In their short history, the Milwaukee Milkmen have not had the best luck with the weather.
A harsh winter in Wisconsin delayed construction on the home field for the newly-formed professional baseball team, a member of the independent American Association in their inaugural season. The club was originally supposed to debut on their new field on May 24th, but wound up playing their first month’s worth of “home games” in Kokomo, Indiana, while crews worked to complete the project. Building was complete at The Rock Sports Complex for the new Opening Day on June 24th, and the experience for fans at Routine Field was well worth the extra bit of wait.
Heavy rains came and went throughout that Monday in Franklin, a suburb in southern Milwaukee County, with some precipitation persisting throughout the night’s tilt between the Milkmen and the Gary SouthShore Railcats. But the wet conditions couldn’t dampen the spirits of the capacity-crowd at the 4,000 seat stadium.
The facility itself was stunning. Another media member present at the home opener remarked to me that the stadium was far nicer than the home field of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in Appleton, for those who have attended Neuroscience Group Field. Plenty of free parking spaces around the field mean that you aren’t in a spending hole before even entering the ballpark, and it is only a short walk to the front gate. Immediately after entering the park, one finds a team store brimming with Milkmen merchandise, with shirts running $25 and above and hats priced at $31.99. A quick jaunt past that leads one to the Zuern Deck, where there is a bar and seating pavillion where fans can take each other on in a game of bags or test their skill in Giant Jenga.
Another brief amble and you’ll arrive at the concession and beverage stands behind home plate. The options are pretty standard as far as ballpark fare goes — there’s a single quarter-pound cheeseburger ($4), a double cheeseburger ($7), hot dogs ($3), and bratwursts ($5). There is also a veggie burger ($5) available for those with meatless diets. You can get a snack like a soft pretzel or nachos for $4, or an order of fries for $3. Assorted types of chips and candies are available, as well. Bottled soda and water is available for $4, and as one would expect, you can get your dairy fix at the Milkmen concession stand, too. Milk is sold for $3, and you can get a chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry milkshake for $5. The signature “Milkmen Special” — a milkshake mixture of chocolate, banana, and sprinkles — can be had for $6. On this day, there was also a booth set up featuring products from local “Classy Girl Cupcakes,” another way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
At the bar, patrons can choose from a wide array of different alcoholic beverage options. Your standard High Life (can), Coors Lite (can), Miller Lite (draft), or Summer Shandy (draft) runs $5 on a normal night at the park. Other premium draft or canned beers cost $8. Mixed drinks run $7 for rail or $11 for the top-shelf stuff, and White Claw hard seltzer ($6) as well as glasses of wine ($7) are also available. One thing to keep in mind is that the club offers a “Thirsty Thursday” special throughout the season, with drink discounts that include $2 domestics and $4 craft beers.
The seats at Routine Field are wide, comfortable, and offer plenty of leg room for the more vertically blessed. The seating bowl was designed with moving fans in mind, with wide staircases that help to mitigate congestion and the amount of “opes” that you’ll hear as folks try to squeeze past each other to arrive at their seats. There are a number of comfortable couches at the tops of the seating sections around the park for fans to lounge on. Bathrooms are located on both the third and first base sides of the field, and notably for dads like me, the men’s rooms do indeed have built-in changing tables. There are bleachers in the outfield, and both indoor and outdoor suites available adjacent to the press box. No matter where in the house you sit, there is a fantastic view of both the field and the giant scoreboard out over the left field fence.
If you can’t put a roof on your stadium, then the next-best thing you can do to combat bad weather is to create an all-turf field like the Milkmen have at Routine Field. There is no dirt on the mound, the infield, or the warning track, and not a tarp in sight. The playing surface may get a little slick at times during moist conditions like the ones on Opening Day, but the fact that the field cannot get saturated like a grass-and-dirt setup means that the game can continued to be played through less-than-ideal conditions.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony on the field before the start of the game was the culmination of more than three years of planning, lobbying, and building — both of the actual facility, and of the personnel group that it takes to run a professional sports franchise — by owner Mike Zimmerman and the rest of the Roc Ventures team. Ceremonial first-pitches were delivered by officials from the city of Franklin, and after the official game ball was delivered via helicopter, starter Jordan Kraus fired the first pitch in Routine Field history at 7:15.
First pitch in Routine Field history from Jordan Kraus! pic.twitter.com/LEmFKHGcoj— Brew Crew Ball (@BrewCrewBall) June 25, 2019
It has been an up-and-down season on the field so far for the expansion Milkmen, as they currently sit in last place in the American Association’s north division with a 17-23 record. They ultimately fell to the Railcats on Opening Day by a score of 3-2 in extra innings. First baseman Glen McClain mashed the first home run in field history and hometown hero Adam Walker rapped two hits in five at-bats, including a double. On the mound, Kraus yielded only two runs across five innings, and though he was saddled with the loss, closer Myles Smith flashed impressive stuff on the mound while punching out five batters in his two innings of work. Winning holds some level of importance at every level of competition, but for independent teams AA and other circuits like it, that often comes second to the entertainment that is provided to fans throughout the course of the game. And that is something that the Milkmen provide in spades.
On-field hosting duties are the job of Van “The Milkman” McNeil and he is joined by the team’s dairy-themed mascot, BoVine. The Grassfed family, a brood of farmers, is typically at the center of the high jinks. During the course of the contest, children were brought out from the stands and on to the field to participate in games like ‘Water Balloon Batting Practice’ and the ‘Little Kid, Big Jersey’ race around the bases. The players also get involved during ‘Toss the Cookies’ when they come out of the dugout and throw the bagged bakery items to kids in the seating bowl. And, of course, what would a baseball game in Milwaukee be without some kind of on-field mascot race? As one might expect, the Milkmen’s take is a competition between a quartet of racing cows:
Racing cows, because of course pic.twitter.com/jZioo9FRWu— Brew Crew Ball (@BrewCrewBall) June 25, 2019
“I love it. Can’t ask for anything else. We’ve got everything we need here, a bunch of fans to support us,” infielder and DH Dan Ward, in his first season of professional baseball, told me in the dugout when I asked him about the team’s new digs. “It’s about time, baby!”
The Milkmen return to Routine Field for their next homestand on July 9th, with three-game sets against the Cleburne Railroders and the Sioux City Explorers before heading back out on the road. Single game tickets start at $8 and can be purchased here though the Milkmen’s official website. There are multiple packages that include some sort of food and drink combo along with your seat, including an all-you-can-eat-and-drink deal that starts at $30.
Be sure to carve out some time this summer to head down to Routine Field at Franklin’s Rock Sports Complex on 76th and Rawson, and check out the area’s newest local nine, Milwaukee’s ‘udder’ professional baseball team!