As I mentioned in my last column, I recently took a few weeks off to drive through the midwest and cross some baseball stadiums off of my list of parks visited. The journey started in Kansas City and ended in St. Louis, hitting Wrigley, US Cellular, Miller Park and Great American Ballpark in between. Needless to say, a lot of great baseball was watched and along the way I learned some things about these teams, their fans and their home turf. So, I offer to you loyal reader, the top thing I picked up from each stop on the trip.
Kansas City is too hot for day baseball in the summer. Okay, I should also say that Kauffman Stadium was my favorite of the stadiums I went to and also that the Royals’ fans are second to none. Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the weather and the two-week long sunburns it caused. I have been to a Texas Rangers’ day game in mid-June, and after that experience I swore off any day baseball outdoors in Texas. I did not realize I needed to extend this to Kansas City as well, but that was the case. Despite my best attempts, we were not in the shade, which meant we spent the entire game cooking under the blazing Missouri sun. We’ll just tally this up to a lesson learned.
Wrigley Field is old and that is kind of it. Friends, I have been to Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field is no Fenway Park. Honestly, I did not see what the big deal was. There is ivy. It sits on a block in the middle of the city. There are also obstructed views and the tickets are ridiculously expensive. Then there are the fans. We’ll get back to them in a few paragraphs.
The White Sox have some of the best fans in baseball. I cannot say they were the friendliest fans on the trip (again, we’ll get to them in a little bit) but they were the most entertaining. The Chicago nine were playing Toronto when we saw them and after a while some raucous Blue Jay fans began a “Let’s Go Blue Jays” chant which the people at U.S. Cellular quickly drowned out with their own “U.S.A.” chant. As far as I was concerned, it was the funniest moment of the entire trip.
The sausage race at Miller Park is actually pretty fun. As a baseball traditionalist you kind of want to hate these kinds of between-innings spectacles. I mean, you go to the game to watch baseball, not for mascot races, right? Well, sure, but when you are stuck watching a last-place team in a half-filled stadium, then maybe a little extra entertainment can’t hurt. The sausage race at Miller Park filled that bill nicely. The sombrero-wearing chorizo won, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.
Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati is one of the prettiest in baseball. Sitting on the banks of the Ohio River, the Reds certainly have themselves a jewel of a ballpark. Sadly, their team is not so great which led to their loyal fans having to listen to the jeers of the thousands of Cubs’ fans who had invaded Cincinnati for the series we were watching. This is where I discovered the horrible truth about Cubs’ fans in 2016 – they are awful! They strolled throughout Great American Ballpark as if they owned the place. They taunted the Reds’ fans and booed the home team. It was truly a disgusting display. What makes it worse, to me, is the fact the Cubs have not won anything in the past 108 years. So where does all the hubris come from? Just because, at the time, they had the best record in baseball? I see a precipitous fall headed toward these cocky Cubs’ fans when the playoffs roll around and their super team again fails to win it all.
Finally, from bad fans to great ones, the fans at Busch Stadium in St. Louis are the friendliest I have ever had the pleasure to be around. We watched the Cardinals play the Brewers and because we had been in Milwaukee just a few days earlier, we decided to cheer for the Brewers. Surprisingly, this did not draw the ire of the folks around us. Although they did tell us that people in St. Louis don’t like Brewers’ slugger Ryan Braun, they also asked us all other kinds of questions, engaging us in conversation for most of the game. Honestly, they were so friendly that after a few innings, I felt like I should quit rooting for Milwaukee and spent the rest of the game enjoying their beautiful park and watching some good baseball.