Sunshine greeted us as we went in search of breakfast in Milwaukee. Wanting to dine quickly, we settled on a Denny’s not far from the hotel. Being a Denny’s, there was nothing particularly memorable about the place, but we did witness the apparent aftermath of an ended relationship. Two women sitting at a booth near a window at the back of the restaurant were engaged in an animated conversation. The woman sitting with with her back to us was using colorful metaphors to describe her ex, while the woman facing us smiled, realizing that much of the place was eavesdropping on her friend’s rant. Even as we were leaving, the metaphors were still flying.
We arrived at Miller Park about 1145 am, just as the gates were opening for the 105 pm contest. Approaching the stadium, we noticed that it was built at grade level (ground level). Most ballparks, especially MLB parks with retractable domes, are constructed so that the playing field is located stories below ground level. In doing so, the stadium has a lower profile, so that it does not tower above its surroundings.
Being built at ground level, Miller Park definitely towers above its surroundings, and can be seen from a considerable distance. In the light of day, we learned that the stadium was surrounded by parking lots, and not much else. Acres of parking lots made Miller Park look even more enormous, dominating the skyline.
Driving up Brewer Way, we noticed a much smaller ballpark on our right. Helfaer Field, located on the site of old County Stadium (former home of the Brewers), is a ballpark suited for youth and softball games. Equipped with a big league scoreboard, sound system and lighting, the field is available for use by the public. There were people preparing the field for use, presumably that afternoon during the Mets/Brewers game.
Unlike the night before, the weather afforded us the chance to explore the outside of Miller Park. With little else around the park, we focused on the glass, steel and brick that compromised the ballpark. The stadium was physically imposing, and after a quick trip around the park, we headed inside.
Milky sunshine allowed the roof of Miller Park to be open for the afternoon game. Unlike the cool conditions the previous night, the sunshine came along with warm and humid conditions, making it feel more like late spring in southern Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, with the roof open, Miller Park did not seem quite as cavernous, though it was still a large stadium.
Upon entering, we walked the lower concourse of the ballpark, taking us to center field. From that vantage point, we got a feel for the size of the stadium, with four tiers of seating from foul line to foul line. Walking toward the right field line gave us a great view of the retracted roof. Swinging back toward left field afforded us an up close view of Bernie’s Slide, on which the mascot descends following Brewer home runs.
Following our tour of the interior, we picked up a baseball lunch on the lower level concourse behind home plate, then headed for our seats. Once again, we were able to secure good seats in the lower level, a bit further up the first base line from the seats we had the night before. Though we were initially bathed in the milky sunshine in our seats, by the time the game started, shadowed covered the first base line.
Starting for the visiting Mets was crafty left hander Tom Glavine. A future Hall of Famer, Glavine was working through a rocky beginning of the 2005 season. Opposing Glavine for the hometown Brewers was left hander Chris Capuano, who was beginning his second season in Milwaukee. Capuano would become one of the Brewers most reliable starters in 2005, leading the staff with 18 wins.
The Brewers jumped on the Mets starter for two runs in each of the first two innings, placing the Mets in a 4-0 hole early in the contest. Following the initial onslaught, Glavine settled down (like the veteran he was), managing to last six innings, not yielding any more runs before exiting. Meanwhile, the Brewers starter held a venerable Mets offense to a lone run through six innings. Neither starter was sharp, allowing enough base runners to slow the game to a crawl at times.
Despite the sunshine and warmer temperatures, the crowd was rather sparse at Miller Park. It has been our experience that Sunday afternoon games are generally lightly attended when compared to crowds on Saturday nights. With an announced attendance of less than 18,000, Miller Park looked even bigger, with most of the fans in the lower levels between first and third base.
The Mets started to chip away at the Brewers lead, as right fielder Mike Cameron hit a two run home run in the sixth inning. A run for the Mets in the eight tied the game at four, leaving the game in the hands of the respective bullpens.
A run scoring single off the bat of JJ Hardy in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Brewers a 5-4 victory. While waiting for the thinning crowd to exit Miller Park, I took one last opportunity to look over the stadium. Overall, my opinion of the park was positive, as we got the chance to see it with the roof open. As one of the larger “new” MLB park, it seemed to lack intimacy or charm. Having only seen the park twice, I’m sure diehard Brewers fans would disagree with my assessment, and they very well could be right. However, while I was happy to visit the most recent addition to the retractable dome ranks, I’m not sure the allure is strong enough to bring me back anytime soon.