Baseball is a sport that loves its statistics. And by any measure, California is America’s baseball capital.
Consider that it’s the only state with five major-league teams. Or that beginning in 1950, more players have been born in California than any other state and that in recent years almost a quarter of big leaguers are from California. The proof is on the field too: Since 1958, when major-league baseball arrived in the Golden State with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, California teams have played in 26 World Series, winning 13 championships.
But numbers can’t tell the full story. Because with some of the sport’s most distinctive ballparks, located right in the heart of the state’s major urban areas, going to a game here is not only a great way to participate in America’s national pastime but also a chance to experience California cities from a local’s perspective. Here’s a look at California’s major-league baseball teams—three in the National League and two in the American League.
Finding tickets. The baseball season is long—162 games long, to be exact. That means that single-game tickets are relatively easy to buy on team websites and always available on the secondary market through websites such as StubHub and SeatGeek. Prices (baseball is less expensive than other American sports) will depend both on seat quality and the significance of the individual game.
Weather. With the season running from early spring to October and the playoffs sometimes lasting until November, baseball weather in California is almost always just about perfect. Rain is rare and temperatures are mild. But night games can be cool, especially when fog rolls in, so check the forecast. And if you’re in unshaded seats, summer day games can get hot.
Tours. If the team you want to see is out of town during your visit, consider doing a stadium tour instead. Each of the California teams conduct tours that offer an inside look at the ballparks, often including clubhouse and dugout visits.
The Giants, one of National League’s most storied teams dating to its time in New York City, won three World Series over a five-year span from 2010 to 2014. Famous for such sluggers as Willie Mays (perhaps the greatest player of all time) and later Barry Bonds (who slammed the most home runs in baseball history), the Giants play in Oracle Park along San Francisco Bay. The views extend across the water to the East Bay hills and the ballpark is walking distance from hotels in downtown San Francisco and along the Embarcadero. You can even arrive by ferry. Befitting such a food-focused town, concession offerings include such local favorites as the meatball sandwich from North Beach’s U.S. Restaurant and the Crazy Crab’z Sandwich (Dungeness crab on grilled sourdough).
Insider tip: You can watch a few innings of games for free through openings in the right field wall from the walkway along McCovey Cove, an inlet of San Francisco Bay named for Giants Hall of Famer Willie Lee McCovey.
One of the original American League teams, the Athletics first played in Philadelphia and Kansas City before arriving in the Bay Area in 1968. Notable for their distinctive green-and-gold uniforms (the only team with those colors), the A’s have won four World Series in Oakland. While hoping to build a new stadium, the A’s currently play in RingCentral Coliseum, which is easily reached by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) from many locations throughout the Bay Area. Among the stadium’s most popular features is the changing lineup of food trucks serving everything from Korean street foods to pulled pork and buttermilk Cajun fried chicken sandwiches from Oakland’s own Roderick’s barbecue restaurant.
Insider tip: Check the schedule for special Fireworks Nights, when you can watch the free spectacle while sitting in the outfield.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The most famous team in the National League and fierce rivals of the Giants 380 miles to the north, the Dodgers are the franchise of such legends as Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax. The team plays in Dodger Stadium, a venue that was futuristic when it opened in 1962 and, thanks to ongoing renovations, better than ever today. Tucked into Chavez Ravine in the hills just above Downtown Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium looks toward the majestic San Gabriel Mountains, which are especially gorgeous at sunset. First-timers should definitely try a Dodger Dog, the best-selling hot dog in the Major League, but you’ll also find a food selection that reflects the diversity of the L.A. food scene: Carne Asada tacos, Chicken-and-Waffle sandwiches, California Roll Bowls, and plant-based hot dogs and burgers.
Insider tip: You can save on parking and the challenge of navigating the massive lots by riding the Dodger Stadium Express, a shuttle (free with a game ticket) from downtown’s Union Station.
Nicknamed “the Halos,” the Angels play in Orange County at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, about 30 miles southeast of Downtown Los Angeles. While sometimes overshadowed by the Dodgers, the Angels won the World Series in 2002 and earned its own devoted following. Today the team boasts three of baseball’s most celebrated stars: Mike Trout (considered the game’s finest overall player); Shohei Ohtani (originally from Japan and a rare two-way player equally adept at pitching and hitting); and Albert Pujols (a future Hall of Famer currently sixth on the all-time home run list). Notable for the giant red “A” encircled by a halo in the parking lot and a fountain of geysers and massive artificial boulders created by Disney designers (Disneyland Resort is less than four miles away), the stadium is now the Majors’ fourth oldest.
Insider tip: Southern California is burger country, so try the Big A Burger, two patties with cheese on a potato bun; it’s reminiscent of the classics at iconic In-N-Out Burger.
A National League rival of the Dodgers and Giants, the Padres marked their 50th anniversary in 2019 and play in one of baseball’s most appealing stadiums: Petco Park. Located in downtown San Diego near the happening Gaslamp Quarter and East Village neighborhoods (several hotels are within walking distance), Petco Park incorporates the historic Western Metal Supply Co. building, a brick structure that adds a vintage touch to this ballpark that opened in 2004. Another distinctive feature is the Park at the Park, a kid-friendly 2.7-acre grassy area beyond the outfield fence with a small baseball diamond, picnic tables, and a bronze statue of hometown hero Tony Gwynn. Petco Park may also have the best food lineup in baseball, thanks to such San Diego classics as the fish tacos from Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill. And this being the finest craft beer town in America, you’ll find a big selection of premium local brews.
Insider tip: For a unique perspective, try to score seats along The Rail, the outdoor area along the façade of the Western Metal Supply building.
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