The tight voting margins continued in the Elite Eight round, as we move on to the Final Four round of the Triple-A Best of the Ballparks fan vote, with two brackets decided by less than 100 votes. So you know what to do: vote!
Two of the four brackets ended up being decided by fewer than 100 votes. We will have a new champion at the Triple-A level, as Southwest University Park (El Paso Chihuahuas) edged defending champ Huntington Park (Columbus Clippers) by 44 votes, and First Tennessee Park (Nashville Sounds) won by just 37 votes over Raley Field (Sacramento River Cats). The top four vote-getters in the four brackets (in order): Southwest University Park, Huntington Park, Fifth Third Field and Las Vegas Ballpark.
So we move on to a Final Four with two Pacific Coast League teams and two International League teams.
This is the top level of Minor League Baseball, and the level of the ballparks reflects that status. This is also traditionally a heated competition marked by heavy turnout and close votes; last year over 97,000 fans voted for their favorite Triple-A ballpark, and given trends so far this year, we expect the final tally to be well over 100,000. (In the first three rounds, almost 70,000 voters participated.) Yet we see plenty of brackets being decided by very close votes, so rest assured your vote will matter.
We know from marketing stats that 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’s our ranking of Triple-A ballparks, combining International League and Pacific Coast League ballparks. This was an extremely difficult list to seed: This is the top level of Minor League Baseball, and the quality of the facilities reflects that standing. Honestly, there’s not a lot of difference between most of the ballparks in this competition, and there are plenty of arguments for most of these ballparks deserving a higher rating. Results of last year’s vote also played a part in our seedings, as well as improvements entering this season. Occupying the top spot is Huntington Park, home of the International League’s Columbus Clippers, the winner of the Best of the Ballparks in 2017 and 2018 voting. We 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. This is by far the most difficult bracket to seed.
1. Huntington Park (Columbus Clippers; IL)
2. First Tennessee Park (Nashville Sounds; PCL)
3. Las Vegas Ballpark (Las Vegas Aviators; PCL)
4. BB&T Ballpark (Charlotte Knights; IL)
5. Victory Field (Indianapolis Indians; IL)
6. Louisville Slugger Field (Louisville Bats; IL)
7. Durham Bulls Athletic Park (Durham Bulls; IL)
8. Coca-Cola Park (Lehigh Valley IronPigs; IL)
9. Southwest University Park (El Paso Chihuahuas; PCL)
10. Dell Diamond (Round Rock Express; PCL)
11. AutoZone Park (Memphis Redbirds; PCL)
12. Fifth Third Field (Toledo Mud Hens; IL)
13. Werner Park (Omaha Storm Chasers; PCL)
14. Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (Oklahoma City Dodgers; PCL)
15. Greater Nevada Field (Reno Aces; PCL)
16. Isotopes Park (Albuquerque Isotopes; PCL)
17. Sahlen Field (Buffalo Bisons; IL)
18. Smith’s Ballpark (Salt Lake Bees; PCL)
19. Cheney Stadium (Tacoma Rainiers; PCL)
20. Frontier Field (Rochester Red Wings; IL)
21. PNC Field (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders; IL)
22. Chukchansi Park (Fresno Grizzlies; PCL)
23. Raley Field (Sacramento River Cats; PCL)
24. Principal Park (Iowa Cubs; PCL)
25. NBT Bank Stadium (Syracuse Chiefs; IL)
26. Coolray Field (Gwinnett Stripers; IL)
27. Harbor Park (Norfolk Tides; IL)
28. Shrine on Airline (New Orleans Baby Cakes; PCL)
29. McCoy Stadium (Pawtucket Red Sox; IL)
30. Wolff Stadium (San Antonio Missions; PCL)
IL = International League
PCL = Pacific Coast League
We are running the contest with seeded brackets, so there will be plenty of action in coming days. Here’s our schedule for the Best of the Ballparks 2019 Triple-A vote:
First Round: Completed
Second Round: Completed
Third Round: Completed
Semifinals Round: Now through June 25, 3 p.m. Central
Finals: June 25, 3 p.m. Central through end of day, June 30
Here’s our schedule for Best of the Ballparks 2019 vote:
Low A: Completed (Fort Wayne TinCaps)
High A: Completed (LECOM Park)
Class AA: Now-June 23
Class AAA: Now-June 30
Short Season A/Rookie: June 17-July 11
Independent: June 11-July 8
Summer Collegiate: June 18-July 13
Some things to note. 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 lineups will count. A running tally of the vote will be presented. Signing up for the Ballpark Digest newsletter means you’ll receive regular updates on the votes.
Photo of Southwest University Park courtesy of Jorge Salgado, SalgadoPhoto.com.