Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Opening Weekend 2012

All photos of Snappers Home Opener and Brewers Home Opener available on Flickr.

The best day of the year has once again come and gone - Opening Day! The Minor League and Major League seasons kicked off in the US on Thursday, and Erik and I took in home openers for both. The 2012 season has some added excitement this year, as the Brewers look to defend their 2011 NL Central title while coming off of their best regular season in franchise history, winning 96 games and advancing to the NLCS for the first time in 29 years. This season is also exciting on the Tour front, as we celebrate our 5th Anniversary season.

An update on this year's trip to South Florida: tickets are purchased and flights are booked! We are flying into Fort Lauderdale on June 28th and leaving on July 1st, taking in a couple games in Miami's Little Havana and one at Roger Dean Stadium, home of the Jupiter Hammerheads. We also still plan on taking in a 5th Anniversary ballgame at The Cell, but are waiting for ticket prices to come down when the White Sox start backsliding, which should be soon.

This year I attended my 5th consecutive Miller Park home opener, and my 4th consecutive minor league opener. This year's Midwest League venue was the "lovely" Pohlman Field of Beloit. I was all set to hit up another Kernels opener and obtain the Mike Trout bobblehead giveaway (don't worry - I still got it on eBay), but my prayers were finally answered and I got a job back in Wisconsin! So the Snappers and Mallards are once again my homebase Midwest League and Northwoods League teams. An April game in Beloit was exactly how I remembered it - cold, empty, and a loss. I think most of my disdain for Beloit comes from the fact that it's always 38º and a Snappers loss whenever I go. That's not to say that Pohlman Field isn't still a dump, because it is. Rumors are yet again afloat about a new downtown Beloit or Janesville park for the team. Nothing at the current stadium has changed, aside from the Leinie's Lodge now being sponsored by Suds O'Hanahan, whatever that is. Same food, similar promotions, even the same 1995 mascot costume for Snappy. I often complain about this park, but there's also a part of me that finds something about it endearing. I always enjoy coming back because of the very simple laid back experience, the affordability, and the good product the Twins organization always puts out on the field. It's just baseball and cheap concessions, and the Snappers don't try to fluff it up and pretend they're something they're not. I also told a local news station as much, as Erik and I were interviewed upon entering the park and obtaining our complimentary magnet schedules. The Snappers lost 5-2 on this day, mostly behind a 4-spot put up by the visiting Peoria Chiefs in the 3rd. Both teams tagged a lot of balls, but they died in the crisp cold wind. The Twins' top prospect Miguel Sano made his A-ball debut at 3B, after hitting .292 with 20 HRs in rookie ball last year. He took the collar, striking out twice. The Snappers made a game of it in the 9th, but there was no way we were going to stay for extra racks in the frigid weather anyways.

The following day brought the Brewers' season debut at Miller Park on Friday, which meant another Lenten tailgate crafted by the Nagel Family, featuring spicy shrimp and cheese pizza. Thankfully, Catholics don't seem to have a big hang-up about drinking on Good Friday. I'm anxious to see all of the changes at Miller Park this year, but from now where we were sitting in the 2nd deck I didn't notice much except for the new 2011 NL Central Champions banner. Aside from quadrupling the team's payroll in 8 years, owner Mark Attanasio has also put money into making Miller Park a more enjoyable fan experience. One of my biggest complaints about Miller Park over the years - the food variety - has been addressed by adding over 30 new foods and several new vendors over the past two seasons, including many Food Network entrees and adult helmet-sized nachos. For any new or veteran visitors to Miller Park, the outdoor patio food stand on the ground level, 1st base side, is absolutely incredible food. One thing I didn't get to see yet was the new team store which is supposed to resemble Bernie Brewer's chalet from old County Stadium, but I'm sure I will be hitting it up eventually to find me a $3 Casey McGehee t-shirt in the sale bin. 

My family, Lauren, and I had our usual 10-pack seats about midway up on the Loge Level, 3rd base side, and witnessed the Brewers Opening Day pregame rituals of player introductions, the Racing Sausages' First Brat Relay, and the National Anthem performed by the owner's dad. Yovani Gallardo took the ball for his 3rd consecutive Opening Day start, and also lost his 3rd consecutive in a decisive fashion, as he gave up 4 homeruns in only 3 2/3 innings. The Cardinals certainly seem like their offense will be able to sustain the loss of Albert Pujols, if their veterans can stay healthy and David "The Big Chill" Freese can keep up his torrid pace. The Brewers have also certainly held their own offensively without the departed Prince Fielder, scoring 21 runs in 4 games on the young season, including 3 homeruns by Corey Hart who played a grand total of 3 major league Spring games.  Despite the 11-5 beating, this would prove to be one of the more memorable Opening Days because of what transpired after the game.  On our way out to the parking lot for the customary post-game re-tailgate, fans were confronted with billowing black smoke from the north.  At first glance I thought nothing of it and assumed it was just a cloud of grill smoke, but after I got a good whiff I noticed it was burning plastic.  Apparently, the recycling center for the nearby Miller Brewing plant caught fire and ironically engulfed the area in noxious smoke.  Only a few minutes went by before it became hard to breathe, and we unfortunately had to cut the day short.  However, it would take a lot more than a home team loss and a burning building to put a damper on Opening Day for me.

Brewers 2-2 (4 @ Cubs, 3 @ Braves)
Reds 2-2 (3 v. Cardinals, 4 @ Nationals)
Twins 0-4 (3 v. Angels, 3 v. Rangers)

Erik - 1
Peter - 2

No comments: