Now that I’m getting into the swing of my Major League baseball park tour, I’ve come up with a new guideline that I’ll try to follow for future park visits: time and money permitting, I’ll go to two games and sit in a different section each time. Recent trips to Toronto and now Cincinnati confirm that every park needs a second chance. In both cases, the second visit was a much more enjoyable experience than the first.
In Toronto, sitting once under the reverberating dome and a second time under the big blue sky made all the difference. In Cinci, my first game was not only a crushing loss by the Cubs (2-10) but a drenching experience, sitting in the pouring rain. Not fun. It was enough to make us wonder how in the heck we ever thought driving eight hours to see a game was a good idea.
Of course, it was a great idea and we had a lot of fun. Day two, sitting in the bleachers in the sun with thousands of other Cubs fans watching our team win was a good time. What a difference a day makes.
The ballpark: Great American Ball Park is modern and industrial looking, all concrete and white metal. The style struck me as fairly generic, without much local color beyond the Las Vegas style riverboat that’s permanently grounded in the outfield. The park is open air, which is a plus and right on the river, another plus. Sitting in the bleachers and the upper deck can give you a view of the river and Roebling Bridge. It’s also located near downtown, which I consider another plus, especially for someone from out of town who’s interested in strolling around and perhaps grabbing a bite to eat before the game.
JumboTron: Yeah, they’ve got one and it’s a biggie, cluttered up with billboards. Yet another park that makes it hard for fans to follow what’s going on in other games around the country.
Sound level: As an open air stadium, the sound level wasn’t too terrible. Sitting in the bleachers was a bit worse, since we were sitting much closer to a speaker.
Home run gimmick: When the Reds hit a home run, fireworks shoot out of the riverboat smokestacks. When their pitcher strikes out a batter, the stacks (officially known as the Pepsi Power Stacks–ugh) start smokin’.
Food: I always go for the regional option, if there is one, including local microbrews if available. In this case, the local take on the baseball dog was Skyline Chili’s Cheese Coney hotdog. The chili has a hint of cinnamon and the combo was very tasty. The food options in general were quite varied (including a recommended local ice cream, which I didn’t try) and our new favorite, Funachos! The standard hot dog, which I ate the first day in the rain, included toppings of peppers and onions, which were good, but the dog and bun itself was just fair.
Local fans: Folks rooting for the home team were friendly and enthusiastic. As I mentioned before, they were far outnumbered by Cubs fans, which was probably as much a testament to their team’s poor record as it was to the loyalty of Cubs fans on the road.
You can see more photos from my trip to Great American Ball Park here. BTW, I was disappointed to learn the park is named after an insurance company and not, as I’d naively believed, out of patriotic pride.