2021 Baseball Season Adventure — Part One
My first major road trip since the start of the pandemic, with the primary destination of meeting my new granddaughter in Ohio, took me into the heart of High-A Central territory.
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The first stop of day one was in Cedar Rapids for a tour of the Kernels Hall of Fame and History Timeline. In the 1970s, I vaguely remember attending a Kernels (then Giants) game with my grandfather and cousins at the old Veterans Memorial Stadium. A new rendition of that stadium has been in place in the southwest part of Cedar Rapids (not far from the historic Czech Village) since 2002. The pro shop has an attached history museum where I learned that Cedar Rapids has had a professional team since 1891 and that the Twins (since 2013) are the tenth different MLB team with which the franchise has been affiliated.
The first game on this trip was in Peoria where the Chiefs (High A affiliate of STL Cardinals) hosted the Quad Cities River Bandits. Shortly before my trip I came across an article noting that Peoria’s Dozer Park is one of the minor league stadiums lacking protective netting beyond the near ends of the dugouts. Looking at the recent history for major league venues shows that a few dozen fans are injured each season by foul balls including a handful of serious injuries. I decided it was time to put the old leather baseball glove into my traveling gear. The one I found at home was also the OLDEST in the house, the glove that I wore as an eight year old playing park and rec ball!
I did not need to use the glove as no foul balls came close to me, but several passed overhead on their way onto adjoining Jefferson Avenue, the street running adjacent to the left field line. It is so close that some on-street parking spaces beyond the left field wall offer a decent view of the field, and the team has installed netting to protect cars. I visited the gift shop and viewed some of the historical displays where I was reminded that the great Kirby Puckett played college baseball in Peoria, for Bradley University.
The baseball high point of this tour was on Sunday, May 23rd when the Cincinnati Reds hosted the Milwaukee Brewers on a hot, sunny afternoon at Great American Ballpark. Average attendance for the Reds first 24 home games was 12,174 and the size of the gathering at this game appeared to be close to that number.
When I bought tickets for the game back in April for center field Section 101, I found that the Reds were selling some seats as “pods of one”. I learned from this helpful resource that seats in the shade can be found in rows M through P of these lower left field sections. I chose one seat in the sun and one seat in the shade of the same section, offering one to my son-in-law. When he could not attend, and the weather forecast looked unseasonably warm, I re-sold the ticket for the “sunny seat” the day before the game. Unfortunately, the Reds had increased the percentage of seats sold starting in mid-May and so supply and demand influences resulted in taking a bit of a loss on this extra ticket. When I got to row O, I found that my section came with an asterisk to the shady seat generalization. The second level of the left field structure does not quite overhang the west half of section 101 and I was actually set up to bask in the sun after all.
When a passing cloud departed and vivid sunlight spread across my spot, I left to take a walking tour of the stadium which lasted for the remainder of my time at the game. Having the stadium at 30% of capacity made for a more leisurely and uncrowded experience as I I took in some fine views of the Ohio River past the outfield walls. I stood in the right field corner, an excellent vantage point for witnessing two third-inning home runs, particularly this notable blast by Jesse Winker.
I made my way to the concourse behind home plate into which a cooling breeze was funneling during one of the middle innings. I later took up a position down the left-field line, alert for potential foul balls should a left-handed batter take a late swing. Just before leaving the ballpark, I made sure to stop at the Fan Accommodation counter where I was presented with a commemorative certificate of attendance at my first Reds game!