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Top Ten Most Unique MLB Ballpark Features

It wasn't that long ago that most major league ballparks looked nearly the same; ugly concrete ashtrays that were so similar in their hideousness they were dubbed “cookie cutter” stadiums. While multipurpose, the structures were bland and utilitarian leaving fan experiences as flat as the beer they served. The 1990s changed that when Baltimore was the first to open a retro style ballpark, after the race was on for MLB clubs to distinguish their digs from competitors. The result are some truly unique ballpark features that fans can relish as they bite into a hot dog and catch some hardball action.

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1. Tampa Rays: Tropicana Field

Tampa Bay Rays / Via tampabay.rays.mlb.com

The Tampa Rays often make other top ten lists, usually for having the worst ballpark in major league baseball. It is the only pure dome ballpark still in use, and as the team is continuously flirting with building a new facility it appears ballpark maintenance has been deferred. Along with a musty and moldy smell, the artificial turf on the field looks like the carpet in a twenty dollar a night motel room.

Despite its dilapidated condition, it offers the only MLB ballpark that fans can get a “hands on” experience; although it has nothing to do with baseball. Fans can touch and feel one of the more than thirty Cownose Rays. The rays are located just behind the right center field wall and open throughout the game. The fish call a 10,000 gallon tank home that is one of the largest in the nation. The team has partnered with the Florida Aquarium to keep the rays healthy and happy. Happy as long as they are not actual Tampa Rays baseball fans.

2. Miami Marlins: Marlins Park

Bobblehead Hall of Fame / Via bobbleheadhall.com

To the disdain of hardcore baseball fans, there are those that claim the sport is slow and boring. An argument could be made for that opinion if one is used to clubbing while in Miami. The lure of South Beach is a stiff competitor to an evening at the ballpark. Now, fans can have it both ways. The renown Clevelander Hotel and Bar opened a lounge in the outfield area of Marlins Park. The art deco inspired club has over the top drinks and eats, as well as DJs and dancers. If that isn't entertainment enough, you can take a dip in the Clevelander's swimming pool; all while catching glimpses of game play. It's a party at the park.

Bonus: if partying down with bikinis, baseball and beer is not your idea of a good time you can feast your eyes on something just as unique and tantalizing: the Bobblehead Museum. Between sections 15 and 16 on the Promenade Level is a glass case containing over 600 bobbleheads. The shimmying figures span all eras of baseball and the continuous minute movements of the gigantic display case keeps all of them nodding in agreement with whatever you say.

3. Boston Red Sox: Fenway Park

Wally Gobetz / Via Flickr: wallyg

Anything 115 years old is going to have a few quirks, and Fenway Park's is a much a result of real estate as it is design. In the early twentieth century, ballparks were built downtown for easy access by fans. The trouble was, the facility had to fit into space that was available. That meant many outfield walls had to parallel the streets that ran just beyond them. Such construction constraints led to some very asymmetrical ballpark dimensions. In Fenway's case the issue was Landsdowne Street that runs along left field. Like many ballparks of the period, Fenway build an exceptionally tall left field wall to both keep spectators from watching the game for free and to keep the ballparks relatively short left side from accommodating baseball's right-handed heavy rosters from scoring a cheap home run.

The wall is just a tad over 37 feet tall and has a manual scoreboard built into the bottom. Painted green, the gargantuan wall is a holdover from the golden age of baseball earning the disdain of hitters and the nickname of “The Green Monster.” It is the most iconic and instantly recognizable piece of stadium architecture in major league baseball.

4. Colorado Rockies: Coors Field

Matt's Bats / Via mattsbats.com

The ballpark in Denver is the only MLB stadium that atmospherics are a major factor in play. A trip to Coors Field is like a science lesson for fans. Sitting at over 5,000 feet above sea level, the dry and thin air have earned Coors field a reputation as a hitter's ballpark. When it was first built, it was assumed that the thinner air would make baseballs travel further. To a degree that is true, but it was discovered that the dry air is the major cause of launching monstrous home runs that earned Coors Field the nickname of “Coors Canaveral.” The parched air causes baseballs to dry out thereby becoming harder and rocketing farther when hit. To prevent the build up of space junk by putting baseballs into orbit, Coors Field had a room-sized humidor installed to keep the balls at a normal hardness before being put into play.

Pitchers still have to suffer. Hurlers that rely on a good curveball tend to get lit up in Denver. Breaking balls in baseball require the turbulence of a spinning ball to create a curving effect as it travels from the pitcher's mound to home plate. Less air equals less turbulence.

How high is the ballpark exactly? While in the stadium check out the stands. All fan seating in Coors Field is dark green with the exception of the 20th row in the upper deck. That row is purple and delineates the mile high mark.

5. Kansas City Royals: Kauffman Stadium

Digital Ballparks / Via digitalballparks.com

Kansas City is the City of Fountains. So fans shouldn't be surprised when they walk into Kauffman Stadium, glance at the right field wall and see...a huge fountain. Technically, the Royals call the 322 foot wide wet wonder a “water spectacular” that includes not only the world's largest privately funded fountain but a waterfall. Built in lighting changes the fountain's colors at regular intervals, and both fountain and waterfall stopped while batters are hitting as to not distract them.

6. Houston Astros: Minute Maid Park

Drei's Ballparks / Via mlblogsdodgerdrei.wordpress.com

It's a hard act to follow with you have to replace the Eighth Wonder of the World. That was what the Houston Astrodome was billed as and when its replacement was concocted designers knew that something had to make the venue stand out. The solution was in the ballpark's history. The stadium was construction at the location of the former train hub of Houston Union Station. And what better to put in a ballpark that used to be a train station than a train.

Above left field, where the retractable roof begins, are 800 feet of railroad tracks that allows a 50,000 pound replica of a late 19th century locomotive to chug along when the Astros smack a homer. The train provides a link to Houston's rail-heavy past as it blares its whistle and a costumed engineer waves at fans from inside the cabin.

7. New York Mets: Citi Field

Eric Okurowski / Via stadiumpage.com

When you think of the city that never sleeps, kitsch is something that never comes to mind. A Route 66 road trip yes, but New York City? Never. But that is what you get when a Met parks one over the fence for a four-bagger. A gigantic apple rises over the outfield wall sporting the New York Mets logo. It is reminiscence of those giant muffler men and other large chicken wire and tin creatures that dot the lesser traveled byways of America.

That apple has a storied history. The concept originated in 1980 at the Met's former ballpark, Shea Stadium. Once Citi Field replaced Shea, a newer bigger apple was designed with sophisticated hydraulics to ensure it rises and retracts smoothly. The McIntosh-red apple is 18 feet in diameter and 16 ½ tall weighing in at 4,800 pounds, giving new meaning to “the Big Apple.”

What happened to its smaller and less high-tech predecessor from Shea Stadium? It was to be abandoned and demolished, but when Mets' executives polled fans about which item from Shea should be part of Citi Field, 92% mentioned the apple as their fist choice. Fans saved the fruit from the juicer and it now sits proudly outside of the new ballpark.

8. Toronto Blue Jays: Rogers Centre

Digital Ballparks / Via digitalballparks.com

When the Rogers Centre first opened in 1989 it was known as the SkyDome. It was the first retractable roof ballpark in baseball and was a true technological wonder. While that makes it a unique sports venue, what really makes it an unparalleled oddity is that it is a couch potato's sports paradise.

You see the Rogers Centre is much more than a ballpark, it also has a hotel built into it. Seventy of those rooms have a view onto the playing field. In Toronto, you can lie in bed and watch a live MLB game. Just be sure how much sloth is worth to you. Expect to pay several hundred dollars per night for a stadium view room. That's a lot of hot dogs.

9. San Francisco Giants: AT&T Park

Kelley Cox / Via kelleylcox.com

Watching a baseball game in San Francisco can be a multi-sport experience. You can watch baseball in football weather during the summer. Despite the City on the Bay's reputation for chilly summertime temperatures, judging by the near continuous sellout crowds throughout the season, San Franciscans don't seem to mind. And when you have a ballpark situated on the bay, hitter's going long can make a real splash.

Over the right field wall is a section of San Francisco Bay called China Basin, but the unofficial name for water along the ballpark is McCovey Cove. Willie McCovey was a Giants slugger that could really wallop the ball. His homers were legendary and is one of the few hitter's to land a homer in the swimming pool outside of the former Montreal Expos stadium, Jarry Park. And it has to a McCovey-like belt to land in the bay. There is a dedicated digital counter that keeps track of home run balls hit by Giants batters that make it to the water. Since it opened in 2000, only 73 home team hitters have managed to land one in cove; 30 of those from all-time home run leader Barry Bonds.

10. Cleveland Indians: Progressive Field

Cleveland Indians / Via thescore.com

If you can get over the irony of a team called the Indians playing at a ballpark named Progressive Field, then you will be able to appreciate what the ballpark has to offer; in a BIG way. While the stadium is probably best known for its original mustard, the condiments have been upstaged by the big screen; and we mean the big, big, big screen. The seven MILLION dollar gadget is the largest in major league baseball and one of the biggest in the world. It measures 59 feet tall and 221 feet wide. That is over 13,000 square feet of high definition of viewing. We told you it was big.

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