent years looking for a better location.
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You can reach Oracle Park by Caltrain or BART if you’re outside the city, and those who work and live in San Francisco can pretty easily walk there or get dropped off a few blocks away. The nearby streets are filled with restaurants and bars, and if you walk in one direction you’re quickly on the waterfront. The Giants plan to build up the area between their park and Chase Center, too.
Now if we could only get some of those places to wait a bit longer for last call …