The parallels between the Rays and A’s are innumerable, and often very complimentary. Small budget teams that somehow win year after year, smart savvy front offices, lots of under the radar moves, etc. Of course, the stadium comparison of the Oakland Coliseum vs. Tropicana Field is less flattering, but just as clichéd. The national media never scratches beyond the surface of “old crappy bad stadium.” But with the A’s heading to the Original Juice Box (Minute Maid Park will never have that title!), we need to go deeper.
People complain about the location of the Trop all the time, because you have to take like 8 bridges or whatever to get there. The Coliseum, on the other hand, is right off a major freeway and also has a major mass transit station arriving just at its doorstep. However, you’re only about a mile from the beach at the Rays game, with parks, hotels, and everything the west Florida coast has to offer. At the A’s game you’re about a mile from a section of International Blvd. that wouldn’t be mistaken by anyone as a tourist attraction, unless you’re a John looking for some action. Ew. Sorry.
Advantage: The Trop
The Coliseum’s Rickey Henderson Field has beautifully tended grass and manicured infields. If you cropped out the seats and just saw the field, it’s unquestionably gorgeous. So gorgeous that the A’s added way more field than necessary with foul territories that fit 3 little league ballfields a piece. Can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet grass.
Traditionally, come August, right when the A’s would start getting some national exposure, you’d see yard lines and divots galore, thanks to those annoying housemates, the Oakland Raiders. Clay Wood, the only groundskeeper I’ll ever care to know by name, tried his damndest to make the best of it, but even having a shipping container of green spray paint trucked straight from the Port of Oakland could only go so far.
But now those Raiders are long gone and we can continue to admire the handiwork of the grounds grew for the entire season.
Tropicana Field has plastic carpet with cutouts for dirt. Do they even have a grounds crew, or just a giant turf Zamboni? Imagine working your whole life to the top of your profession, a major league baseball groundskeeper, and your job is to rake a 5x5 patch of dirt. That’s just sad, but as consolation Tampa has the highest per capita amount of strip clubs in the country for sad groundskeepers to wallow in self-pity. The carpet is not even the color of grass, more an unnatural teal, an affront to God’s green Earth.
Here’s where both stadiums really come to shine, with a battle between a multipurpose concrete bowl and a non-retractable dome.
Both have about a zillion extra seats, which showed great foresight by the stadium planners who anticipated the pandemic well ahead of time and knew we’d all need to space out.
Both stadiums intentionally cover part of the seats with tarps, though, because even in the pandemic era no “small market” team needs that many seats. The A’s have eased off the plastic sheet obsession, only reserving the tarps for the fourth highest peak in California, the top of Mt. Davis. Those seats were made for football, and there wasn’t even demand from football fans for the extremely poor and downright scary vantage point. The Rays are tarping probably a good one-third of their seats, because what that stadium needed was more plastic.
Both are generally ugly as sin, and in various states of disrepair. But one is outdoors, in the sunshine, where the old traditions of day games in the summer and CFs losing the ball in the sun and looking like babes in the woods can continue unabated. The other is echoey and balls can and do hit catwalks below the ceiling. The catwalks probably work out for the lighting guys at the Taylor Swift show, but thus far they have not added to the baseball experience.
The Coliseum has troughs, now complete with social distancing pee dots, as if we needed to be told not to stand right next to another man that’s peeing.
I’ve never relieved myself at Tropicana Field, but I read that they had really close together urinals. The fact that it was important enough to mention in a stadium review has me unnerved.
Troughs >>>>> anything else.
For a while, until very recently, the Oakland Coliseum was called just that. I’m always going to side with a stadium named after the city, or a person, rather than a corporate sponsor. However, it’s called Ring Central Coliseum, removing any moral high ground we might have been able to claim. As far as sponsors go, it could be worse, but probably not by all that much. Tropicana is orange juice, Florida is known for oranges, and the name Tropicana is generally much nicer sounding than Ring Central. This is not even close.
Advantage: The Trop
Both stadiums are totally devoid of amenities. If you want to watch baseball, great! If you want to eat any good food, or do anything else, go somewhere else! That’s fair. But the Rays have a tank with actual live rays, which sometimes catches home run balls, given its position just past the fence in right-center. Some would say this is cool and fun, but we’ll go with a negative for wildlife abuse. This hero in a Dan Johnson jersey dramatically saved the life of a Ray, which is my guess of the only possible reason why this home run is fondly remembered. Rays should be swimming free, like native Florida Burmese pythons.
The A’s have played in the Coliseum since 1968. Only Dodger stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field have more longevity. And the Coliseum has seen more than its share of success, with four world series titles and many Hall of Famers. Also, there have been at least two baseball movies filmed there, most memorably Moneyball that threaded a plot line around the A’s then-record 20 game win streak.
The Rays used to be called the Devil Rays, and back then I had an old, irascible baseball coach who was a part time scout for the Rays and used to get super mad if anyone said anything bad about them. However, since he might be dead at this point, I can safely say they were abjectly horrible for a long time and Wade Boggs gave them a solitary sympathy rep in the Hall. Phew, been waiting 20 years to get that off my chest. Sadly last year the Trop did not get to host its second World Series, despite the team’s amazing run. This category is obviously stacked against the newer team, but life isn’t fair.
Tallying the results, by my most thoroughly unbiased analysis, the Coliseum wins the stadium war 4-2. WE’RE #29! Take that, Tampa!