We couldn't decide which ballparks should go into our 2015 Great Parks Calendar, so we're getting our readers involved.
We have 24 ballparks squaring off to determine the 12 winners that will make it into the calendar. We'll have three battles a week, so the competition will continue for the next month. You can go here to check out all 12 matchups and see what's coming up, or just click on the links below to go directly to voting for those ballparks.
All voting takes place on Facebook. Vote based on which team you like better, which stadium you like better, or even which photos you like better. Ballparks have been pitted against each other based on their league, their location, or some other crazy criteria that we liked.
We think you'll enjoy all the matchups, but week one is particularly intriguing, starting with two of college baseball's most passionate fan bases.
Baseball passion runs deep in the Southeastern Conference. Which of these college baseball meccas reigns supreme?
Alex Box Stadium was one of the first showplaces of college baseball, and former coach Skip Bertman helped make it over when he arrived at LSU and started shaping the program into a national power, even getting his players to help give the park a fresh coat of paint. The field is now named for Bertman and has been expanded a renovated numerous times, with its capacity now up to 10,326.
As South Carolina's program rose to national prominence, the Gamecocks struggled to keep pace with fan demand. The answer was Carolina Baseball Stadium, a $35 million ballpark that opened in 2009 and holds 8,242 fans. It is universally regarded as one of the best ballparks in college baseball and has put South Carolina among the national leaders in attendance.
Two of the newest parks in the Pacific Coast League face off here.
El Paso had been without affiliated baseball since the El Paso Diablos Texas League franchise moved to Springfield after the 2004 season. But a new $74 million downtown ballpark, Southwest University Park, opened in April and the team has been a huge hit. The park holds 10,000 fans, including lawn and group seating.
Another of the new generation of PCL ballparks that brought a new market to the league is Aces Ballpark in Reno. Reno joined the league in 2009 and Aces Ballpark features a huge berm in right field, with an overall capacity of 9,100.
Two historically significant minor league parks enjoyed their swan songs this year.
The Nashville Sounds played at Herschel Greer Stadium for 37 years, first as a Double-A franchise in the Southern League and later as a Triple-A team in the American Association and then the PCL. Its guitar-shaped scoreboard was one of the most distinctive in sports, and the park was continually renovated and expanded as the popularity of minor league baseball grew. But Greer Stadium was one of the parks that powered the renaissance and proved minor league baseball could be big business. The Sounds will move into the new Sulphur Dell Park next season.
Similarly, the independent St. Paul Saints have played at funky Midway Stadium—which J.J. Cooper wrote about in July—since they came into existence in 1993. The Saints became the standard-bearer for independent baseball, first in the Northern League and currently in the American Association, and proved indy teams were viable.
The stadium certainly showed its age in recent years, but fans loved the look, the atmosphere and irreverent vibe, and the Saints will try to retain that as they move to downtown St. Paul next year.