Progressive Field became my seventh Major League Baseball park — 23 to go.
The ballpark: Overall, I enjoyed my trip to Progressive Field, watching a team nearly as poor as the Cubs lose one game and win another against Cubs’ arch-rivals the St. Louis Cardinals. The park is “new,” one of the modern concrete sports venues with wide open passageways for vending food and drink, socializing, and providing alternate activities for kids and folks bored with the game. Unlike many modern stadiums, it doesn’t feel too big, which makes sense when you realize it seats around 43,000 (only a few thousand more than Wrigley Field.)
I saw two games, the first sitting down near the field along the first base line, the second in the upper deck on the left field side, giving us a good feel for the park. The first was an afternoon game and we were sitting directly in the sun. After the wet, mild spring we’ve had, I didn’t complain one bit about the heat or sun shining in my eyes.
I like the urban ballparks that provide an interesting city view as backdrop to the game. Pittsburgh’s park is a great example of this, Cincinnati not so much. Cleveland won high marks with it’s cityscape behind the scoreboard especially as the sun went down and the lights came up.
It wouldn’t be a baseball game without a theme or gimmick of some kind. We happened to be there during Eighties Weekend. Like other parks I’ve been to with a Jumbotron, these games had an MC blabbering away at the audience during any break in the action that was long enough to host a silly game or giveaway. The MC, dressed in mullet wig and jeans jacket was the only person I saw sporting any sort of ’80s wear. The audience was decidedly not into it, costume-wise.
Because there always has to be some high-end way of raking in the bucks, Progressive Field has a tiered restaurant that allows diners to see and be seen. I always wonder about these. Do you dine for the entire game or do you have to leave halfway through the fourth inning to free up your table for another party? And what a disconnected way to watch a game.
JumboTron: Yep, they’ve got one. It’s big and largely covered with advertising but as far as widescreen TVs in the park go, this one was toned down. There wasn’t as much flash (mostly static ads), annoying videos were kept to a minimum, and I don’t recall seeing a single movie trailer or commercial.
Sound level: Not bad at all. The speakers weren’t cranked up to 11 to compensate for the open air. There were even times when the canned noise stopped altogether and you could actually focus on what was going on down on the field.
Home run gimmick: Unfortunately, in the two games I saw, the only homers were hit by the opposing team, so we never got to see how the home team celebrates when a ball is hit out of the park. We did, however, see a fan escorted out of the park after he thew a Cardinal-hit home run ball back on the field–something you’d never see at Wrigley!
Food: This was easily the biggest disappointment. The food was lousy. The hot dog I had is definitely in contention for worst in all of Major League Baseball. Condiments offered (or lack thereof) were the first clue that this was not going to be a memorable dog: no pickle relish, no onions. They did offer two types of mustard, including the famous Bertman Ball Park Mustard (some of which we bought to take home with us.) The terrific local mustard wasn’t enough to mask the terrible flavor of the dog. Salt was the primary ingredient in both the hot dog and the waffle fries, a not-so-subtle ploy to get you to drink more beer.
I use hot dogs and nachos, two ballpark staples, to judge a park’s culinary worthiness. The nachos here tasted great in comparison. The “cheese” was good and they came with salsa and plenty of peppers on top.
Local fans: The local crowd was friendly and enthusiastic, though they still needed the JumboTron to tell them when to “make some noise.” Lots of empty seats. Unlike masochistic Cubs fans, members of “the tribe” don’t flock to the park to see their team lose again and again and again.