It certainly made me feel like a Great American.
Cincinnati’s ballpark became the 10th current Major League stadium I have visited on my quest to see a game at all 30 MLB parks. Great American Ballpark opened in 2003 and is named after the Great American Insurance Group. It lies on the Ohio River, a long stone’s throw from Kentucky, and is the site of the 2015 All-Star Game.
A college friend’s mom works for a company in Cincinnati that has four Reds season tickets. Cincinnati is only 50-ish miles from Dayton, so this made for an easy Friday night road trip. Off four of us traversed down I-75, and as I tweeted, Cincinnati’s interstates made my feel at home (*cough* Virginia) with the inordinately high presence of construction, police, and accidents on a Friday afternoon. It took us about two hours to get down to the Park. Therefore, I missed almost the entirety of batting practice.
I schlepped over to the right field bleachers anyway to see the last 10 minutes of the Cardinals’ BP. Nothing really came close, but I was just happy to be there.
Walking around the stadium before the game, I was really impressed by the architecture and design. The concourses are very open and inviting, and getting from section to section is relatively easy. Behind the seats in right field, the concourse has a view of the river.
On the first base side of the stadium, there was a nice green space near the escalator that took us up to our seats in 303. We sat in the Ohio Champions Club section, which was phenomenal. The view is comparable to the Stars and Stripes Club at Nationals Park, but the tickets come with an all-you-can-eat food pass. Inside, the food was plentiful and tasty. My only complaint about the section was that there was only one foul ball that came remotely close to our seats. Otherwise, the location and food access made for a very enjoyable game.
Joey Votto hit two two-run homers in his first two at-bats. Both were opposite-field shots above the scoreboard in left field. St. Louis’ center fielder Randal Grichuk also homered in the game.
The game was tied at four in the eighth inning when Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton walked, stole second, took third on a pitch in the dirt, and proved to be one the most dangerous threat on the bases when he scored on a short sacrifice fly by Todd Frazier. Walks will haunt teams, especially when the person being walked is as speedy as Hamilton. Hamilton has already stolen seven bases this season and has not yet been caught.
Closer Arolids Chapman entered the game in the ninth, and closed out the Reds’ fourth win of the season.
Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart made an impressive play to record the second out of the ninth. With a runner on first, Jason Heyward bounced a ball off, or right in front of, home plate that took a high hop over second base. Phillips, the second baseman, scooted over and fielded it, jumping backwards and falling into the center field grass. As he landed, Phillips flipped it over to the shortstop Cozart, who barehanded the ball as he was falling off the bag, into the runner. Click here for the video.
Many people picked Cincinnati to finish last in the NL Central this season. But in their 4-0 start against Pittsburgh and St. Louis, the Reds have played like an elite club. If Votto has a bounce-back year, and the pitching staff can keep this team in games, Cincy may be a dark horse in the National League.
Friday night fireworks are a tradition at Great American Ballpark. They are shot off from the river, just beyond the bleachers in right field.
A few notes:
1) This was the first game I attended this year, which means it was the first game I saw with the pitch clock. I did not see the clock at all, although I wasn’t looking for it. It did not even cross my mind throughout the game that the clock was in use, however the game was noticeably concise. It finished in 2 hours, 26 minutes.
2) Marlins broadcaster Rich Waltz has an affinity for Rosie Red, the mascot. So I tweeted him a picture of Rosie before the game. Here’s a video link of Rosie in the Marlins broadcast booth last year when the team was in Cincinnati.
3) I updated my preferential list of all 30 MLB teams to reflect my first game as a Reds fan and the Great American experience.
And here is the updated list of stadiums I’ve visited. Great American is the 10th current stadium I’ve been to, and 11th overall. RFK Stadium is the one outdated park I’ve visited.
1) PETCO Park: As I said back in 2012, San Diego did everything right with this place. The edge over Seattle is because PETCO lies in the “Gaslamp” district of San Diego. It’s very accessible and walkable, a little easier to get to than Seattle.
2) Great American Ball Park: The location is great, the park is easy to navigate, and amenities are plentiful. Reds fans are passionate, and the environment was exciting and comfortable at the same time. A drawback is that downtown Cincinnati is not nearly as nice as downtown San Diego, which is the main reason why it did not leapfrog PETCO Park on this list. The location is, however, better than Safeco’s is in Seattle. I’d like to attend BP at Great American sometime just to be sure about this ranking, but for now I’m confident.
3) Safeco Field: Seattle did everything right as well. But its neighborhood is in transition.
4) Oriole Park: It’s been a while since I’ve visited Baltimore for a game, so I need to go back to better place it on the list. But it’s as good as any in the majors.
5) Fenway Park: It’s tough to compare a century-old gem to the shiny new jewels that are my top four parks, but I’m trying. Fenway’s downside is the crammed seating. However, I upgraded in this game as well. All things considered, it’s hard to top the Fenway “experience.”
6) Minute Maid Park: Not a lot of people like this Park as much as I do. Houston made a retractable roof park feel cozy and ballpark-ish. The fans were friendly and passionate when I went, and there are enough quirks in its design to make it interesting.
7) Marlins Park: I really wish the Marlins had made their walls closer to the plate and less green. I wish they hadn’t spent two million dollars on the eyesore that lies in center field, and I wish the outfield seating were more fan friendly. But it’s Miami and they’re not known for baseball.
8) Nationals Park: I used to really like Nats Park, but then I attended too many games there. There’s nothing notable or spectacular about the park and the neighborhood is similar to that in which Safeco lies. It gets really hot during the summer, and on top of it all, the ushers are irritable.
9) Dodger Stadium: Dodger Stadium is a great venue to watch a baseball game…on TV. The concourses are narrow and crowded, and one has to climb a hill to enter any seating section above field level. I went to a day game and it was really warm.
10) Turner Field: The Braves. Need I say more? Sure. The Chop House music. The Kiss Cam. Evan Gattis. Craig Kimbrel. The 50/50 lottery they hold every game.
11) RFK Stadium: It’s not supposed to be a baseball stadium so I don’t think it’ll mind being last on my list.
I’m not entirely sure what my baseball travel outlook is for this summer, but I’d like to get to at least one more new stadium this year. PNC Park in Pittsburgh is the first on my wish list. I also want to get back to Oriole Park, since I haven’t seen a game there in eight years.
Since 2011, I’ve visited at least one new park each season. Minute Maid Park in 2011; Marlins Park, Dodger Stadium, and PETCO were in 2012; Turner Field in 2013; Fenway Park and Safeco Field in 2014; and Great American in 2015.