Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Return to Werner Park

All photos of Werner Park available on Flickr.

I went to one of the last Storm Chasers games of the season, and last week I attended the 2nd home game of the 2017 season.  As my monthly work trips to Omaha have passed the one-year mark and seem to be extending into perpetuity, I am going to grow more and more familiar with Werner Park.  It was a beautiful 70° April evening when I arrived at the ballpark just before first pitch.  This time around, I discovered a free parking lot just north of the stadium completely by accident.  I realized as I turned towards the stadium that I didn't have any cash on me, so I continued past the lot towards a subdivision not far away and thought I could find a spot on the street.  On my way I saw several people exploiting the same loophole and parking in an unpaved gravel lot just north of the main lot and followed them in.  I'm not sure if the team allows this or if this is on the up-and-up, but for anybody planning on attending a Storm Chasers game in the near future - don't pay for parking.  This incident restored my faith in my personal policy to never pay full price for anything you can get cheaper or free with a little effort.

I wasn't expecting much to have changed in the park in the span of about 8 months, and the park was about as I remembered.  As far as AAA parks go it is nothing spectacular, but given its rural setting and size, it is a more than comfortable place to watch a game.  I was still miffed at the lack of beer and food options especially given it is a pretty new ballpark.  Most of the stands typically only offer a couple of Busch products and it takes some hunting to find anything else.  However I was not about to complain on 25-cent hot dog night.  Despite eating dinner before my arrival, I felt obligated to scarf one down (to go along with an obscene $4 bottle of water - mostly because I did not want to charge only a Quarter to my debit card).  I sat on the 1st base side for this game and even despite the nice weather and being the first homestand of the year, the stadium was maybe 1/4th full if that.  The poor staff had to practically beg the crowd just to stand up for the 7th inning stretch.  What this park lacks in pizzazz and atmosphere it makes up for in just damn good baseball.  The Storm Chasers have been to the playoffs each of the last 4 years and won back-to-back championships in 2013-14, back when their parent Royals club was good.

Omaha won on this night 6-3 behind a solid starting performance by Eric Skoglund.  He pitched 5 shutout innings with 4 strikeouts and only 73 pitches.  Ryan O'Hearn was the offensive star of the day for the Chasers.  He went 2-4 with a booming homerun and a rope double, knocking in a run on each hit.  He looks poised to be the Royals first baseman of a future, were it not for a multiple gold-glover named Eric Hosmer blocking his path.  Former Royal Jorge Bonifacio mashed a homer as well.  O'Hearn and Bonifacio actually hit back-to-back jobs in the 2nd that caused the opposing pitcher to be tossed.  He plunked the next guy up right in the back and that was a quick end to his night.  Two former Red Sox top prospects and 2016 Brewers 3rd Base farmhands also got the start in this game.  Garin Cecchini has an unimpressive night for the Chasers, with only a meager infield hit to show for his effort.  He is only hitting .143 on the season and it's probably a good thing we cut him.  Conversely, Will Middlebrooks hit 3rd in the lineup for the visiting Express (Rangers) and went 3-4 with 2 doubles.  Perhaps we gave up too early on Middlebrooks but with The Mayor of Ding Dong City now locking down third for the Crew, we probably don't need either of these guys anymore.

I'm sure many more Storm Chasers will await me this summer and beyond, and I'm hoping I can make it back to the College World Series again this year as well.

park rankings and statistics
(see original post from 8/26/16):

starters – Allen Webster (RR) v. Eric Skoglund (OMA)
opponent – Round Rock Express
time of game – 2:57
attendance – 2347
score – 6-3 W

Brewers score that day – 2-0 W

Brewers 8-7 (4 v. Cardinals, 3 v. Reds)
Reds 9-5 (3 v. Cubs, 3 @ Brewers
Twins 7-7 (3 v. Tigers, 3 @ Rangers

Erik - 3 (+1 worked)

Peter - 4

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