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Monday, June 6, 2011

Road Trip Days 4 and 5

I'm home from the road trip now, but I'll still recap the last few days (2 here with one more post recapping our stop in Indianapolis). Thursday morning we hit the road fairly early to drive from St. Louis to Cincinnati. This drive was much more uneventful than the one from Burlington to St. Louis was. We got to our hotel in Cincy around 4 and decided to settle in for a bit before heading to that night's ball game in Dayton.

Dayton is the 4th different Midwest League ballpark (Beloit, Cedar Rapids, and Burlington being the others) I have been to, and it by far the biggest of the bunch. Beloit and Burlington's ballparks both hold around 3,000 people, and Cedar Rapids' holds around 5,000. Meanwhile, Fifth Third Field in Dayton holds 8,200 and has sold out every game for 9 straight seasons. It just blows those stadiums out of the water size-wise. I love seeing games in tiny, intimate ballparks like Beloit and Burlington, but this was a pretty cool experience too. Going into the game, Karl and I weren't aware of the size or sell-out streak, which makes the fact that we lucked into first row seats behind home plate rather fortuitous for us. As we walked up to the ticket window, some guy was handing the ticket vendor two tickets, which must have been returned or something, so for $15 we were seated in just about the best seats in the house. The picture to the right was taken with my phone from our seats.

For this game, we actually got a chance to see the Dayton Dragons face the Beloit Snappers (the Twins Low A team). Unfortunately, while in the past, I've gotten to see some better prospects at Snappers games, the current roster doesn't feature much in terms of up and comers. Dayton's team featured one intriguing player though. I have no idea if he is considered much of a prospect, but a guy named Billy Hamilton has just blazing speed. In the first inning, he singled and the guy next to me made an offhanded remark about how the Snappers may as well just give him third base. He quickly stole second and scored on a double, so I glanced down at his stats. The guy has 45 steals in only 54 games. Second in the entire league is 25. That is just mind blowing. What is even crazier is that he just isn't on base that often. His OBP is below .300, and he has only 46 hits on the year, so he is basically stealing every time he gets on. Later in the game he showed off his speed by absolutely flying around the bases for a triple on a ball in the gap. I have no idea if his bat will be enough for him to move up the ranks of the minors, but I have seen very few people with speed even close to what he had.

The real main event of the game had to be the Zooperstars though. You can get lost in the game and forget that it is the minors sometimes, but between innings, they make sure that you are well aware. The Zooperstars are a group of inflatable animals based on puns using player's (or other famous people's) names. To the left is a photo of Derek Cheetah, Ichiroach Suzuki, and Dennis Frogman (clever, right?). Throughout the game, they would come out and dance or do mini little skit type things, often spraying someone in the crowd with silly string when they were done. The main event was clearly when Mackerel Jordan dropped a ball in front of the ball boy, who proceeded to toss it a couple feet. The process was repeated before the ball boy faked a deep throw and kept the ball. Mackerel Jordan, clearly irritated ran up and ate the ball boy. After several shoes, a hat, and even a shirt were burped out, the ball boy came flying out of Mackerel Jordan's mouth in only his boxers and socks. Clearly embarrassed, he went sprinting off the field, and everyone cheered (I went back and forth on how to talk about the Zooperstars and figured straight-forward, hard-hitting, reporting of the facts was the best approach).

Friday we decided to do a more relaxed day. However, we still fit in one of the highlights of the trip by a stop at Skyline Chili for lunch (I like food too much). Last year when we were in Cleveland, we stopped at a Skyline Chili, but I know that Cincy is known for their chili, so it seemed only right that we check it out while there, and it did not disappoint. They serve the chili over a bed of spaghetti noodles with onions and beans. I have no idea what spicing they use in the chili, but it is different from what I've used to and quite delicious. I was prepared to eat my next 2-3 more meals there, but unfortunately that was our only stop.

That night, we headed to Great American Ballpark (the most humble ballpark in the country) to catch the Reds play the Dodgers. We arrived early to see the Dodgers take BP and explore the park a bit. Unless I'm forgetting some, I think this is my 10th MLB ballpark (counting the now-defunct Metrodome). It would probably rank somewhere near the middle of the pack for me. The park is situated right on the Ohio River, which makes for a nice view when walking around the concourses. The concession stands have some kinda cool, sorta retro signs, which add a nice touch, and the ballpark itself feels pretty small and intimate. From where we were sitting (left field bleachers), we didn't have a view of a jumbotron (they could take a tip from the Twins and throw a smaller one up in right field), and the scenery from inside the park (as opposed to out on the concourses) wasn't anything too special, but all in all it was a nice park for a reasonable price. The fans around us left a lot to be desired, constantly walking down the aisles during pitches and arguing over who was supposed to be in what seat (way more often than should be necessary), but I'll chalk that up to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My song for this post is "In Ohio On Some Steps" by Limbeck, a pretty wonderful and catchy alt-country band from California.

Find more LIMBECK songs at Myspace Music

Kudos to anyone who made it through this whole post, as it turned into quite a lengthy one. I'll have one more post recapping our stop in Indianapolis and possibly some of the drive back (hopefully posted tomorrow), as well as one recapping the music of our trip (since this is a music blog and all). Feel free to chime in in the comments section as it is always appreciated!

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