The wife and I went on a baseball-centric trip from Friday, August 6th through Tuesday, August 10th, and I thought it would be fun to share some details. We saw games in Beloit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago over a span of five days.
Pics after the jump!On Friday, August 6th, we attended the Beloit Snappers vs. Burlington Bees (Royals' Low-A affiliate) in lovely Beloit, WI. We had purchased $7.50 reserved seats ahead of time, so we were seven rows up, just to the right of home plate. The reserved seating area had plastic seats that were fixed on top of the bleachers, and were more comfortable than we had been anticipating. I'll include some pictures that my wife took below, including some of Aaron Hicks (#5) and Shoreview native/U of M alum Derek McCallum (#2). By the way, Aaron Hicks is FAST. Watching him run the bases reminded me of Carlos Gomez, or a gazelle. Thankfully, that was the only thing that reminded me of Gomez. At the plate, he did seem impatient, swinging at almost everything, but unlike Gomez, he was more willing to cut back on his stroke with two strikes and simply make contact. At one point, he hit a routine flyball to right field that the fielder never saw, losing it in the lights. If Hicks had ran hard out of the box, it would have been an easy inside-the-park home run, but he still turned it into a triple. The Snappers were losing 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth when with two outs and the bases loaded, right fielder Lance Ray hit a walkoff double into the gap in left-center field. He had made a couple mental mistakes earlier in the game (caught stealing to end the 7th in a two-run game, reading a soft line drive poorly while on first base and getting forced out at second base), so it was nice to see him come through. There were also post-game fireworks, so all things considered it was an enjoyable experience.
The concourse in Beloit was really cool, in that the clubhouse was opposite the field, so players have to walk past the fans on their way to the field. We heard later from a Snappers fan that we met on the train in Chicago that when J.J. Hardy was rehabbing in Beloit earlier this year, he came out early and signed all of the autographs that were requested of him. Apparently when Paul Molitor played here briefly, he wouldn't come out until game time and didn't sign any autographs; this all according to the same fan.
Saturday evening, we attended the Twins @ Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The Indians were inducting Kenny Lofton into the Indians Hall of Fame, so that was a really fun event to watch. He took the long walk from the outfield wall to the infield grass, with a standing ovation the entire time. We also got the promotional Kenny Lofton "The Catch" bobbleheads, which are pretty sweet. This was the game in which the Pavstache looked for all the world like he had just been cut out of a 1920's silent film and planted on the mound, due to the 1909 St. Paul Gophers unis that the team was wearing. We sat in the mezzanine level in the right field corner, directly behind the foul pole. Pretty decent seats for the price, and the game was fantastic.
View from our seats on Saturday night.
Sunday afternoon, we went to nearly-empty Progressive Field to watch the Twins win again. The announced crowd was a little over 19,000, but you could hear crickets. I guess its been awhile since I've seen such a small crowd, but I would have guessed not much more than 15,000 people were actually in attendence. We sat in the upper level, directly behind home plate for this game and watched Duensing/the bullpen/a 5-run inning defeat the Indians. On Monday morning, we took a tour of Progressive Field (only $7.50/person, which is half what the newer parks charge). It was worth the money, and we got to go on the field, in the home dugout, see the batting cages, the bullpens, etc. I work for the Twins, so it was interesting to compare the Target Field facilities to those at Progressive Field.
View from our seats on Sunday afternoon.
The batting cages up by the Indians' clubhouse. Obviously much older than the Twins', but they had some amazing technology, including the ability to program the pitching machine to match real big league pitches down to every rotation of the ball. For instance, they can program anything from a Randy Johnson fastball to a Jamie Moyer fastball and have it be as realistic as possible. They also project images of real big league pitchers on the white backdrop, so the arm motion is the same as the real thing.
Monday evening, we drove to Cincinnati to watch the Reds vs. Cardinals. Unfortunately, this was the game before the brawl ensued, but it was still a lot of fun. The Ohio River Valley is ridiculously humid, so we were drenched for the entire game, but the ballpark is simply gorgeous. It is definitely comparable to Target Field, and is superior to the other parks that we have visited. The Cards won the game handily, so we had plenty of time to walk around during the game and take in the various views of the ballpark and the river that runs right past it.
View from our seats on Monday night.
On Tuesday night, we drove to Chicago to watch the Twins beat up on the White Sox. We parked at a CTA Park & Ride and rode the "L" into the city. It worked pretty slick, and we paid $14 total to park and ride the train both ways. Better than paying $25 at the stadium lot or getting murdered by parking on the South Side. We only had one fan shout expletives at us and tell us to go back to Minnesota, because, "This isn't [effing] Minnesota, this is [effing] Chicago." Thanks for letting me know, man. I thought for sure I was still in Minneapolis. The guy sitting in front of us was legitimately crazy, too. Complaining about the strikezone on every single pitch without fail, and talking to his son about how Garcia is the only pitcher we'd have a chance at beating. Yeah, because the Sox have only beat us in 1 out of the last 9 series. That makes plenty of sense.
The U.S. Navy SEALS Leap Frogs parachuted from a plane high above U.S. Cellular Field. It was one of the coolest things I have seen in my life. There were four of them, and they did interesting maneuvers in tandem on their way from the plane to the playing surface. Amazing.
View from our seats on Tuesday night.
The trip was incredible, and the Twins going 3-0 was icing on the cake. My wife and I are thinking about starting a blog to review each of the ballparks in more detail and include all of our pictures, but I didn't want to bore everyone with the details in this already lengthy post. I'll post a link to the site if/when we get it up. If anyone has questions or wants to know more about the parks, just let me know. I could do standalone posts on the stadiums, as well.