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An Interview with Tropicana Field Expert Kurt Smith

Tuesday April 24, 2012

Chuck Booth- (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- Today’s expert is Kurt Smith.  Kurt will be the interview subject of the following parks: Citizens Bank Ball Park, Turner Field and today’s featured expert Article of Tropicana Field  Kurt is highly respected in the ball park chaser community for his BallparkEGuides.  After you are done reading this article  I implore you trust in Kurt to deliver up tips and suggestive idea’s on how to make your stadium visits affordable and pleasurable.  I had a chance to ask some questions of the man recently.

CB: “Welcome to the MLB Reports Experts Interview Kurt.  Please tell us about yourself and then give us a bit of background information on your life as a Rays Fan?”

KS: “Well I’m not a Rays fan per se, but wouldn’t they be a fun team to root for? They consistently come out on top or near the top in a division that includes behemoth spenders like the Yankees and Red Sox; and last year’s finale was one of the most exciting regular season games in history.  It’s too bad this team has so much trouble getting people to come out and see them, because they really are an exciting team to watch. And I love the cowbells. It’s great to hear the ringing in a dome when an opposing batter has two strikes on him.”

CB: “As one of the ballpark experts who takes it to the extreme, how do you rank Tropicana Field versus the rest of the Ballparks?”

KS: “Tropicana Field isn’t a great venue; of all the ballparks I’ve visited I’d put it at or near the bottom. I don’t like indoor baseball, and I really dislike artificial turf, probably like most fans. The Trop is the only non-retractable dome left in baseball now that the Metrodome is gone, so you’re inside regardless. It may be okay to have the air conditioning and protection from thunderstorms in July or August, but who wants to go indoors to see baseball on a beautiful April Florida day? The timing of Tropicana Field’s construction couldn’t have been worse. A dome seemed like a great idea at the time, but just a couple of years after it opened Camden Yards debuted and completely turned ballpark construction upside down. Suddenly indoor baseball on artificial turf couldn’t be less cool.

If the Tampa Bay area’s government had listened when baseball told them not to build a stadium, they would probably have a retractable dome today.But the Rays signed a lease, so for the moment they’re stuck with it. And it’s not all bad. The humidity of Florida summers is nothing to sneeze at, so the air conditioning can be pretty nice. And at least you know you’re going to see a game whatever Mother Nature says, which is of great benefit to a road tripper.”

CB: “Despite the Rays being one of the best franchises over the last 5 years, the team still does not draw well. Why do you think that is Kurt?”

KS : “Here are the reasons that I’ve heard, all of which I think have some merit:

1 – Location. The ballpark is in St. Petersburg, and it’s not all that close or easily accessible from Tampa, where much of the fan base is or should be. It’s also in Florida, where there are a lot of New York transplants, so Yankees games draw well but the team has had a hard time establishing its own fan base.

2 – Entertainment Competition. Tampa Bay is not far from beaches or from Orlando, so there isn’t much elbow room for promotional people to convince residents to come to a ballgame rather than go to Universal Studios. The venue doesn’t help; on a beautiful day most people might rather go to a theme park in Orlando or a beach than go indoors for a game.

3 – Venue. I don’t know if I necessarily buy this one; a good team usually draws no matter where they play. But the Trop isn’t on the bucket list of most ballpark trippers, so that doesn’t help matters any. People get enthused about a game at Wrigley Field or Camden Yards, they don’t get enthused about a game at Tropicana Field.

4 – Weather. The indoor venue notwithstanding, perhaps people just don’t want to go somewhere and be outside for at least a short time in a climate where they may be dealing with hurricane-level thunderstorms or oppressive heat.”

CB: “The Rays seem to have a lot of gimmicks to promote a family atmosphere what have you seen Tropicana Field do in order to boost attendance?”

KS: “It is to the Rays’ great credit that they’ve made the Trop more entertaining for families and adults. The Rays tank is an especially popular attraction. You can reach into this tank in right center field and pet the slimy rays that are swimming around in it—all while watching the game go on. The concourse areas of Tropicana Field are like nothing you’ve seen in baseball—comic book style murals of baseball history, picnic areas and tons of interactive games for kids. On my last trip there, the Jumbotron showed a hilarious video of a cat “mixing” on a turntable.There’s also several party areas, like the Everglades BBQ in the batter’s eye in center field, the Center Field Street Brewhouse (with drink specials before games!), and several lounge areas where people can enjoy a “Blue Storm” drink. Baseball buffs should get a kick out of the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, too. Unfortunately the Rays can’t do fireworks, but they do get some big name acts to play after games.

CB: “What is your favorite method of transportation to and from Tropicana Field?”

KS: “Well if I lived close enough, I’d ride a bicycle, because there’s a lot of nice bicycle paths in the area and a place to lock up your cycle at the ballpark. But as it is, the only way most people get to Tropicana Field is by car, and it’s right off the interstate and easy to find. So I’ll just add that I’d find some people to carpool with, because the Rays offer free parking to the first 100 cars with four or more people in them. Free parking is always a great deal.

There is a new service for Tampa area fans called the “No Excuses Tour”. It takes riders to the game from a couple of local taverns, and I think the price is very reasonable. I believe they serve beer on the bus but the bus doesn’t have a bathroom, so there’s some kinks to be worked out there, but it’s a great idea.”

CB: “Tell me something about the surrounding area of the Ballpark?”

KS: “Well, I haven’t heard any horror stories, but some people say it’s not a great neighborhood. You’re not far from the downtown pier and its attractions, so that’s a possible post-game hangout area. I would say that you’re better off staying east of the ballpark towards the pier, and perhaps it’s not so nice west and south of the ballpark.

The popular pre-and post-game venue is Ferg’s, an indoor-outdoor tavern that is converted from a warehouse. They have game day specials on beer, and I haven’t tried the wings but I’m told they’re very good. If you’re the type that likes a drink or a snack before or after the game, Ferg’s is as good as anything here. They are walking distance from the ballpark and have cheaper parking, too.”

CB: “What advice would you give for somebody experiencing Tropicana Field for the very first time?”

KS: “Don’t pay more than you have to for a seat. If you can live with anything in the upper level you can get tickets there dirt cheap directly from the Rays, and it’s usually not a problem to improve your lie during the game. Wander around and see all of the party areas and make sure you check out that big ballplayer sticking out of the wall. Get yourself a cowbell so you can distract the opposing hitters when they get two strikes on them. If you’re a history buff you’ll want to see the Ted Williams Museum.

And don’t complain about seeing baseball indoors, because it’s a mighty good thing during July and August in St. Petersburg.”

CB: “How is the food at Tropicana Field?  What is your favorite ballpark food there?”

KS: “Tropicana Field has everything from soup to nuts in the food department, like most ballparks these days. The nice thing is that there’s a lot of brand names, for better or worse, at least with Papa John’s, Outback Steakhouse and Checkers you know what you’re getting. They have a deli with great Boar’s Head sandwiches, and they even have a gluten-free stand, great for celiacs like my wife. The hot dogs are from Kayem, the same purveyor of the Fenway Frank in Boston, although the dogs here are different.

When I’m in the Trop I go for a Cuban sandwich at the East-West Delicatessen near the main entrance; the Cuban is not something you find at a lot of ballparks. It’s a hot pressed sandwich of ham, pork, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard. I don’t know that it’s the go-to item at the Trop, but it would be my first choice. Gooey cheese is always a winner.”

CB:  “What is your favorite all time game that you have been in attendance for at Tropicana Field?”

KS: “Well unfortunately I wasn’t there for September 28, 2011, when the Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the Yankees in 12 innings and take the wild card spot right out from under the Red Sox.

So I’ll just go with my first game there in 2002…the then-Devil Rays pulled off a 5-4 victory over the Orioles, and I was with a group of friends sitting down the right field line making jokes about seeing the relief pitchers from behind.

Despite being indoors on a gorgeous April day, a good time was had by all.”

CB: “Thank you very much Kurt.”

***Thank you to our Tropicana Field Expert- Kurt Smith for participating in today’s article.  to learn more about Kurt Smith and his website click here***

 ***Thank you to our Lead Baseball Writer- Chuck Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here  or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book, ” please click here ***

Please e-mail us at: mlbreports@me.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.  To subscribe to our website and have the Daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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An Interview with Turner Field Expert Kurt Smith

Wednesday April 18, 2012

 

Chuck Booth- (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- Today’s expert is Kurt Smith.  Kurt will be the interview subject of the following parks: Citizens Bank Ball Park Tropicana Field and today’s featured expert Article of Turner Field.  Kurt is highly respected in the ball park chaser community for his BallparkEGuides.  After you are done reading this article  I implore you trust in Kurt to deliver up tips and suggestive idea’s on how to make your stadium visits affordable and pleasurable.  I had a chance to ask some questions of the man recently.

CB: “Welcome to the MLB Reports Experts Interview Kurt.  Please tell us about yourself and then give us a bit of background information on your life as a Braves Fan?”

KS: “I’ve been to Turner Field for a few games and a tour, in researching for the Turner Field E-Guide that is available at my website. I wouldn’t call myself a Braves fan necessarily, but there are a lot of things I like about the team. They have a history of great players like Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Dale Murphy, and I loved watching Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine pitch in their prime. Turner Field is a fine ballpark too; they did a nice job tearing it up after the Olympics and on a nice day it’s as good a place as any to see a game. Braves games are very affordable too; the team gives a lot of value even though they are putting a pretty good product on the field. So in a pinch, I could certainly pull for the Braves.

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An Interview with Citizens Bank Ball Park Expert Kurt Smith

Monday Apr.09/2012

Chuck  Booth  (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- Today’s expert is Kurt Smith.  Kurt will be the interview subject of the following parks: Tropicana Field, Turner Field and today’s featured expert Article of Citizens Bank Ball Park.  Kurt is highly respected in the ball park chaser community for his BallparkEGuides.  After you are done reading this article  I implore you trust in Kurt to deliver up tips and suggestive idea’s on how to make your stadium visits affordable and pleasurable.  I had a chance to ask some questions of the man recently.

DB: “Welcome to the MLB Reports Experts Interview Kurt.  Please tell us about yourself and then give us a bit of background information on your life as a Phillies Fan?”

KS: “For most of my life I have lived in South Jersey, which is unquestionably Philly sports country, and currently I live about a 20-minute drive from Citizens Bank Park. I grew up an Orioles fan, though, and while going to games at Veterans Stadium was fun, as a kid I absolutely lived for the two or three trips the family made to Memorial Stadium every year to see our Birds. It was much more fun being an O’s fan back then and Memorial was a great ballpark. I still miss it. But in recent years it’s been great to see the Phillies rack up division titles and a World Series championship, especially in a city that hadn’t seen a championship in 26 years. Citizens Bank Park is such a great improvement over the Vet and the Phillies and their tremendous pitching staff have become a great team to watch. I wouldn’t say I’m a Phillies fan yet, but when my daughter is old enough to go to games there she may change my mind!”

DB: “Describe the whole idea behind your website www.ballparkeguides.com?

KS: “Many baseball fans, myself included, go to ballgames and maybe don’t get a good seat, or pay too much for tickets and parking, or they aren’t aware of some of the great food items at the ballpark. The Ballpark E-Guides website gives a few pointers on seating, getting there and food, and tells you which games on the team’s schedule are likely to be low demand. And if people like what they read, I’ve thoroughly researched 14 major league ballparks to create the actual E-Guides. For $5 you can download a PDF-format illustrated guide to any of 14 major league ballparks, and I like to think you’ll easily get much more than your money’s worth with the information contained in them, from getting tickets, to seating, to getting there and all of the food items. I couldn’t believe how much I was missing out on doing the research for them!”

DB: “Citizens Bank Park has been over 102% for the last several years, tell people what they should expect about buying tickets in Philadelphia?”

KS: “Philadelphia is a city that is so weary of the Eagles underachieving in grand fashion every year that they will embrace a winning team religiously, and so every Phillies game sells out. The Phillies don’t offer a lot in the way of deals or discounts…most northeastern teams don’t, for some reason…so going through StubHub or another third-party works probably just as well. Whatever tricks you have will be helpful…probably the easiest games to get a deal on would be games against West Coast opponents, and if you go on StubHub on a really hot, muggy day you could possibly land a pretty good deal. There aren’t many bad seats at the Bank, but certain ones do have advantages; for example, seats down the third base line are closer to McFadden’s which is better for adults looking for a post-game hangout, and seats down the first base line are closer to all of the kid-friendly areas. The upper level seats can be way up there, so if you have a vertigo problem you may want to avoid them. But the view of everything from up there is tops.”

DB: “Citizens Bank Park has some of the better access entry points for the elderly and handicapped in the Majors.  So how is it their park staff did not rank high? How do you rank their staff?”

KS: “Well I haven’t seen the ranking that you mentioned and the basis for it, so I can’t really speak to that. As far as accessibility in ballparks, so many of the newer ones have really gone the extra mile with it…Comerica Park in Detroit is a good example…so my guess is that if Citizens Bank Park doesn’t rank high in that area, it may just be because the competition is actually pretty strong. I can’t think of any accessibility problems, even the Phillies Hall of Fame has a ramp to access it. As far as the staff, I think they’re great, I’ve never had a problem with any of the ushers…and I can tell you that I couldn’t say that about when the team played at Veterans Stadium. Teams everywhere have really improved their customer service, and the Phillies are a great example. They’ve been very good about everything in my experience.”

DB: “I did a survey about 3 years ago when Citizens Bank Park had the best voted singular food item with a Cheesesteak at Tony Luke’s, what are your thoughts on this?”

KS: “Well the Tony Luke’s cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz is pretty good, especially considering that local items in a ballpark don’t often live up to the original location. It’s great for people who are only going to a ballgame in Philly and want to see what this cheesesteak business is all about.  But as far as the best food item in any ballpark, I wouldn’t rank it that high. I don’t even consider it the best food item at Citizens Bank Park…Chickie’s and Pete’s fries, the Campo’s Heater sandwich, the Schmitter and Bull’s BBQ Bulldog are all better in my opinion. But that’s just my opinion.”

DB: “What is your favorite method of transportation to and from Citizens Bank Park?”

KS: “It depends on whether I’m going by myself or with a group of people. There’s really only two common ways to get there—you can drive your car and park or take the SEPTA Broad Street Line subway to the AT&T Sports Complex Station. From nearby PA suburbs you can use SEPTA’s Regional Rail to the subway. Both methods are fine and work equally well, but coming from South Jersey by myself I would rather pay about $8 round trip to take the PATCO high-speed line and then the Broad Street Line than pay $15 for the parking and $5 to cross the bridge, not to mention the gas and traffic getting out afterwards. If you’re going with three or four people though, driving and parking is fine. There’s plenty of parking in the complex and you can persuade everyone to chip in. You can save $5 on parking if you’re willing to walk a bit.”

DB: “What advice would you give for somebody experiencing Citizens Bank Park for the very first time?”

KS: “Get there as early as possible, for a couple of reasons. First, traffic is much easier to deal with if you’re driving, and second, you’ll want to check out Ashburn Alley before the park starts to fill up, because it gets very congested and stays crowded throughout the game. The Ashburn Alley gates open an hour before the rest of the ballpark does, and you’re definitely going to want to check out everything there. The Philadelphia baseball timeline is great, and the Phillies Hall brings back great memories for fans. Lots of interactive games for kids too. There’s a lot going on at the ballpark and a lot of things to see, but honestly, you can focus on the Phillie Phanatic all night and never stop being entertained. There is no mascot in sports so willing to cross the line of acceptable mascot behavior.  And don’t worry about Philly fans. They’re not as bad as everyone says. There are some jerks but most of them are perfectly nice people.”

DB: “Other than cheesesteaks at Tony Luke’s, how is the food at CBP? What is your favorite ballpark food there?”

KS: “The food as Citizens Bank Park is all great; I’ve never gone wrong with anything I’ve tried. Bull’s BBQ may make the best turkey sandwich I’ve had at a ballgame, and I don’t require much persuasion to share a bucket of Chickie’s and Pete’s crab fries. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about the chili at Harry The K’s as well. I could go on all day. My favorite food item is the underrated Schmitter, which was actually not named after Mike Schmidt. The Schmitter is a sandwich from a local tavern called McNally’s. It’s sort of a cousin to the cheesesteak, with meat, cheese, salami, tomatoes and secret sauce on a Kaiser roll. It’s a little hard to find the Schmitter stand…it’s tucked underneath the stands near the Left Field Gate. Well worth the search though. There’s just something about tomatoes and thousand island style sauce on a steak sandwich.”

DB: “What is your favorite all time game that you have been in attendance for at Citizens Bank Park?”

KS: “Wow…I have to think about that one. You know, I’m going to go out on a limb here and actually pick a hockey game, the minor league game between the Adirondack Phantoms and the Hershey Bears, which took place after the recent Winter Classic. My sister and I lucked into tickets and braved the cold for the game; and it was really cool seeing the ballpark set up for ice hockey. The Phantoms tied the score with just 20 seconds left in the game, and then won it in overtime. One of the most exciting hockey games I’ve ever seen. The crowd just went ballistic, and it was great to hear 45,000 Philly throats going nuts. So okay, not a baseball game, but I have to say that was the best time I’ve had there.”

DB: “Thank you very much Kurt.”

***Thank you to our Citizens Bank Ball Park Expert- Kurt Smith for participating in today’s article.  to learn more about Kurt Smith and his website click here***

 ***Thank you to our Baseball Writer Chuck Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here  or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book, ” please click here ***

Please e-mail us at: mlbreports@me.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.  To subscribe to our website and have the Daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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