We’re running the contest with seeded brackets, so there will be plenty of action in coming days. Last year’s winner, BB&T Ballpark, as well as Hammond Stadium and Steinbrenner Field, receive first-round byes in this first round of competition, followed by additional rounds before winners are announced at the end of June and early July. For MiLB, we’ll be structuring the voting by classification, so the competition is broken down into Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A. Next month we’ll launch short-season A and rookie-league voting, as well as summer-collegiate and independent leagues. And, of course, the MLB parks stand on their own.
We know from marketing 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.
Some notes on the voting, as we’ve overhauled our bracketing and voting system. First, you are allowed to vote multiple times, but you can only vote once per day. Second, you don’t need to fill out a full slate: partially filled votes will count.
Here’s our ranking of High-A ballparks, combining California League, Carolina League and Florida State facilities. This was an extremely difficult list to seed and took several days of thought and deliberation. Occupying the top spot is BB&T Ballpark, home of the Winston-Salem Dash, the winner of the Best of the Ballparks 2016 voting. We honestly don’t expect the voting to follow our seedings: our readers can be independent, and they share a love of ballparks and the fan experience. There were several surprises in last year’s competition; we expect some this year as well.
1. BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem Dash; CarL)
2. Hammond Stadium (Fort Myers Miracle; FSL)
3. Steinbrenner Field (Tampa Yankees; FSL)
4. Bright House Field (Clearwater Threshers; FSL)
5. Frawley Stadium (Wilmington Blue Rocks; CarL)
6. LECOM Park (Bradenton Marauders; FSL)
7. Haley Toyota Field (Salem Red Sox; CarL)
8. Banner Island Ballpark (Stockton Ports; CalL)
9. Joker Marchant Stadium (Lakeland Flying Tigers; FSL)
10. Ticketreturn.com Field (Myrtle Beach Pelicans; CarL)
11. Rawhide Ballpark (Visalia Rawhide; CalL)
12. Charlotte Sports Park (Charlotte Stone Crabs; FSL)
13. Jackie Robinson Ballpark (Daytona Tortugas; FSL)
14. Loanmart Field (Rancho Cucamonga Quakes; CalL)
15. John Thurman Field (Modesto Nuts; CalL)
16. The Hangar (Lancaster Jethawks; CalL)
17. Municipal Stadium (San Jose Giants; CalL)
18. Roger Dean Stadium (Jupiter Hammerheads, Palm Beach Cardinals; FSL)
19. The Diamond (Lake Elsinore Storm; CalL)
20. Five County Stadium (Carolina Mudcats; CarL)
21. Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium (Frederick Keys; CarL)
22. First Data Field (St. Lucie Mets; FSL)
23. Grainger Stadium (Down East Wood Ducks; CarL)
24. San Manuel Stadium (Inland Empire 66ers; CalL)
25. Osceola County Stadium (Florida Fire Frogs; FSL)
26. Jim Perry Stadium (Buies Creek Astros; CarL)
27. Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (Dunedin Blue Jays; FSL)
28. Pfitzner Stadium (Potomac Nationals; CarL)
29. Calvin Falwell Field (Lynchburg Hillcats; CarL)
Note: only 29 ballparks are in play here, as the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals share Roger Dean Stadium. There are plenty of changes from the 2016 vote. First, we have new entries in Grainger Stadium and Jim Perry Stadium. The two additions come after the shift of two California League teams to the Carolina League for the 2017 season and beyond. Second, we have Joker Marchant Stadium back in the mix. In 2016 the Lakeland Flying Tigers played out of venerable Henley Field during Joker Marchant Stadium renovations.