BREAKOUT: Jane Carruthers' ballpark tips

• Best Entertainment: Angel Stadium, Anaheim, Calif.
• The sound system gets the crowd involved, and they have 'Rally Monkey' movie clips on the scoreboard ... So if someone gets a walk, they have the rally monkey walking with him."
• Healthiest food: Chase Field, Phoenix, Ariz.
"They have fresh strawberries and cream that (vendors) sell walking up and down the aisle. ... They also have carrots and dip."
• Oddest food: West Coast stadiums
"All along the West Coast, every (stadium) has garlic fries. They are good, but they smell bad."
• Toughest security: Dolphin Stadium, Miami.
"They don't allow camera lenses (with a length of) over 8 inches ... But you just retract the lens on your camera and they let you in."
• Best ballpark kids' play area: AT&T Park, San Francisco
"There's a big Coke bottle in the back (behind left field), and there's a slide where you can slide all the way down."


Jane Carruthers is one of relatively few baseball fans who can boast of a major-league round-tripper.

In April, Carruthers, a Springfield resident who teaches art at Graham Elementary School, completed a four-year tour of all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums when she visited Turner Field in Atlanta.

Carruthers has been a baseball fan - or, more specifically, a Cardinals fan - since she was a little girl growing up outside of Vandalia.

She went to her first baseball game when she was 9, seeing the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium (since torn down and replaced by the new Busch Stadium).
"I'm a huge Cardinals fan, so I never expected to go anywhere except for Busch," said Carruthers, now in her 30s.

But that changed in 2003, when she flew to Baltimore to attend a conference.
While there, she saw a Baltimore Orioles game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which remains her favorite stadium, she said.
She was attracted to the retro-looking red brick stadium, as well as Eutaw Street past the right field fence, a closed-off city street lined with shops and breweries with the field in full view.

"You were already part of the game, but you don't even have a seat," she said. "That was the first time I'd ever seen something like that."

Soon after she returned to Springfield, a friend asked Carruthers to drive with her to Maine. Carruthers agreed, but only if they could stop along the way at ballparks in Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and Boston.

After that, she said, she decided to visit every major league stadium on the continent, traveling throughout the United States and Canada during school breaks.

"It's just fun for me to go and find out who's going to be at home and how many (stadiums) I can hit," she said. "I like to be close to the players and take pictures of them. I like to see what they really look like - they look different from afar."

Carruthers quickly discovered that each ballpark has its own traditions - such as the Rogers Centre in Toronto, where Ace, the Blue Jays' mascot, leads the crowd in a jazzercise routine during the seventh-inning stretch.

"Everyone is sitting really close together, so when they stand up you have no option but to stand up, too - and then they start dancing," she said.

As an art teacher, the giant murals and artwork picturing sea life at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Florida, particularly struck Carruthers.

She was even more surprised when she found out where her seats were at the stadium.

"(The usher) said, 'You have to go out and take the glass elevator upstairs,' " she said. "And I go up, and there's these marble floors and (ushers) in tuxedoes."

It turned out Carruthers had bought a $90 ticket to the Whitney Bank Club, an upscale dining club located in the right field stands. She watched the game from a leather chair while having unlimited access to gourmet food and drinks.

"This was not what I'm normally used to," she said. Whenever she goes to a game, she typically tries to get grandstand seats within 20 rows of the field.

"I just prefer the smell of the grass," she said.

Despite each stadium's idiosyncrasies, she said that she's seen crowds do the wave in every ballpark she's been to.

"I don't know of one that refuses," she said. "I don't know why."

Carruthers also has visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., as well as several stadiums that have since been torn down, including Comiskey Park in Chicago, Candlestick Park in San Francisco and the Astrodome in Houston.

Carruthers found good things about every stadium: Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., she says, has cheap parking, while vendors at Chase Field in Phoenix hawk carrot sticks and fresh strawberries and cream in the aisles.

She even had only kind words to say about Wrigley Field, home of the Cardinals' arch-rivals, the Chicago Cubs.

"Wrigley has an aura about it," she said. "It's just the camaraderie of the people."
Carruthers hesitated when she asked what she thought of the Atlanta Braves' Turner Field - converted from the 1996 Olympic Stadium.

"I don't want to be rude," she said. "It wouldn't make my top 10, let's put it that way."
Carruthers said she plans to visit new ballparks under construction in New York, Oakland, Minneapolis and other cities, but none of those parks are scheduled to open until the 2009 season, at the earliest.

Until then, she said, she's sticking to Cardinals games at the new Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006.

"Some friends have been trying to get me to go do football (stadiums), but it's too cold," she said. "I'm not a snow and ice kind of girl."