Saturday, May 23, 2009

Great American Ballpark

We actually went to two Reds games. This review will be a combination of both of them. Andy's Dad was able to get us great seats for both the games; the first night we sat here, and the second night, we were here.

Additional cast members for this scene include Danny, another friend from camp, and his friend Andy (not Messer....another Andy). Indulging me and my overzealous picture taking, Danny decided to play up the Asian tourist bit. Thanks, Danny.

After having seen the human wasteland that is Nationals Park, seeing a group of fans outside the stadium was a refreshing sight. I didn't even mind waiting in line for three minutes to get in. I was just happy that I wouldn't be able to hear my own echo in the ballpark. The main entrance is a plaza with a bunch of statues of famous Reds players, most of which conveniently became jungle gyms right around game time.

By far, the best feature of the park is its shoreline view over the Ohio River and into Kentucky. It seems as though most new ballparks built in the past ten years have tried to incorporate a city view of the skyline into the design of their parks. Cincinnati has gone exactly the other way and turned the park away from the city so that it faces the river. While the box seats to Reds games are great, if I was a season ticket holder, I would want to sit in the upper deck on the third base side, because honestly, I can't think of many things more relaxing than leaning back in your seat, stretching out, and watching a baseball game on a warm summer night with this view

Another great thing about Great American Ballpark (GABP) is the food vendors. Each one of them has their own unique call or catchphrase. One touted himself as the "walking commissary." Another channeled his inner Pavarotti and held a loud note for an incredibly long time. And yet another scared the living shit out of a group of kids. Three boys, probably all about 10-years-old were standing in one of the many standing room areas behind a section watching the game. I watched as the vendor snuck up behind these kids, leaned in close and screamed (not shouted.....screamed), "". The kids jumped and turned around and stared at this guy with fear in their eyes. He in turn shot them a smile reminiscent of a famous movie poster and then without so much as a word, turned and walked down the aisle. Pants wet with urine, the children scattered.

And on that note, let's talk about food. The food here is all about the hot dog. In addition to the Skyline chili dogs ($1.60 at Skyline, $3.75 at the ballpark), there are numerous other hot dog stands, some even right next to each other. Evidently, the demand is there. Another popular item, which Andy swears by, but the New York Times tells you to avoid, are the Funachos. They didn't necessarily seem all that fun, but had I tried them, I'm sure they would have been at least edible...and really, when you're eating tortilla chips and processed cheese paste, isn't that basically what you're going for?

At Yankee Stadium, the grounds crew does the YMCA when they come out to rake the infield. Fans there hate this. At GABP, the grounds crew also does the YMCA. With the exception of Brandon Phillips, who for some reason is grinning like an idiot in the aforementioned picture (and evidently, is also a little teapot), no one there seems to like it either.

And then there was Tanner. Tanner sat directly behind us at the 2nd game we went to. Tanner was ~6 years old and weighed 100 lbs, if not more. During the duration of the game, Tanner was either eating something, or whining to his mom about wanting to eat something. Let's go through the Tanner timeline.

2nd inning: Tanner and family arrive at their seats. Tanner takes down a hot dog in less than a minute.
3rd inning: The Dippin' Dots guy walks by. "Mom! I want chocolate Dippin' Dots!" screams Tanner. She says no. He whines. She buys them.
4th inning: Tanner and his mom leave in the top of the inning. They return during the bottom half with a blue cotton candy.
5th inning: Tanner finishes the cotton candy. Tanner also now looks like a smurf. Face covered in blue sugar, Tanner turns to his mom and asks, "Hey ma, do you think the line at UDF (an ice cream place) is shorter?"
6th inning: Tanner asks his mom for a sip of her soda. She gives him the soda and he takes a gulp. He complains that the soda is too watered-down and begins to cry.
7th inning: Tanner stops crying when his sister returns to the seats with a bag of peanuts. Tanner snatches the bag, and begins to chow down. Speaking as if he had just discovered a new species, Tanner surprisedly exclaims, "these peanuts taste like peanut butter!" His mom goes for the bag. Tanner starts crying again. His mom gives him the bag back.
8th inning: Finished with the peanuts, Tanner says he wants a pretzel. His mom says no. His sister tells him, "dance for the pretzel, Tanner!" Tanner begins to gyrate. Tanner becomes winded and sits down. After catching his breath, Tanner begins whining again. His mom packs up all their stuff, and they leave the seats for good, but most likely not before stopping at a pretzel vendor on the way out.

But other than Tanner, the fans at GABP are loyal, devoted Reds fans. Unfortunately, this also means that they've been witness to a decade of consistent losing teams now and have become very realistic concerning this current team's chances to contend. In the first game we went to, the Reds were trailing by a run in the late innings. They had a runner in scoring position and were threatening to tie to game. Yet the only people standing in our immediate vicinity were Danny and (other) Andy, who, for the record, had been drinking heavily for about 6 hours. Try as they might, they could only muster scattered applause for the situation. Nevertheless, if this team ever starts consistently winning again, I think the enthusiasm will come back to GABP.

Quick summary: The Reds haven't been a real contender for more than a decade now, and it shows. The fans hope for the best, but at this point are pessimistic that the team will actually be able to contend past June, despite a few bright young stars. The shoreline view of the Ohio River is the perfect touch to Great American Ballpark, and is ultimately what makes it so memorable.

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