Thursday, January 31, 2013

THE GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK: The Name Says It All

One of the coolest ballparks in the MLB

The Cincinnati Reds were awarded the 2015 All-Star Game last week.  So we asked our sports panel If they have ever been to the Great American Ballpark; what did they think of that stadium?  If not, would they ever consider going there to see their favorite team play against the Reds?  Here is what they said.


"Yes, I would go just to check out the stadium. If I went to see the Seattle Mariners, I might be able to lay-down in the seats due to vacancy"--Johnny J
"Chicks dig the long ball: see Todd Frazier in 2012 hit a home run by throwing his bat at a pitch."--Dan P
"If Pathological Hate covers my expenses, I'll drink at any ballpark."--Donny R
"No. The only thing great in OHIO left for South Beach years ago."--C. McLain

In response to Donny, "nice try."  

And from what I hear, Ohio can be a pretty boring place and I really didn't take advantage of checking out the tourist sites in Cincinnati, but the ballpark is simply majestic.  I absolutely loved it when I went there in 2009 when the Chicago Cubs were finishing up their series against the Reds.  Driving there was another story.

See, it's about a 5 hour drive from Chicago to Cincinnati.  Even worse, one must drive through I-65 through Indiana.  If anybody out there wants to see a total wasteland, go ahead and drive through I-65 in Indiana.  Simply depressing.  There were more stalled, abandoned cars on the side of the road than houses adjacent to the freeway.  

One would think that once you get to Indianapolis, things would get better in terms of city views and signs of life--it's not.  Indianapolis, when driving right through its heart, is just as depressing as I-65.  There are all of these small to medium, old, rustic, buildings that can be spotted from the freeway.  It was like going back in time 30 years--no, it was more like being in a set of a movie where the setting takes place in the 1970s.  And then--BOOM!  The enormously, gigantic Lucas Oil Stadium appears on the horizon.  It just simply, in a comical way, overwhelms and blankets the rest of the city.  It truly is a magnificent sight to see, but it's funny that when driving on the highway, the "House that Peyton Built" becomes the default largest artificial structure in town.  

In terms of the scenic view, things get better once you get closer to Ohio as rolling hills and deciduous woodlands fill the surrounding landscape on I-74/I-465.  I love road trips, but the idea of driving back to Cincinnati kind of makes me cringe, simply because one would have to drive through Indiana.  Nevertheless, the destination is a major reward in itself.

Cubs vs Reds; June 7, 2009--"The Rubber Match"
Located nearby Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, and adjacent to the Ohio River, the ballpark is simply an architectural beauty.  Yes, it has a theme park feel to it, but that's ok. The aesthetics more than make up for it. 

It feels like a theme park because the day I went, there were these video game trucks that were set up just outside the ballpark.  Technically, there's this area by the Ohio River where its still part of the ballpark, but it's outside the view of the field.  There's a food court, the video game trucks for the kids who were bored by the game, and for an extra fee, you can pay an admission fee to check out the Reds Hall of Fame

Portions of the center field stands is shaped like a riverboat and I believe that structure doubles up as an exclusive restaurant to certain ticketholders.  In right field, there's an area where fans can go to cool off.  About 30-40 fans can fit underneath the "cooling area" as cool, mists of water sprinkle down on people standing underneath the water apparatus.  

You cannot walk around the entire concourse of the park as certain areas are only accessible for fans designated at those seats.  However, you're never too far from a view of the city.  We were sitting in the centerfield bleachers and as I was getting hot dogs and beer, I could get a great view of the Ohio River: I can even see Kentucky from my vantage point.

That's the other thing I didn't realize: Cincinnati is kind of "redneck-y" due to its location on the Ohio-Kentucky border.  As a minority citizen, when I hear people scream out "yee-haw!" I kind of start to panic.  But we were not once harassed by any of the locals and they proved to be friendly.  Then again, I would say 30-40% of Cubs' fans made up the attendance figures on that day so we were well represented.  

Overall, I definitely wouldn't mind going back to Cincinnati to catch a Cubs/White Sox game.  I hate the idea of driving back through Indiana, but The Great American Ballpark lived up to its reputation.

Cubs won 6-3 as Alfonso Soriano the game-winning homerun.
The Cubs would add two more insurance runs before
closing out the Reds. 
All pictures courtesy of Ed Mancia. 

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