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The Ballpark Year in Pictures

From San Diego to Philadelphia, 2004 was a great year for ballparks

2004 was a wild ride. Red Sox fans rejoiced, Yankee and Cardinal fans mourned, steroid-taking stars were scorned and Padre and Phillie fans loved their new ballparks. It was a great year for yours truly, as I saw games in 52 different ballparks, an all-time record for me. Included were games in all four new parks, a contest in Mexico, the Arizona Fall League and the Major League All Star Game.

Let's now recap the ballpark highlights of 2004, going (roughly) west to east!

In my humble opinion, the best new baseball facility of 2004 was San Diego's Petco Park. Built in an intriguing part of downtown, featuring a wonderful "park at the park" and incorporating a beautiful old building, the Padres' new home was named BASEBALLPARKS.COM's New Ballpark of the Year. And, yes, there are beautiful sunsets behind the third-base side of the ballpark!

2004 saw the final games at several noteworthy pro-baseball facilities. This included Stockton, CA's Billy Hebert Field, which is regarded by many to be the oldest existing ballpark west of the Mississippi. The 78-year-old stadium will be replaced by a new park on the city's Banner Island.

The All Star Game came to Houston's Minute Maid Park, and there was a little bit of everything: smoky indoor fireworks, designs in the grass and in the infield dirt and a pre-game ceremony for the ages. Visit our 20-picture photo essay on Houston's All Star Game.

One of the most impressive Minor League parks to open in recent years debuted in the heart of the South in 2004. After being without affiliated pro baseball for 23 seasons, Montgomery, AL made quite a comeback, as Riverwalk Stadium became the home of the Biscuits of the Southern League.

Doing double duty is Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, FL. This new park not only hosted the Phillies' spring-training exhibitions, but also the regular-season games of the Clearwater Threshers of the Florida State League.

Another ancient ballpark seeing its last pro baseball games in 2004 was War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro, NC. First constructed in 1926, this park is now giving way to a new facility just a couple of miles to the west.

A ballpark that was definitely showing its age in 2004 was Watt Powell Park in Charleston, WV. The stadium opened in 1949, and rust abounds. The South Atlantic League Alley Cats are moving across the Kanawha River to a new park in 2005, and the team name is changing to the West Virginia Power.

A highlight of any baseball vacation is a visit to FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, PA. Arguably, the best "ballpark experience" in the Minors can be found at the home of the Reading Phillies of the Eastern League.

I'm sure 99% of baseball fans won't miss it a bit. Yes, Olympic Stadium is now gone from the big-league scene, its Expos re-invented in America's Capital as the Washington Nationals. Until a new stadium is completed near the Anacostia River in D.C., the team will be playing in RFK Stadium.

And an outstanding new park opened in the City of Brotherly Love in 2004. Citizens Bank Park marked a huge improvement over Veterans Stadium for the Phillies and their fans. You can quibble with CBP's location, but not with the way it accommodates the fans. Check out the extensive review and 20 photos here in BASEBALLPARKS.COM.