Tuesday, June 28, 2016

College World Series: TD Ameritrade Park

All photos of TD Ameritrade Park available on Flickr.

I have to travel a fair amount for my job, which generally sucks.  But sometimes it does have its perks.  At the moment I have several projects in the Omaha area, and given that most of our work is in the rural Midwest, I choose to look at this as a blessing and not a curse.  This means that for at least the next year, I get to plan site visits around various ball schedules and basically have the company pay for it.  I was out there this past week and the job superintendent was able to score us some free seats to the College World Series!  This event is a huge deal in Omaha that has been held there for over 60 years.  I was fortunate enough to attend the final CWS at the old stadium 6 years ago and was eager to see what was different at the new park that opened downtown in 2011.

I was staying at hotel nearby and there was a shuttle that took us about a mile and a half to the park.  Not to the front door, or a drop off point, but on a super sketchy deserted street about 2 blocks north.  I just could not believe how stark of a contrast it was between the stadium area two blocks away and where we were dropped off, moreso than any other urban stadium I can recall going to.  Omaha definitely has that Memphis or Milwaukee-like quality where you can go from ghetto to vibrant area in the blink of an eye, but it also is like Phoenix in that it is sprawling out of control.  It is well over 30 miles from the Iowa border to the far western edge of town.  Anyways, we navigated the desolate area north of the park to a party tent where our free tickets were awaiting us, and were pleasantly surprised to find out we got free food and beer as well!  It was getting close to game time at this point, but far be it from me to turn down anything free, so we crushed some Omaha Steak burgers and an America Light before heading inside for first pitch.

TD Ameritrade Park is the type of park where you need to ascend a flight of stairs outside to the main gate, and it really worked well for this park since the main entry was on a busy intersection.  It created this sort of "Spanish steps" gathering place that worked well with the bars and shops across the street.  The second level of the exterior was also ringed with this green tinted glass all the way around the seating bowl.  I found this to look kind of dated, but I did like that the glass panels had varying opacity, which was a cool look at various angles from the sun.  The street level is grounded with brick to give it scale.  Between the brick and the mostly opaque glass on the top, and the stadium being elevated, there weren't really any parts of the where you could see inside, which was probably my biggest peeve with the park.  If it was the city's intent to locate this park downtown as part of a revitalization project, I think it was a missed opportunity to not have it interact with the street more.  Once inside, the concourse was very spacious and featured a very good variety of concessions.  Most notably, almost every single stand had a different menu featuring a different type of nachos.  Beer was about average for price and variety, but honestly I was not expecting that to be a huge priority at a collegiate park.  One of the more unique parts of the stadium is its size.  Because this stadium is primarily used to host the College World Series, it doesn't really follow the capacity guidelines of any particular level of baseball.  It's smaller than a typical MLB park, but larger than a typical minor league park - incidentally, this is part of the reason that the AAA Storm Chasers got their own separate new park, because they would never be able to fill this place on a nightly basis.  It looks like it could be a Major League park from the outside, but on the inside, it looks more like a larger spring training facility.  Our seats were in the first row so it might be hard for me to judge, but from where we were sitting, it seemed like a fairly intimate park even though it was a crowd of over 25,000 people.

The evening's matchup was Game #10 of the CWS, pitting #5 ranked Texas Tech against the underdog Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.  When I say underdog, I am not exaggerating - they came into the tournament unranked and as a first time participant, not even from a D1 conference.  And don't ask me what a Chanticleer is.  It was a long game that I tried my best to make it through, but alas my consecutive 4:30 AM wakeup calls prevented me from seeing CCU finish off the 7-5 upset.  They actually would go on to beat TCU this past weekend and are playing in the finals tonight.  Starter Jason Bilous was wild in and out of the strike zone and got knocked around in the beginning for the Chants, but ultimately was able to keep his team in the game just enough.  Stephen Smith got the scoring started with a 3-run double in the 2nd, but CCU answered right back and plated a couple on a ball under the glove of the Texas Tech first baseman in the following inning.  It is a lead they would not relinquish and tacked on a few runs for good measure.  Backup catcher David Parrett, batting .151 on the season, was the unlikely hero for the game as he went 2-4 with 3 RBI for CCU.  Mike Morrison and Bobby Holmes were also filthy in relief.  I was quick to notice what so many pundits have said - that the park is a dead zone for hitters, as opposed to the old bandbox at Rosenblatt.  Even though there were 12 runs scored in the game (which has been the highest scoring game in this year's tournament thus far), many balls died in the air to the outfield and only a couple of safe hits made it even as far as the gaps.  I think a lot of that has to do with the new composite bats as well.

After the game, we waited on the shady dark street corner for our shuttle to arrive and it was an early flight for me back to Milwaukee the next day.  I wish Erik could have been there with me since this trip happened to fall on the 9th anniversary of our Tour, but maybe when I make it back for a Storm Chasers game in a couple of months, he can call in sick.

A side note: I am going to be off of the grid for awhile as I am going on my honeymoon in Iceland and Amsterdam!  Don't worry, I'll be back in time for the annual Homerun Derby Drinking Game.

park rankings and statistics:
aesthetics - 6
views from park – 7 (decent view of downtown Omaha in right field)
view to field - 10
surrounding area – 5 (depends on which way you go...)
food variety - 9
nachos - 10 (many different varieties)
beer - 7

vendor price - 5
ticket price - 7 (ours were free, upper deck $35)
atmosphere - 10
walk to park – 2 (again, depends on where you come from)
parking price/proximity - 7 ($10 across the street)
concourses - 8
team shop - 4 (several small carts)

best food – Reuben sausage
most unique stadium feature – size, green glass
best jumbotron feature – ads for schools
best between-inning feature – when every single fan in LF bleachers threw a beach ball onto the field at one time

field dimensions – 335/408/335
starters – Jason Bilous (CCU) v. Erikson Lanning (TTU)
opponent – Coastal Carolina Chanticleers v. Texas Tech Red Raiders
time of game – 3:48
attendance – not given
score – 7-5 CCU

Brewers score that day – off

Brewers 31-39, -15.0 (3 v. Dodgers, 3 @ Cardinals, 3 @ Nationals, 3 v. Cardinals)
Reds 29-48, -21.0 (3 v. Cubs, 4 @ Nationals, 3 @ Cubs, 3 @ Marlins
Twins 24-51, -21.0 (3 @ White Sox, 3 v. Rangers, 3 v. Athletics, 4 @ Rangers)

Erik - 11 (+12 worked)

Peter - 20

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