Thursday, August 02, 2007
CINCINNATI: GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK
Note: A temporary malfunction with the digital camera forced me to buy an overpriced disposable camera for the Cincinnati game. The flash was brutal, and not a lot of these pictures came out too well. Also, the CVS where I had the film developed does not have the capability to do a photo CD, so I had to scan the pictures. Therefore, there are not many....and the good ones didn't even come out. The above picture is not mine. I took one just like it, where the flash must have failed me. But it was a beautiful picture, of that I'm sure. Johnnymets.blogspot.com apologizes for any inconveniences this situation may have caused.
Whereas Jacobs Field is all business (you go to see a baseball game), Great American Ballpark is an experience (you go, and if you have time, sit in your seat and take in the baseball game). The park itself is beautiful, sitting right on the water. And I didn't realize this, but across the river is Kentucky, and The Wife and I actually stayed in Kentucky for our trip to Cincinnati.
I can't quite put my finger on why I love traveling to these ballparks so much...but there are a couple of conclusions I've drawn, and it could be one of these or a combination of them. 1) I'm crazy. 2) I like the new ballparks and the architecture involved. 3) I like using them as an excuse to see different cities and the rest of the country. So many of these ballparks/stadiums are the centerpieces of their cities, and I think 4) the biggest thrill for me is driving into a new city and seeing the skyline, with the beautiful ballparks in the middle. This wasn't so much the case in Cleveland, at least the direction we drove, with Jacobs Field - we drove straight towards the Browns stadium, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But when we drove into Cincinnati, and there were Great American Ballpark and the Bengals stadium, I loved it. It's a wonder we make it through these trips without me crashing the car.
We got to the ballpark early, and I had the chance to walk all around and explore (unlike Cleveland, the gates were opened an hour and a half before the game...for some reason Jacobs Field only opened at 6 for a 7:05 start). This was Frank Robinson bobblehead night, so we got our bobbleheads...but upon arriving home, discovered one was not a bobblehead at all - it was a severedhead. (As you can see in this poor photograph.) I'm considering writing the Reds a letter.
Part of my problem with PNC Park in Pittsburgh was I felt like the Pirates had a lot of history that wasn't captured in their new park. That was not a problem in Cincinnati. The Reds have a Hall of Fame right outside the ballpark (you can access it from the street or from the ballpark), and I think ticketholders get in free on the night of a game. We checked it out without actually going in - it looks great. They had a feature on Pete Rose (who was actually at the same game as us, I discovered later), and they have all the pennants the Reds have accumulated over the years. In the concourses, there are bigger-than-poster-sized newspaper headlines from Reds history hanging from the ceiling.
The concourses are gigantic. They're closed right behind home plate, open everywhere else. And they're divided. So behind a wall, down in right field, behind where we were sitting, there was a sort of playground and all kinds of activities for kids, like running to first and getting timed, and seeing how fast you can throw a ball. There's also a stage where they have live music leading up to game time.
Out in center field, there is a deck that looks like the deck of a ship. My investigative journalism (I asked the teenager taking tickets) revealed that the deck was exclusive to Cincinnati Bell employees. I don't know if he meant only that night, or if that is always the case - but that would stink if you could only get into that area if you worked for the phone company. Although, I guess our seats were better, not sitting there.
The food, like Jacobs Field, was nothing to shout about - notably, though, the Reds don't have souvenir cups at the drink stands. The seats, to be honest, weren't the most roomy things I've ever sat in either. And one more complaint - from our seats, when the sun was setting, the glare off the scoreboard in left was so bad you couldn't read any statistics at all.
And this is worth saying: One of the neatest things about these ballparks is how nice everyone is who works there. It's like they go through these training sessions where they make the people who work at the stadiums be nice to everyone who walks through the turnstiles (the nicest people by far were the people in San Diego...but why wouldn't they be nice? They live in San Diego.). And don't get me wrong - most of the people in Great American Ballpark were very nice - the souvenir stand girls who directed me to the 4th floor to get a ripoff of a disposable camera saved my night from feeling like it was ruined. But when we got to the fourth floor, and took some pictures from the upper deck, and asked one of the ushers if he would take our picture, we met our first not-nice person of our stadium trips.
He was standing off to the side, watching these tourists (us) take pictures with their crappy disposable camera. If you could read his mind, I'm sure he would be saying, "These people BETTER not ask me to take their picture." But we did. And he said, "I'm not a very good picture-taker." I gave him the camera anyway, and we stood and smiled. He goes, "What am I supposed to do? Press this button here?" Now, keep in mind, this wasn't one of them new-fangled digital cameras. It was a crappy green disposable camera. There's only that one button. "Yes, sir, press that button." Now, truth be told, he didn't take a bad picture - the flash failed him like it failed me (although I took note that his finger was in front of the flash...and made sure the girls behind us at our seats took another safety picture). But I guess the Reds knew what they were doing when they put this guy on the fourth floor...much less populated up there...and he was definitely not a people person.
Finally, the other attraction of the game - I guess occasionally the Reds have a former Red come and sign autographs before the game. This night it was ex-Met George Foster. I walked by him when I was exploring the park, and seriously considered stopping to take a picture. I didn't. I wanted to tell him that he was the guy who set the example from which I learned about people getting fired. But I didn't. Maybe if The Wife and Baby were walking with me I would have stopped...but I was alone, and didn't have the gumption. I felt like he might not like me. I'll say this about George, though - he looked almost exactly as he did in his playing days - which means he was a powerful, compact man. That guy on the left hit 52 homers in a season back in 1977. That's some kind of strong.
Incidentally, in the game, the Reds beat the Brewers. The Baby handled this game much better, and we stayed until the game slowed considerably after six innings.