After several rounds of voting with over 12,000 individuals participating, readers of Ballpark Digest and Spring Training Online overwhelmingly chose McKechnie Field, spring home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as the leading Grapefruit League spring-training facility in the websites’ annual Best of the Ballparks polling.
“A Pirates game at McKechnie Field really embodies why people love spring training,” said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. “Florida is truly the cradle of spring training, and it’s apt that fans chose the most historic spring-training ballpark as their favorite.”
McKechnie Field dates back to 1923 and has been the spring home of the Pirates since 1969. It’s certainly the most historic spring-training ballpark still in use, serving as a spring home for the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bees, Boston/Milwaukee Braves and Kansas City/Oakland Athletics. Named for Bill McKechnie, the former Bradenton resident who won two World Series as a manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1925) and the Cincinnati Reds (1940), McKechnie Field combines an old-time Florida atmosphere with the modern amenities fans expect in a ballpark experience.
This is not the first time McKechnie Field or the Pirates have recognized by Ballpark Digest and its readers: PNC Park was chosen by fans as the Best of the Ballparks among MLB facilities in 2015, and McKechnie Field was cited by editors in 2013 for the improvements that have enhanced the fan experience, including the addition of outfield seating and a 360-degree concourse, the expansion of concessions both on the outfield concourse and beside the ballpark, and upgrades to seating in the grandstand. While McKechnie Field has always been regarded as a charming facility, the recent renovations have maintained the charm while adding an even better fan experience.
“It is an honor for McKechnie Field to be recognized with such high praise. The real credit for the revitalization of the ballpark is in the relationship with the City of Bradenton and our shared, long-term vision for all of our facilities in Bradenton,” said Pirates President Frank Coonelly. “With PNC Park being named as the best ballpark in Major League Baseball last season by Ballpark Digest, we are proud to offer our fans two of the very best facilities and fan experiences in the game.”
We set up the voting in brackets, tournament style. We included and ranked all 14 Grapefruit League MLB ballparks, beginning with JetBlue Park and Bright House Field on the top and Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and Space Coast Stadium on the bottom. Our ratings are based on a number of soft criteria, but it’s all centered on a simple proposition: what facility offers the best fan experience? This is, of course, all relative: honestly, the difference between the top ballparks on this ranking isn’t all that great, and you could argue a totally plausible ranking using your own criteria that differs greatly from this one.
We know from our marketing/user research stats a third of our readers work in the baseball industry, so we’re tapping into that collective expertise. And we know from our research that a third of our readers sell to the baseball industry, so that expertise will be valuable as well. The remaining third — fans, media, government — will certainly have a different view on things as well. We can’t wait to see what our readers — whom we consider to be the smartest folks in baseball — say about the best of the ballparks.
Here is our ranking of Grapefruit League ballparks.
- JetBlue Park
- Bright House Field
- McKechnie Field
- Hammond Stadium
- Ed Smith Stadium
- Charlotte Sports Park
- Joker Marchant Stadium
- Champion Stadium
- Steinbrenner Field
- Roger Dean Stadium
- Tradition Field
- Osceola County Stadium
- Florida Auto Exchange Stadium
- Space Coast Stadium
Here are the final brackets. (Click on the image for a larger version.)
ABOUT THE BEST OF THE BALLPARKS CONTEST
This is the second year for the Best of the Ballparks fan voting, where Ballpark Digest asks its readers to weigh in on their favorite MLB, Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, Low-A, Short Season A, independent, summer-collegiate, spring training and collegiate ballparks. Over 91,000 individuals voted in the 2015 competition, generating over a million votes.
ABOUT BALLPARK DIGEST/SPRING TRAINING ONLINE
The leading Website covering the culture and business of baseball since its inception in 2002, Ballpark Digest (www.ballparkdigest.com) has been called an “indispensable” guide to baseball and ballparks by The New York Times; it’s been used as a source by publications and websites ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Epicurious.com. Spring Training Online (http://www.springtrainingonline.com/) is the leading guide to spring training on the Internet. August Publications is a publisher based in Middleton, Wis. Besides Ballpark Digest, August Publications websites include SoccerStadiumDigest.com, FootballStadiumDigest.com and ArenaDigest.com.