Tuesday, September 4, 2007

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

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