Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Great American Ballpark

I don't have a lot of regrets in my life. But one of them is that I haven't visited very many major league ballparks. This has to do with the regions of the country I have lived in. Albuquerque is 6-7 hours from the closest park (Colorado). Arizona is 8 hours away but it's real hard to justify 115 degree temperatures in the summer. The Rangers play about 10 hours away. Not real great. But being in the East, i.e., civilization, I had the opportunity to see the Cincinnati Reds play the St. Louis Cardinals last Monday.

Great American is an interesting park. Overall, it's probably the 3rd best park I've been to, behind Coors and Safeco. You could make a compelling argument that Great American is better than Safeco, but I would disagree for reasons I will tell in a minute. We were sitting far down the third base line but before the foul pole. They weren't bad seats and it seemed the sightlines were pretty solid throughout the park, but we couldn't see the left field corner where we were sitting--who knows how many Adam Dunn fielding blunders we missed. The seats also had a great view of the Ohio River. I don't know if this is the most exciting view in all of sports--certainly sitting in right field in Colorado and seeing the sun set over the mountains is nicer, but it's not bad and gives you a sense of the place it sits, something that Safeco does not do. For me, viewing the river between innings made me think of all the history of that place--how many slaves crossed into Cincy at that point fleeing north? How many tons of chemicals were spilled by industries into the river there? I could also see an old bridge--the road was new but the pillars screamed post-Civil War American industrial explosion. They were massive beautiful concrete monuments to a time increasingly gone in America and a time I love. What the park doesn't do so well is give you a sense of the city. Perhaps it faces the river rather than the city because the city kind of sucks. Not that Kentucky on the other side is oh so exciting, but clearly the Ohio River is the best thing the place has going for it.

One great thing about Great American was a game card they gave you at the door--you can play bingo based on the plays in the field. So when legendary Reds catcher Javier Valentin homered, I could mark off the "C HR" square. That made it a lot of fun. I didn't win (the first 25 winners get something) but it definitely keeps the interest, makes you root for people like Javier Valentin to homer when you usually wouldn't care, and just made for a grander time.

I can't comment too much on the food. The nachos were nachos. Good beer selection though. Several microbrews from around the country. Expensive but it's not like that's different from anywhere else. They do have an unfortunate contract with Pepsi, drink of Satan. That blew.

As for the game, the Cardinals crushed the Reds, 13-3. I saw 5 HRs, which was fun, but it also reinforces the theme park atmosphere of the place that the name gives off. How are the Reds ever going to win in a park where so many home runs are hit? None of the new stadiums that are super home run friendly have produced a winning team. Colorado? Nope. Texas? I don't think so. Cincy? Good luck. They are doing all right this year and might even make the wild card in a very weak National League but in the AL, they are a 75 win team at best. Why? Bad pitching. How can you attract good pitching in that park.

One of the home runs was particularly annoying. Former Mariner Scott Speizio hit one in the 8th that let out a barrage of swearing from me. What a bum. He is one of many Mariners infielders, such as Jeff Cirillo and Rich Aurilia, that are signed to large contracts, do absolutely nothing in Seattle, and then resume their careers elsewhere with moderate success. No doubt Adrian Beltre will hit 40 HRs again the year after he leaves Seattle.

Still, the one thing that Safeco has over Great American is weather. It was so fucking humid I can't not even express it. It was a particularly muggy night but my God the air was oppressive. Seattle may be cold in April but you can't beat going to a Mariners' game in the summer.