*Caution: This is a lawwwwwng post. Feel free to read as much or as little as you like*
As I'm sure a lot of you are aware, MrsRogue and I have been slowly but surely visiting all of the ballparks in MLB. We like to fly into one city, rent a car, drive to a few other cities (catching a ballgame at each park we come across) and fly home.
I made a fanpost nearly 4 years ago when we saw a game at Dodger Stadium as part of our honeymoon. As luck would have it, we were lucky enough to witness Moundgate in person. I posted a few pictures and wrote a few words about the experience in general.
I'd always intended to make fanposts for the other trips we took, but never really got around to it. If there's any interest I can probably cook something up for them, but I think I'll start with the one we took a few weeks ago. We finally went through and pared down all the pictures we took, so I'll include a few here.
4/5 - To kick off the trip, we flew into Kansas City and picked up our rental car. After checking into the hotel, we went in search of some KC barbeque. We ended up (by recommendation from the locals) at a place that, to quote Han Solo, "may not look like much, but it's got it where it counts." I just wish I knew of places around here with barbeque that good (they might exist but I have yet to find them).
4/6 - Our first game of the trip, we saw the Royals host the White Sox. Kauffman Stadium might not be one of the newest parks, but we actually really liked it. The atmosphere there was absolutely great. Not the intense electricity of some places, but it was very enjoyable.
The view from our seats:
Right after the game we set out for St. Louis, checking into a hotel about 20 miles outside of downtown.
4/7 - We were supposed to go to the Missouri Botanical Gardens but Mother Nature had other ideas. What with incessant rain all morning and into the afternoon, we ended up looking for indoor places to visit. We settled on the Missouri Science Center since admission was free. A little bit geared towards kids but there was plenty for older people to find interesting as well (besides, I've always felt growing up is optional anyway). Afterwards, we were trying to come up with somewhere to go for dinner and found a place that sounded perfect (and wasn't far away, either). We ended up in St. Charles, which was the original capital of Missouri, and parked in an area that reminded us a bit of Old-Town Sacramento:
There was a really great little brewery called Trailhead, and it was a fantastic find. Excellent food and the beer alone would've been worth the trip.
4/8 - In the morning we went to the Sophia Sachs Butterfly House, where you can just go and sit in a rainforest-type greenhouse with countless butterflies floating all around you. We could've spent hours there, it was so peaceful. There were educational exhibits too, and the building was nestled into a really nice regional park, so it was definitely a nice place to spend a morning. After that we did go to the Botanical Gardens, and that place is just enormous. It wasn't up to what I'm sure would be its full glory; a fair amount of the flowers hadn't bloomed yet, but it was very impressive regardless.
After that we drove into downtown to see the Cardinals host the Reds. Is it normal for the team that loses the WS to have a NLCS Champions Ring Ceremony? I'd never heard of a team doing that before, but St. Louis did... Also, what would make these fans the "Best Fans in Baseball"? Was there a poll or something? I'm trying to remember where that title came from. Not that one game should be conclusive, but for the opening series, it seemed like there weren't that many people there and they weren't that into the game. Anyway, this was another really nice park, in most respects. One of the nicest backdrops we've seen so far:
Overall a very nice place to see a game.
4/9 - A whole lot of driving. We left sometime in the morning and drove to La Grange, KY, a bit outside of Louisville. This was one of the only days in which we didn't really do anything noteworthy (though I probably ramble enough that a lot of this wouldn't be considered noteworthy =p )
4/10 - We started by heading into Louisville to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. I seriously can't describe how awesome this place is. Here's a picture of me by the bat outside the front door:
We took the guided tour of the factory, in which you can see them making both retail-line bats and MLB-quality bats. While we were there they were making a batch of bats to fill an order for Brandon Phillips. It might sound weird, and I can't for the life of me describe why, but one of the best things to me was the smell of the sawdust when we first stepped onto the production floor. After the tour, we spent a good long while in the main exhibit hall. You could don gloves and hold bats used by MLB players through the eras, and see and feel the differences. I got to hold one of Mickey Mantle's bats:
Couldn't hold this one of course, but here's the one Ruth would carve notches in for each homer he hit with it during the '27 season (21 on this bat):
Another fun thing there was the batting cage area. You can pick from any of their regular production models or a few different player-customized bats and take 10 swings for $1. I tried Posey's bat of choice, and I have to say, it feels very comfortable. If we weren't on a schedule I would've plunked down a $100 bill and stayed there all day =)
Bottom-line, if any of you are anywhere near Louisville, a visit to the Slugger Museum is hands-down worth every penny. I can't recommend it enough.
After Louisville we set off for Cincinnati and checked into the hotel there and relaxed the rest of the evening.
4/11 - We didn't have anything scheduled until the Reds hosting the Rays that night, so we just took it easy until it was time to go. We were staying about 20 miles outside of downtown again. We much prefer staying farther away and driving in to staying closer and spending much more on hotels. Anyway, we found Great American Ballpark to be pretty, but a bit lacking in depth. The concession stands were all named something different but had the exact same menu. There was the occasional stand with something else, but those were few and far between. The atmosphere was so "meh" that it didn't feel like the stands were as full as they were (somewhere around 2/3). The fans really only made noise when the scoreboard prompted them to, which the people in charge of it soon learned (they'd play the "MAKE NOISE!!!" thing after every pitch, by the 8th inning). If there weren't fireworks that night (which were surprisingly lackluster as well), I wonder what the attendance would've looked like by the end. We really did like the look of the park, and the backdrop was great as well:
After the game, we had the Giants game playing over the car's speakers (MLB At Bat certainly can be useful) as we headed back to the hotel, and we could totally hear the difference in the crowd (especially since the Reds game was so fresh in our minds). And then Bumgarner hit the grand slam =)
4/12 - We had to leave pretty early to get from the Cincinnati area to Chicago in time to see the White Sox host the Indians. Luckily we were crossing from Eastern Time to Central, so we gained an hour there. We arrived at US Cellular Field with enough time to walk around the field level and see what the park was actually like. We were there in 2011 but we had purchased upper-deck tickets like we normally do. Apparently if you don't have field-level tickets they don't even let you into the concourse; you only have access to the upper-deck. As a result we really didn't get a good look at the stadium. This time we did get field-level tickets, so no problems there. The various statues are kind of nice, but overall there wasn't much about the park that really impressed us. This was the view from our seats:
It was really windy that day. We watched hot dog wrappers travel from the field up to the upper deck. Towards the end of the game, a particularly strong gust actually took the scorecard out of Indians broadcaster Matt Underwood's hands and dropped it down on the field level.
Overall, not one of our favorite places to see a game. Not the worst, by any means, but not one we're likely to return to.
After the game we picked up some deep dish pizza and checked in at the hotel around 6:00.
4/13 - Super-early morning, we checked out of the hotel at 5:00, not even 12 hours after checking in. We dropped off the car, went through security at O'Hare, and found that our gate was almost literally the farthest away it could possibly be. At least with the early flight we got home in time to decompress for a bit.
4/14 - Back to our regularly-scheduled work week.
It's so hard to get back into the swing of things that we felt like we could use a vacation.
As it turns out, we already have our next one booked =p