Monday, July 12, 2010

Alright... I've taken a few months off. For the millions of you out there... I'm sorry.
So, here is what's happened in those ten months that is worth a sports fans' time.

10) Oh, What Could Have Been...

Many say the game of golf is at a low point in it's history. The one complaint that has been argued over the last five years is that the game's greatest advocate,Tiger Woods, is also it's greatest foe. Wrong. These fans are looking for a consistent rival for Tiger. Note to you traditionalists out there: If you're waiting for an Arnold Palmer to continually challenge Tiger each as he did Jack Nickalaus some decades ago you're wasting your time... it's not gunna happen.
Woods has become so consistently dominant over the last decade that many border-line golf fans are turned off by the lack of competition that Woods has in front of him each week. Fortunately, for those cynics out there the 2009 season should have put most of those arguments to rest.
Four championships-three first time major winners in 2009.

One could argue that 2009 showed that the PGA Tour offers the most parody of any sport in the world. Yet the 2009 season will not be remembered for who won golf's four major championships but for who lost them. Go ahead, try and name all four winners... kind of tough to do huh?

I am all for the underdog, but in these cases, the final result was more of a letdown than the Cinderella story. So here is a look back on what could have been a very special year in golf history.

The Masters 4/11/09: I watched from the 10th fairway at Augusta National as Kenny Perry lost his three shot lead on that Sunday afternoon in April, as Angel Cabrera sank a par putt to win his first green jacket.

The U.S. Open 6/1/09: A fairy-tale finish turned boring when Phil Mickelson missed two par putts over the last four holes...David Duval, out of nowhere. Winless in eight years, he ran off three straight birdies on the back nine to tie for the lead as the No. 882 player in the world tried to show why he was No. 1 a decade ago.

His hopes ended with a 5-foot par putt on the 17th that spun 180 degrees out of the cup, and his silver medal was no consolation...Ricky Barnes was the long shot who didn't last very long with the 54-hole lead. He shot 40 on the front nine to turn control over to Glover, and wound up shooting a 76 to join Mickelson and Duval in a tie for second.

Lucas Glover didn't have a compelling storyline, just the kind of golf that wins a U.S. Open in any conditions.

The British Open 6/22/09: 60 year-old Tom Watson comes within one stroke of becoming the oldest Major winner in golf's history. Watson was the ultimate underdog story but it was meant to be. Stewart Cink became the villain that day beating Watson in four-hole playoff.

The PGA Championship 8/8/09:

I sat on the 18th green at Haleztine and watched in disbelief as Tiger Woods' second shot was offline. This was the second shot that had to be perfect in order to force a playoff with Korean, Y.E. Yang. Yang became the first to beat Tiger after Woods had held the lead in a Major. History was made but it just most of all it just capped off a year that was a very forgettable one in Major championships.

9)Yankees Win 27th Title

Yankees Suck...

8) Saints Shock The World

25:1... Those were the odds of the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl in 2009. Well they proved a lot of people wrong this year. Drew Brees was the best player in the league,Reggie Bush found his niche in the NFL and Sean Payton became the new "best young head coach in the league." Personally, I was a little upset that these Saints beat Brett Favre and the Vikings in the NFC Championship (See #6) but that sports I guess... Anyway, the Saints not only rolled through the regular season/playoffs but they showed that they indeed had the best TEAM.
It was pretty surreal to watch Drew Brees go head to head with our generation's greatest quarterback( Peyton Manning). I loved the matchup and it just goes to show how special Brees is a leader. Sorry Peyton maybe next year.

7) Cowboys Make the Playoffs, Lose to Vikings

I was wrong. This article is for David Broom and all of those Cowboys fans (beside myself) that had them going 19-0 and winning the Super Bowl. I misread the Cowboys talent and the division that they played in. It was a much weaker division than I had envisioned but the Cowboys did earn it. By beating the Saints, Chargers and Eagles in big time games this season they gained my respect.
I went to the Chargers and Eagles games this season and took in Cowboys Stadium which was amazing. There is nothing like it and it makes going to game there for any sport worth the price of admission.

6) Brett Favre Is The Man

There have been handful of quarterbacks that have been considered the greatest of all-time. Jonny Unitas, Joe Montana, John Elway and Peyton Manning come to my mind. But after watching Brett Favre play last season for the Vikings I have to say he is the best the game has ever seen.

He has everything you would want in a QB. Favre is a leader, who has thrown the most TD passes of all-time (as well as the most interceptions), played 17 seasons without missing a game, thrives under pressure and has a Super Bowl ring.

This guy is the ultimate gunslinger. He led the Vikings to NFC Championship game in 2009 and threw an interception in overtime to lift the Saints over his Vikings. Many people have pointed to his key interceptions in big situations such as this one and 2008 against the Giants but the bottom-line is those teams wouldn't have been in those moments if it weren't for Favre. He's a game-changer.

Favre threw for 4200 yards and 33 TD's in 2009 which was second only to Drew Brees.
Most QB's are lucky if they have a season like in their prime which usually comes from ages 27-31 in the NFL. At 40, maybe Favre is in his prime... Don't hang em up yet Brett.

5) March Madness 2010

David vs. Goliath. USA vs. Russia. Marlins vs. Yankees. Giants vs. Patriots. Each featured a favored juggernaut against a considerable underdog. In each case the underdog took down the juggernaut for a historic victory. 2010 gave us Duke vs. Butler. But in this case the juggernaut (Duke) held off the underdog (Butler) to win its fourth national championship in school history. All this you know...

But why should we consider this a quality NCAA Tournament? Yes, it had a a David vs. Goliath matchup which is what every national final craves for. But what other memorable moments did it gives us? Not many.
This was supposed to be the tournament where we watched John Wall/Evan Turner cement their names next to Carmelo Anthony, Chris Webber and Michael Jordan as great freshmen to get to The Final Four. Nope. OSU Sweet 16.... Kentucky Elite 8.
Perennial favorite, Kansas, loses to Northern Iowa in the second round.

No. 2 seed, Villanova, loses to St. Marys in the second round... St. Mary's would go on to lose to Baylor by 30 in the Sweet 16.

WVU, Duke, Butler and Michigan State make up The Final Four in Indianapolis. Who had that on March 15?
But this mediocre tournament did provide even more of a case to stay in school to win. Look at each of the last four teams. All were led by juniors and seniors who had stayed together instead of going to the NBA.

If the NCAA doesn't make players stay for at least two years then how can we expect someone like John Wall to win a national title. Individual players are entertaining but it is almost impossible for them to carry a team as a freshman. Teams win national championships and the best team (Duke) won it in 2009 because they stayed together.

I predicted last year on this blog that the 2009 BCS Championship would feature Florida and USC. I almost got one right... The 2009 season was setting up to be the greatest the sport had to offer in a long time. The SEC and Big 12 were set to be king and would be in the end but not without a lot of drama first. The projected Heisman finalist were Tebow, McCoy and Bradford. Close but no cigar. This season would be one to remember but just not the way we all thought we would remember it.

Sam Bradford lasted two quarters before injuring himself for the season. Goodbye OU.

Colt McCoy gave an effort for the first 8 games but never eclipsed 300 yards.

Tim Tebow struggled to find his form from the year before but still was deemed "The Greatest Leader" in the sport.

Little did we know a Sophomore RB from Flint, Michigan (Mark Ingram) would beat them all for the Heisman.

Who? That's right... Mark Ingram became household name as he ran all over the SEC and led Alabama to a perfect season.

But just for a second let's go back and look at another wild college football season.

My team the Michigan Wolverines started off a perfect 4-0.... but only one more game the rest of the season. Of course, our season ended with another loss to arch rival Ohio State. Get rid of Rich Rod.

Florida lost. This was just plain sad. I'm a big Tebow fan but even if you're not you have to respect him. We will NEVER see another player like him in our lifetime.

I was disappointed Florida blew it against Alabama but most of all I was disappointed Tebow had to go out that way.

Cincinnati,TCU and Boise State all went undefeated in their regular season games. Which raised the question again of whether or not college football needed a playoff system. The answer is yes they do.

This year is the proof more than any other year of why the 16 best teams should have an equal opportunity to play each for a national championship. But instead we have five teams go undefeated and only one will go home champs.

In the end it didn't really matter because Boise (14-0) and TCU both played a mediocre Fiesta Bowl, Cincinnati got taken behind the woodshed by Florida and Alabama (13-0) beat Texas for the National Title.

We need a playoff system...

3) Rangers Fade in 2009, Look to 2010 as "The Year"

This is my team. The 2009 Rangers did what they always do: Win until August and then fade down the stretch. It wasn't anything new but the expectations for 2010 were new.
No more expectations of a .500 record. No more talk of the future. The future is now for this team.

With the addition of Vlad Guerrero from the hated Angels and the maturation of Neftali Felliz, Derek Holland and Elvis Andrus to name a few; the Rangers are ready to contend in the American League. Josh Hamilton predicted 96 wins... I'll take 92.

2) Phil Wins The Masters

The story of the week had been the return of Tiger Woods but this Sunday belonged to golf's good guy, Phil Mickelson.

Lefty battled Lee Westwood (who was considered as the best player never to win a major)all weekend for the lead. I sat in the 12th tower with CBS analyst Ian Baker-Finch as we watched Phil sink a 10-foot putt on the 12th green in front of us.
My view the entire week was one that most people only dream of. I had a beautiful panoramic look at the par 4 11th and the par 3 12th; two of the most historic holes in golf. As Tiger faded down the stretch, Phil and Westwood heated up to provide us with a front row seat to Lefty's second green jacket.
As Phil walked off the 18th green I decided to use join the patrons along the rope line and congratulated him with a high five to end a memorable week in Augusta.

1) Heros to Villians...

Number one is a toss up. Most calendar years have some wonderfully poetic story-lines that define that respective year in sports... Not 2010.
These two stories garnered more media attention than any other in sports history. 1a) Tiger Wood's dramatic fall from super stardom after his personal life was torn apart after admitting he been having multiple affairs over the last few years. 1b) Lebron James's free-agent frenzy culminating in a made-for-television one hour special in which he announced that he would leave his home in Cleveland and join the Miami Heat with Wade and Bosh in South Beach.
Both of these stories produced such dramatic 24 hour coverage that these two heroic figures transformed in villainous characters in sports nation.

Here's the deal: Tiger and Lebron have both been dragged through the mud in 2010 but the sad truth is that it's still all about winning. It doesn't matter what either one of these guys does off the court if they win they will be revered one again. It's all about "what have you done for me lately?" in today's media world and if they succeed all will be forgiven.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Never A Doubt

Watching Tiger Woods in person is an experience every true sports fan should have.
"The quality of golf you're going to see today is absolutely staggering," said David Feherty who has been covering the PGA Tour for CBS Sports for since 1997 yet he says he's still doesn't believe some of the things he witnesses when covering Tiger Woods.
Once again this week, I was assigned to assist CBS announcer David Feherty as he walked with today's final pairing of Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods. It was fitting that these two were leading the World Golf Championship at Firestone Country Club because you could argue that over the last year these two have been the most dominant in the world. Harrington won the British Open and the PGA Championship in 2008 while Woods has won four tournaments in 2009.
At the beginning of the round today Harrington was -10 which was three shots ahead of his playing partner Woods. Even though Padraig was used to the pressure of a final round lead, he was playing with Woods on a course that he had won six times before.
Many times Tiger hurts himself with his driver but on the front nine he hit every fairway except for one. He got off to a hot start as he eagled the par 5 second and birdied No.4 and No.5 to pull ahead of Harrington at -11. Usually, when Tiger challenges an opposing player in the final round they submit pretty quickly but not Harrington. Even when Tiger birdied No.9 to take a two shot lead, Padraig never lost his focus.
Both players matched each other on the next three holes but then then Tiger began to lose command of his driver. As I watched his drive off the the 13th tee sail over my head, I could tell it was heading right which means big trouble.
Luckily, it got a fortunate bounce back in the fairway but ultimately put him too far away from the green to challenge the tucked away pin. Harrington put his second shot in the middle of the green while Tiger flew his shot over his target. Padraig parred and Tiger bogeyed.
On 14th tee, Tiger once again sprayed his drive out of the fairway while Padraig put his drive a fairway bunker. Tiger's second shot forced him to have a near impossible third just to the right of the green. Once again Padraig pars and Tiger bogeys. Before the previous two holes Woods hadn't had a bogey in 22 holes. So to bogey in this situation was very un-Tiger-like.
As they approached the Par 5 16th hole, Harrington was clinging to a one shot lead. Both teed off but yet again neither found the fairway. This historical hole that measures 667 yards downhill with a small pond guarding the green was a hole that Tiger had to birdie to out duel Padraig.
I stood with Feherty in the middle of the fairway a few yards from where Tiger was about to attempt his all important third shot. He had 181 yards to flag. I got the signal from my fellow spotter that Tiger had an 8 iron and I relayed that to Feherty so that he could use that on the air. His third shot was near perfect as he landed it just over the pond and spun it back within a foot for birdie.
Meanwhile, Harrington had a very tough lie for his third in the fairway rough. In short, he put it over the green which the wrong place to miss. He bladed his fourth into the water and had to walk back in the fairway to his his sixth. All the while Tiger is calmly standing by waiting to tap in his birdie put from inside the grip. Padraig would triple-bogey and Tiger would birdie the crucial 16th. Game over. Ten minutes before that Tiger was down a shot and now he was ahead by three.
As both players parred the 17th hole I walked with Tiger and Feherty off the green onto the 18th tee box. By this time, the entire gallery of thousands had gathered to watch Tiger finish off Padraig to win his seventh World Golf Championship.
Two perfect drives. As we stood in the middle of the fairway with the last group Tiger pulled out a 9 iron and put his approach four feet from the cup. I stayed back in the fairway to watch for the second week in a row Tiger tipping his cap to the cheering gallery that surrounded the 18th green. Harrington tapped in his par and Tiger finished off his round with his fifth birdie of the day. I made my way down the rope-line to where the players exit just as Tiger tipped his cap to the crowd one more time and walked past me to sign his scorecard to capture his 70th win of his career.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Fitting Farewell

For the last 50 years, the Buick Open has been a staple on the PGA Tour. Held in Grand Blanc, Michigan
the Buick Open is considered one of the favorites by the players because of the rowdy atmosphere that surrounds Warwick Hills Country Club.
Sadly, the people here in Michigan have gotten the worst of our economic recession which has forced the PGA Tour to announce that this will be the final year of the Buick Open.
Nevertheless, the game's greatest player, Tiger Woods, decided to enter the field in search of his third Buick Open title. Without Tiger the field this week would have been a below average one, but with him everything changes.
Coming into today, Tiger was in the lead by one shot which usually means certain victory for him. In 36 tournaments in which he has the lead going into the final round, he's 35-1 in his career. So it wasn't a stretch to say Tiger would win his 69th career tournament today against a much weaker field.
Today, I was assigned to assist CBS announcer David Feherty on the course which is different than my usual duties of spotting a group. Basically, my job was to shadow Feherty around the course with a portable tv monitor so that he could announce from anywhere while watching the broadcast.
Walking with Feherty reminded me of how popular he is on the PGA Tour because of his unique comedic analysis of the golf he watches. At any given moment he'll stop to entertain the gallery by signing autographs or simply by making a smart comment of which is usually hilarious.
On this day, we were assigned the last group of Michael Letzig and Tiger Woods. We caught up to the group just as we went on the air at 3 p.m. and immediately made our way into the fairway to watch Tiger. If you've never been out to watch Tiger you need to realize that when he's in the lead on the course, every fan out there wants to follow him. So for me to get the chance to walk with David Feherty down the middle of the fairway and bypass the thousands of golf fans outside of the ropes was incredible.
When the group would finish a hole we walked through a rope-line of people screaming and reaching for Tiger- so I occasionally high-fived several of them on my way sit in front of the tee box to watch the drives. After the drives I would follow Feherty down the fairway as he would chat with Tiger or Letzig. Several times it would be just myself, Feherty and the players walking down the middle of the fairway... which was unbelievable in itself.
At the turn Tiger had the lead by a two strokes but it felt like he was ahead by ten. His driving was erratic today but he always made up for it with his short game. Meanwhile, Letzig was faltering slowly but surely.
The interesting thing that about walking with Feherty was listening to the gallery chant his name just as much as Tiger's. Every hole some random guy would blurt out something like "Ferehty, you're the man!" To which he replied"I'm actually a woman, thank you."Those kind of quick comments made the day a blast.
As we approached the 16th green, Tiger had an eagle left to seal the tournament, but Feherty decided to walk up to the next hole. As I watched Tiger make his birdie on the green to go -20, Feherty and I walked down to arguably the rowdiest hole on the PGA Tour. He wanted to get up in the stands to interview the raucous crowd that awaited. Thousands of screaming fans gathered to watch the final group play the Par 3 17th.
As the two some approached the tee, the stands were literally shaking due to the fans throwing themselves around and chanting "let's go Tiger"or "save the Buick!" It felt like a college football crowd.
Both players would hit the green and walk up to the loudest ovation I've ever heard on a golf course. As Tiger tapped in for his par, he tossed his ball into the stands and tipped his cap to the deafening mob of fans.
A lot of people bash Tiger for being an athlete that is too serious during his round but this week he definitely showed the fans that he appreciated their support.
As we walked down the 18th fairway the crowd broke the rope-line to follow him to the green. He tipped his cap as they applauded him and cheered as if to say "Thanks for coming Tiger!"
I was standing about 10 feet from the hole when he walked up and tapped in his par to secure the 69th PGA Tour victory of his career. After raising his hands in exaltation, he threw his ball 50 yards behind him into 18 fairway where a riot ensued as the ball landed in the crowd.
Not a bad way to bid farewell to the Buick...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cowboys Fans: Stop Fooling Yourselves

I've been a fan of America's Team all my life. Especially growing up in Texas where football is king everything stops on Sundays when the Cowboys kick off. The Cowboys' dynasty of the 90's not only produced three Super Bowls but it created a fan base that has been blindly living off those victorious years ever since. Not to mention, the DFW media continues to bank on Tony Romo as the savior of this franchise when he leads them back to the promise land. Well, different than many Cowboys die-hards these days, I'm not living in the past anymore.

The New York Yankees, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Cowboys. What do these four teams have in common?
They are the handful of sports franchises in America that continue to be hyped and profitable no matter the outcome on their season.
The Yankees haven't won a World Series since 2000, Notre Dame went 15 years without a bowl victory, the Lakers until recently hadn't won a title since 2002 and the Cowboys haven't won a playoff game since 1996.
Yet all four of these teams every season are hyped to win by the media and their merchandise sells more than any other franchise in sports.
Much of this has to do with their enormous fan bases. It makes sense if you think about it. More fans=more demand. The higher demand results in heightened exposure by the media which in turn produces better ratings and more sales.
The problem with the media's infatuation with these caliber teams is that they don't always win. In fact, in the past seven seasons there has only been one title(2009 Lakers) out of these four teams combined. For the Cowboys, this constant attention over the last 20 years has been both a blessing and a curse. But for the last 10 years it has mainly been a curse.
Training camp starts this week and so will the intense media buzz surrounding the Cowboys from now until January. Every time I've turned on the radio this past week, someone here in DFW is breaking down the Cowboys' chances or examining what impact Demarcus Ware will have or if Wade Phillips is going to be fired regardless of the outcome after the season. It's actually very exhausting to listen to. Come find me when when the first meaningful snap happens in September.
It doesn't help that two former Cowboys players, Michael Irvin and Nate Newton have their own radio show. The hype and attention that they direct toward the Cowboys on a daily basis illustrates how much our fans and the media live in the past.
Well, here's the reality Cowboys fans-you can talk about winning with this team all you want this season but it ain't gonna happen. If you'd open your eyes you'd see that your Dallas Cowboys haven't won anything since I was in the 6th grade and this year isn't going to be any different.
So now that I've so boldly blasted the Cowboys, I'll offer up five reasons why this is NOT the year to bet on them to be successful.
5) The Secondary
Last season, the Boys' secondary ranked among the worst in the NFC because of their susceptibility to the deep ball. With the departure of SS Roy Williams and Defensive Coordinator Brian Stewart, the Cowboys' secondary will be tested early and often. Ken Hamlin will have to be the leader of this secondary which is kind of scary. Basically, it could be a field day for a strong offense such as the Giants or Eagles.

4) Wade Phillips
The Cowboys head coach is moving himself to defensive coordinator this season which will leave less time for him to oversee other parts of the team. I've never agreed that Wade is the fit for this team because he lets Jerry Jones run the entire organization. Not to mention that his laid back attitude has at times frustrated players and fans alike who want to win. Whether the Cowboys go 19-0 and win the Super Bowl this year or lose every game on the schedule, Phillips is more than likely going to be let go because his contract is up at the end of the season. Lame duck coaches aren't passionate leaders; which is exactly what this team needs this year.

3) The New Texas Stadium
Jerry Jones' billion dollar project is certainly going to generate a lot of attention this year, but one thing it doesn't guarantee is Cowboys victories. Take or leave this argument but the pressure that will be put on the team this season to succeed on the field will be too much at times. Not only will this season have expectations at home but with the Super Bowl being held here next year success will be nothing short of a Cowboys' victory in the big game.

2) The Rest of the NFC EAST
Bottom-line, the Eagles, Redskins and Giants all added key players to their teams this offseason that undoubtedly make them stronger than they were last season. The Cowboys did nothing. The Giants signed former Cowboy Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard. The Eagles who ended the Cowboys season last year with a 44-6 win in Philly added several key players including rookie wideout Jeremy Maclin. The Redskins may have improved the most by signing free-agent DT Albert Hanynesworth and drafting University of Texas standout Brain Orakpo. Although the Cowboys did sign back-up QB Jon Kitna and ILB Keith Brooking, neither will make a lasting impact this season. Not to mention we had no first-round pick because we traded it for WR Roy Williams last year. Even without these offseason moves by the other NFC East teams, it's still the toughest division in the NFL.

1) The Offense
Last year the Cowboys' high octane offense started off the season as the best in the NFL as they averaged 32 points a game to go 3-0. The rest of the way they would average just over 20 points a game which ranked them 13th in overall scoring at the end of the season. How does a team that had seven returning pro bowlers from the year before tank like that? This season could be even worse.
Even though the Cowboys have three stellar running backs in Tashard Choice, Felix Jones and Marion Barber, their passing game is very suspicious.
The loss of Terrell Owens will hurt the Cowboys tremendously this season. You can't tell me that Roy Williams is going to be the No.1 receiver of this team when he's never led his team in receiving in the past. And how many times can Romo throw to Jason Witten when he's double covered on third downs? We couldn't live with T.O. and now we won't be able to live without him on offense.

Finally, I 'd like to say I'm not a Tony Romo believer. I think he is the most overrated QB in the NFL and always will be. He lives and dies off busted plays which is never good. He may win you a few games here and there with that lucky stuff but when it comes down to winning the big game those plays don't work. In the offseason, he seems more interested in a chance to qualify for the U.S. Open than working with his receivers.He's not a leader in the least bit. He may try and lead by example but at the end of the day he just doesn't have that passion that a starting quarterback needs to have. I believe that if Romo doesn't perform well this year, it may be his last as the Cowboys' quarterback. As he goes, so do the Cowboys.

My 2009 Cowboys Prediction: 7-9

Sunday, July 19, 2009

So Close,Yet So Far Away

Tom Watson is 59 years old. He is the winner of eight major championships, including five British Open titles and today he almost made it six. Watson was trying to become the oldest major championship winner in the history of the PGA Tour beating Jack Nicklaus by more than 13 years. He led at some point in every round over the last four days at historic Turnberry in Scotland but it wasn't enough.
Coming down to the 72nd hole on Sunday he led fellow American Stewart Cink by one stroke. He hit a perfect tee shot down the middle of the fairway but then chose to hit an 8-iron into the green. The ball headed right toward the flag stick but it proved to be one more club than he needed resulting in a 3rd shot just over the green.
At this point every golf fan was getting nervous because he needed a good up and down to win instead of an easy two-putt. How could you root against Tom Watson in this situation? You just can't. He would go on to put his third shot eight feet from the hole leaving an uncomfortable putt to win. His nerves must have gotten the best of him because he never gave the putt a chance to go in the hole.
Watson would go on to make bogey to force a 4-hole playoff with Stewart Cink. Even with four holes to play you could tell that Watson was shaken and the magic had left him.
Thirty minutes before he had a chance to win his sixth British Open by one stroke instead as Cink sunk his final putt Watson lost by five strokes in the playoff. What a shame...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

15 Down,15 to Go

Over the last three summers I've traveled over 15,000 miles and been to more than 20 states for my job at CBS Sports. Traveling that much can take its toll especially if I have driven from tournament to tournament every week. But one great thing about driving across the U.S. in the summer is the chance to stop and take in a Major League Baseball game.
Over my 23 years, I've been to 15 ballparks stretching from coast to coast and before I die I would love take in a game from each of the remaining 15 parks in America. So, out of those 15 ballparks I've decided to rank them in order from best to worst based on several categories: stadium, atmosphere and accessibility.

Just a Place to Watch Baseball

15) RFK Stadium
The reason that RFK is last on my list is because it was a baseball field in a football stadium. There were two sections: lower deck and upper deck. We bought tickets at the gate for $20 which was a complete rip off for the product inside. There was no chance to catch a home-run during batting practice because the entire outfield at it shortest point was 330 down the lines but the stands were 100 feet above the field. We got to see a good game between the Nationals and the Cubs, but overall it wasn't much.

14) Shea Stadium
I liked Shea for its history and rowdy fans but that was about it. We went to see the Rangers play the Mets last summer which was a lot of fun because it's always nice to cheer you home team on in another park.The stadium itself is in downtown Queens which is not the most fan friendly place in the world especially if you're an opposing fan. Our tickets were a little pricey but we had excellent seats in the club level behind home plate. We got there for batting practice and found out that we weren't allowed in the outfield sections without a ticket; leaving us with little chance of grabbing a ball. The stadium was pretty "cookie-cutter", meaning there were not a lot of imaginative perks on the field or throughout the park.

13)Angels Stadium of Anaheim
We visited this park in the summer of 2006 and to be honest I was really disappointed. As you walk up to the stadium there are several gigantic structures of players or a batting helmet,etc but that was the most entertaining part of the park. The batting practice accessibility was nothing special and the view from behind home plate is pretty average. The outfield is split between stands in left, huge rocks in left center, a green concert structure in center for the batters eye and a 30 foot digital scoreboard in right. We sat in the upper deck behind home plate and were kind of bored by the atmosphere.

12) Progressive Field( Jacob's Field)
I had always heard how cool the "The Jake" was because it was the first ballpark built with the modern technology of the 90's,etc. The overall experience was a lot of fun but Progressive Field itself was overrated. The view from behind home-plate was a little like that of the Angels park. A digital scoreboard wall was in left with a another giant scoreboard behind the left field stands. From center to right it was basically just an eight foot high wall to the foul pole. The best part of the view is downtown Cleveland set directly behind the stadium. The game we went to lasted 13 innings against the Tigers. The best part of the night was the general rowdiness of the crowd. Overall this was a good experience but the stadium wasn't as good as advertised.

11) Tiger Stadium
I don't remember much about going to Tiger Stadium except that it was my first Major league game I'd ever seen in person. We went to see the Tigers vs. Rangers in 1993 during Nolan Ryan's last season in the big leagues. It wasn't much to look at but it had so much history inside of it that I have to put it ahead of some of the newer parks. Cecil Fielder hit a bomb to help the Tigers beat the Rangers that day but the new experience of a big league game was enough to keep me and my brother happy.
The 21st Century Park

10) Minute Maid Park
I've been to watch the Astros several times since this stadium was built and every time I've really enjoyed it. The stadium is one of the most up to date there is with the retractable roof and the unique hill in dead centerfield 421 feet from home plate. The view from behind home-plate is a one that really catches your eye with the short porch in left field and other creative outlets around the field itself. This a great batting practice park because the short fences around the field. The only knock on this experience is that every time I've gone it seems like the crowd is asleep which kind of kills the atmosphere. Overall this is a great park to visit because it offers an environment for the whole family.

9) Comerica Park
I've been here twice since it's been built and both times I've walked away happy. The first thing you notice when you walk up to the park is an enormous statue of a tiger. As you walk around the park you will notice that there are several large statues of players such as Ty Cobb and Al Kaline which makes you aware of the Tigers' rich history. During batting practice the players are very accessible and the if you bring your glove you have a great chance to catch a ball.

8) Camden Yards
I visited Camden a couple of weeks ago for the first time and it was everything I expected. It had beautiful scenery, an old timey feel to it and the fans were very knowledgeable of the game. We went to see the Orioles play the Red Sox and had great seats a few rows behind home plate. The only negative was the rain delay that forced us to leave in the 5th inning with the O's down 9-1. As we got back to our hotel, we watched the end of the game but we were sick because the O's came back and won 11-10. There's not much wrong with Camden Yards.

7) PNC Park
The home of the Pittsburgh Pirates was surprisingly very impressive all around. Like Comerica, PNC has several statues around the park of old players such as Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente. We walked up and got $8 tickets against the Yankees which is unheard of anywhere else. The ballpark itself is beautiful. The view from home plate is dominated by the skyline of downtown Pittsburgh.

Historical Parks
6) Dodger Stadium
This was a great experience as were the visits to the rest of the stadiums on this list because of the history of the park. The stadium itself is nothing to brag about, but the L.A. atmosphere makes this a great baseball experience. We got to see the Dodgers play the Giants back in 2006 as Barry Bonds was chasing Hank Aaron's home-run record. We sat in the left field bleachers and watched Bonds hit his 720th homer. We also watched an inspiring fireworks show at the end of the game.

5) Yankee Stadium
I know the thousands of you that will read this may think I'm ranking Yankee Stadium too low because I don't like them. Well, you're right(sort of). There's not another team in sports that I hate more than the New York Yankees but to be fair I just wasn't that impressed with the park. I visited the stadium in 2001 during a series with the Indians who then had Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. We watched Roger Clemens pitch a gem which was really cool to see. The stadium itself was in the Bronx which is not a neighborhood you want to be caught in at night. The history of the park was the best part because you could just feel the ghosts of Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig and so many others that had played here. Overall, it wasn't much to look at but it was nice to be a part of a history.

4)Pac Bell Park- Home of the Giants
This is my favorite recently built park for so many reasons. My family and I traveled to SF in 2004 which was cool because Barry Bonds was the best player in baseball. Pac Bell is 50 feet the Pacific Ocean which makes the home-runs hit to right field accessible to people boating in McCovey's Cove. The view from behind the plate is breath-taking because of the array of colors that are covering the structures and the view of the bay from the field. The thing that is so cool about this park is that there are so many things to do besides just sit and watch baseball. There's a small theme park and a view from right field that looks out into the bay. Not to mention 30 or so lucky fans can find a spot to watch the game through a gate from the outside of the park at field level for free. We saw the 2004 Red Sox play the Giants that day which was really cool. This is definitely a must if you're a baseball fan.

3) Wrigley Field
The home of the Cubs has the best sports atmosphere in the country. Many times at stadiums across America you will see random fans that are wearing other teams' jerseys or gear just because they're at a baseball game... not here. Everyone is wearing Cubs stuff. The experience outside the stadium is crazy because all the way around the park people are selling Cubs' merchandise, selling tickets, chasing after batting practice homers or making their way in and out of the numerous bars they have around Wrigley. When we entered for the first time it felt as though we had walked into the 1940's. Another great thing about Wrigley is that most of the fans are very knowledgeable about the game which makes it that much more fun. We saw the Cubbies win 6-2 against the Marlins and listened to Greg Maddux sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th Inning stretch. As far as baseball atmosphere goes it just doesn't get any better...

2) Fenway Park
Ever since I was about 11 years old my family has been traveling down to Florida every year to go watch the Red Sox spring training in Fort Meyers, FL. So I've always enjoyed rooting for the the Red Sox(except when they're playing the Rangers) even before the had their magical 2004 World Series run. We visited Fenway in the same week as we went to Yankee Stadium which was cool because we got a lot of baseball history in a short time span. Fenway is like Wrigley Field in that there is so rich in baseball history that you can't help but take in this one-of -kind ballpark. If you can get there early for batting practice there are several extremely accessible spots to catch a ball or even get an autograph. Down the right field line next to the foul pole the wall is a mere four feet high which makes it prime territory for ball interaction. The stadium itself is the oldest in the majors which makes it look like you're in the 1960's.
The view from behind home plate is one that any baseball fan would never forget. Fenway has so many nooks and crannies from "Pesky's Pole" down the right field line to the gap in right center that is 420 feet from home or the famous "Green Monster" in left field that stands 37 feet high. We saw the Indians play the Red Sox that night as we sat in deep right a few row up from the bullpen. The best thing about the experience was to be a part of the surrounding fans' passion for their team. One minute the Red Sox would take the lead and you would think they were World Series bound but the next inning they would commit an error followed immediately by a string of "boos' from their faithful. This passion is what makes going to a game in Boston an absolute must if you're a sports fan.

The Best of the Best

1) The Ballpark in Arlington
Yes, I know most of you will disagree with this but I don't care. How could I not rank the stadium that I've seen over 300 games in over the last 14 years at the top of the list? The Ballpark is not just a place to watch baseball; it's an enjoyable experience for everyone no matter who you're rooting for. When you walk into the park you are immediately welcomed by the Rangers' staff with a smile and a "Welcome to The Ballpark." Showing up a couple hours early for batting practice can be very beneficial. The best place to catch a ball is in dead centerfield standing next to the 100 feet of green grass that serves as a prime place for homers. My brother and I have caught over 400 batting practice baseballs over the years on that hill which is pretty cool. Just behind centerfield is a huge playground for kids that makes for a great break during the game for kids.
The view from behind home-plate is reminiscent of old Tiger stadium in right field with a huge home-run porch. In left field there was originally a manual scoreboard that is now a huge digital scoreboard. Not to mention that my family's season tickets in right centerfield just above the 407 sign are the best seats in the house. We're five feet from the bullpen catcher and on the first row of the our section a few feet from the wall which makes it possible to catch a homer and have a conversation with the players from our seats. The atmosphere of The Ballpark embodies our great state of Texas. Filled with museums, low prices and the most entertaining baseball in the big leagues, The Ballpark in Arlington is the best value in the majors.