Thursday, June 18, 2009

Veterans Memorial Stadium

All photos of Veterans Memorial Stadium available on Flickr.

I have mixed feelings about my upcoming move to eastern Iowa, but one of the definite perks is the abundance of minor & independent league baseball franchises nearby. There are 14 teams (that I know of) within 3 hours of me, seven in Iowa alone. The city I'm moving to, Waterloo, does have a Northwoods League team, but as I strive to get my fill of professional baseball, the Cedar Rapids Kernels will probably become the team I follow most intimately. They play about 45 minutes southeast of Waterloo, and I was excited to catch a Wednesday kids' day matinee on my way back to Milwaukee after signing my lease.

I left at about 10:15 for a noon first pitch, and it was a very relaxing ride spent honking at cows through miles of rural nothingness. Cedar Rapids is Iowa's second largest city and has been home to the Kernels in some form since 1891 (my favorite former team name of theirs is the Bunnies). Much like every Iowa city I've been to, old dirty factories dominate its downtown, the largest of which there is the Quaker Oats factory. But, also like every Iowa city I've been to, Cedar Rapids has a wonderful riverfront and has a very vibrant and historic community. Iowa seems a lot like Madison, in that most people are either born or go to school there, and then you stay forever. I have an unexplained comfort level with all of the small blue-collar cities and farmland in Iowa that would turn off most city folk, and I look forward to exploring this city more when I have some time.

The ballpark is a couple miles outside of the central business district and is in sort of a sports complex that also contains a football stadium, an ice arena, and a high school diamond. I must have parked in the players lot, because all the gates on my side were closed and I had to take a long stair around the building to get to the main gate. It looks incredibly old from the outside, particularly from the side that I parked, but I actually just looked it up and it was built in 2002 and designed by 360 Architecture. The interior more reflects this newness, as there is a nice concourse that I would compare to Fifth Third Field in Dayton, a play area and picnic area in left field, and bleachers past 1st base. The team store, scoreboard, and suites were all above-average for an A-level team. I find myself using the phrase similar to "pretty good for the minors" a lot when doing these posts, but as this is my 7th Midwest League ballpark, really all of them have been pretty nice except Clinton and Beloit. Even so, the Lumberkings' park is like 70 years old and was still way better than the Snappers - again, Pohlman Field needs to get its act together or the team has to move.

After purchasing a Kernels cap, grabbin' some chow, and obtaining a magnet schedule for my new apartment, I headed down to my seat by the 1st base dugout directly underneath the blazing sun. When it's too hot for beer and the mascot is spraying the kids in the audience with a water gun, you know it's gonna be a long day. The Kernels got spanked 11-3 by Kane County. The Cougars scored in each of the 1st 6 frames with the help of three homeruns, and 3 hits by cleanup hitter Steve Kleen. Every ball hit in the air looked like a golf ball carrying off the tee. Josh Barfield's brother Jeremy hit the most impressive shot for the Cougars that wound up in the hot tub in left field. The Cougars' starter Figueroa gave up only 3 over 6, and the lone highlight for the Kernels was a towering solo shot by Angel Castillo in the 8th.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 4
views from park - 2
view to field - 9
surrounding area - 3 (other sports venues and a bar)
food variety - 8 (grill along 3rd base with a dozen kinds of burgers)
nachos - 3 (come in bag with cheese dip cup)

beer - 6 (moderately priced, Coors Bud & Leines)
vendor price - 8
ticket price - 4 ($7 for lawn seats?)
atmosphere - 5 (Camp Day)
walk to park - 1
parking proximity - 8 (where I parked was free, but hard to find gate)
concourses - 6 (featuring Cedar Rapids walk of fame)
team shop - 7 (includes CR HOF)

best food - tenderloin sandwich
most unique stadium feature - Randy Kuehl's Honda Home of Honfidence pavilion
best jumbotron feature - Mr. Shucks does the Cupid Shuffle
best between-inning feature - "Trash or Treasure" game featuring Curby, the Cedar Rapids recycling mascot

field dimensions - 315/400/325
starters - Pedro Figueroa (KC) v. Tyler Chatwood (CR)
opponent - Kane County Cougars
time of game - 2:42
attendance - 2965
score - 11-3 L
Brewers score that day - 9-8 W

[I won't have internet access for awhile, so here are next week's series]
Brewers 37-29, +1.0 (3 v. Twins, 3 v. Giants)
Reds 33-31, -3.0 (3 @ Blue Jays, 3 @ Indians)
Twins 33-33, -2.0 (3 @ Brewers, 3 @ Cardinals)

Erik - 21 (+10 worked)
Peter - 30

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