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What are the toughest PCL parks to play in?

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That’s the nice way of saying “worst”.

Manny Ramirez
All the pictures of Fresno in our photo tool involved Manny Ramirez playing there in 2012, so here is Manny Ramirez playing in Fresno in 2012.
John Walker/Fresno Bee/MCT via Getty Images

Last week, we talked about the best stadiums in the PCL. Now it’s time to talk about the ones that aren’t quite so friendly. Just to avoid any negative repurcussions for players in the future, I’m keeping these quotes anonymous, because if I’d talked to Tyler Beede (I didn’t!) and he said, “Man, Las Vegas is the suckiest suck that ever sucked,” (he didn’t!) then that might get back to people who would then dislike Tyler Beede just for being honest to me, which wouldn’t be a great outcome.

Once you get to the highest level of the minors, things generally aren’t that bad. ”I really don’t dislike any of the parks,” Tyler Rogers told me back in May, and mostly, his teammates agreed. In AAA, the parks are bigger and nicer than in the lower minors, and the players get treated pretty well. But some trips are rougher than others, and some stadiums just seem to always be the ones where players have a miserable time.

The most noticeable way a road trip can turn bad is the weather. The long baseball season is already a grind, and then when you throw in heat and humidity, it just gets brutal, as one River Cat noted about a trip to New Orleans.

”The weather there was really the only thing that was tough. You don’t really go to any of the AAA ballparks and are like, “This place sucks.” There’s not really any places field-wise that are terrible. It’s mainly where do I not want to go in the middle of August on game 120 when it’s 100 degrees. It’s like, I don’t want to go to New Orleans, I don’t want to go to somewhere that’s scorching hot. That’s really the only thing, but pretty much everywhere we go is hot. The PCL is hot in general.”

Another player agreed. “New Orleans was a tough trip. We didn’t play well, hot, humid, seemed like every day there was something wrong. Rain and we’d think we were getting postponed, we wouldn’t get postponed. It was tough because you’re used to the PCL and there’s no rain anywhere. In New Orleans it rains every day.”

Of course, there are places a little closer to home that get rough too. “Fresno could be a little grindy if it’s 110 in a day game and there’s no one there,” one guy said. “That’ll get you.”

Another player echoed Fresno as one of his least favorite places, and then added in Colorado Springs, which as of 2019 will no longer be a AAA city (Colorado Springs will host a short-season A-ball team, while the new AAA team will be in San Antonio). Why Colorado Springs? “I’ve been there one time and they don’t take care of the field very well ... I was sick. The altitude there just got to me. Once I was sick, I was over it.”

So what makes a park unpleasant to play in? The weather is the biggest thing, which I can verify from personal experience; it’s not very fun sitting in the stands when it’s 95 degrees, so standing and running around on the field, in the sun, must be terrible. Low attendance doesn’t much help either; at least in the Giants organization, it’s already well understood that AAA is more for developing than for winning, so getting out there in front of empty seats makes it that much harder to get yourself excited for a game.

Facilities are a factor too. Most AAA parks are reasonably strong in that regard, but when you run into one that isn’t at the level you’re accustomed to, it takes a toll. Finally, some places just miss. You go into Colorado Springs and you feel like crap the whole time, then even if you liked it (which admittedly the player in this piece did not), you’re not going to think too highly of it.

As you play in the minors, you’ll sometimes play in stadiums that make your time actively worse. The good news is, if you get to AAA, there aren’t a whole lot of those places left. The bad news is, when they show up on the schedule, you still have to grind it out. And at least for a couple guys, the other good news is that the Giants AAA team doesn’t play in Fresno anymore.