Saturday, June 30, 2012

Baseball Trip Favorites and Stats

I had never seven different ballparks in seven days before.  It took a little bit of planning and lots of driving to see the whole trip through, but it was totally worth it.  I really do enjoy sitting at the ballpark, keeping score, thinking strategy, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells.  It's not for everyone, and I get that, but it's way up there on my list.

Here's a summary of my trip.  Enjoy!

Summary of the games:
Day One = Quad Cities River Bandits 5 over the Peoria Chiefs 3 at Chiefs Park in Peoria, IL
Day Two = Normal Cornbelters 4 over the River City Rascals at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon, MO
Day Three = St. Louis Cardinals 11 over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO
Day Four = Colorado Springs Sky Sox 5 over the Tacoma Rainiers at Security Service Field in Colorado Springs, CO
Day Five = Washington Nationals 12 over the Colorado Rockies 5 at Coors Field in Denver, CO
Day Six = Omaha Storm Chasers 8 over the New Orleans Zephyrs 5 at Werner Field in Papillion, NE
Day Seven = Oklahoma City Redawks 3 over Iowa Cubs 1 at Principal Park in Des Moines, IA

Number of new MLB stadiums to cross off my list = 1, Coors Field

Ballparks that were new to me (including minor league) = 4 . . . I had already been to the Peoria Chiefs, K.C. Royals, and Iowa Cubs facilities.

Cheapest Ticket = Coors Field, $5 from a scalper.

Most Expensive Ticket = Kauffman Stadium, $33 from . . . I wanted a seat in the shade and thought it wise to purchase a ticket beforehand for this intrastate rivalry game.  I came to find out that the game wasn't a sell out and the seat I purchased was in the sun despite my best efforts.

Number of games that I kept score = 5 games total . . . twice I was asked if I was a scout.  Man, I wish!

Best ballpark = Omaha Storm Chasers' Werner Field was the one that impressed me the most.  It's a newer park with tons of amenities.

Best ballpark promotion = The Famous Chicken by my hometown Peoria Chiefs!

Best mascot to watch = Sox the Fox in Colorado Springs . . . He kept the kids (and myself) distracted enough to forget about the heat.

Number of travelers met who were also on a baseball tour = 2  . . . A bumped into a gentleman in Des Moines who was on park number three or five . . . A father-son combo in Golden who were going to see eight parks, in 13 thirteen days, while traveling 7,800 miles.  Yikes! 

Miles driven = 2,232  Getting back into my 2002 Hyundai Sante Fe was a little rough after experiencing the smooth ride that a Dodge Charger offers.

Number of times the GPS failed me = 1 . . . trying to park in downtown Des Moines during rush hour, on one-way streets, with construction happening, with a bogus address typed in is just a frustrating experience.  The GPS ended up in the back seat, but I found a spot a half-mile away to park for free.  Thanks to Jed and Sarah for lending it to me.  It worked great those other 2,231.5 miles.

Nites spent with relatives = 3 . . . thank you Uncle Brian, Aunt Joyce and John; and thank you to Steve and Emily!

Nights spent in hotels =  3 . . . my favorite was the La Quinta in Des Moines.  I never tried the "secret hotel" feature on before, but it worked out okay and would suggest it to others who are price conscious.

Pictures taken = 171 . . . Less than half were shown on the blog.  I like to take pictures of everything that catches my eye at the ballpark, but I didn't want to put my audience to sleep.

Favorite ballpark food consumed = Funnel Fries at the River City Rascals game.  Sorry, no picture, but imagine a funnel cake from the fair in french fry form, with powdered sugar!  Oddly enough, I only got to try them because my cousin couldn't finish the whole order.

Favorite Restaurant = Woody's Wood-Fired Pizza and Watering Hole . . . the pizza bar was amazing!  My only regret is that I had but one stomach to give.

Nature Valley snack bars consumed = 19 . . . There's still eleven left in the box, but they've been melted a few times overs after sitting in the car. 

Cups of caffeinated coffee consumed = 2 . . . I tend not to drink caffeinated beverages, but there were a couple mornings where it really helped.

Favorite adult beverage consumed = 1554 Black Ale by New Belgium Brewing Company

Number of sportscard shopped frequented = 5 . . . I made purchases at three and didn't find anything that interested me at the other two.  I tried to visit many more, but the economy has been rough on the hobby industry and quite a few went under.

Favorite non-baseball related activity = the Coors Brewery Tour in Golden, CO.  The free samples at the end were nice, but nothing really captured my taste buds' attention.  The history, dating back to the gold rush, was fun to learn about.

Biggest thrill = checking out my Uncle Brian's Cardinals World Series Ring

#1 Thing I would change = traveling alone is nice, because you're on your own schedule and you get to make all the decisions, but it would have been fun to have another baseball fan tag along.

Thanks again for following along!

Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Cities, 7 Games, 7 Days - Day 7

Originally when I planned this trip I was thinking that it would be great to end with an opportunity to see Anthony Rizzo and the Iowa Cubs.  Well, Rizzo debuted with the Cubs on Tuesday and went 2 for 4 in a Cubs win.  I still got to see Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson, but Matt Tolbert went 4 for 5, hit a double and a triple, stole a base, and scored the only run for the I-Cubs.  Yet, I never had heard of Mr. Tolbert until tonight.  Go figure.

Here's the the picture on the walk up to the Sec Taylor Field at Principal Park:

As you walk up to one of the gates on the exterior of the ballpark you're greeted by a twenty foot tall blow-up version of the Iowa Cubs' mascot.  I wasn't able to snap a picture of the actual mascot, because he just wasn't available very often.  It was a hot night, a little too hot for a bear to be out just walking around.

Here's a picture of the left field corner with the downtown Des Moines skyline in the background.  Des Moines is much larger than I remember and this picture only captures about half of the larger buildings.

In the right field corner there was a fountain that kept the younger portion of the crowd occupied.  I counted at least thirty different kids playing in the fountain at one time or another.

Below are the stairs that lead up to the gate entrance, in right field, that is visible to the right of the fountain in the picture above.  I asked a usher if the gate is ever open and this individual said that on busier nights they use the gate as intended, or when they are tipped off that the fire marshal may be coming through the ballpark on a given night.  Otherwise, the gate remains closed.  Huh.  The Des Moines River borders Principal Park on two sides and also features a nice walking path that I used to get to the ballpark.

The inside of the ballpark is decked out in everything Cubs.  The menu items were pretty much identical to what you can find at Wrigley Field, except for the notable absence of bison dogs.  Also along the concourse you could find the gift shop and plenty of attractions to keep the kids occupied.

This game also featured two mascot races.  The first one pitted three different burgers against one another, but the costumes weren't really as elaborate as the one I have pictured.  Below, the soft drink and bag of chips finished behind the hot dog in the race.  None of the contestants fell in the race like they had in previous parks.  I had money on the bag of chips falling, but the contestant "hiked up" the bag portion of the costume to knee height while running. 

Excuse me for the night picture, but I forgot to photo the manual scoreboard before I sat down on a table in the center field pavilion.  I changed seats after the seventh inning stretch and then took this shot.  It doesn't deliver the "wow" factor that Wrigley's manual scoreboard does, but it does offer a nice sense of history to the ballpark.

Here's a shot of what the back of the scoreboard looked like.  I talked with the scoreboard operator throughout the game and came to a very important conclusion:  When I retire, I want to be the operator of a manual scoreboard!  Previously I had my sights set on being an usher, but the scoreboard is so cool and it involves numbers!  This math nerd loves numbers!

This was my second trip in the last two years to Principal Park. It's a nice enough park, although it comes up short with some of the other minor league parks I have already visited on this trip.  It wasn't nearly as aesthetically pleasing as Werner Field and the in between innings entertainment was a little on the "meh" side.  The I-Cubs are affiliated with the Chicago Cubs, which I'm sure that helps bring people to the park.  Yet, the I-Cubs, much like their parent club tends to do, lost this one to the New Orleans Zephyrs (Astros) by the score of 3 to 1. 

So, that's my last day of baseball roadtripping.  I've been writing this entry from the comforts of my man cave.  I'll have a couple more entries relating to this trip posted in the next few days.  Until then, thanks for checking in and following me on my summer vacation!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

7 Cities, 7 Games, 7 Days - Day 6

I'm in Omaha, Nebraska, and I just missed the College World Series by a couple of days.  Well, settling for a Triple-A game between the Omaha Storm Chasers and the New Orleans Zephyrs isn't a bad consolation prize.  The Zephyrs are affiliated to the rejuvenated Miami Marlins, but they were no match for the the Storm Chasers this night, whose parent club is the Kansas City Royals.  The wind was blowing out and I saw two homers from each club, but the Chasers prevailed 8 to 5 in the end at Werner Field.

Werner Field is not located in Omaha, but in a small town by the name of Papillion located on the outskirts of Omaha.  I was able tto park for free in the farther of the two main parking lots, but if you feel you must pay, then you can park closer.  Whatever.  After eight hours in the car earlier today I needed the exercise and chose the free option.

Here's your walk up to the ballpark photo.  Those cars, oh man, those poor cars.  Every time there was a foul ball that left the park along the third base side the announcer read an advertisement for a local windshield repair company!

Here's the Storm Chaser logo which was affixed to one of the main garage door entrances for delivery trucks.

On my way to the ticket booth I passed the windows for the "will call" tickets.  This is another example of a local business, a window and door company, getting in on an excellent advertising opportunity.   I give you "Window World's Will Call Window": 

I came to find out that the ballpark was only a year old.  I was really impressed by the architecture and the use of all the space.  Here's a shot of the air conditioned private suites, which I thought resembled upscale lofts.

Also in the above picture you'll see two dugout-like objects.  The further one is the actual third base dugout, but the one in the foreground is a dugout for fans to sit in.  Nice!

Here's a picture of the back of the suites and the Jim Beam Club.  Very posh indeed!

Below is the scoreboard.  Pretty typical until you walk out there and realize that underneath the "DownDraught" sign there is a bar with seating.  

To the right of the scoreboard, in dead center field, there's a basketball court and a wiffle ball field.  They have ballpark personnel overseeing everything to make sure nothing gets out of hand.

Here's a picture of the three mascots of the Storm Chasers (left to right: Casey, Stormy, and Vortex). I never did figure out what the umpires were pointing at.

The in between innings entertainment was pretty standard for a minor league game. Many contests took place and there were even TWO races!  The first one featured a steak, corn on the cob, and a beer.  The winner came away with a gift certificate to a local steak house.

The next raise was for free tacos from Taco Bell and featured mild, hot, and fire hot sauce packets.  The fire biffed, much like relish runner did when I was in Kansas City.  These contestants must be signing a waiver, because tripping and biffing while in costume seems like a pretty common thing.

Here's a contest where fans tried to throw softee-balls in through the sun roof of a truck.  At one point I think the fans were aiming for Casey and Stormy.  Good stuff!

When the game was over they had another fan, dressed as a "fat lady", sing to the crowd.  I was slow with the camera and the singer was too fast to remove the viking helmet with gold pigtails.

I think Werner Field now sits atop my favorite minor league ballparks.  The ballpark was about as state-of-the-art as a ballpark could get and the staff did a good job of keeping the fans into the game. The variety of food selections were almost equal to that of a MLB park.  Free parking and cheap ticket prices are also hard to beat!   Again though, the game time temperature was well into the 90's.  Seriously, what's July and August going to be like in the midwest?

I get to sleep in tomorrow and make a shorter drive to see the Iowa Cubs!  Woo-hoo!  Maybe THESE Cubs will even get me a win!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

7 Cities, 7 Games, 7 Days - Day 5

Coors Field is my twenty-first major league baseball stadium.  Nice thing about this one, I had company on my trip to the ballpark in the form of my sister-in-law (Emily), her husband (Steve), a good friend of hers, and Steve's brother.  They were an entertaining group and provided good banter throughout the game. According to Emily, the Rockies lost to the Washington Nationals by the score of 12 points to 5 points.  I tried explaining that they're called runs, but I really just don't think she cared.

Here's a pic of the main entrance, behind home plate, to Coors Field.  We arrived in the middle of the first inning and the Rock Pile seats, which usually sell for $5 were already sold out.  I promptly walked across the street and purchased five from a scalper for face value.  Heck, what's the use of haggling when you're paying for a $5 ticket. I can't ever recall being admitted to a MLB park for $5 though.  Nice!

The upper tier of seating in center field is known as the Rock Pile.  It totally reminded me of Wrigley's bleachers.  Not because we were sitting up high, but because we had loud, drunk, early-twenty-somethings sitting behind us.

On the way into the ballpark we walked by the Blue Moon Brewing Company, which is actually housed inside the same facility as Coors Field.  No, this was not simply a bar/restaurant, it was that AND a brewery!

Here's a shot of the scoreboard in left field, which once held the title of largest scoreboard in professional sports.

Walking from the right field corner (pictured above) to center field one passes through a corridor that is home to a mural of the history of Denver.  The mural itself was probably over eighty feet long.  Here's a small glimpse of it:

 Shot from Rock Pile in center field:

 Below is a token picture of Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.  Harper, only 19 years old,  is all the rage in baseball right now, but he did not have one of his better nights: 1 for 5 and he committed a throwing error.

Here's a shot of the Rockies bullpen.  Somewhere in there lies a fountain among the pine.  The bullpen was kind of like a microcosm of the landscape of Colorado and it even had wildlife!  Yes, we saw the bullpen monitor chase a duck and two ducklings from the bullpen mound when a pitcher needed to warm up! 

The purple horizontal row of seats in the picture below represent an elevation that is equivalent to one mile above sea level.  Pretty cool!

I think this is my favorite picture from the trip tonight.  Steve was a great host and took the time to show me around the park.  Thanks, Steve!

At one point this afternoon it was 106 degrees by the reading on my car's thermometer. Then I passed through a rainstorm and it dipped to 82.  It was back up into the mid 90's by game time.  One more night in Golden, CO, and then off to cooler temps in Omaha.  (Well, a guy can dream.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

7 Cities, 7 Games, 7 Days - Day 4

Day Four!  Somehow I neglected to realize that I would be crossing from one time zone (Standard) into another (Mountain) and gain an hour as a result.  Unfortunately, this revelation was not made until after I was already on the road to Colorado Springs.  Instead of sleeping an extra hour, I spent those sixty minutes in a baseball card shop this morning making a dent in my 1978 Topps set.  In the end, I'm glad my little miscalculation happened!

Colorado Springs is the home of the Colorado Rockies Triple-A affiliate, the Sky Sox.  Security Service Field is the only minor league baseball field to have a humidor, which is supposed to help combat the effects the elevation has on a flying baseball.  Speaking of elevation, Security Service Field is at a higher elevation (6,531 feet) than an other professional baseball stadium, even Coors Field in Denver!

Here's the token picture of the view walking up to the field.  It was a very modest entrance and doesn't really say "baseball" to me.

Here's a picture of the field with a golf course and residential properties in the distant background.

The scoreboard was pretty typical for a minor league park.  The Sky Sox logo is the jumbo-tron portion.

Here's the main party plaza at the field and home to virtually the only shade when the first pitch was thrown at 12:35 p.m.  When purchasing my ticket I asked for a seat in the shade.  My seat was in the sun the entire length of the game.  Booo!

To the left of the party plaza, posted above, there was a hot tub in the right field corner.  Different.  Not something I'd want to do at a ballgame, but certainly different.

I added this picture because I thought it was funny that one of the relief pitchers had to tote the "pink backpack" to the bullpen at the start of the game.  Cubs fans may be familiar with the tradition of the bullpen backpack.  Usually the bullpen member with the least seniority is in charge of packing it with gum, sun flower seeds, and the like.  It's a rite of passage!

The mascot for the Sky Sox was Sox the Fox.  Apparently he comes highly recommended and was once voted mascot of the year.  He did a standing back flip, pull pranks on the crowd, carried a LARGE squirt gun, and generally acted like an eight-year-old jacked up on Mountain Dew.  The crowd loved him, including myself.

Below is the view from inside the ballpark of one of the nearby by mountains.  Colorado is gorgeous, and yes, that's an understatement.  

The Sky Sox beat the Tacoma Rainiers 5-4 in nine innings.  The temperature creeped into the high 90's over the course of the game, but I was able to find a folding chair and I sat in the comforts of the shade and wind on the main concourse. 

As I was on a barren stretch of highway moving north after the game toward Denver I took this picture.  Note the temperature in the upper right of the viewing window.  Sheesh.

The heat has been not only an issue for baseball loving fans, but also a major concern for those in the path of this wildfire on the other side of the the mountain range.  Everyone who received a mandatory evacuation notice, because of the spreading fires, was granted free admission to today's game.  It was a nice gesture on behalf of the Sky Sox, but I think I would have been a bit more concerned with my home burning.  Definitely helps to put things in perspective. 

I'm resting up for the return trip back to Peoria in Golden, Colorado, with my sister-in-law and her husband.  Good people.  They're going to the Rockies/Nationals game tomorrow night with me in Denver.  Should be another hot one!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bobblehead Monday #15

Bobblehead #15
Name: Roger Bossard
Position: Head of Grounds Crew
Team: Chicago White Sox
Description: 7.25 inches tall; toting rake and hose!
Relevance: I attended a game at “The Cell” a few years back, and although I have a couple of favorite Sox players, I chose a Roger Bossard bobblehead to commemorate the visit because of his influence on the grounds at Wrigley Field.
How Acquired: eBay auction, course!
Other Notes: Roger Bossard is known as the “Sodfather” and helped give the infield and outfield a much needed makeover at Wrigley.  Before Bossard took action, Lou Piniella joked that he never was sure if he had a player in rightfield because the infield crest was so high. After Bossard reworked the grounds Sweet Lou could now see the fielder, but I’m not so sure that he always wanted to.
I like this bobblehead because of its uniqueness.  There can't be too many head groundskeepers that have their own bobblehead.  Plus, this one has a removable rake!  Ohhh!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

7 Cities, 7 Games, 7 Days - Day 3

Next stop, as promised, Kansas City.  Today's game featured the Royals versus the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium.  Those crazy Cardinals won today 11 to 8 (bleck), but I did get to see six homers and Mike Moustakas' first ever multi-home run effort.  The crowd yells, "Moooooooooose" every time he comes to plate.  The Cubs need a player will the "oooooooooo" sound in their name so I can do the same.  No worries, I totally joined in.

Here's Kauffman Stadium as I'm walking up to the ballpark.  Only 29,062 in attendance, partly because the temperatures were in the high 90's for the length of game.

The brick work around the stadium features Kansas City's greatest moments and ballplayers.  Below is one of Frank White, who was recently featured in a bobblehead post.

There were advertisements all over the ballpark for this year's rendition of the All-Star game, which is to be hosted by the Royals on July 10th.

Here's a nice picture of Kauffman stadium from my upper deck seat.  Nope, I didn't sit in my actual seat.  I preferred to sit in the shade on this day.  The big, blue KC out is center field is an LED scoreboard.  Easily the biggest that I've seen at a stadium.

In the picture above the water fountains were at rest because the game was in progress.  Located on either side of the scoredboard, they come to life between innings!

Here's a shot of what the scoreboard looks like during the game.  Jam-packed with graphics and stats.  Very nice!

Here's a snapshot of the same scoreboard between innings.  Stadium karaoke to Garth Brooks', "Low Places."  Good song that probably 90% of the crowd sang together. 

The Royals also had a drumline play between innings twice.  They did a nice job and were pretty fun to watch.

Every team seems to have a mascot race.  Here, Ketchup is beating Mustard after Relish did a face plant about 10 yards back.  They showed the Relish misstep as a replay on the jumbo-tron and it was a brutal fall, but he finished the race!

If I had to sell concessions on this day, I would want this guy's job.  His snow-cones provided him with simple air conditioning and shade. He's a thinker and I approve.

This was my second trip to Kauffman Stadium.  Overall, a nice place to watch a game, but those Royals fans were outnumbered by their intrastate opposition, the St. Louis Cardinals fans.  Oh, those crazy Cardinal fans.

Four more ballparks to go!  Tomorrow I'll see if the Colorado Springs Sky Sox can become the first home team to win a game on my road trip.