Diamond Getaways

Three unique experiences await baseball fans in SoCal

Not much has changed at Dodger Stadium since 1962 when it was ingeniously designed into the steep hillside of Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles. Tradition prevails, and the voice of Vin Scully, the team’s play-by-play announcer since 1950, seems to echo throughout the third-oldest park in the majors (behind Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field).

Los Angeles’ historic Dodger Stadium.

Narrow aisles, stingy legroom, dark concourses and antiquated restrooms are small prices to be part of baseball history. Proposed upgrades to the otherwise majestic stadium, including a landscaped plaza, two outfield restaurants and additional parking, have been delayed by the sour economy and the pending divorce of the team’s owner.

Fans here are traditionally late-arrivers, but the pre-game Centerfield Experience for batting practice and the opportunity to get autographs of former Dodgers on weekends, and the Top of the Park Gift Store, on the ninth level behind home plate, are good reasons to get there early. Fans purchasing seats in the “Mannywood” section receive a limited-edition T-shirt featuring their favorite dreadlocked Dodger.

If this baseball shrine and its team (which is off to a slow start) aren’t enough to draw your interest, Southern California boasts two other diverse options for a major-league getaway.

Ballpark values

The Angels had the second-lowest Fan Cost Index (FCI) in Major League Baseball last year, according to Team Marketing Research. The Angels’ FCI was $141.18, and that includes the prices of two adult average-price tickets, two child average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular hot dogs, parking, two game programs and two caps. The Dodgers were $221.64 and the Padres $172.04. The lowest FCI was the Arizona Diamondbacks ($114.24), and the highest was the New York Yankees ($410.88).

Family-friendly Angel Stadium of Anaheim, at the intersection of Santa Ana and Orange freeways, is exceptionally easy for motorists to navigate and park. Open in 1966, it was expanded and remodeled in the late ’70s to accommodate the NFL’s Rams, then converted back to baseball only in 1998. Like the suburban Orange County in which it resides, the stadium lacks charisma but outpaces the other parks in value.

Owner Arte Moreno famously lowered beer prices when he bought the team in 2003, and concessions and souvenirs here are among the most reasonably priced in all of baseball. Red-clad fans show their gratitude by filling the seats and loudly cheering their consistently competitive team. The faux rocks beyond the center-field fence are reminiscent of Disneyland a few miles away and, indeed, this is a comfortable, convenient place to bring the whole family.

Petco Park, built in 2004 in San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp District, offers the best pre- and post-game choices of the three venues. Take public transportation or park in any number of garages (the closer to the stadium, the more you pay, $5-$15) and leisurely walk in. Smell the food, sample the beer, hear the jazz and take in the beat of the urban setting before even laying eyes on the diamond.

The seating bowl faces away from the water, but fans can stroll the meticulously landscaped concourses and check out spectacular views of San Diego Bay and the Coronado Bay Bridge. The corner of the Western Metal Supply Co., built in 1909, is the left-field foul pole, and the rustic brick building also houses the team’s main souvenir store on the ground floor. Fans can step outside the store, look through a chain-link fence, smell the grass and feel like they’re the left fielder. Beyond the center-field fence lies the Park in the Park, a grassy general admission area perfect for families with young children. A Whiffle ball diamond, a bronze stature of the most famous Padre, Tony Gwynn, a beach area with a view of the field and special kids meals make this section a terrific value.

Despite having the smallest payroll in baseball, the youthful Padres are off to an exceptional start, making a visit to gorgeous Petco Park an even better experience.

If You Go …

Dodger Stadium

Capacity: 56,000.
Tickets: $12-$650, losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com.
Upcoming games of note: A clash with former inter-borough rivals, the New York Yankees, June 25-27.
Best bargains: Tickets to the “All You Can Eat” seats ($30-40) in the right-field pavilion include unlimited Dodger Dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, water and soft drinks.
Directions: From Interstate 15 south, continue on I-215 south, take I-10 west and merge on I-5 north. Take the Stadium Way exit.

Angel Stadium of Anaheim

Capacity: 45,050.
Tickets: $5-$200, losangeles.angels.mlb.com.
Upcoming games of note: Intra-SoCal clash with the Dodgers on June 22-24; hosting the 81st annual All-Star Game July 13 and the MLB All-Star FanFest on July 9-13.
Best bargains: The “Family Fun Pack” ($44-$59) on Tuesdays and Sundays includes four seats, four hot dogs and four small soft drinks.
Directions: From Interstate 15 south, continue on I-215 south, take I-10 west, then State Route 57 south. Take Katella Avenue exit.

Petco Park

Capacity: 42,445.
Tickets: $10-$63, sandiego.padres.mlb.com.
Upcoming games of note: Intra-division skirmishes against the Dodgers on May 14-16 and the Giants on May 17-18.
Best bargains: The “Summer Hit & Fun Pack” ($99) includes four tickets and a SeaWorld Pass valid through Dec. 31.
Directions: From Interstate 15 south, take State Route 163 south. Take 10th Avenue to Park Boulevard.

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