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A Baseball Fan's Pilgrimage

17 places in the U.S. that no fan should miss.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Baseball season is finally, officially here again, and for so many fans, the season brings with it a vague ― but insistent, and familiar ― desire. Namely, to spend days, weeks, months on the road, traveling the country, visiting ballparks and baseball shrines; catching day games and night games and doubleheaders; and generally soaking up as much of the national pastime's atmosphere, excitement, and lore as possible.

With that in mind, here are a number of suggestions for just such a pilgrimage, featuring stadiums and other baseball-related locations that would likely land on most every fan's list of must-sees.

COOPERSTOWN Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images COOPERSTOWN At least one trip to beautiful Cooperstown, New York ― especially during Hall of Fame weekend, when tens of thousands of fans pay homage to the game and its greatest players ― is a must for any die-hard. FENWAY PARK Adam Glanzman/Getty Images FENWAY PARK Boston's Fenway Park is the oldest major league ballpark in the United States, and with its many idiosyncrasies ― the 37-foot tall "Green Monster" in left field, for example ― one of the quirkiest. CITI FIELD Elsa/Getty Images CITI FIELD Sorry, Yankees fans, but the new Yankee Stadium doesn't hold a candle to the original House That Ruth Built. The Mets' Citi Field, on the other hand, is a retro gem in a city that was once home to not one, not two, but three storied major league teams at the same time. CAMDEN YARDS Doug Pensinger/Getty Images CAMDEN YARDS Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore sparked the "retro" resurgence that brought baseball back to downtown urban neighborhoods when it opened in 1992. Amen! LOUISVILLE SLUGGER MUSEUM Raymond Boyd/Getty Images LOUISVILLE SLUGGER MUSEUM Major league hitters use all sorts of brand-name bats these days, but "Louisville Slugger" is the only one that evokes the old-school spirit of the national pastime. The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Louisville, Kentucky, is a must-see. RICKWOOD FIELD Buyenlarge/Getty Images RICKWOOD FIELD Built in 1910, Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, is the oldest continually operating ball park in America. The Birmingham Barons (White Sox Double-A affiliate) play one game here each spring: the Rickwood Classic. Nearby colleges and high schools play scores of games here every year, too. FLORIDA'S FENWAY Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images FLORIDA'S FENWAY The oldest spring training stadium in the U.S., LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida, is the springtime home of the Pirates. Long known as McKechnie Field, the 8,500-seat beauty is sometimes called "Florida's Fenway." HOME OF THE MUD HENS Icon Sports Wire/Corbis via Getty Images HOME OF THE MUD HENS Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio, is the warm, welcoming home of the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Note: There is no guarantee that velociraptors will show up at Mud Hen games, but lighthearted minor-league fun is a sure bet. FRIENDLY CONFINES Icon Sports Wire/Corbis via Getty Images FRIENDLY CONFINES There's a reason Chicago's Wrigley Field has long been known as "the Friendly Confines." All things considered, the 41,000-seat park at baseball's most famous address ― 1060 West Addison Street ― is raucous, intimate and, above all, filled with (usually) baseball-savvy fans. FIELD OF DREAMS Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images FIELD OF DREAMS Open almost year-round (winters in the Hawkeye state are rough) the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, is especially beautiful in the summer, when the green and gold landscape around that lovingly maintained diamond and farmhouse just seems to glow. BUSCH STADIUM Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images BUSCH STADIUM Rightly or wrongly, Cardinals fans have a reputation for sometimes seeming overly pleased with themselves. But when you're surrounded by a sea of red on a sunny afternoon at St. Louis' Busch Stadium, it's hard not to think that maybe Redbird fans have reason to be damn proud. NEGRO LEAGUES MUSEUM Brendan Kennedy/Toronto Star via Getty Images NEGRO LEAGUES MUSEUM The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, might not have as many exhibits as the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but it packs a powerful emotional punch ― and features almost 200 autographed baseballs donated by Geddy Lee. Yeah, that Geddy Lee ― the bassist and singer for Rush. Who knew? COORS FIELD Justin Edmonds/Getty Images COORS FIELD Is it a coincidence that Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, is the highest park in the major leagues (5,200 feet above sea level) and also one of the most breathtaking places on the entire planet to watch a professional sporting event? Nah. CAMELBACK RANCH Ron Vesely/Getty Images CAMELBACK RANCH The spring training home of the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, is a 140-acre baseball oasis, with a modern 13,000-seat stadium, 12 ball fields ― and a fully stocked lake. SAN FRANCISCO Ezra Shaw/Getty Images SAN FRANCISCO The San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park would be a great place to see a ballgame even if it didn't sit right alongside McCovey Cove (named for Hall of Fame slugger Willie McCovey) where boaters and kayakers hang out, waiting for dingers to splash down. DODGERS STADIUM Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images DODGERS STADIUM It's big (56,000 seats) and it's not exactly new (the oldest MLB park west of the Mississippi), but Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles still has a certain California charm that quite a few smaller ballparks would be happy to call their own. HAWTHORNE, NEW YORK Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images HAWTHORNE, NEW YORK If you ever find yourself in the hamlet of Hawthorne, New York, in Westchester County, drop by the famous Gate of Heaven Cemetery and stop at the grave of Babe Ruth. Anyone who can bring Red Sox and Yankees fans together, even for a moment, is worthy of respect ― maybe even veneration.
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