Thursday, March 8, 2012

SMALLS TALK: Coolest park to hit a home run?

There is no feeling in the world like hitting a home run. I enjoy goals, I've celebrated touchdowns, I love tracking a birdie putt, and I even get a rise out of a drained three-pointer, but nothing has ever compared to the sensation of sending one over the fence. The pure pop of the bat, the trajectory of the backspinning ball, the half-hearted pursuit by the outfielder, the roar of the crowd - it's a magical moment, and it could happen on any pitch.

A home run has the ability to lift confidence levels to amazing new heights. During your at-bat, you achieved the best possible outcome in the history of baseball - a result Ty Cobb could not top and Babe Ruth could only hope to match - so enjoy it. The victory lap around the bases, the cheers, the high-fives - in this moment, all eyes are on the home run hero - you are the show.

Home runs are always special, but there are some ballparks that present certain circumstances that make leaving the yard even cooler.

Historic Fences: Watching the left-fielder look directly up into the sky as your ball sails over Fenway Park's 37-foot Green Monster is an accomplishment that links you to some of the game's biggest names who have maneuvered their way past the monster's celebrated grasp over the past century. An equally famous wall can be found on the North side of Chicago. The only brick wall still in MLB circulation, outfielders have nothing but a layer of Wrigley Field's legendary ivy to cushion the blow of a head-on collision. Hitting a big fly at either of these ballparks will have you feeling at one with baseball's timeless tradition. 

Favorite Landing Spots: A splash is always fun. Whether it's Tropicana Field's rays tank or Chase Field's outfield jacuzzi, the chances of directly hitting these targets are remarkably low which makes these fan-friendly occurrences even more entertaining. Yankee Stadium's Monument Park is another great landing zone, connecting Yankee greats, past and present, through the magic of the long ball - after all, there's no greater way to pay tribute to a legend than by peppering his statue with homers.

Custom Celebrations: A dinger will always get a stadium rocking, but it's nice to have your own traditional celebrations to ignite the fans as well. I don't know what it is, but I absolutely love when the Brewer's mascot goes down the slide at Miller Park - unfortunately, he'll likely be enjoying about 40 fewer rides this season. The Mets' Big Apple at Citi Field is another stadium staple, although due to the team's futility last season I heard the organization lowered the standards for the Apple, using it routinely to celebrate singles, and on one occasion, a Hit by Pitch.

Ricochets: Hitting a bomb off of something, such as a building or the back wall of a stadium, will never get old. The Astros' Minute Maid Park not only presents the most ridiculously constructed center field of all time, but it also offers a great opportunity to mash very stylish four-baggers to Left Field. Home runs off the train tracks - or, bonus points, off the train itself - are some of the best-looking in baseball. (Also, shout out to Ken Griffey, Jr. for launching one off the warehouse at Camden Yards in the '93 Home Run Derby.)

My Pick: My absolute favorite place to deposit a gopher ball, however, has to be the spot made famous during the record-breaking 2001 season of Barry Bonds: McCovey Cove. The mixture of hitting it completely out of the stadium, the ball landing in water, and the devotion of souvenir hunters floating around in kayaks all game makes for my top home run hitting experience.

For a phenomenon that occurs several times on a daily basis throughout the baseball season, the thrill and excitement of the home run seems to have only grown over time. Homers are majestic, and they will always bring stadiums of baseball fans to their feet. Impossibly difficult yet unnaturally common, the home run is baseball's everyday miracle.

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  1. Manny's homers off the hotel at SkyDome. Boom.

  2. I'd launch one over the blue monster, hit the Bull and win myself a steak at the Durham Bulls stadium. #HoldItLikeAnEgg

  3. Pop ups that get called by the second baseman, then the right fielder, then go upper deck at new Yankee Stadium are my favorite