Saunders: What are the best MLB ballparks for architecture, food and fans?

PITTSBURGH – I am, I willingly admit, a baseball park geek.

The perfect baseball diamond diamonds, manicured emerald grass, kinky angles of tract walls, giant scoreboards, kids wearing miniature jerseys of their big-league heroes, smorgasbords of ballpark chow, seat colors, organ music, public address announcers, in-game promotions and tradition … I take it all in.

Little wonder that my recent trip back east — through Boston’s Fenway Park, Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park — was a little slice of baseball heaven.

Earlier this season, I made my first trek to Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, and I besides ventured inside Tropicana Field for the first time in galore years. I must say, “The Trop” wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered.

Now, there are only two big-league Parks leftover on my bucket list: The “new” Yankee bowl and the Rodgers Centre in Toronto.

A few years ago, I wrote a column ranking the National League BallParks from worst to first, with PNC finishing No. 1. This time around, I’m taking a different approach.

Let the tour begin:

Best architecture: PNC wins, hand down. The beautiful masonry and steel trusswork perfectly capture the essence of Pittsburgh and its bridges.

Best view: PNC, once once again. Are you sensing a trend? With downtown rising like Gotham City on the far side center field, and with the Roberto Clemente Bridge spanning the Allegheny stream, it takes my breath away every time.

History: It has got to be Fenway or Wrigley Field, the two oldest ballParks in the major league. Tough choice here, but I’ll go with Fenway because it still feels like I’m observation a game from the twenties. One of the excellent, subtle touches? The scoreboards at Fenway have all the moderns bells and whistle, but they blend in seamlessly with the soft green walls.

Best food. If we’re talking press box food for talking heads and ink-stained wretches, it’s got to be Philadelphia. If we’re talking concourse food for the fans, it’s San Diego’s Petco Park. It serves up traditional fare, but besides has food, fish tacos, carnitas and the excellent Gaglione Brothers cheesesteak shop.

Neighborhood. I’m sure I’ll get trashed by Cubbies fans for not going with Wrigleyville. And the Gas Lamp Quarter in San Diego is cool, but I’ll stick with LoDo. I’m perpetually amazed at how vibrant the area around Coors Field remains. It’s the heartbeat of Denver.

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Sunsets. Purple, pink, orange and gold mix with deep gray thunderheads as the sun sets behind the Rockies. Coors Field is the choice.

In-game races. A lot of teams attempt to entertain fans with “mascot races.” The Rockies, of course, have the “Tooth Trot,” which has perfectly no connection to Colorado’s heritage. But the “Famous sport Sausages” at Milwaukee’s Miller Park and the “Presidents Race” at Nationals Park are genuinely fun and organic. But if I had to pick one race, I’ll take the giant Brat, Polish, Italian, Hot Dog and sausage sausages that romp in Milwaukee.

Fans. An Uber driver, referring to direct sports fans, called Philly “The Unfiltered City.” He was right, but that grittiness doesn’t make them the best baseball fans. Nope, the best fans reside at Busch bowl in St. Louis where you’ll find a mixture of knowledge, passion, and an appreciation for the best players in the game, even if they play for the other side.