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A little love for the Trop from a New York perspective

I'm a Yankees fan, so my standards for baseball stadiums are impossibly high.

That's why I didn't expect much when I came to St. Petersburg for the summer. I'd heard all the negative things people here said about Tropicana Field (someone at work called it "the black hole of doom"), but then the Yankees came to town and I decided to go see for myself.

The night before I went, with the Red Sox in town, a foul ball shattered a catwalk light and ESPN's Orel Hershiser called the Trop the worst ballpark in Major League Baseball, which I'm sure didn't help the dome's self-esteem issues.

I had tickets for the first game of the Yankees series. I was sitting in Section 301 when lightning struck, knocking out a bank of lights behind first base and setting off another round of Trop bashing.

I, however, couldn't have been any happier to be there.

It seems no one can see past the rough edges when it comes to this ballpark, with complaints about everything from the color of the dome to the catwalk lights. But every stadium has problems — even the seats at historic Wrigley Field are said to be too narrow.

But it's not an accident that the July 18 game was the first time I'd watched the Yankees in person since the old stadium was retired. Believe me, I have wanted to see my team in action at the new stadium, but I can't afford it. I'm living on a college student's income.

Our tickets for the Trop were $20.50 each, and that includes a $3 charge from Ticketmaster. We were in the upper deck right behind home plate, and we were shocked to find that we could actually see the frown on A. J. Burnett's face from some of the highest seats in the stadium.

Those seats in Yankee Stadium would be considered mezzanine, with another deck above that. For any of those tickets — mezzanine or upper deck — you could pay from $63 to $340, depending on where along the field you'd like to sit. If you're lucky, you can find something for $25 in the upper deck in the outfield where batters appear to be the size of a flea. As far as I can tell, there's no such thing as a bad seat in the Trop.

Not only are the tickets affordable, but the stadium-provided parking is a luxury in itself. It's $20 to park just 50 feet from the entrance. Yankee Stadium parking runs anywhere from $35 to $48 — and that can be as far as a block from the stadium. If you don't want to pay that much, you risk having your car broken into in some random lot in the Bronx. Here in St. Pete, it only took me five minutes to drive from my house just north of downtown to the stadium.

Tickets and parking are not the only ways that the Trop outscores Yankee Stadium. Say you get hungry. A hot dog and a beer at the Trop will cost you $5 and $6.50, respectively. That's how much they were in New York almost three years ago. And the restrooms in St. Petersburg are cleaner. In my final old Yankee Stadium restroom encounter, the stalls were covered in vomit. Thanks for the rancid parting memory, New York.

Here in St. Pete, you can always run across the street to Ferg's before or after the game for a bite and a brew. Try running across Grand Concourse for a beer.

The Trop is hardly old as stadiums go. Yes, it may need a few renovations, and I'm not talking about removing the dome, which isn't plausible in a state known as the lightning strike capital of the United States. But moving the Rays out of St. Petersburg means tossing away the team's history there — and this includes Wade Boggs' 3,000th hit and home games in the 2008 World Series.

The old Yankee Stadium is gone. No longer can I set eyes on the baseball Holy Land where Babe Ruth waddled around the bases, where Lou Gehrig told the world he considered himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth," where Paul O'Neill attacked water coolers in the dugout.

These moments probably would have happened regardless of location, but each field becomes a larger piece of history as it accumulates each special moment, as if they're baseball museums. Who knows what sort of history is in the making for the Rays?

Many have suggested that a move to Tampa would boost the number of fans who attend games, but would it really? The Great Recession has put a damper on recreational spending everywhere, and, well, it's not the Rays' best season. But baseball is baseball, regardless of where it's played.

The Trop may not be perfect, but it's good enough for one of those picky Yankees fans. I'll happily come back even if my boys in pinstripes aren't in town.

Debbie Pearsall is an intern on the Times' copy desk.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: It was in Chicago's Wrigley Field that Babe Ruth supposedly called his shot during the 1932 World Series. An Aug. 14 article was wrong on this point.

A little love for the Trop from a New York perspective 08/12/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 15, 2011 11:55am]
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