Our annual Ballpark Digest Awards are industry awards—MLB, MiLB, MLB Partner League, summer collegiate and college—as chosen by the site editors, with input from former award winners and others in the baseball community. There’s no doubt we’ve been through an unusual two years since we last made any awards, between a limited (MLB, summer collegiate) or nonexistent (MiLB) 2020 season and almost every team in pro baseball operating under COVID-19 restrictions to begin the 2021 season. It’s been a subdued season, to be sure. Promotions were curtailed both because of uncertainty and supply-chain issues, attendance was curtailed by restrictions and consumer hesitancy, and front offices were perpetually understaffed for a variety of reasons. Considering the totality of these restrictions, it’s been an OK year, and with our awards this year, we hope to recognize the many accomplishments in the baseball world.
Those limitations are also impacting our awards, as we’ve slimmed down the categories and adjusted some criteria. Because so many ballparks and ballpark renovations were slated to be unveiled in the lost season of 2020, we’re implementing two Ballpark of the Year awards, one for 2020 and one for 2021, and we’re adding a Collegiate Ballpark of the Year to the mix. (Flashback: Our 2019 Ballpark of the Year was Las Vegas Ballpark, home of the Las Vegas Aviators. Boy, that seems a long time ago.) We’re not seeking nominations for ballparks of the year: We’ve been tracking them and hoping to hit most of them before the end of the season. For the rest, we are seeking nominations. Teams or individuals should not be shy about pushing their own accomplishments. We don’t have a format for award submissions: email to firstname.lastname@example.org will work, as well as relevant photos or other materials. Your deadline: Oct. 5.
Be warned that not every one of these categories will see an award presented. As noted, this has been a trying year on so many levels.
Broadcaster of the Year (MLB) Who notably calls a game? Who presents the best face of the game? Who tells the best stories? 2019 winner: Marty Brennaman.
Broadcaster of the Year (MLB) Which MLB broadcaster consistently calls a great game? An entire body of work will be evaluated in this case, so longtime broadcasters will be considered for accomplishments over their whole careers, rather than just one season. 2019 winner: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler.
Best Renovation What renovations best impacted operations and gave a fresh start to fans and a franchise? Here we are looking at large-scale, coordinated renovations affecting the entire ballpark. 2019 winner: American Family Fields of Phoenix.
Best Ballpark Improvements What specific ballpark improvements made an impact on the fan experience? As opposed to best ballpark renovation, these awards are more focused in scope. 2019 winner (over $1M): City of Baseball Museum, St. Paul Saints. 2019 winner (under $1M): Calfee Park party deck.
Best Continual Ballpark Improvements What ballpark has undergone gradual, but beneficial changes in recent years? This award is for a ballpark that just finished a major multiyear renovation or has benefited from a series of smaller capital improvements over the last 3-4 seasons. 2019 winner: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies.
Best New Logo/Branding What teams overhauled their looks to a positive effect? What team successfully enhanced their image with a new branding? 2019 winner: Fayetteville Woodpeckers.
Best Promotion Promotions are the heart and soul of professional baseball. What team showed the most imagination in bringing a new promotion to fans? We like to see flair and imagination, as well as effectiveness, when it comes to noteworthy promotions. 2019 winner: Funko Fridays, Everett AquaSox.
Best Charity Event / Commitment to Charity Successful teams usually have some level of commitment to charity, giving back to their communities. What team or organization should be recognized for their commitment to charity? 2019 winner: Kane County Cougars. 2019 winner: Quad Cities River Bandits.
Best New Food Item What new ballpark food item made your mouth water? 2019 winner: Crabzilla, Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
Executive of the Year Who is a leading light in the front office, making an impact on the game? 2019 winner: Robert Murphy, Dayton Dragons.
Team of the Year What team made the biggest mark on the industry with improved operations, increased attendance and noticeable buzz? 2019 winner: Las Vegas Aviators.
Continued Excellence It’s one thing to put together a great year; it’s another thing to do it for years. This award is designed for extended excellence. 2019 winner: El Paso Chihuahuas.
Editor’s Choice We use this as a wild-card category; past winners have included MiLB for charity efforts, MLB for a Fort Bragg game and the Cape Cod League for sending a league baseball to space. If there’s something that does not fit in the previous categories, enter it here. We want to recognize the truly noteworthy, not just fill a checklist.