1. Newark NJ to Milwaukee WI
Our only scheduled MLB baseball trip of 2005 took us to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to visit Miller Park, the home of the Brewers. With Milwaukee lying just outside of driving range for a weekend trip, we decided to fly. Rather than use a typical domestic carrier, we chose to travel from Newark, New Jersey directly to Milwaukee via Midwest Airlines.
Flying for work, I was introduced to Midwest Airlines (a Milwaukee based carrier, now defunct) in the late 1990s. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of flying Midwest Airlines was the seating aboard the planes. Each of the seats in a Midwest Airlines plane was leather, with only two seats together alongside the aisle. In addition, each passenger received a giant chocolate chip. While the gesture could have been considered trite, the cookie was actually delicious. Though the seats cost a bit more than other domestic carriers, the roomier leather seats were worth the extra money.
Being a Milwaukee based carrier, we were able to book nonstop flights. The two and one-half hour flight out to Milwaukee was uneventful, though the weather was steadily worsening at we reached our destination. After picking up our rental car, we briefly stopped at the hotel to drop off our bags, then we headed straight to the ballpark for a 605 pm CDT first pitch.
2. Miller Park, Milwaukee
A steady rain began as we left the hotel, and by the time we arrived at Miller Park, the rain had become heavier with a few claps of thunder. Luckily for us, parking was plentiful at the stadium, and we parked as close to the stadium as possible. Typically, we tour the outside of new stadiums to take pictures of the park and its surroundings. However, the rain and cool temperatures made walking outside infeasible. In fact, as we entered Miller Park, a squall occurred outside.
Miller Park is a stadium with a retractable roof, which was very fortuitous on the rainy and cool Milwaukee evening. Otherwise, the game between the hometown Brewers and the visiting New York Mets would certainly have been a causality of the weather. With the roof closed and storms raging outside, Miller Park seemed dark, despite the lights being on.
Like most ballparks with their roofs closed, Miller Park looked cavernous, particularly with a sparse crowd during batting practice. We arrived early enough to wander about the stadium. Though we did tour much of the ballpark before the game, the dark conditions within Miller Park made taking pictures fairly difficult, so we cut the tour short (since we would get another opportunity to see the ballpark the next day).
As is the case in most of the “newer” MLB ballparks, there were myriad locations to obtain concessions throughout Miller Park. Not surprisingly, there were a number of sausage and bratwurst based dishes available, but we chose more traditional fare for our ballpark dinner. With snacks in hand, we headed toward our seats. Fortunately, we were able to secure seats in the lower level, just to the right of home plate. The seats afforded us a great view of the action, as well as a panoramic view of the stadium.
Starting the the visiting Mets was veteran right hander Pedro Martinez. Though the 33 year old future Hall of Famer was not quite the pitcher he was in his prime, Martinez was enjoying a fast start to his 2005 campaign, sporting a 4-1 record with a sub 3.00 ERA. Opposing Martinez for the Brewers was right hander Wes Obermuller, who was struggling early in the season,
Despite the bad weather, the crowd at Miller Park was impressive, with over 39,000 fans in attendance for the 605 pm CDT first pitch. Even though the pitching matchup seemed one-sided, the game remained scoreless into the fourth inning, when a solo home run by Mets third baseman David Wright put the Mets on top. The Brewers responded with a three run home run by left fielder Carlos Lee in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead.
The Mets offense struck again for runs in the fifth and seventh innings, highlighted by home runs by centerfielder Carlos Beltran (who drove in four runs for the game). However, the Brewers scored two more runs off Martinez in the seventh, ending his night. Despite surrendering five runs in seven innings, Martinez struck out 11 and left with a chance to garner a win for his efforts.
After the departure of Pedro Martinez, the Mets bullpen held the lead, securing a 7-5 victory. Even with 12 combined runs being scored, the time of the game was a reasonable two and one-half hours. Following the end of the game, we headed out into the night. Though the rain had ended, it was still damp and humid.
My first impression of Miller Park was decidedly mixed, as often happens when we see a domed stadium for the first time with the roof closed. We would get another chance to see the park Sunday afternoon, hopefully with the roof open.