Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Principal Park

All photos of Des Moines and Principal Park available on Flickr.

Following our amazing day at the Bob Feller Museum and the Fair, Erik and I spent our Sunday taking in a doubleheader in Des Moines, which was already my 4th and Erik's 3rd double-dip of the season. The Iowa Cubs are obviously the AAA-affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, and have existed since 1969 when the Oakland Oaks moved to Iowa. The I-Cubs, as they are often referred to, play at Principal Park in downtown Des Moines, formerly Sec Taylor Stadium. It was designed by ballpark powerhouse HOK Sport (now Populous) and opened for business in 1992.

We got to the park around 12:30 for a 1:05 first pitch. The ballpark is situated near a great little neighborhood called the Court District, which we explored after the game. It reminded me of a smaller version of LoDo in Denver - near downtown, lots of brick buildings renovated into brewpubs, shops, and restaurants, old warehouses converted into apartments, and the city's courthouse on one end of the avenue. The ballpark is right on the river too, just as Coors Field is. Another similarity to Denver is the gold-domed capitol building that you can see beyond centerfield when inside the ballpark. The view to it currently is obstructed by a bridge being constructed over the Des Moines River, but it is still a nice view, and one of the better ballpark neighborhoods you'll find.

We got our typical GA seats for $7 and walked around the concourses until gametime snapping photos. The concourses and seating are nothing special, but there are a few interesting features in the outfield. There is a hand-operated scoreboard in right that reads "Out-of-Towners" v. "Local Boys." We ended up sitting next to the scoreboard guy in an awesome secluded row of seats in right-center below the jumbotron. There is also a kids' fountain area in the right field corner that Erik and I were tempted to jump in on this hot day. Beyond the left field wall, there is a block of suites with a few rows of private seats in front of them that I thought was a great use of space. Strapped to the top of these suites are a couple of "Hit It Here" elements found in many minor league parks, except these would maybe only be hit by Albert Pujols. The walls are also very tall, ranging from 15'-25' in height. Typically I like to be able to see the jumbotron, but the view from our outfield seats for both games was amazing due to the high walls, and well worth the small sunburn I got on the left side of my neck. We had an ongoing conversation with perennial top Marlins' prospect Cameron Maybin in center, and we only had to fight with each other to grab a free t-shirt launched our way between innings. Regarding concessions, the food and beer were fairly priced with a good variety, and I had one of the best BBQ beef sandwiches I've ever had. As always, bonus points for helmet sundaes and souvenir cups.

The first game featured former Notre Dame TE and Cub big-leaguer Jeff Samardzija on the mound. I thought at first that there just wasn't any room for him currently in Chicago's bullpen. After watching him give up six runs (4 ER) in 4 innings and throwing 90% 4-seam fastballs, I realized that he still has quite a bit of work to do. Gookie "The Gook" Dawkins went 3-3 with a 2-run jack, and Hayden Penn tossed a 7-inning complete game for the visiting Zephyrs in their 6-0 victory. Familiar faces So Taguchi, Micah Hoffpauir, Nate Spears, and Luis Rivas all got starts for the I-Cubs. Veteran junk-baller Casey Fossum toed the rubber for the home team in game two and collected his 5th win of the season, giving up only one hit and striking out 8. He baffled all the young Zephyr hitters with his blazing 79-mph fasball and ridiculous 55-mph curveball, but for some reason was pulled after 5 innings and only 69 pitches. On the other side, the visitors finally dipped into their bullpen after 12 innings. Our favorite player Gookie had another hit for New Orleans, and LF John-Ford Griffin had both RBI for Iowa.

Sadly, the minor league season is ending in a couple weeks, and Principal Park will be the final new ballpark I visit in 2009. As for Erik, stay tuned for his travels to a new job in Virginia Beach.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 5
views from park - 7 (Iowa Capitol, downtown)
view to field - 9
surrounding area - 8 (Court District)
food variety - 8
nachos - 4 (come in bag with cheese cup)
beer - 8 (microbrew stand, bonus points for Mug Club and souvenir cups)
vendor price - 7
ticket price - 7 ($7 GA)
atmosphere - 7
walk to park - 6
parking proximity - 2 ($6 is ridiculous for minors)
concourses - 3 (some areas are dark and underutilized, no view to field)
team shop - 5 (lots of non I-Cubs stuff)

best food - BBQ beef/pork sandwich with Cookies' BBQ sauce
most unique stadium feature - suites in left field
best jumbotron feature - "crazy cap shuffle" game played with cell phones
best between-inning feature - throw ball through tires, win a prize

field dimensions - 335/400/335
starters - Hayden Penn (NO) v. Jeff Samardzija (IOW); Matt DeSalvo v. Casey Fossum
opponent - New Orleans Zephyrs
time of game - 1:48; 1:41
attendance - 6051
score - 6-0 L; 2-1 W
Brewers score that day - 8-3 L

No comments: