Sunday, August 04, 2013

Great American Ball Park, Great American Game

AUGUST 4th, 2013-I had the pleasure of spending a little time with an old Navy friend and his son, this evening, as the Cincinnati Reds took on the visiting St Louis Cardinals at the Great American Ball Park. My friend Jerry and his son Trey made the trip up from Florida, visiting Jerry's daughter Britney on the way, and were intent on catching a Reds game while they were up here.

 I've been to this park only once before; back in September 2011, I made the trip North to watch the Astros get creamed by Cincy. Of course, since our local minor-league affiliate was at the time connected to Houston, I was rooting for the beleaguered 'Stros. It was less than two weeks prior to this game that current 2B Jose Altuve had made his debut in The Show, and for me he and OF J.D. Martinez were the only reason I needed to show up.

Trey and Jerry
Altuve had made a meteoric (and somewhat unexpected rise) through the Astros system, having played for the Class A Lexington Legends in the South Atlantic League as recently as 2010 and producing a .308 BA with 11 homers and 45 RBIs in 94 games to go with his 39 SB and 75 runs. These were gaudy numbers for the short time he played in Class A ball, to be sure. Yet the odds, as well as the baseball pundits, were somewhat against him ever making even a minor impact in MLB. Being all of 5'5" probably didn't endear him to the scouting crowd. J.D. had owned SAL pitchers in '10, winning the batting title and pacing the league with a .362 average. He hasn't had the same luck as Altuve, yet.

In front of the "Original Nine" Mosaic
Returning to GABP for the first time since that 2011 game, I wasn't aware until shortly before game time that the Reds would be taking on St Louis, their despised division rivals. As I suspected would be the case, the game was sold out. We were fortunate to pass by a large family group who had 5 missing from their party, and as such were willing to hook us up with tickets. The alternative to this stroke of luck was standing-room only tickets at $12 a pop; hardly an acceptable option.

Anyway, as we made our way to our seats, it was nothing but a sea of red in the stands throughout the park. The vast majority of these red shirts were representing the home team, though there were some Cards jerseys to be found. The atmosphere was more akin to that of a playoff game, and the crowd of 41,000+ was hanging on every pitch and every play throughout the night. I even saw The Wave make a complete circuit around the stadium several times, uninterrupted. I figure that's the first time I've ever seen nearly everyone in a sellout game participate.

Tonight for the Reds, outstanding young lefty Tony Cingrani took to the mound to face off against veteran righy Jake Westbrook. The box score and recap can be found here; you really don't need me to go into all that. C Devin Mesoraco had two bombs in this game, while CF Shin-Soo Choo added one of his own, and the crowd went customarily nuts. Cingrani struggled a bit in the first inning, but ended up mitigating the damage somewhat, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits in 5 innings while striking out 7. The Ks are never surprising, when this kid's on the bump. Big-time talent, and one to watch for certain.

Anyway, it's hard to describe the feel of a game like this. This kind of thing has to be experienced, first-hand. I've been to so many games in the past, both at the major and minor-league level, where the fans all seemed like they had lapsed into a coma. This was far from the case, tonight. The way I've felt about baseball in recent months has been less than positive. There have been a number of reasons for that; part of it is due to general stress and anxiety over matters other than those related to the game. But this game tonight was, in a word, electrifying. Reds and Cards fans always crank it up a notch when their teams face off, and tonight was no exception. It was refreshing to see real, vibrant life in the stands, from first row field level to the highest rows of the upper deck.

I suppose it made such an impression on me because it's been so long since I've seen fans so into the game. I guess that's all I'm saying here. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal to others, but games such as the one tonight (even if it had little true bearing on the postseason) are not all that common. For me, they're even less so.

It was just nice to see. And it was the sort of jolt I so badly needed. Never hurts to be reminded why you love something so much. We all need that, from time to time.

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