Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ranking the Eastern League Ballparks

I've now seen all 6 Eastern League Ballparks in Tokyo and thought I'd give a quick overview and ranking.

Three of the parks are real stadiums that charge admission and have rows of seats above the field, usually from first base around to third base. They have a few food and drink options and nice scoreboards that show the lineups. There's Giants Stadium that's next to the Yomiuriland Amusement Park (700 yen), Fighters Stadium in Kamagaya (1000 yen), and Yokosuka Stadium, home of the Shonan Searex (1000 yen).

The other parks are free and have limited seating, no food and a bare-bones scoreboard. There's a drink machine at each, but that's about it. These are Yakult Toda Stadium, Lotte Urawa Field, and Seibu #2 Field.

The things that matter to me when ranking these ballparks are convenient access from my place, seating options, and ambience. As such, here are my rather limited rankings.

1) Giants Stadium - the best place to sit and watch a game. With a gondola going overhead and front row seats close to the fence, this is where I feel I can really enjoy the afternoon. Only about 45 minutes from my place, which really helps, and not far from the station, although you have to climb nearly 300 stairs. The lucky number drawings are a unique feature. I'll return here near the end of the season for another visit.

2) Yakult Toda Stadium - gets bumped up for allowing fans to stand so close to the action, right at field level. Also has the best seats of the freebie ballparks. Not easy to get to on public transit, so I biked, but I'll try to take the train and bus here next month to see just how long it takes.

3) Yokosuka Stadium - the most pleasant ballpark on the list, but the front row seat is also a spot where people walk way too much. The only stadium with lights and therefore night games, also has a regular cheering section.

4) Fighters Stadium - also nice, but you need to ride a bus from the station. Otherwise much the same as Giants stadium, but with a good local crowd.

5) Lotte Urawa Field - Reasonably close to the station, but few decent seating options. I'll revisit here next month, and try to arrive much earlier to get a better seat.

6) Seibu #2 Field - almost no seats, so you have to sit on concrete for the afternoon. Also the furthest stadium from my place. Unlikely I'll return here anytime soon.

I should note that teams don't play all their home games at these stadiums. In order to increase exposure, some local stadiums are occasionally used, and as I perused the schedule, I noticed a few upcoming games at these ballparks. This Thursday, the Shonan Searex have a home game in the Baystars practice field. This ballpark is located just a couple of stops further away from their main stadium which I visited a couple of days ago. The Futures play there in September, so I'll try to head down to check it out.

As well, next week the minor league Chiba Lotte Marines have a morning game at Chiba Marine Stadium, home of their NPB counterparts. There's an evening game there as well, so I'll see if I can make the doubleheader. As usual, updates will be posted here.



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