Monday, July 29, 2013
10,000,000th Fan in Kane County
All photos of Fifth Third Bank Ballpark available on Flickr.
Upon reading that the Kane County Cougars would be welcoming their 10-millionth fan on July 20th (the first class-A team to reach this milestone) I decided to make an impromptu trip down there on my way home from Milwaukee. I relish the opportunity to be a part of history as any baseball fan would, and I couldn't discount the off-chance that I would myself be the 10,000,000th fan. I just had this mental image the whole drive down of me proudly donning my Brewers jersey throwing out the first pitch for a Cubs affiliate, and then refusing all of the free Cougars merchandise they would try to pawn off on me - or better yet, burning it in the parking lot after the game. Sadly, I was not the lucky fan, but I had been meaning to get down to the park anyways to see the renovation, so this was a good excuse. I got there pretty early and enjoyed watching the pitching coach teach a kid how to throw a slider before the game started.
The renovation was completed shortly after my first visit to Kane County, in time for the 2009 season. It was actually quite extensive, the major component of which was the addition of a second deck to the seating bowl, not unlike what the Timber Rattlers did this past offseason. This deck holds suites and a new pressbox mostly, and there are also new team offices with a separate 2-story glass entrance behind it. The new parts of the park blend in with the existing fabric and materials pretty well, which I liked It didn't make the new deck feel like a "cake topper." As a project in and of itself, I can understand why it was necessary, but I think it really took away a lot of the charm the ballpark held previously. It had sort of a "state fair" atmosphere before with an expansive open concourse flanked by portable concession stands, but now it really just looks like any other run-of-the mill minor league park. There's nothing left at the stadium that is particularly distinctive, which includes its new name of Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, since there are like 5 stadiums now that have some variation of that same name. Perhaps the Man Upstairs could sense I did not care for the new deck that much, because the 6th inning ended with a torrential downpour the likes of which I've never seen. Ironically, had it not been for that 2nd deck, everybody would have been soaked to the bone and had an otherwise pleasant evening at the ballpark ruined. Along with the new addition and corporate sponsorship, the Cougars have also stepped up their game with some new concessions items, an even wider variety of local beers, and a revamped jumbotron, but with this have also come much higher prices. Kane County is easily the most expensive minor league park I have been to now (as if I needed more reasons to hate Illinois). I made sure to enjoy a $7 meatball served in a souvenir sundae helmet before ducking out after the rest of the game was cancelled. Note: all ballparks should offer food served in helmets, so points for that.
The game was a lackluster performance between two last place teams. The Lugnuts had recently been no-hit for the third time this season, and going into the game the Cougars had 5 wins in the entire 2nd half. It was 4-3 Cougars after the first inning and the visiting starter did not even make it out of the 1st, so early signs were all pointing to this being a barnburner. Lansing went on top in the first by a 3-run bomb by DH Kevin Patterson (who held his average above the Mendoza Line with that effort) but the Cougars then scored 8 unanswered to finish the game. The Lugnuts issued 9 walks and committed 3 errors in 6 innings, there's really no better way to describe the game than with that statistic. Perennial contestant for the "Best Name in the Minors," Rock Shoulders, suited up for the Cougars and was 0-1 with a walk and an RBI.
Even though the storm let up after a half-hour or so, the umpires had no choice but to call the rest of the game in the bottom of the 6th because pretty much the entire outfield was a pond. Which was good for my ride home, but bad that I didn't get to watch another 3 innings of stellar baseball. I tell ya, I give Beloit a lot of crap, but at least they know how to construct a field that drains properly.
park rankings and statistics
(see also previous post from 7/21/08):
aesthetics - decreases to 4
views from park - 5
view to field - 10
surrounding area - improves to 5 (I found historic downtown Geneva)
food variety - 9
nachos - improves to 6
beer - decreases to 8 (variety still high but price is steep)
vendor price - decreases to 5
ticket price - decreases to 2 ($13 for A-ball!)
atmosphere - improves to 9 (now being a Cubs affiliate helps this category)
walk to park - 1
parking price/proximity - decreases to 5 (charge $5 now, but bonus points for pervious pavers)
concourses - decreases to 4
team shop - 9
best food - giant meatball in helmet
most unique stadium feature - decks in outfield
best jumbotron feature - advertisement for Star Wars Night
best between-inning feature - Zooperstars
field dimensions - 335/400/335
starters - Kendall Graveman (LAN) v. Felix Pena (KC)
opponent - Lansing Lugnuts
time of game - 1:59 (0:30 delay)
attendance - 10,587
score - 8-4 W
Brewers score that day - 6-0 W
STANDINGS AND UPCOMING SERIES AS OF 07.29:
Brewers 43-61, -20.0 (4 @ Cubs, 3 v. Nationals)
Reds 59-47, -5.0 (3 @ Padres, 3 v. Cardinals)
Twins 45-57, -13.0 (3 v. Royals, 3 v. Astros)
2013 GAMES ATTENDED:
Erik - 10 (+18 worked)
Peter - 27