And since today is the last day of the 2015 Major League Baseball regular season, I thought I'd talk about one of our favorite ball parks that we recently visited on our trip to the Great Smoky Mountains - Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, home of the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds didn't have too good of a season this year and were playing a game against another lowly division opponent, the Milwaukee Brewers. But it was still Major League Baseball and we got two great seats - cheap - on StubHub for a Sunday afternoon game.
Because it was going to be a warm day, I opted to get seats along the first base line, but under the second deck that would keep us out of the wicked hot sun on a somewhat humid early September day. We'd been to Great American on a couple of previous occasions and found that we really like the ball park. When we were planning our vacation trip we decided to go through Cincinnati, spend a couple nights there and go to a ball game.
The stadium opened when the Reds played their first games in the place in 2003. It replaced the venerable Riverfront Stadium which - when it was built in the late 60's - was one of the nicer ballparks in professional baseball. But the coliseum-style of ballparks that were prevalent in places like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia and Cincinnati fell out of favor with fans and baseball purists and there was a rush to build new ball parks in each of those cities - ball parks that brought back the old style feeling of open spaces in an urban setting.
I always try to get the first pitch of any ball game that I attend. Below left - here's the Reds rookie right hander Michael Lorenzen delivering the first pitch to Milwaukee shortstop Scooter Gennent. It was 90 degrees that afternoon at first pitch and many people were smart like us and were up underneath the overhangs or down the first base line to stay out of the blazing sun.
I have a fetish about scoreboards and the one at Great American Ball Park is one of the better ones I've seen in the major leagues. Just before the All-Star Game that Cincinnati hosted in July, the team put up a second, but smaller, scoreboard in right field. Some people complained that it now blocked views of the Ohio River located a couple hundred yards beyond the stadium's right field wall.
There weren't a lot of people at the ball park that day and we got up to do some exploring. Just up the concourse from our seats was Bootleggers, a new drinking establishment inside Great American Ball Park that was fashioned after a longtime popular cafe/bar in Cincinnati, down to the tin roof ceiling and the Prohibition-era lighting. It was air-conditioned in there so a number of people were bellied up to the bar or to a table to enjoy a beer and watch the game on television.
They had a number of local brews on tap at Bootleggers including a Moerlein Northern Liberties IPA that we had tried earlier in the day across the street from the stadium. We grabbed a couple of those to take with us as we did a lap around the stadium.
As sort of a tradition that started on our first visit to Cincinnati over ten years ago, I had to stop by the Skyline Chili stand along the right field concourse to get a couple of their coney dogs. I like Cincinnati chili that it is made to be thin with no beans and uses various spices such as cinnamon, allspice and cloves for the distinctive taste. You can read more about Cincinnati-style chili dogs and the various places around the city you can get them by clicking here.
They pile grated cheddar cheese on top of the small chili dogs at all the Skyline Chili locations. I don't really care for the cheese all that much and usually order them without cheese when I go to a Skyline Chili place, but the cheese came with the chili dogs at the Great American Ball Park. The cheese had coagulated into a somewhat gooey mess with the warm chili covering the hot dogs by the time we started in on them. It was a multiple napkin meal. But even with the loads of cheese covering the coney dogs, they were still great.
From there, we spent some time along the railing in the right field concourse next to the Sun Deck (or Moon Deck, if it's a night game) bleacher seats. Below left if a view of the ball park looking to the north along the right field line with the Great American Tower in the background of the stadium. Great American Insurance - part of the American Financial Group - is the naming sponsor for the ball park.
On our way back down the third base side concourse we came upon an updated feature at Great American Ball Park - the Brewery District bar. This bar along the concourse is 85 feet long and features over 20 regional and local craft brews including beers from SweetWater in Atlanta, Bell's from Michigan and Deschutes from Oregon. I sort of got a kick out of seeing all these regional and local craft brews tappers and then sticking out like a beacon was a Bud Light tap. It just didn't look like it fit in with the other beers. Like I said when we were in San Diego at Petco Park, why in the world would anyone drink a mainstream beer when they had all these great choices of beers?
We settled back into our seats for the remainder of the game. After Milwaukee's Ryan Braun homered in the top of the 8th to narrow the score to 5-3 in favor of the Reds, Cincinnati plated a run in the bottom of the inning to build a three-run cushion for their All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth inning. Chapman routinely throws at or about 100 miles an hour and I took a picture of every pitch he threw until he actually did hit 100 mph on the stadium's speed gun. This was the pitch to Brewers pinch hitter Hernan Perez where he finally hit 100 mph. My new Samsung Galaxy S6 took this picture and if you click on the picture you can actually see the 100 mile an hour fastball as it travels to the plate. A couple three pitches later, Chapman struck out Perez swinging to end the game and preserve a 6-3 Reds victory.
They said there were over 28,000 people in the stands that day, but we were pretty incredulous that there were half that amount in the stadium. Still, it was a great day to see the game and, as always, we really enjoyed our visit to Great American Ball Park. The baseball fans in Cincinnati are knowledgeable and passionate about the Reds, even though they were basically playing out the string the last six weeks of the season. And the ball park has all the amenities and comfort that a modern baseball stadium can provide. It continues to be one of my all-time favorite ball parks to visit.