Big League Stew - MLB

Since we ran Wrigley Field on Friday, it was only natural to follow it up with a look at the newish stadium down in the 'Loo. And since I haven't gotten a chance to visit yet — following in the footsteps of my Roto pal I'm hoping to later this summer — I thought it might be better to have a Cards fan write the intro. Here, then, is Aaron Hooks of the always funny Cardinals Diaspora and his take on the Cards' new home. (Remember folks, he's a Cards fan.)

"Busch Stadium, in its third incarnation is kind of like a huge port-a-potty. It's not pretty to look at, ideal to use and sometimes stinks horribly... but it does the job it was built for. Some stadiums you come to say you went. This stadium you watch baseball in.

"Look, if you're expecting more of the usual features in the new retro wave of parks, prepare to be woefully disappointed. But, in a strange way, Busch Stadium III is even more 'retro' in that respect. Sure, there are plenty of cushy club seats to kiss corporate butt in. There's a Build-a-Bear store for a personalized Fredbird. Plus, there are several other amenities old schoolers loathe.

"But in comparison to any other new stadium, where the building is the main draw, 46,000+ faithful members of Cardinal Nation will always do two things in Busch Stadium, the parking lot, a corn field or wherever the team decides to play; Watch baseball and drink beer. Come to a game and I'm pretty sure you'll be talking about the 86-year-old nun keeping score on a card she patented in 1965, not the black and white scoreboard they put up in 2006. Yes. Black and white scoreboards were still made in 2006 — I was surprised too."

For an insider's look at visiting the New Busch Stadium, follow the jump. To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com. This week's schedule, Wednesday: Comerica Park, Friday: AT&T Park.

Facts and figures (More at Ballparks.com)

Address: 250 Stadium Plaza, St. Louis, Mo. 63102. (314)345-9000

Built: 2006

Capacity: 46,861

Cost: $365 million

Dimensions: Left field: 336 feet; left-center: 385 feet; center field: 400 feet; right-center: 385 feet; right field: 335 feet. 

Biggest moment: The Cardinals beat Detroit 4-2 in Game 5 on Oct. 27, 2006 to win their first World Series since 1982. 

Fun fact: Busch Stadium was the first privately financed park in Major League Baseball since AT&T Park was built on the waterfront in San Francisco.

Resources

•  Buy tickets ($7-$140) • Seating chartStadium Info  •  ExploreSt.Louis.com

How to get there

"There are plenty of $5-$10 parking lots to the south of the stadium that offer cheap and easy parking. You can pay the $20 if you have elderly or children to get a little bit closer to the stadium. Leaving the area is easy too after the game, obviously if you pick a parking garage it will take you a while but all of these little mom and pop parking lots will suffice." — Adam Gabor

"For the real boozehound fan, several area watering holes — including Hammerstone's and Lucas Park Grille — have shuttles to and from the game." — A.H.

"Parking around the stadium is going to run $10-20 and their are several options. Try and avoid the multi-story garages and stick the the surface lots on Broadway for a quicker exit." — A.H. 

"The light-rail system MetroLink has a stop right at the stadium for people on outer areas of downtown or further out in the suburbs. An all-day pass can be had for $4.50 and it will take you to other locations (like the casinos!). Cabs are bountiful around the park before and after the games." — A.H.

Big Ballpark Review
AL EAST    NL EAST
Baltimore   Atlanta
Boston   Florida
N.Y. Yankees   N.Y. Mets
Tampa Bay   Philadelphia
Toronto   Washington
AL CENTRAL   NL CENTRAL
Chi. White Sox   Chi. Cubs
Cleveland   Cincinnati
Detroit   Houston
Kansas City   Milwaukee
Minnesota   Pittsburgh
AL WEST   St. Louis
L.A. Angels   NL WEST
Oakland   Arizona
Seattle   Colorado
Texas   L.A. Dodgers
    San Diego
    San Francisco 

Before and after the game

"If you are in town and it’s a night game, the best places to hit up during the day before the game are in this order: The Gateway Arch, City Museum and then the A-B Brewery Tour." — F.F.

"A great place to eat or drink after Friday games is "The Outfield" at Mike Shannon's Steak and Seafood. It is only a couple of blocks from Busch at 620 Market Street. Mike Shannon does his "Live From Shannon's" radio show after every Friday home game and occasionally on Saturdays.  There are always guest from the Cardinals' organization as well as from visiting teams." — Warren Knepp, Columbia, Mo.   

"Al Hrabosky's Ballpark Saloon is an awesome place to celebrate a victory with hundreds of other Cardinal fans.  Its only a short walk from the stadium and close to the MetroLink when it's time to leave." — David Kanning

"My favorite thing about Hrabosky's is in the men's restroom. There is a one-way mirror over the urinals where you can watch people but they can’t see you doing your dirty business." — A.G.

"After the game, take a taxi down to Laclede's Landing where there are plenty of great clubs, restaurants, and bars. Morgan Street Brewery is my favorite along with The Feisty Bulldog (Ask for a Green Dragon there). If you like comedy, Laughs on the Landing is a perfect place to end your night with improv comedians doing their best to entertain the crowd. Next door to Laughs on the Landing is The Big Bang. The Big Bang is a piano bar that will get those people who won’t even sing alone in the shower to stand up and sing along with the dueling pianists on stage." — A.G.

"Busch Stadium has the Big Three — 3 bars. 3 distinct crowds. 3 choices for drinking immediately before and after the game. These aren't places that are open all year — they serve one purpose and one purpose only... get you loaded to watch baseball.

1) Hrabosky's Ballpark Saloon is owned by Al Hrabosky AKA the Mad Hungarian, who was a middle reliever for the Cardinals in the late 70's and early 80's. He's currently the lead analyst for FSN telecasts of the team. He fully embraces the 'Real World' crowd, often times having former house guests host post-game parties. Here you're going to find tons of 20-somethings pounding Jager Bombs and texting profusely. Many of these patrons are bartenders themselves- so it's the place that's most likely to be still rocking @ 2 am on a Tuesday night game against the Pirates.

2) Paddy O's. It's literally 200 feet from the home plate entrance to Busch Stadium and features a huge circus tent looking thing on a former parking lot. It has an inside bar as well, but hundreds of red wearing fans will be jamming out to Journey under the big top. Seriously. It's loud. Obnoxiously fun. You'll be treated to ThatOneGuy, a hybrid DJ, tout man and chant starter imploring the masses to chant 'Cubs Suck' to no one in particular. 

3) Mike Shannon's Outfield. Roughly two blocks away from the stadium on the outfield side — Shannon's is another party place named after a current broadcaster and former Cardinal. Much classier than the other two, you're going to find a bit more civil crowd.  The bartenders expect you to tip well on your $5 beer and you don't mind doing it because they're hot. During big series, they even have a bathroom attendant. Only a few years old, the Outfield has taken significant market share from Al's and Paddy O's, but still manages to be not much, but a little bit above complete debauchery. Bottom line — AB products will be flowing loosely." — A.H. 

What to eat

"Don't expect local favorites to be present at Busch Stadium. You will find nary a toasted ravioli or Imo's Pizza slice anywhere near the park. SportsService runs the concession stands (sans one Hardee's restaurant on the upper level) so if you're a fan of bland, rote eating you'll love it here. In all instances, I recommend getting Bud-heavy instead of purchasing the so-called 'food' except one: The Bratzel. Sold behind sections 139 and 152, it's a wurst wrapped in a pretzel. Somebody probably got fired over at SportsService for making something tasty — we salute their sacrifice by eating one every game." — A.H.

"For beer, there are a few stands where 24 oz. cans cost $8.00.  Not bad as it is basically the same price you get at any bar." — W.K. 

"With the price of food and the general quality issues with ball park food (except the kosher beef dogs), I think the best bang for the buck is the Hardee’s Thickburger stand.  It tastes just like at the restaurant and is huge for the investment." — F.F.

Where to sit

"Be careful here. Everything labeled 'Infield Field Box' is roughly the same price. But you can get a box behind home plate or either dugout and it's considered an equal to a 25th row seat behind a foul pole in either left or right field. Thankfully, St. Louis has been leading the way in scalpers who wear laminated seating charts around their necks for your illegal ticket purchasing pleasure. If you're looking to get some sun, the bleachers have backs and present a surprisingly good look at the action. If you're a little more flush with cash, try the Champion's Club — the ticket includes a full meal, unlimited top-shelf booze and beer and a sleek air-conditioned lounge crawling with cougars. I wouldn't say Busch Stadium has a bad seat, but the cheapest 'Terrace Reserved' tickets are a hike up about 15 ramps and are the slowest to exit by a long shot. You're better off spending 10-15 more bucks for a box seat." — A.H.

"Having been all over the stadium for games, I can attest it has some great views with great energy whether down the first base line or in one of the corporate boxes.  I will say one of the best places to catch a game is the outfield bleachers in the family pavilion section. It's easy to get a beer at the Bud Light Bar/Chill (no lines) and the views are amazing and the seats are cheap." — F.F.

"For a great picture opportunity, sit anywhere behind home plate so you can see the outfield with the majestic Arch in the background." — A.G.

Misc. 

"There are numerous downtown hotels with Cardinal specials (tickets + room + cheap trinket) including the Casino Queen, Lumiere Place and the Ballpark Hilton that are within walking distance or short cab ride to the stadium." — A.H.

"You're going to see a lot of hometown people around you, not like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles where you see the bigwigs in their suits and ties at the game, but regular working people taking their family out and drinking Bud Lights." — A.G.

"The people in St. Louis know their team, their history, the game, the rules and whats good and bad about baseball.  They are such good fans they cheer for the right reasons and boo for the right reasons and will give standing O’s to opposing team players when deserving.  Players love the fans in St. Louis as well. Just ask 'em." — A.G.

Have an insider's tip for the new Busch Stadium that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and home town to 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com for possible inclusion in the post.

Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review will run all summer and will feature all 30 MLB ballparks. We welcome reviews for any ballpark. To do so, visit this post for submission guidelines.

COMING WEDNESDAY: Detroit's Comerica Park (Send your tips!)

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