Monday, August 12, 2013

Return to Great American Ballpark

All photos of Great American Ballpark available on Flickr.

Great American Ballpark was the park I called home during my 3 years of graduate school at the University of Cincinnati, and even as I start writing this blog post now, I can hardly believe that it had been over 5 years since my last Reds home game!  I've gone back to visit my friends in town quite a few times since graduation, but for whatever reason, I just have not been to a ballgame there since April 2008.  Obviously I am biased, but I think it's a great park and is very underrated, so I was curious to see what was different since my last visit.  I rolled into town from Madison a little later than I would have liked so we didn't have much time to walk around the park, and we also missed the Joey Votto bobblehead giveaway.  More importantly though, I had a great time with my UC friends as always and it was great to catch up for a few hours with Hot Metts and Skyline Coneys in hand.  The five of us sat in the right field "moon deck," as it is called, which were always my favorite seats when I frequented the GAB.  They feature a great view to the scoreboard and skyline, are close to the field and composed of actual seats instead of bleachers unlike a lot of outfield seating at other major league parks, and they are generally out of the sun.

The most noticeable change to the ballpark is not inside, but rather what has built up around the stadium.  When I was in school, the area between the baseball and football stadiums on the Ohio River was a wasteland of parking owned by the Port Authority.  Now, after many years of squabbling, the fabled live/work village project called "The Banks" has completed its first phase and is near both commercial and residential capacity.  Coupled with the new casino up the road and a downtown in the midst of a renaissance, Cincinnati is an exciting place to go after the game now.  No longer do fans have to walk across the river to Kentucky to keep the celebration going after a Reds victory.  I think it's great that downtown living and recreation is gaining interest in the city, and I'm sure it is helping the Reds at the box office as well.  Granted, it was an interleague game and a bobblehead giveaway, but over 30,000 people for a Tuesday night game during a stretch in which the Reds are not playing particularly well is outstanding and something I certainly don't ever remember seeing at the GAB.  The Reds got the W on behind an exemplary performance by starting pitcher Mat Latos.  Jay Bruce went yard in the 3rd, and that would be all the offense they would need, but they tacked on a couple runs anyways for good measure.  The game featured two very exciting Cuban stars, Yoenis Cespedes of the A's and Aroldis Chapman of the Reds.  Chapman bested his peer on this night, as he struck out the side in the 9th for the save, and Cespedes took the collar.

Aside from the team being much better and prices going up a little, there wasn't any extraordinary change that I noticed at the ol' ballyard, other than replacing the outdated dot matrix jumbotron.  It's pretty popular these days for ballparks to offer a large variety of specialty foods and local craft beers, and the Reds certainly are no exception in continuing this trend.  A lot of the concessions stands were beefed up and we sat right in front of a new BBQ shack, and the "good beer" stand in left field has also been amplified.  And of course, the Cincinnati staples of goetta and chili are still prevalent as ever.  I also noticed the riverboat party area has gotten larger, but unfortunately like at Miller Park, this is a private area so I couldn't go up there.  It's one of the only places in the park where one would have a good view of both the river and the field, so I wish it was open to the public.  There's nothing really flashy about the GAB, but a lot of the details are unique and done right, it has one of the better entry plazas in the league, and it is just very elegant in its simplicity.  Yes it has some brick but it isn't just a typical retro park plopped down on a site; it responds well to its urban context by holding the street edge, but the park itself is set back from some out-buildings and is more organic in form.  Great American Ballpark also does a great job of paying tribute and respect to the history of Cincinnati and its Reds - the oldest professional sports franchise - which is perhaps one of my favorite things about the park.  A visit to the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is a must for anybody who goes to this ballpark for the first time.

After the game, we hung out at my friends apartment about a mile north of the ballpark before settling in for the night.  I took it for granted at the time, but looking back on it now, that was the first time I have ever walked to a game there.  It's just something that wasn't even feasible 5 years ago and it's awesome how many people live around the central business district now.  This night in Cincy was actually my first of a week-long roadtrip, with the final destination being my friend Phil's wedding in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I'm bookending the trip with games in Durham NC and Knoxville TN before heading back to Wisconsin tomorrow.  The trip is almost over and I've had an unbelievably amazing time - lots of catching up with old friends, lots of ball, and lots of Waffle House and beer - I don't really know what else you need.

park rankings and statistics
(see also previous post from 06/30/07):

aesthetics - 7
views from park - 8
view to field - 8
surrounding area - improves to 9
food variety - improves to 5
nachos - 3
beer - improves to 5 (slightly more variety but expensive)

vendor price - 2
ticket price - 3
atmosphere - improves to 6 (Reds are good now)
walk to park - improves to 8 (downtown/Banks)
parking price/proximity - decreases to 7 (costs more but still close)
concourses - 9
team shop - 6

best food - goetta burger
most unique stadium feature - Power Stacks
best jumbotron feature - various Reds HOF trivia
best between-inning feature - Mr. Red's Race

field dimensions - 328/400/325
starters - Dan Straily (OAK) v. Mat Latos (CIN)
opponent - Oakland Athletics
time of game - 2:52
attendance - 34,640
score - 3-1 W
Brewers score that day - 3-1 W

Brewers 51-67, -19.5 (2 @ Rangers, 4 v. Reds)
Reds 65-52, -5.0 
(3 @ Cubs, 4 @ Brewers)
Twins 52-63, -16.5 (3 v. Indians, 4 v. White Sox)

Erik - 10 (+22 worked)

Peter - 32

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