Monday, April 9, 2012

Great American Ball Park


And the trip is underway.  My very first stop after leaving home was The Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds.  But before I could leave I had to pick up my rental car.  I ordered the car through www.orbitz.com.  I researched several options and the best option for me was to rent a car from Budget and pick it up from Detroit Metro Airport.  I looked at picking up a car and exchanging it roughly once a month around the country.  That option was way more expensive then returning it to Detroit.  I attempted to book a return trip to Detroit but was unable to because it was longer than 42 days.  The website had me call customer service and I got to spend the next 20 minutes talking to some gentleman who was probably in Pakistan.  It was too difficult but I had to phonetically spell my last name like eight times.  My last name is ten letters long and even confuses me sometimes.  I got everything set and picked my car up from Detroit Metro Airport on Friday.  I was nervous going into Budget because renting a car is like going to the dentist, even on the best days it’s an experience you’d rather not have.  I dropped my car off at my moms and had her take me to go the rental.  We got out in front of Budget and couldn’t figure out where to go in.  It’s a big fenced in lot and the only way in, that I saw, was an exit.  A security guard informed me that I had to park the car in the employee parking lot and walk across the lot with the rental cars to the office.  No big deal but I thought it was minorly inconvenient and not very customer friendly.  I walked in and was greeted with no wait which was nice.  I go to the counter and the guy introduces himself to me and asks me to bear with him because he is new.  He pulled up my reservation and realized that he had no idea how to help me since my reservation is considered a mini lease.  He asked a few ladies what he had to do and they informed him that the lady who could do it wasn’t in.  Apparently she had snuck out of work to do laundry.  The manager came out and began to help me.  He had never done a mini lease before but he followed the checklist in front of him in a professional manner.  It only took about ten minutes and I had my keys and was ready to hit the road.  My rental car is a very light green, almost blue, feminine looking, 2012 Ford Taurus.  Aside from that I love this car so far.  It has Microsoft Sync so I don’t have to touch my phone when somebody calls which I really like.  It tells me based on my driving how many miles I am getting per gallon.  I’m averaging about 31.5 miles to the gallon. 

Friday morning I finally got all my packing done, I’m the world’s worst procrastinator, and started to make my 4 hour journey to Cincinnati from Toledo, Ohio.  I arrived into Cincinnati at 2pm for the 7pm game.  I decided I would park and walk around the area for a bit.  I parked at a place just east of GABP.  It was a parking garage that was located directly underneath a brewery and a park.  There was a clearly visible sign that said “remove cars two hours before event”.  I parked the car and hoped that it wouldn’t get towed. 

I started walking around the Great American Ballpark and was instantly amazed with Cincinnati.  I had four or five friends from basic training that were from Cincinnati and they made it sound like an awful place.  It was clean, everything was new, and the people were friendly. I noticed that there were recycling bins all over the place. Outside of the park has spectacular views of the Ohio river and bordering state, Kentucky.  After making my once around I decided to go to will call and see if they had my tickets ready.  When I got the call from the Reds organization offering me tickets they informed me that I could pick the tickets up after 6pm.  It wasn’t even three pm but I figured I would give it a shot.  No dice.  I had to come back later.

During the research about my trip I keep hearing amazing things about the Cincinnati Reds hall of fame.  I knew I had to check it out.  The cost of admission to the HOF was only $6 for Veterans and active duty.  I’m not a Reds fan but I am a baseball fan.  I loved this exhibit.  I love that they embrace Pete Rose.  As a guy who grew up watching Sparky Anderson I loved reading all about his journey before putting on a Tigers uniform.  The coolest thing for me to see was the World Series tickets from the 1975 World Series.  I have seen these up close and personal.  My grandfather attended a game during this World Series and he kept the ticket stubs.  Parts of the HOF are so much fun and interactive.  You can look through an umpires mask while people hurl baseballs at you.  You can be a radio broadcaster for a few minutes.  If you are ever in Cincinnati even if it’s not for a game, even if you don’t like the Reds, you have to go to this museum. 

After I was finished at the Museum I decided to go back to my car and drop off some stuff that I got there.  Luckily it was still there so I got in and charged my phone for a few minutes.  My iPhone gets terrible battery life when I’m in these big cement buildings.  I returned to the street level when I noticed that something was going on in the Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park.  The park seemed to be a courtyard for the Moerlin Lager House where they make some good local brew.  There were a few vendors set up selling t-shirts, a band playing on a stage, and beverage tents.  I went over and got in the beer line.  I asked the server which was the most popular beer and told her I would have one of those.  I wish I remembered the name of it because it was a very flavorful easy beer. 

I sat down on a cement wall in the courtyard and did what I love to do best, people watch.  There were people sunbathing on the lawn, people lost in the band, and little kids playing catch with their fathers.  It was exactly what I imagine when I think of summer time in America.  As I was watching other people a couple sat down near me.  I noticed the man had a military tattoo, one very similar to mine.  I started the typical veteran conversation what unit were you in, how many tours did you do, what is your Military Occupational Specialty?  His name was Shane and he did four year in the Active Army, he was a member of the 182nd Airborne Infantry Division and did two tours in Afghanistan on in Iraq.  I asked him if him and his buddies dreamed of what they would do when they got home and he said that they did.  I asked him if anybody actually did it and he said he didn’t know of anybody.  I told him what I was doing and asked him what his big dream was.  He informed me that his first big dream was to see all 30 ballparks but life got in the way.  This was the 5th stadium he had ever seen his favorite being Yankee Stadium.   

I decided I would go get my tickets since I had time before I met up with a couple people I had arranged to meet.  I went to will call and they did not have my tickets.  I talked to a concierge from the ballpark and told him that I was given tickets by a lady I thought was named Alysha.  I had written down her information on my whiteboard at home and taken a picture of it but my hand writing is not the best.  The man looked around trying to find me the tickets for about a half an hour and could not find them.  He went and talked to the lady in charge of the department and she came and talked to me.  She told me that she remembered reading my email and that she had given it to her interns to make sure the order got placed for my tickets.  Somewhere along the line there was a breakdown in communication and they did not have my tickets.  The woman in charge said she would take care of it, she came back a few minutes later and gave me two tickets saying that they were literally the very last two for the game. 

The very first person I met up with was Amber.  She is a Reds fan and had offered to show me around a little bit.  After dealing with my tickets I met up with Amber and I needed to go get another beer.  We went back to the park and I ordered.  I offered her a beer as well but she only drank “fruity” drinks.  Her quote not mine.  Amber talked a lot!  The second person I was due to meet up with that afternoon was Conrad Klank from Stadiumjourney.com.  I had never met Conrad before so I had Amber take a picture of what I was wearing.  That is way easier then I’m over here this is what I look like etc. etc.  Elliot and his buddy Elliot were a lot of fun to talk to and we said we would try to meet up for a beer after the game. 

I went into GABP and looked at the field.  Every time I see a new field I’m instantly in love.  I walked around for a little bit and loved the park.  They had batting cages and a playground for kids.  Its going to be hard to rank these parks at the end of my journey because each day I have a new favorite ballpark.  I made my way to the seats and loved them.  They were in the very last row of the lower deck but they were still great seats.  The people who were in the section around us were all family.  A giant group of them all enjoying the game together.  The woman next to me, Jessica, kept asking if she was in somebody’s seat every time a person looked like they were coming to sit down.  The reason she was sitting next to me is because her young son, Colin, was sitting in her ticketed seat.  The Reds allow free admission to the park for anybody under the age of 3 years old.  It doesn’t matter how packed the game is as long as the kid sits on your lap.  I thought that was excellent for fans with young kids.  I talked to the dad, Josh, and he said the park is very fan friendly.  They don’t make a big deal about bringing in food for your kid or a bag full of stuff.  Their son was possibly one of the cutest kids of all time in his Votto shirt and Cincinnati Reds shirt. 

Joey Votto hit a home run in the 4th inning (earn your money)and fireworks went shooting out of the two smoke stacks they have in the outfield.  In the outfield there is a party deck and it looks like a steam boat.  I thought the area looked pretty awesome and later in the night I would try to get in there.  But first, I needed another beer.  The way they filled my beer was so weird.  It filled from the bottom up and I made a mental note to further investigate this when I was done with my beverage.  I made it about halfway through my beer before I couldn’t take it any longer.  I looked at the bottom of the cup and saw a black circle.  I pushed up on the black circle and beer started pouring all over me.  It’s a magnet folks.  That’s all that keeps the beer in there.  A little magnet.  I started laughing and Josh didn’t even have to turn around to know what happened.  He said it happens rather often around there.  I guess you can tell the new guys because they look like they peed themselves.  Nice play, Great American Ball Park, Nice play. 

It was getting into the late innings and I still wanted to see more of the park.  I wanted to try some food that was unique to the area so I went and got a Coney from Skyline Chili.  I got a Coney dog with everything that comes on it.  I paid $4.25 and the hot dog was HALF the size of a normal hot dog.  I was so confused by this but apparently it’s normal in Cincinnati.  After eating my dog I decided to try to get in the steam boat.  I talked to the men guarding the entrance and they were very friendly.  They said they couldn’t let me in but to talk to another gentleman.  I talked to the second guy and he told me that I probably could, I just had to go downstairs and talk to his supervisor.  I really didn’t feel like it was worth it so I walked around a little further.  I took some pictures with the mascot and went on my way.  The game ended the Reds lost but there was fireworks.  I went to the parking garage and my car had not been towed.  I couldn’t get ahold of Conrad because of poor cell reception in that area so I just decided to drive to Pittsburgh that night.

View Pictures Here
Keep On Smilin- It's Baseball Season!

2 comments:

  1. Good stuff RJ- Keep trucking man! I really like Cincinnati as a sports town as well, and GABP is a gem. Glad you took in the Hall of Fame too. I wish they didn't charge as much as they do, but it is a great little place. The last time I was there it was over 90 degrees, and it seemed like you ad near perfect weather. Looking forward to the next updates...

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  2. You were in the good part of Cinci. Go to Over the Rhine and it's a completely different story. There are still half-burnt buildings standing from the big fire several years ago.

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