With the NHL and NBA playoffs finally over, the North American team sports stage now belongs to America’s pasttime. And no team sport boasts as many unique, in-game traditions than the great sport of baseball, where each ballpark offers something new.
In fact, you could make an argument that it’s baseball’s game day traditions that separate it from the other sports. Having been to every Major League Baseball ballpark, here is my starting lineup of favorite traditions at nine different ballparks, each unique to the home club and reflective of the city’s culture.
Leading off …
Top of the first inning “Bleacher Creatures Roll Call” at Yankee Stadium
From their perch in the outfield bleachers, a group of devoted Bronx Bombers fans lead the “roll call” of the Yankees lineup. Once the first pitch of the game is thrown, the Creatures chant in unison the name or nickname of every Yankee in the field — and don’t stop chanting each players name until they get a wave or a point in acknowledgement from the player. So the next time you visit the Bronx, be in your seat in the top of the first inning and when you hear a chant of “Derek Jeter! Derek Jeter!” do keep an eye out for No. 2 waving his glove back at the outfield.
Batting second …
That unmistakable beat you hear coming from the outfield at Progressive Field
John Adams has been coming to Indians games since 1973 — and his drum has been along for the ride just as long. In fact, for years he had to pay for another seat just for his drum! Now, Adams is the most notable Tribe fan ever, with even a bobblehead named after him. But he’s still banging away from the highest bleacher seat above left-center field in Cleveland.
In the No. 3 hole …
The Sparkling Majesty of Water at Kauffman Stadium
Think you need to go to Rome to admire magnificent fountains? Think again. Behold the beauty of water between innings at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City when hundreds of feet of fountains and waterfalls roar beyond the outfield. Recently renovated and lost in the shuffle of all the new ballparks built in the past 15 years, the Royals home ballpark in “The Fountain City” will renew your senses.
Hitting cleanup …
Saluting the Marines during “The Marines’ Hymn” on Sunday’s at PETCO Park
San Diego has long been a military town and on Sunday’s, the Padres host the graduating classes from Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Around the fourth or fifth inning, “The Marines’ Hymn” blares from the public address system. Several dozen recruits, decked in their camouflage and nestled in the upper deck of right field, stand together as fans clap along with the hymn for several minutes.
The salute gives many fans goose bumps. The Padres also wear camouflage uniforms for Sunday home games. On a related note, former Padres media relations director John Dever (now in the same role with the Nationals) was the brainchild behind “God Bless America” becoming a tradition at every MLB ballpark post-9/11 during the seventh inning stretch and/or on Sunday’s.
Hitting fifth …
Please remain standing for the State of Texas National Anthem at Minute Maid Park
They don’t call it the Lone Star State for nothing, and they dance to their own drummer down in Texas, our biggest geographical state in the continental U.S. From Ross Perot’s ears to JR Ewing’s hat, everything in Texas is either decidedly big, or just different, from any other place else in the U.S. And if that isn’t tattooed into your brain, when the public address system busts out with “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” you’ll know why they sing “the stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas!”
Batting sixth …
Middle of the sixth Sausage Races at Miller Park
If you don’t get your wiener fix tailgating outside Miller Park pre-game, don’t forget to be in your seats for the “Sausage Races” in the middle of the sixth inning. Keep your eye out for Bratwurst, Polish Sausage, Italian Sausage, Hot Dog and Chorizo wiener-ing their way down the base lines in their colorful uniforms. The race is so popular the sausages even compete at Brewers Spring Training games. And even though the Brewers official mascot, Bernie Brewer, doesn’t slide into a beer mug anymore, fans do sing along to the suds' fully-catchy, “Beer Barrel Polka,” after the seventh inning stretch.
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