Hi Brewers fans. I said I would return after my trip to Milwaukee, and share some words and photographs of my recent travels. Much appreciation goes out to those of you guys who pointed me in the right directions, and provided me with suggestions and ideas of things I could eat, do, see while in Milwaukee for a day last weekend.
In short; my experience at Miller Park was positive. There are some things that I have to critique, and I'll hope to remember to get to them as I write and drop in pictures, but overall, I had a good time in Milwaukee, for as little time as I spent there. There are a lot of pictures I'm posting, so heaven forbid if you're still on some dial-up connection, but I hope regardless you guys enjoy my review of your home ballpark, and a brief cameo through your city.
Starting in Chicago, the drive to Milwaukee isn't nearly as bad as I thought it might have been. I saw a lot of potential for problems, considering the stretch of I-94 between the two cities was full of construction, and I have to imagine if I chose a weekday or something, I would be singing a completely different tune. One thing I have to say though, is that those coming from the south end of the state, and going into Milwaukee, it was actually kind of tricky to find Miller Park. There were absolutely no signs from the direction I was coming from, and the GPS directions don't really take you to Miller Park itself, but some section of buildings. It wasn't until I began to see groups of people walking around in Brewers regalia did I realize that I was close, and after I left the park, and got on the highway leaving the park, did I see in my rearview, all the signs and arrows pointing in the right direction. A minor gripe, since I still got to the park with plenty of time.
Okay, I tip my cap to Wisconsin for really knowing how to tailgate. I live in Georgia, in the heart of SEC-country, where tailgating for college football is practically a sport of itself. Upon entering the general parking lot and getting out of my car, I was simply awestruck by the scene; seemingly endless rows of people grilling, drinking, and playing cornhole. I actually admonished my friend with me, as he is a Nationals fan, and was wearing a bright red Nats cap and shirt in the heart of all the Brewer blues and yellows, and getting the both of us some not necessarily hostile, but the "you're outsiders," kind of looks from everyone else. Otherwise, I'd totally have done my best to schmooze and try to make friendly with the locals.
You can practically see the layer of barbecue smoke permeating above all the cars, and creating this haze around Miller Park like Saturn's ring. As for the park itself, as great of an architectural marvel it is, it really, really stands out. Where as the rest of Milwaukee is kind of old-timey, with lots of warehouses and older buildings, Miller Park kind of sticks out. Furthermore, it doesn't really look like a baseball park from the outside. More like a general arena, but I guess since the roof can be closed, it really could prove to be venue for much more than just baseball.
I have to ask what the purpose of this little mini-field outside the park is for? I mean, it's a great place for kids to be kids and play catch and what not, but I'm curious to know what uses it has otherwise?
Something I noticed was how close scalpers were apparently allowed to be to the park itself. I mean, there's a supervisor well within eyeshot of the "illegal" re-selling of tickets, but nothing is being done about it?
Naturally, anything about the Braves is something that certainly piques my interest. Obviously, I fully understand the importance of Milwaukee in the history of the Braves, and I do recall seeing more than just a few people who also were wearing Braves gear, or at least the old two-tone Milwaukee Braves baseball caps.
A glimpse of the latest savior of baseball, Stephen Strasburg, as he retreats to the dugout. The odd thing is that my friend and I watched him throw for a little bit and then abruptly stop; little did we know that he very well could have felt the initial symptoms of his inflamed shoulder that has recently put him on the DL, likely to take his sweet time coming back up.
Former Nationals closer, Matt Capps. FYI, I was sitting two rows right behind the camera crew next to the visitor's dugout.
So naturally there were all sorts of people hanging around well before the game started, begging for baseballs from fans and field crew who were within arm's reach of stray baseballs. Including this very much grown man.
The best part about these girls was that one of them was claiming to be there on birthday, and when one camera man fished out a stray baseball from the camera well and tossed it up, the friend in the dark navy Brewers shirt reached out an intercepted it. And then they started arguing, and the birthday girl kept pulling out the birthday card, but the jerky friend wouldn't relinquish the ball. The saddest thing was that it wasn't even a real official MLB baseball.
So apparently, this game was an extremely hot ticket, despite being against the Washington Nationals. Very obviously the case was the fact that it was Robin Yount Bobblehead day. But being the skeptic that I am, I know for a fact that obviously, not every single person is a real Yount fan, let alone know who in the heck he is. You guys should have seen Jason Heyward bobblehead day at one of the Braves' affiliates. Only 1,500 were available, and all 1,500 were gone when I got there. Yet there weren't even close to 500 people in the park. Obvious answer? Yep - Ebay. People were already selling their Robin Yount bobbleheads, while there were people literally all day, pleading with those who had them if they would sell them.
Adam Dunn, returning to the dugout after loosening up.
Casey McGehee, signing a ball for a kid. The funny thing was that David Bush was the only player upon introductions that didn't have a kid to stand with and sign anything for.
Yeah, I really am that guy who is still taking pictures with his left hand while the right is on my hat on my chest during the National Anthem.
A shot from my seats. From the moment I saw Willie Harris taking grounders at third base, and understanding that Ryan Zimmerman wasn't going to be playing for the Nationals, I knew the Nats were doomed. There were a lot of forces at work on this day - to my knowledge, the Brewers had a horrendous record on Sunday home day games, and the Nationals had a fairly decent day game record. Furthermore, on my road trip games, the home team was rocking like an .833 winning percentage, so in other words, Willie Harris was the only logical justification for me thinking that the Brewers were going to win the game.
Maybe I should do my homework on it, but I honestly don't really understand the purpose of Bernie sliding down a slide as celebration for a home run. Other than being something to excite children, maybe someone could shed a little light on it for me?
Speaking of light, after a while, I began to get a little aggravated by how hot it was in Miller Park. Yes, I know that baseball is a summertime sport, and it's supposed to be hot, but baseball is also meant to be played outdoors in open air, and not a green house. The roof was open, and it was a gorgeous day outside, but down on the field, it felt as if it were twenty degrees hotter than what it was like actually outside the park. As pretty as the interior of the park is, what with their spacious concourses, with fans keeping the air moving around, all the windows and amplified heat were getting on my nerves. So, I decided to go for a little walk, and explore the park more thoroughly.
When I saw this posh elaborate food tray of decadence going into one of the luxury suites, my first thought was "I guess Bud Selig is in attendance today."
Okay, here's some honest griping from me here - but I think Miller Park is a little way too kid-friendly. I fully understand the importance of children in the ongoing life-blood of the sport, and in essence, baseball is a kid's game, but at the same time, IMO, the ballpark experience should, well, include watching baseball. I grew up in Virginia, where there was no nearby baseball team, so I never had a hometown team growing up, no team that my dad would take me to, and take in the experience of the game. But I know that when I eventually have kids, I want to take them to Turner Field, and have them sit with me and actually watch the game; not fawning over clowns, crawling through giant hamster tunnels, or playing arcade games; or even worse, whining about how they'd want to be doing such, instead of watching baseball with dad. Personally, I was a little agitated with every piece of kids distraction fluff, and wished that Miller Park didn't have them.
Sorry. I had to get that off my chest. It's like when you go to a minor league park, and you see garbage like moon bounces and those American Gladiators jousting pits; they're just not necessary, IMO.
But anyway, back to the game; when in Rome, since I was in Milwaukee, I felt the need to try a genuine Wisconsin brat; after all, it was recommended in the SI.com food guide of the summer (I wrote the one for Turner Field's Hammerin' Hank sandwich). Garnished with onions, sauerkraut, dijon mustard, and a section dedicated to "the secret sauce," I found it to be pretty good. Honestly, not the mind-blowing experience that some might consider indigenous food should be, but it was good nonetheless.
And of course, what trip to Miller Park wouldn't be complete without the sausage run? I'm guessing Pudge Rodriguez is not a fan of the race, because he emerged from the dugout and pretty much inadvertently set a mean pick on Chorizo without batting an eye at the situation.
Sausage relay? I did not know they incorporated the little ones into the race. Cute, and entertaining, needless to say.
More entertaining was this extremely inebriated homer getting kicked out of the park for accosting Nationals players, and repeatedly walking back and forth through my section, agitating the people in the front row to where they were probably the ones who texted the "in case of problems" number that is advertised on the boards. Funny thing is I've never seen such advertising done before at any of the other parks I'd been to, but in the span of two days, both Wrigley Field and Miller Park had signs up for "text this number if some jacknape is acting out in your section."
When I went to San Diego two years ago, it was against the Nationals, and Trevor Hoffman shut the door on them. But even my friend, as big of a Nationals fan he is agrees that it is a privilege to watch Trevor Hoffman do it again, to his boys again. Even if he has lost just a little bit more of his stuff to where save situations aren't the best idea, he's still one of the best ever. I really hope the Brewers give him a shot to get #600 before this year is over. Also, I noticed that he didn't come out to AC/DC's Hell's Bells; is this on his request, or is it a 9th/save thing only, or do they just not play it at all for him anymore?
And the forces of my road trips prevails, and the Brewers win. I so called it when Fielder was intentionally walked that McGehee was going to break some backs, because I'd seen him do it to Atlanta all year long; I just didn't realize it would be to the tune of the mythical three-run homer.
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOY?
So upon leaving Miller Park, I found myself in Downtown Milwaukee, walking around on the River Walk. Being a Sunday afternoon, pretty much everything was closed, but then we discovered the Old German Beer Hall, with drinks served by this girl, and then we were suddenly sitting outside drinking beer and eating sausage. For an hour.
Afterward, we did a little walking, for me, to walk off the beer just a little bit, since I didn't really want to get pulled over for any DUI in another state (especially since my rental had New York tags), so we wandered around the River Walk area some more. For whatever reason, there was all this smoke coming out of a sewer cover, and I took this shot, because I thought it looked interesting.
Okay, so while watching the game, I guess after the 50 times it was advertised, it sunk in that I had to try my luck at Potwatomi. I mean, the ads were all over the place; billboards outside the park, signs inside the park, and a giant ad is even adorning the top of the visitor's dugout, right where I was sitting. Not to mention that I like to gamble, but I've never really had much luck in Native American casinos, but I figured what the hell, and went anyway.
Kind of like Miller Park, it's a really gaudy structure that stands out in a very blue-collar looking area. Right behind the parking garage are dilapidated-looking buildings, and trainyards, with lots of piles of bricks and rubble strewn about. And then bang, big-ass Native American casino. But it's worse in the mountains of North Carolina, where it's all peaceful forest and mountains, and then there's this big Barney-purple monstrosity in the middle of everything, and their gigantic parking deck, Harrah's style.
I doubled my money, playing blackjack with a dealer that legitimately looked like the Washington Redskins logo, poured myself a few complimentary sodas, and used their restroom. What will I do if I win? Leave.
And so back to Chicago, I drove, and I couldn't help but notice this interesting vehicle on the way back - a hearse with a skeleton strapped to the top of it. Not pictured were two other hearses in front of it.
In conclusion, my experience in Milwaukee was mostly positive, and I did think Miller Park was nice. As a whole, it's hard to explain, but I think Miller Park is kind of artificial, and partially lacks some personality, or soul. But it does not change the fact that it's still a marvelous venue to watch some baseball, and the bottom line is if I lived in Milwaukee, and the Brewers were the place I could go to on a regular basis, I can't say I would complain about the park over the long haul.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading, and I once again thank everyone who gave me suggestions and contributions for my trip, because I probably wouldn't have found some stuff without you guys.