Thursday, August 9, 2012

Game 6: Six things

Note: This was written by Jeff, though uploaded from Craig's account

Brewers 3, Reds 2

Wednesday Afternoon Baseball- Yesterday, Wednesday, we saw a day game in Milwaukee, with a one  o'clock start time. The last game — or getaway game — of a series often starts early to allow for travel. This scheduling necessity creates an interesting dynamic, filtering out the typical working sports fan. For a Brewers team far out of first place, we were wondering if the crowd might be sparse. On the contrary, there was quite an impressive showing. When we arrived, the parking lots were full of life, with friends tailgating, seemingly making a day around this game. In the stadium, there were over 30,000 fans, and most stayed from the first pitch to the last. There were, as one would expect, more young people, retired people, and individual parents with their kids (as opposed to families and working-age couples). The demographic changed, but the environment did not lose its life. 

Exciting Game- Another effect of the day game is that lineups are often at less than full strength, as managers don't always like to put their guys in a day game after a night game. For example, the Reds did not start usual everyday players Drew Stubbs, Zach Cozart, and Ryan Hanigan, after already being without their injured superstar Joey Votto. With this in mind, our expectations were low for the game. It turned out to be a thrilling, comeback win for the Brewers though. The 8th inning was probably the most exciting inning of the trip. The Reds, up 2-1, had a man on third when Brewers right-fielder Norichika Aoki made a great running catch on a fly ball down the foul line, then threw a dart to home plate, preventing the runner from tagging. On the next play, Aramis Ramirez made a diving grab on a hard hit ground ball down the third base line, then threw out the runner at first from his knees, ending the inning and the threat. In the bottom of the inning, back-to-back RBI hits off of Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton, gave the Brewers the lead for good. 

Scoreboard- Scoreboards are extremely important to a baseball viewing experience. They are where you look for statistics, replays, and other information. We have found that a good scoreboard meets the following criteria:

  • Big and high definition
  • Lineups and statistics are easy to find (especially pitch speed)
  • Lots of replays shown
  • Light on the gimmicks (animated characters, 'games,' and other non-baseball entertainment)
  • Avoids overdoing the graphics (don't show us all the things you can do with your software, like in Citizens Bank Park, where each player's face was bizarrely placed over a skeleton with shifting numbers and graph lines in the background). 
  • Good montages of baseball highlights
Well, Miller Park had the best scoreboard visuals of any stadium thus far. It met all of these criteria, and we think every team should take its in-at-bat visual as the template to use moving forward. It was easily the most intuitive and most complementary to the game experience. 

Sign of Success- On day three of this trip, we made a sign to bring to all of the ballparks. It is simple, with "30 in 38" written in large letters, and an explanation ("All thirty ballparks, thirty-eight days") around that. On the border, we write the names of each ballpark we have attended. In each of the three games since making the sign, we have been thankful for the decision. At the Yankees game, Craig showed it to Yankee players. In Pittsburgh, it was the basis for conversations with several ushers and some nice fans behind us, all of who inquired after seeing the sign. In Detroit, a group of fans behind us noticed the sign and sparked up a great conversation that lasted for much of the game. Today in Milwaukee, two fans behind us saw Damon holding up the sign between innings, and after the game we had a great discussion about Miller Park, Milwaukee baseball history, and ballparks in general. One of our goals before this trip was to meet people, to get to know baseball fans across America, and to trade stories with them. The sign has helped us toward that end. (And by the way, each of these conversations has left us feeling very good about the culture of baseball fandom).  

Playing Catch- Each of us brought our baseball gloves on this trip, and we have played catch wherever we can along the way. On Tuesday, halfway through the drive to Detroit, we decided to stop at a random exit in rural Michigan. We drove until we found a school, and we drove to a big field in the back, between a baseball and softball field, and flanked by a cornfield. We played catch, threw each other grounders and fly balls, and practiced turning double plays on our imaginary infield. It's nice to get back to what we all remember loving most about this game. 

Waiting for Aroldis- The one disappointment about the Brewers' rally today was that it meant the Reds young, phenom closer Aroldis Chapman no longer would be coming into the game for the save. I realized before the game that Aroldis was the player I wanted to see in person more than any other in the major leagues. The 24-year-old Cuban is  the hardest throwing pitcher in the game, and has thrown the fastest pitch in the history of the major leagues, at 105 miles per hour. His pitching motion is beautiful, not to mention his 1.34 earned run average and 100 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. After I told them how badly I wanted to see Aroldis, the other guys mentioned some players who they would put ahead of Aroldis — Trout, McCutchen, Strasburg — but agreed that he was near the top of their lists as well. Seeing a pitcher throw a ball as fast as any human has, ever, would be mind-blowing. Imagine watching Usain Bolt run in person. Aroldis is pitching's version of Usain Bolt. As far as sheer physical wonders of sport, few athletes anywhere, anytime would be put in his category. We see the Reds play two more times over the course of the trip, and are holding out for an Aroldis appearance.

Games watched: 6
Games to go: 24
Thuuz score: 67
Stadium: A very new type of stadium, with monstrously high walls holding up a retractable roof. They pull it off well; this is one of those stadiums where you can look up and gaze in amazement for a long period of time.
Fan Atmosphere: As I mentioned, impressive for a weekday afternoon. 
Food and Drink: Good bratwurst at a reasonable price. The cheesy fries were a bit too cheesy. Very good variety of beer, including some local brands.
Tim Kurkjian Award for Thing We've Never Seen Before: A 49 mile per hour pitch, an eephus thrown by Brewers starter Randy Wolf. 
Stat of the Day: Home teams are 5-1 in our first six games, and have a five game winning streak.
Quote of the Day: "It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock and roll." -Craig's advice to Damon in the morning, which turned out to be the introduction music played before the first pitch. 
Miles Traveled: 1,612
Miles to Next Game: 373 (Giants @ Cardinals, August 9, 12:45 pm)

I write this post in the late hours of the night, from the highway to St. Louis, where the seemingly endless horizon has been lighting up in the distance for the past several hours. A lightning storm in the midwest is a sight to behold.

Click "Read more" for photos from the day

Bratwurst and fries

The monstrous retractable roof

Damon showing off the sign

Bernie the Brewer

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