Thursday, December 13, 2007

End-of-Fall Update


So, it's been awhile. I'm not sure who or how many of you still read this blog, but I'm on my lunch at work and thought I'd keep everyone up to date with what's going on in the lives of Erik & Peter. Yes, you read that correctly, I'm at work. Erik and I have traded in our lives as bums for real paying jobs. I work at a large architecture firm in Milwaukee, Eppstein Uhen, and was even so broke from the ball tour and subsequent student loan payments that I've taken on a second job at a fish market. Erik moved out west to Las Vegas, one of the few places we didn't go on the trip. He is working on the John Edwards primaries campaign, and hopefully he will get elected in January so he can remain employed.

In baseball news, Erik and I spent the remainder of September going to Crew games before we got jobs, and after the playoffs came and went, we have started to focus our attention on the Winter Meetings, off-season roster moves, and the Dominican & Hawaiian Leagues' scoreboards. I also am going to a lot of minor league hockey games, the other sport Erik and I frequent.

The main reason I decided to write a random blog entry today was that Erik and I are starting to kick around our ball tour plans for 2008. While on the "big tour," we more or less decided to visit all the new parks that are opening, Spring Training, and many other baseball events in the following years as an annual means of keeping in touch, and as a way of stretching our ball tour out until the day we die. Our main event next year is going to be a trip out to DC to watch the Brewers battle the Nationals over Memorial Day weekend in their new still-untitled ballpark, which is set to open in April. This trip may or may not include a train ride up to New York to see a game in the last year of Yankee Stadium, and/or a ride up to Boston to watch the Crew play at Fenway Park in an interleague series the week before. This all depends on our cash situations, and if we can get free places to stay in each of the cities.

Right now we are leaning towards only going to DC, because we also want to return to Memphis in March to watch the Civil Rights Game at beautiful AutoZone Park. The CR Game was inaugurated last year as a part of a weekend-long series of events to commemorate MLB's drive towards racial equality in the game throughout the years. It would be my third time to the city and Erik's second; we both had a blast there in July and hope to make the return trip in three months. That's about it on the newsfront...more to come as plans get finalized, and when I start watching the Series de Caribe on my computer in February.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Peter's Final Reflection


I had originally intended and looked forward to writing a reflection on our trip upon returning home, but I realized soon after I started that it is impossible to write a summary of our amazing 71-day journey in just a few paragraphs. In lieu of not having time to write a book right now, we culminate the tour portion of this blog with our final rankings and statistics. Hopefully this can be of some service to people who someday look to take this trip themselves!

Best MLB Stadiums:
1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh
2. SAFECO Field, Seattle
3. Fenway Park, Boston
4. Camden Yards, Baltimore
5. Comerica Park, Detroit

Worst MLB Stadiums:
1. McAfee Coliseum, Oakland
2. RFK Stadium, Washington
3. Metrodome, Minneapolis
4. Dolphin Stadium, Miami
5. Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg

Best MiLB/Independent Stadiums:
1. Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville
2. AutoZone Park, Memphis
3. John O'Donnell Stadium, Davenport
4. Isotopes Park, Albuquerque
5. Haymarket Park, Lincoln

Favorite Cities:
1. Portland, OR
2. Seattle, WA
3. Memphis, TN
4. Toronto, ON
5. Boston, MA
6. Savannah, GA
7. San Diego, CA
8. Oklahoma City, OK
9. Vancouver, BC
10. Milwaukee, WI

Top Ballpark Foods:
1. Crabcake sandwich, Camden Yards
2. Tony's Philly Cheesesteak, Citizens Bank Park
3. Sushi, SAFECO Field
4. Fish Tacos, PETCO Park
5. Prime rib sandwich, Frontier Field

Best Nachos:
1. Louisville Slugger Field
2. AutoZone Park
3. Miller Park, Milwaukee
4. Wrigley Field, Chicago
5. Comerica Park

Best Games:
1. Day 2, Wrigley Field
2. Day 69, Metrodome
3. Day 62, Coors Field
4. Day 60, Isotopes Park
5. Day 15, Yankee Stadium
Longest Drive: 875 miles from Orem to Seattle
Most Money Raised: $96.31 in Washington
Nights slept in car: 10
Total number of Miles Driven: 16,105
Total amount of Money Raised: $1485.76

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Day 71: Miller Park



All photos of Miller Park available on Flickr.

Click here to view a news story that aired about our trip. The story/video will be in the archives until September 2009.

Well, this is it. Our amazing and unforgettable journey ended today at the place we call home, Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Today was no doubt a bittersweet day for the both of us. We were both glad to be back home and not have to worry about where we were driving or sleeping today, and it was a special treat for me to not be waking up next to Erik for the first time in 10 weeks. But at the same time, if we both had the money and the time, we would totally just do this every summer. We have already discussed at least a dozen small baseball-related vacations we want to take in the coming years, just to gather more material for the book we for sure have to write someday. I'd personally like to wait about 10 years after we have forgotten most of the details and can embellish facts in a "based on a true story" novel of some sorts. For now, we'll always have this blog and our 5000 photos as a way of keeping these memories alive in our minds and hearts forever.

Another token we'll have to remember this trip forever is the news story that was aired about our trip by the local FOX affiliate here in Milwaukee. My mom was kind enough to get in touch with somebody at the station and Erik and I were met by a news team at our "Welcome Home" pre-game tailgate today. We spent the better part of an hour talking about the tour, answering questions, and mingling amongst our friends while wearing microphones. The entire process was editted into a nice 5-minute story that aired at 5 and 10 PM that night, and once again at noon the next day. The whole tailgate, as with most days at Miller Park, was the best part of the whole day, and the reporters there and about 20 of our friends made it even more special. The stadium is nice and the Brewers are a fun team to watch, but no Brew Crew game is complete without a tailgate. Sometimes fans will just tailgate, listen to the game on the radio, and then drink afterwards, and never even go inside. It is just what we do in Wisconsin; it combines our state's two passions of beer and eating. Besides my family and the familiarity of home, the thing I miss most when I am away from Milwaukee is tailgating at Brewers games, because it is a sports spectacle unmatched anywhere else, kind of like how most college campuses have unique football gameday traditions.

So I will try to be objective and jump outside of myself for a moment to describe Miller Park, but it is hard to not talk fondly of a place I spend about a month a year at. I guess the main beef that we have with the park is the viewing angles. Because the architects tried to bring the seating levels closer to the field and reduce the incline of the bowls, it compromises views and there are very few seats at the park where you have an unobstructed panorama of the entire field. There could also be a few more bleachers that are actually close to the field of play, but a lot of parks have this problem. But besides these things and occasional roof leaking problems, the stadium is a gem. It has the most unique retractable roof, which opens like a fan instead of a door. It has the best batter's eye and one of the best team shops. But most importantly, it has the best beer and food in all of baseball, including a TGIFriday's in left field that is open year round.

The game itself was a pretty good showing for the Crew, who are in the midst of the most exciting race in the major, the NL Central race. They beat the Pirates 7-4 behind Jeff Suppan, who earned his first win since June 22nd. This happens to be the last game we saw at Miller Park before leaving on the tour 10 weeks ago. Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ryan Braun and MVP candidate Prince Fielder both homered for the Brewers, and Kevin Mench and Bill Hall also contributed RBIs. The bullpen was lights out for once, and the combination of Shouse-Linebrink-Turnbow-Cordero tossed 4 scoreless innings, with Coco getting his 39th save of the season.

Please continue to read this blog this week for final reflections, tallies, and/or rankings! Be sure to check in periodically for big Brewer/baseball news, Habitat for Humanity information, and any blog entries of Erik and my future baseball trips. Thanks to everyone who has been reading along on our journey of a lifetime, and particularly anyone who has given us a place to stay, donated money to us and/or Habitat, or helped us along our trip in any way whatsover; it is greatly appreciated. Lastly, please note the email address on the sidebar of this blog to which you can direct any future questions or comments about this blog.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 8
views from park - 4 (okay when side panels are open)
view to field - 4 (many obstructed seats)
surrounding area - 2 (VA Asylum, brownfields)
food variety - 8
nachos - 9 (bowl o' 'chos!)
beer - 8 (good price, they have Miller and Pabst)
vendor price - 7
ticket price - 10 (ours were free...thanks Dad)
atmosphere - 9 (huge crowd, we were in a big group)
walk to park - 6 (fun to walk past all the tailgaters, but it can be a long hike)
parking price/proximity - 8 ($7 general parking, Erik and I have a secret free spot when we don't tailgate)
concourses - 7
team shop - 8

best food - any sausage (chorizo is new this year)
most unique stadium feature - the retractable roof, Bernie's slide
best jumbotron feature - Cingluar text in lights
best between-inning feature - Klements Sausage Race

field dimensions - 345/400/345
starters - Tom Gorzelanny (PIT) v. Jeff Suppan (MIL)
opponent - Pittsburgh Pirates
time of game - 2:58
attendance - 39340
score - 7-4 W
Brewers score that day - 7-4 W

Day 70: Fox Cities Stadium



All photos of Leinenkugel's Brewery and Fox Cities Stadium available on Flickr.

We left Minneapolis (albeit temporarily for Erik) around 8 AM and finally crossed back into Wisconsin for the first time in nearly 10 weeks. We had originally intended on attending a Snappers game in Beloit on the way home, but since neither of us had seen Wisconsin's other minor league franchise, we decided upon Appleton instead. I have been to the Appleton/Oshkosh area, and so I knew that arriving there 5 hours before first pitch would be incredibly boring. Thus, when we noted yesterday that the freeway exit to get from I-94 to Appleton put us right through Chippewa Falls, we knew that it would be a disservice to ourselves if we didn't stop and tour Leinenkugel's Brewery.

Leinenkugel's (or "Leinie's" to most) is considered a craft brewery, which falls somewhere between a microbrewery and a macrobrewery. It is the 4th oldest craft brewery in America, behind Yuengling in Pennsylvania, Sierra Nevada in California, and New Belgium in Colorado. My family had visited the brewery about two months and Erik and I were both very sad that we could not attend, because they told us it was awesome - not to mention free! Erik and I had an great tour guide and a great time at the brewery and definitely share my family's sentiments. The tour guide we had was actually an elementary school teacher that just got back from Iraq and has been working part time at the brewery on and off for many years. He was much more interested in telling us how tasty all the beer was, smelling the hops, and frollicking in the fermentation chamber than telling us important facts about, say, the brewing process. This was what made the tour outstanding and Erik and I both hope we run into him someday while touring another brewery so we can have a pint with him. After the hour-long tour, we decided that 11 AM was not too early to start drinking and took back a couple free samples before we hit the road.

We arrived in Appleton at 3 PM, just in time to catch the kickoff of the 1st Badgers game. We stopped at the local Hooters and took down a few pitchers while watching Wisconsin dominate for three quarters. We arrived at the park around 5:45, only to find that it was sadly surrounded by a large parking lot, which meant that we would once again not be able to fundraise. Fox Cities Stadium looked to be relatively new and it reminded me a lot of Security Services Field in Colorado Springs - very plain and cheaply constructed, about 15-20 rows of seats, wall full of adverstising with only a few bleachers in right field. Like a lot of teams that host minor league cities, Appleton has a long lineage of baseball, most notably the old Appleton Foxes team. The team shop was huge (the Snake Pit) and there was a large variety of food and beer, which made up for the lack of aesthetics at the stadium. I was annoyed that I had to wait for 20 minutes to order, but I was pleasantly suprised upon my arrival to the front of the line to see that they had local beers and Leine's on tap for a dollar and cheese fries in a helmet! Both were delicious.

The Timber Rattlers' slogan this season is "Come for the Fun, stay for the Game." Erik and I are still waiting for the latter part of that phrase to occur. The Rattlers put together a pretty pathetic offensive effort in their 7-1 loss to Kane County (Illinois, near Chicago). DH Greg Dowling and starting pitcher Henry Rodriguez were the stars of the day for KC. Dowling went 3-5 with 3 RBI, and Rodriguez gave up only 1 run over 7 innings, striking out 8 batters. Reliever Walters for KC was also lights out, striking out 5 of the 6 batters he faced in his two innings of work. Catcher Juan Beltran provided the lone highlight of the day for Wisconsin with a towering solo shot in the 7th.

Immediately following the game (and I do mean immediately) we saw our fifth fireworks extravaganza of the trip, which was probably second to Cincinnati, even though the fireworks were clearly being lit one or two at a time by hand. After the game we drove the 90 minutes south to Milwaukee and got to sleep in our own beds for the first time since June 23rd. Last official game of the odyssey is tomorrow at Miller Park!

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 2
views from park - 2 (freeway)
view to field - 5 (batter obstructed by fence, but we were close)
surrounding area - 2 (downtown Appleton and the mall...yay)
food variety - 7
nachos - 4
beer - 10 ($1 and much variety)
vendor price - 9
ticket price - 9 ($5 GA)
atmosphere - 4
walk to park - 1
parking price/proximity - 3 (only $3, but paying for parking in A-ball should be illegal)
concourses - 3
team shop - 8

best food - cheese fries
most unique stadium feature - Timber Rattlers hall of fame wall
best jumbotron feature - none worth writing about
best between-inning feature - boxing match between two fans with no protective pads and giant gloves

field dimensions - 325/405/325
starters - Henry Rodriguez (KC) v. Matthew Renfree (WIS)
opponent - Kane County Cougars
time of game - 3:00
attendance - 5150
score - 7-1 L
Brewers score that day - 12-3 W

Day 69: Metrodome


All photos of games 1 and 2 at the Metrodome available on Flickr.

Today we got to see a rare doubleheader in Minneapolis. Since the Twins play in a dome, games obviously get cancelled very rarely, but due to the I-35W bridge collapse last month, a game against the Royals was rescheduled for this afternoon. After a stop for breakfast, we arrived at the park around 10 minutes before game time and mingled with some of Erik's co-workers. Erik has been working part-time as an usher in the suites at the Metrodome for three years and was very anxious to talk to as many people as he could find and tell them about the tour. He even got us into the suite he works in and we got to watch both games there, which included free food and drink. I only spent about $15 total the entire day.

If Erik and I didn't attend games at the Dome many times a year, we probably would be less accustomed to its many nuiances and would loathe the stadium. I guess the same could be said for old County Stadium in Milwaukee, which we were both also fond of. Speaking objectively though, the stadium really is a dump. It is built for football - 343 down the left field line and less than 300 feet down the right field line is a good indicator of this, as well as the fact that seating angles are horrible. There are many seats in the upper deck that are covered by banners to make the emptiness of the large dome less apparent, but it doesn't really help. The two things that suck most about domes are obviously astroturf and the roof. The Metrodome roof in particular is notorious for the havoc it wreaks on outfielders. Many times players lose balls in the grayish roof and players like Prince Fielder end up getting inside-the-park homeruns. A lot of times fly balls hit speakers and land elsewhere, or maybe the ball even hits the roof and never comes down at all (this actually did happen once). It is atrocious not only to watch a player lose a fly ball in the roof, but then also to see the ball bounce up 12 feet in the air off the turf when/if it finally lands. With all that being said, sitting in the suites and seeing at least one really good game did make the visit more enjoyable than some previous ones.

Game one was an early struggle for Twinkies pitcher Matt Garza, and the team could never really recover from the three runs Garza surrendered in the 1st. Overall, he was charged with 8 runs, 4 earned. The 3-6 hitters for the Royals went a combined 9-18 with 6 RBI, including a HR by 1B Ross Gload. Torii Hunter provided the lone offensive highlight for the Twins with his homerun in the bottom half of the 1st in the 9-4 loss.

Game two was considerably more exciting - and even if it wasn't, we at least got a sweet Kirby Puckett bronze statue giveaway. We left the park around 4:30 after the first game and had a couple drinks at a bar next door, and we fundraised. As has been a common theme lately, we had a really good spot and thought we would fair a lot better than we did. Returning to our suite around 6:30, we saw Twins pitcher Scott Baker toss a perfect game through 8th. It was only fitting to us that the trip was bookended with the two best games - game #2 at Wrigley, and the 3rd to last game in Minneapolis on Friday. By the 6th inning, Scotty had distanced himself from the rest of the dugout and the stadium proceeded to go crazy for the remaining hour of the game. Baker walked the first batter he faced in the 9th, but he still had the no-hitter going so the crowd was still really fired up to see him close out the game. The no-hitter was spoiled by newly acquired pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney, brother of the venerable record holder of all-time pinch hits Mark Sweeney. Baker ended up going the distance however, tossing a one-hit CG shutout with 9 K's. It was unreal to watch and the third time I have seen a pitcher take a no-hitter past the 7th.

After the game we followed Erik's co-worker Joe to his house and passed out early because he had to be back at work early the next morning for an 11 AM first pitch. This works out well for us anyways, because if we leave early enough tomorrow, we can tour Leinenkugels in Chippewa Falls on our way to Appleton, Wisconsin.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 2
views from park - n/a
view to field - 3 (very good from our suite, otherwise not)
surrounding area - 6 (downtown)
food variety - 3
nachos - 4
beer - 7 (free, but Bud Light)
vendor price - 7
ticket price - 9 (game 1 $7 GA, game 2 free)
atmosphere - Game 1 gets a 2, Game 2 gets a 10
walk to park - 3
parking price/proximity - 7 (2 blocks away for $6.25)
concourses - 3
team shop - 2

best food - steak sandwich
most unique stadium feature - the "baggie" in right field
best jumbotron feature - T.C. Bear "walk" animation
best between-inning feature - Hormel Hot Dog song in 4th

field dimensions - 343/408/295
starters - Kyle Davies (KC) v. Matt Garza (MIN); Gil Meche v. Scott Baker
opponent - Kansas City Royals
time of game - 3:01; 2:16
attendance - 15735; 24985
score - 9-4 L; 5-0 W
Brewers score that day - 3-2 W

Friday, August 31, 2007

Day 68: Minneapolis


All photos of the Minnesota State Fa
ir and new Twins Ballpark groundbreaking ceremony available on Flickr.

You know you're from the Midwest if you're as excited to go to the state fair as we were today! The Minnesota State Fair was in town, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity. I was looking forward to eating a lot and harassing as many animals as possible since I have missed the last three Wisconsin State Fairs due to attending school/work outside of Milwaukee. The only real fair comparison I have is the one in Wisconsin, and the Minnesota fair was pretty similar - tons of food, giant slide, animal barns, exhibit houses, parades, and straw everywhere. I took down some smothered 'tato skins, some corn, and a cream puff. The puff did not really compete at all with the ones in Wisconsin in terms of taste and size, but at the Minnesota fair, you can get different flavors of cream, so bonus points for that. I also acquired another non-baseball souvenir cup. Erik had another fair staple - cheese curds.

The Minnesota State Fair did not have nearly the array of animals that the Wisconsin one does, nor does it have as much live music. There also seemed to be fewer places to buy useless stuff. The worst thing though is that there was no type of animal race anywhere! The unique thing to the Minnesota fair is that you can get any food imaginable on a stick. Waffles, spaghetti & meatballs, pizza, you name it. There are also two buildings that Wisconsin does not have - a live-berth house and a ride-a-horse house. Although I was extremely disappointed that the pig and cattle barns were closed for the day, I had a great time at the fair. Unless the Brewers are in the playoffs or the Admirals have a sweet giveaway, Erik and I have already discussed me visiting in mid-October to attend the Minnesota Beef Expo, which is also held on the fair grounds.

After the fair, we headed downtown to the warehouse district to be a part of Minnesota history. We got to watch the new Twins Ballpark groundbreaking ceremony. Many Hennepin County and Minnesota politicians were there, Twins front office folk, current and former players (including a tipsy Kent Hrbek, who was handed a beer and subsequently took it down during his speech), T.C. Bear, and even the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, was in attendance. He got booed by some fans because he tried to contract the Twins a few years back, but overall it was a good ceremony. There were about 10 speeches, five groups of people who did ceremonial digging, a WWII jet fly-over, and even a 7th inning stretch where everyone sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!" The event was catered and everything, and it was really cool to be there for this important event. There were some angry protesters outside the gates with signs saying that Minnesota was wasting its tax money, but I was easily distracted from their signs while I was looking at the free poster I was given featuring an awesome rendering of what the new park will look like. Erik and I are both excited for the return of outdoor baseball in Minneapolis in 2010.

After the game, we went to a bar downtown and capped our evening off by putting a few drinks back and watching the Brewers lose again. Tomorrow it's a doubleheader against the Royals! And as a side note...my mom has been in contact with Ted Perry from the local FOX affiliate in Milwaukee since the start of the tour, and he and/or someone from the network has agreed to come interview us while tailgating in Milwaukee on Sunday! Anyone in the Milwaukee FOX 6 viewing area be sure to watch the news on Sunday!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 67: Field of Dreams


All photos of Dyersville and the Field of Dreams available on Flickr.


Today was our final day in Iowa. People make fun of Iowa for having nothing but cornfields and pigs (which is true in most cases), but it was great for me at least to be in this state for four days, because I have now finally feel like I am close to home. After growing up in Wisconsin for most of your life, you certainly develop a certain comfort level for driving through exurban farming and manufacturing towns that wreak of manure and yeast. Even though I hope to move out to one of the 50+ amazing cities we have seen on this tour someday, the Midwest will always be home to me.

Dyersville was really no different than Des Moines, Davenport, or Clinton; just at a bit smaller scale. The Field of Dreams exit is off of US-20, about 20 miles west of Dubuque, and is about three miles off the highway, past several farms and fields. In fact, the Field of Dreams was once a farm and cornfield itself before becoming immortalized in the movie that shares the same name in 1988. Today, it serves as one of the biggest tourist attractions in Iowa. The lot is simple - the field kept intact from the movie, the adjacent house where Kevin Costner's character lived, and two souvenir stands. Admission is free, and Erik and I spent the better part of an hour playing catch, running the bases, and taking many action photos. I planned on getting a picture of myself sliding, but when I noticed the infield dirt was about 50% gravel, I thought better of it. This did not deter Erik one bit, and now he as a couple souvenir scars and a dirt-covered t-shirt to remember his experience - I, however, settled for a $4 baseball. After working up a good sweat, we talked to a nice lady who ran one of the souvenir stands, who was obviously lonely from working there by herself all day every day in a hot trailer.

We left the Field of Dreams around 3 PM and finished our drive to Minneapolis, where we'll be staying with a friend of Erik's for a few nights. Tomorrow we'll probably both be incredibly sore, but we will try to tough it out and make it to the Minnesota State Fair!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 66: Alliant Energy Field


All photos of Davenport day 2, Clinton, and Alliant Energy Field available on
Flickr.

Today was bonus game #4 for me and #5 for Erik on the trip. Not to say that we needed an excuse to watch more ball, but the prospect of spending another 24 hours exploring Davenport did not particularly intrigue us. We did, however, spend a little bit of time walking around, since we were sure that the small town we were headed to up the river would not be much cooler. We walked through the lobby of the local art museum, the tourist center, and across a strange "bridge to nowhere." We also walked along the riverfront that was substantially less algae-rific than yesterday. As is the case in almost every city we've been to, by 3 or 4 PM we have seen all that we want to see and are tired of walking, so we end up pulling up a stool at a local tavern for Happy Hour (one of man's greatest inventions besides the wheel and delivered hot food, by the way). Today's bar was Shenanigan's, which was the only Irish pub that Erik and I have ever been to that did not actually serve Irish beer.

Around 4 PM we headed to Clinton, Iowa, which is about 30 miles north of Davenport and is home to the LumberKings, an A-ball affiliate of the Texas Rangers. We thought the game was at 7:05, but apparently the final Clinton homestand got moved to 6:05 starts, which only gave us about 30 minutes to fundraise. We have not been doing so well fundraising lately, so we decided to give it a crack in Clinton, even though we don't typically do so at "bonus games." We had only made $1 when the General Manager rolled up to us in a golf cart and ask us about what we were doing. Instead of telling us to move, he proceeded to tell us that he supported our cause and wished we would have called him. We told him that we only knew we were coming here as of yesterday, and he felt bad and hooked us up with some free food inside.

Like in Davenport, and as a matter of fact a lot of Iowa cities, there is a long tradition of minor league baseball in Clinton. Although the team has changed names and affiliates many times over the years, the city has hosted a team continuously for the past 54 seasons. Alliant Energy Field (which we determined was probably originally Clinton Municipal Stadium) was built in 1937 and resembles a lot of the old minor league parks, such as the ones we have seen in Evansville, Savannah, and Vancouver. It has its wide open concourse, covered seats, and no outfield seating. This stadium did, however, feature a neat little pavilion in left field near the pole that terminated in a "bump-out" that jutted about 10 feet into the field, kind of like a mosquito bite on the wall, so to speak. We were hoping we'd get to see someone hit it off that wall and watch it careen back into center field for a triple but such was not the case. The game was actually pretty decently pitched for an A-ball game. Both starters did very well, despite the fact that they only went 4 and 5 innings respectively. In the end, the walks hurt the LumberKings, as the staff gave out nine total free passes and one hit batsman. The Timber Rattlers also must have had the scouting report on Clinton's catcher, because they were stealing at will all night, swiping 7 bags in 8 attempts. These two things, plus a combination of timely hitting and a lackluster umpiring crew led Wisconsin to victory despite a 2-run 9th by the LumberKings. The best part of the game was once again the Racing Sausages, who I guess are apparently doing a tour of minor league parks in Iowa until the Brewers return home.

After the game, the original plan was to have a few drinks at the local Applebees and sleep in a Wal-Mart parking lot, but the latter portion of the plan proved to be most uncomfortable, so we found a $40 hotel room for the night nearby. Applebees was awesome though - we got to watch the season finale of The Bronx is Burning and watch the LumberKings, who came in for a meal, converse with the staff. Clinton actually reminded me a lot of Cudahy, for those of you from Wisconsin, so you can imagine how anxious we are to get out of here and head up towards Dyersville tomorrow after a quick oil change for Old Yeller.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 2
views from park - 2

view to field - 5 (net obstructs view, but we did have 4th row seats)

surrounding area - 3

food variety - 6
nachos - 3 (low cheese to chip ratio)
beer - 9 ($4 for a large Old Style! lots of variety)
vendor price - 10 ($1 food on Tuesdays, plus we got free eats)

ticket price - 6 ($6 GA)
atmosphere - 3

walk to park - 1

parking price/proximity - 10 (across the street for free)

concourses - 3

team shop - 4

best food - brat

most unique stadium feature - left field bump-out

best jumbotron feature -
n/a
best between-inning feature - Racing Sausages make another cameo appearance

field dimensions - 330/395/325
starters - Steven Richard (WIS) v. Evan Reed (CLN)

opponent - Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

time of game - 2:49

attendance - 650

score - 4-2 L

Brewers score that day - 5-3 L

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 65: John O'Donnell Stadium


All photos of Davenport and John O
'Donnell Stadium available on Flickr.

Today was Day 2 in scenic Iowa, as we made our way east to the Illinois border to watch the Swing of the Quad Cities, an A-ball affiliate of the Cardinals. The team/region is called the "Quad Cities" because there are four cities around of similar size all next to each other, two on each side of the Mississippi River. After a lunch with Karl and a stop to blog, we parted ways and headed to Davenport around 2:30. We arrived at around 5:15 and walked around the park, which is right on the river, and then set up for fundraising. We only made $8, which was to be expected from an A-ball game I guess.

The park is annually voted one of the best in minor league baseball, which is the main reason we came - that, and the Swing of the Quad Cities have the coolest name and uniforms ever. There is only a grass berm in the outfield and no seats, so the park boasts breathtaking views of the Mississippi and the Centennial Bridge from just about everywhere in the stadium. It was really cool to watch the bridge inning by inning as the sun was setting. Davenport has a rich history of minor leaugue baseball and has had teams nearly every year since the 1900s, and John O'Donnell Stadium has seen a lot of these teams come and go - the Dav-Sox and the Quad Cities River Bandits to name a couple. Besides being located right on the river and the bridge, the park is also conveniently located adjacent to train tracks and two methadone clinics, which certainly all contribute to the overall din and atmosphere of the stadium in their own unique ways.

I visited this stadium almost one year ago to the day while I was working in Madison, and I seem to remember having a much better time last year. First of all, the river was ridiculously contaminated with algae and the field was swarming with these strange large bugs that looked kind of like dragonflies. Secondly, the team shop was horrible - no helmets, no balls, and no jerseys smaller than an XL. I guess this was kind of a blessing in disguise though, because I would have definitely purchased one and I don't have the money to do so. There were also no souvenir cups. This all put me in a pretty bad mood before the game even started, but once play started, I perked up a little. The team features two very active and entertaining mascots, Rookie Raccoon and Clyde the Monkey, and the Swing put up five runs on the starting pitcher for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. The Kernels were a little slow all evening, as their bus arrived only 30 minutes before first pitch because it broke down on the Interstate. Also, the between-inning entertainment was pretty special, and I caught a homerun ball in the 9th inning! Also, the first baseman for the Swing was named Dorn, so we both had a pretty good laugh about that the whole game. The best and most surprising part by far was when the Klement's Sausages made an apprearance in the bottom of the 7th for a race, albeit only three of the five.

The Swing won the game 6-3 behind a solid pitching performance by Brandon Dickson. He went 7 and gave up only 2, and it was certainly a relief to see a starting pitcher in the Cards organization finally toss a decent outing. Lead-off hitter Jose Ramirez for the Swing had two hits to finally bring his average over .200. Despite a lead-off homerun by Matt Sweeney in the 9th (which I caught) the Kernels ended up falling short. Tomorrow we're sticking around the Davenport area and have decided to drive 20 miles to attend another bonus game in Clinton, as it should be an inexpensive way to kill time before heading to the Field of Dreams on Wednesday.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 6
views from park - 10 (Centennial Bridge/river)

view to field - 9

surrounding area - 5 (downtown and rehab centers nearby)

food variety - 6
nachos - 6
beer - n/a (we did not have beer because it was expensive and a hassle to get a wrist band)
vendor price - 7

ticket price - 5 ($7 GA is pretty pricy for the minors)
atmosphere - 4

walk to park - 7 (can walk along river)

parking price/proximity - 10 (across the street for free)

concourses - 7 (nice views to bridge)

team shop - 2

best food - pork chop sandwich

most unique stadium feature - the view!

best jumbotron feature -
random zooming in by camera guy on people
best between-inning feature - Racing Sausages make a cameo appearance

field dimensions - 343/400/318
starters - Kellly Shearer (CR) v. Brandon Dickson (QC)

opponent - Cedar Rapids Kernels

time of game - 2:28 (plus 17-minute delay for broken-down bus)

attendance - 1505

score - 6-3 W

Brewers score that day - off

Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 64: Omaha & Des Moines


All photos of Omaha and suburban Des Moines available on Flickr.


We spent yesterday exploring two Midwestern farming cities - Omaha, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa. Omaha was only about 30 miles east of the rest stop we were at that night, so we stopped there for about three hours to work on the blog, grab lunch, and of course visit Rosenblatt Stadium. This is the home of the Men's College World Series, and is also home to the AAA affiliate of Kansas City, the Omaha Royals. We circumnavigated the park and checked out all the plaques of past champions, and it actually looked like a really nice stadium. Although I certainly don't regret stopping in Lincoln, if we would have known that the Omaha Royals played at the same stadium where the College World Series was held, and that they were home this weekend, I'm sure we would have saw a game here instead. Omaha was a decent little town, from what we did see of it. It actually reminded me a lot of Dayton, and I apologize to any of my Ohio friends who are reading this now and may have just experienced a shiver up their spine.

Around 2 PM we completed the rest of our day's drive to Des Moines. My friend Karl lives in a suburb just west of the city and we spent the rest of the day watching the final of the Little League World Series (Georgia beat Japan) and catching up over dinner, drinks, and movies. The highlight of the evening (besides drinking) was when Karl took the liberty of showing us an interesting house near a subdivision that had a functional bomb shelter and outhouse, two things which I'm sure are not up to current building codes and were somehow grandfathered in. Tomorrow we'll probably hang around here a bit before heading to Davenport to watch the Swing of the Quad Cities.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Day 63: Haymarket Park



All photos of Haymarket Park available on Flickr.

Yesterday we said goodbye to the Rocky Mountains and hello to the Great Plains. It was a 6 1/2 hour drive from Denver to Lincoln, NE with nothing to look at except the flat land, corn, and cows. After making a quick stop in downtown Denver to make another deposit (we've raised nearly $1300 so far) we got on our way.

We arrived in Lincoln at about 6:15 for a 7:05 game. The ballpark was on the campus of the University of Nebraska with Memorial Stadium where the Cornhusker football team plays across the street. The stadium also serves as the home to Cornhuskers baseball and there were plenty of "big block Ns" and Cornhusker Big 12 Championship and College World Series appearance banners hanging throughout the stadium. Unfortunately, Haymarket Park is the type that is just surrounded by parking lots and we were unable to do any fundraising.

The Lincoln Saltdogs play in the American Association, the same league as the St. Paul Saints. The two teams will actually be facing each other in the playoffs which start on Monday. This game was the fourth independent league that Peter and I have seen on the trip, and having attended several Saints games over the past couple of years I knew it would be the best baseball of any of the indy leagues.

Yesterday was the last day of the American Association regular season and the Saltdogs presented their team awards between innings. Last night's starting pitcher Jarrett Gardner was voted pitcher of the year by the season ticket holders and gave another fine performance last night. He went 6 innings, only allowed 3 hits and struck out 5. If he keeps that up, there may be a place on an A-ball roster for him next year. The Saltdogs scratched out single runs in the 4th, 5th, and 6th, then broke the game open with a Grand Slam from Pichi Balet in the 7th.

Saints games are always a blast and Lincoln was no different. Last night was the finals round of a season long promotion to give away a car. All night long, people who had qualified throughout the season were eliminated until there were only four. After the game each choose a key and the one that started the car won a year's lease. But that wasn't the best between innings game. Once again, Peter and I were selected to compete in the keg roll. This time, however, we would be competing against each other, not another team. At the end of the eighth inning we were escorted onto the field and squared off to see who could roll a keg from home plate to first or third base, and back, the quickest. Of course, I completely dominated but Peter improved significantly over last time - he didn't fall down yesterday.

After the Saltdogs wrapped up the victory with a 1-2-3 9th, we headed to an area called Haymarket Square for some post-game drinks. We had a few pints at Brewsky's where the whole Saltdogs staff also showed up. Tomorrow it's off to Iowa to stay with Peter's friend Karl near Des Moines.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 6
views from park - 5 (Nebraska campus)

view to field - 9

surrounding area - 8 (Nebraska campus and Haymarket Square nearby)

food variety - 6
nachos - 8
beer - 9 (good price, two sizes souvenir cups, Leines on tap)
vendor price - 8

ticket price - 9 ($5 lawn)
atmosphere - 7 (last game of season)

walk to park - 3

parking price/proximity - 10 (on lot for free)

concourses - 5

team shop - 4

best food - fries

most unique stadium feature - lawn seating areas

best jumbotron feature - n/a

best between-inning feature - keg race featuring us
, Homer the mascot tosses stuff into the crowd from the bullpen car
field dimensions - 325/395/325
starters - N. Cebula (SC) v. J. Gardner (LIN)

opponent - Sioux City Explorers

time of game - 2:10

attendance - 4414

score - 9-0 W

Brewers score that day - 6-2 L

Day 62: Coors Field


All photos of Denver and Coors Field available on Flickr.


It was a gorgeous day in Denver today, a great day to walk around and explore the city. We started the morning as we often do - blogging at a local coffee shop. After that, we walked down towards the state capitol building. On the way there, we passed two very cool areas. One was the 16th Street Mall, which I remember from my last visit to Denver about 10 years ago. It is a pedestrian/bus-only street with lots of shops, banks, and restaurants. Also on the way towards the capitol, we passed the Denver Convention Center. Although I am generally not a big fan of convention centers, as they tend to be eye-sores that wastes 10 blocks of prime downtown real estate, this one was actually pretty cool and featured a 4-story tall blue grizzly bear by one of the exterior curtain walls.

The Colorado state capitol is on axis with other federal buildings and the US Mint, which we tried to tour but was full. We at least got to visit the US Mint gift shop, which was actually just an air-conditioned trailer. It was eerie to me how much it resembled the National Mall in Washington; there was even an obelisk there, albeit a smaller scale than the Washington Monument. We spent about a half-hour walking around the capitol and looking around people's offices and various meeting chambers. The thing that makes this building stand out is the ridiculous amount of gold present everywhere - the dome, the handrails, even the bubblers (that's "drinking fountains" to those of you not from Wisconsin or Massachusetts).

After leaving the capitol, we walked through LoDo (Lower Downtown), which is the area where Coors Field, the Pepsi Center, and Union Station all reside. It was a former warehouse district that has boomed since the hockey and baseball franchises came into Denver. A large portion of the buildings are historic and the district has a lot of character for an area that is a little over a century old. We ended our day of touring at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, where we sampled all 12 of the beers they featured on tap. We got a great spot across the street from the stadium, but had to compete with scalpers and peanut girls, and we only made about $20.

I was at Coors Field about 10 years ago, but I didn't really remember much of the park, as I was significantly less interested in baseball when I was 15. So, like Erik, it was kind of like I was going there for the first time. The things I did remember were the bullpens and the row of purple seats in the upper deck that are exactly one mile above sea level. The bullpens are cool because they are situated around a little wooded area that the opposing team actually has to meander through to get onto the field. The stadium is in its 13th season already and was the first stadium done in the retro-style after Camden Yards. It is a little confusing getting to the upper deck, but otherwise I really enjoyed the park. It had very nice concourses, particularly behind the bleachers. The left field side is not inundated with seating, so there is a nice view to the Platte River basin when the sun is out. Tonight was 80's Night at the park and made the game even more enjoyable, as all the players featured 80's haircuts and clothes on the jumbotron, and there was 80's trivia throughout the game, most of which I got correct. It was the 2nd Rockies victory we have seen on the trip and they have to be my pick to win the NL West based on what we've seen these past two months. The second game of the tour we saw the Rockies come back from 8 runs down to tie the game in the 9th, only to eventually lose to the Cubs in the 10th. This game featured a measely 5-run comeback, but unlike the disappointing loss in Chicago, the Rockies won this game 6-5 on a walk-off reached-on-error by Kazuo Matsui in the 9th. Jeff Francis went 6.1 and threw 120 pitches in the game, and closer Brian Fuentes ended up getting the win, as he pitched the top half of the 9th. We saw three homeruns at hitter-friendly Coors Field, by Matt Holliday, Ryan Zimmerman, and Wily Mo Pena. You could really tell by these homeruns and the triples that were hit in the gaps during the game how much the ball carries here.

Tomorrow we head back into the central time zone, as we drive through scenic Nebraska to an independent league in Lincoln.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 8
views from park - 6 (good during the day)
view to field - 6
surrounding area - 10 (LoDo)
food variety - 6
nachos - 9
beer - 3 (we found Miller Lite at one stand, which salvaged this category)
vendor price - 5
ticket price - 9 ($4 bleachers)
atmosphere - 5 (80s Night)
walk to park - 9
parking price/proximity - 10 (3 blocks away for free)
concourses - 9
team shop - 5

best food - Denver Dog
most unique stadium feature - forest in center field
best jumbotron feature - 80s Night animations
best between-inning feature - Hog race

field dimensions - 347/415/350
starters - Shawn Hill (WSH) v. Jeff Francis (COL)
opponent - Washington Nationals
time of game - 2:45
attendance - 25230
score - 6-5 W
Brewers score that day - 11-6 L

Friday, August 24, 2007

Day 61: Return to Colorado


All photos of the drive to Colorado available on Flickr.


It's hard to believe that we were in Colorado Springs just three weeks prior, and today we returned to the land of the Rocky Mountains and Mystery Octane gasoline. Although not quite as scenic of a drive through Colorado from the south as it is from the east, it was still a pretty nice journey up from Albuquerque, especially considering the incredibly boring terrain we'll be experiencing the next few days. We were supposed to have a good-bye lunch with Ben downtown before leaving, but he had a meeting, so we stopped at the local Hooters (#7 of the trip) and headed up I-25 around 1 PM for the 450-mile trek. The drive through Santa Fe and Taos was nice, but then it got a whole lot of boring between Taos and Pueblo, Colorado - I thought we had perhaps made a wrong turn into Indiana somewhere. Once we got past Pueblo towards Colorado Springs, the drive became more mountainous and we drove right past Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy.

We arrived in Denver around 7:30, where it was 60 and raining, a far cry from when we left New Mexico earlier that day. We found a hotel really close to downtown that is actually pretty nice (besides the toilet seat being broken) for only $45 a night. Tomorrow we plan on walking around the state capitol and possibly touring the US Mint, and then exploring a popular area known as LoDo ("lower downtown") after the ballgame. It is an old warehouse district similar to the Pearl District in Portland and is supposed to be pretty cool.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 60: Isotopes Park



All photos of Old Town Albuquerque and Isotopes Park are available on Flickr.

After a late arrival and some catching up between two old roommates last night, we slept in a bit this morning. Then we did some long-overdue laundry. We finally left the house around 3 PM and headed to Old Town Albuquerque. Everybody must have been on siesta because the place was dead. It took us a half hour of walking around until we finally found a restaurant that was open. Once inside it took us switching tables three times to finally get served. When we finally got our food from our not-quite-altogether-there bartender, it turned out to be delicious. Peter had a quesodilla loaded with sour cream, a margarita, and a beer, while I enjoyed some delicious enchiladas. Peter has been walking around all trip saying "I would like two tacos." But every time he has the chance to actually get two tacos, he gets something else. It was nearing time to head towards the park so we quickly made our way back to Old Yeller.

Isotopes Park is on the campus of the University of New Mexico, kitty-corner from the basketball arena, The Pit. The exterior of the building is very odd, with random windows colored in. Once inside though, it is an excellent minor league park. Most of the seats are on the first level, with excellent views from every section. There is a second deck in the right field corner and along the third baseline. As in most minor league parks, there are no bleachers in the outfield but instead a grassy knoll. This is where we bought tickets but we ended up sitting in the second to last section along the right field line in the third row.

The game did not begin well for the 'Topes, who, by the way, take their name from a combination of the Simpsons' team and New Mexico's longtime affiliation with nuclear energy and the atomic bomb. Even without the recently promoted Rick Ankiel, the Redbirds put up a six spot in the first and chased starter Kenny Baugh. The Redbirds would continue the onslaught with 2 in the 3rd, 2 in the 4th, 3 in the 5th, 3 in the 6th, and 4 in the 8th. The 'Topes could only respond with solo homeruns from Joe Borchard, Reggie Abercrombie, and Robert Andino. Things got so bad for the 'Topes that they brought in second baseman Josh Labandeira to pitch the ninth. That's right, we've now seen position players pitch in two straight games! Trailing 20-5, going to the bottom of the 9th, things looked pretty dim for the 'Topes. After Abercrombie made the first out, the rally began. Aided by two Redbirds errors and powered by a three run homer by Andrew Beattie, the 'Topes scored 7 in the 9th, but it was not enough.

After the game we were treated to a surprise. Wednesday night is apparently All Fans Run the Bases Night in Albuquerque. After a quickly touching them all, we headed back to Ben's for some beers and cartoons. Tomorrow, we will return to Colorado to wait for the Rockies to get home.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 5 (strange stained glass windows on outside)
views from park - 3
view to field - 8
surrounding area - 3 (University of New Mexico nearby)
food variety - 4
nachos - n/a
beer - 6 (decent variety and price)
vendor price - 8
ticket price - 8 ($5 lawn seats)
atmosphere - 5 (a lot of fans were scared away by the lopsided score, but Ben being there definitely made it entertaining)
walk to park - 2 (dangerous road crossing)
parking price/proximity - 10 (across the street for free)
concourses - 6
team shop - 7

best food - Baja fish tacos
most unique stadium feature - cup holders screwed into wall by urinals
best jumbotron feature - n/a
best between-inning feature - pepper & taco race

field dimensions - 340/405/330
starters - Blake Hawksworth (MEM) v. Kenny Baugh (ABQ)
opponent - Memphis Redbirds
time of game - 3:33
attendance - 7420
score - 20-12 L
Brewers score that day - 3-2 L

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Day 59: Grand Canyon



All photos of the Grand Canyon available on Flickr.

Yesterday we noticed on the atlas that the Grand Canyon was only about 90 miles out of our way to Albuquerque, so we decided to make a stop on the way to Ben's house. In keeping with our tradition of seeing "World's longest/tallest/biggest" things in our spare time, we just couldn't pass up seeing the world's biggest canyon. We left Scottsdale around 11 AM and hit the road to the north.

It was definitely worth the drive. I had flown over it before, but until you get there and see it in person, you don't really realize how big of a hole it really is. The canyon expands as far as the eye can see in all directions and there are many vantage points to park the car along the way and take it all in. We were coming from the south, so we of course visited the south rim. The Grand Canyon is a protected landscape as part of Grand Canyon National Park, so the downside, as with most national parks, is that you have to pay an entry fee. I'm all for supporting the preservation of nature, but $25 was a little steep. Granted it was a one week pass, but they should offer some sort of hourly rate or something. We stopped at two lookout points once inside the park. At the first one, Erik and I immediately noticed that there was a large portion of the canyon that was not fenced off, so we took that opportunity to descend the canyon (at least as far as we could without grappling hooks and boots) and got some awesome photos. The second lookout we stopped at was the main tourist area on the southeastern entry to the park. It contained a large visitor center, bookstore, gift shop, and cafe, from which we acquired Grand Canyon souvenir cups. There was also an old Native American watchtower there that we ascended and got some good views of the canyon. After leaving the watchtower, Erik went wandering down the canyon to get some more photos, while I stayed behind, perched on a rock that jutted over the canyon and sat in awe of God's magnificent landscape.

We have seen a lot of cool stadiums and great games, but beyond our love of baseball, seeing all the new cities and amazing sights like we did today make the 16000+ miles of driving all worth it for me. We arrived at Ben's house around 11:30. I haven't seen my old roommate in nearly two years and I look forward to catching up with him tomorrow.