Wall to wall sunshine awaited us as we ventured from the hotel (following breakfast) and headed toward the Great American Ballpark. With some time before the first pitch of the (scheduled for 115 pm), we found parking near the stadium, and walked the pavilion along the mighty Ohio River.
It was clearly evident that the Ohio River was running very high, swelled by recent heavy rainfall in the area. The normally docile river was roiled by flood waters, swiftly taking sheds, large trees and assorted clutter in its muddied currents downstream. Contrasted by the sunny skies and light winds, the Ohio running out of its banks in full fury made it even more dramatic.
Not surprisingly, the beautiful late summer weather brought a large number of people to the riverfront. Most seemed to be transfixed by the state of the river, while others were simply enjoying the weather and the scenery. Strolling along the pavilion, we were treated to views of northern Kentucky, as well as the paddle wheel boats on the river. Despite the swift currents, people were enjoying the ride, and had I planned more carefully, perhaps I would have been one of those people. Instead, we enjoyed the river from dry land.
1. Great American BallPark
Following our walk along the river, we headed toward the park as the gates were opening. Unlike last night, we left ourselves plenty of time to explore Great American Ballpark. In its second season of service, the ballpark still had a “new” feel to it. More than 42,000 red seats, arranged in three decks spanning from foul line to foul line gave the ballpark a nearly overwhelming “Redness” feel.
Arriving just as the gates opened, there were few fans inside the ballpark. This allowed us to explore the park with little obstruction. While the capacity of Great American Ballpark is a bit larger than its predecessor, Riverfront Stadium, the openness of the new park made it seem much bigger than the older, multi-use colossus.
Like most newer ballparks, the concourse encircled the stadium, allowing us to take pictures from all angles. As expected, the main attraction of the park was the view of the Ohio River. From the upper deck behind home plate, we could see the river, as well as the towns and buildings of nearby northern Kentucky. Crystal clear skies and warm late summer temperatures resulted in a beautiful view from the stadium, possibly one of my favorites among MLB ballparks.
In my opinion, one of the best features of Great American Ballpark is the Smokestacks. Located just to the right of the batter’s eye in centerfield, the Smokestacks were a nod to the history of the Ohio River, when paddle wheel boats were the main mode of transport for people and produce along the length of the river.
After completing our tour of the ballpark, we went in search of a baseball lunch. Though Great American Ballpark offered a wide array of places to eat and drink, we chose to stick with the more conventional concessions. Stocked up with drinks and snacks, we headed for our seats. While Sunday matinees typically attract a smaller crowd than Saturday night affairs, good seats were difficult to obtain for this game. Just like the night before, our seats were further away from the action, though we were at least closer to the plate.
The starting pitchers for the game this afternoon were both former Mets. Chicago sent veteran left hander Glendon Rusch to the hill. Rusch was a Met in 2000-2001, and we saw him shut out the Boston Red Sox in 2001, allowing only infield single to open that contest. Starting for the hometown Reds was right hander Paul Wilson. One of the Generation K starters for the Mets in the mid 1990s, a promising trio that didn’t pan out quite as Mets fans had envisioned, Wilson showed flashes of brilliance with the Mets, but ultimately lost favor with their management and disappeared. After landing in Cincinnati, Wilson’s career experienced something of a renaissance, and 2004 for his best big league campaign.
With the Cubs still in contention for a playoff spot, this was a meaningful game for them. In contrast, the Reds were simply playing out the string toward the end of a disappointing season. Surprisingly, both starting pitchers were at the top of their games on this warm afternoon, with a scoreless tie continuing through the first six innings.
The Reds broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh inning with an RBI single by LF Adam Dunn. In the top of the eight inning, the Cubs tied the score with a sacrifice fly. By this time, both starting pitchers had exited the content, allowing one run each, and the outcome of the game was left in the hands of the bullpen. Cincinnati reliever Danny Graves allowed the final run of the game in the top of the ninth, as the Cubs squeaked out a 2-1 victory.
We were not leaving the Cincinnati area right after the game, so we took out time leaving Great American Ballpark. Aside from the amazing view of the Ohio River, the newly minted ballpark offered all the amenities found in the “newer” MLB ballparks, except for scoreboard. Most new parks feature the latest video board technology, but the video board at Great American ballpark was surprisingly small, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Overall, I was impressed with the park, with my opinion dominated by the view over the center field fence. Unlike some of the newer parks we have visited, I did not feel a level of intimacy at Great American Ballpark, though the sample size was admittedly small. Though I was impressed with the environment, I am not sure I was impressed enough to return anytime soon.
2. Paul Brown Stadium
Since direct flights from Cincinnati to Newark, NJ were not available after the baseball game, we decided to stay in the area and fly out Monday morning. With a free night available, we decided to attend an NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the Bengals. The stadium is part of a larger complex which includes the Great American Ballpark, so we didn’t even have to move our vehicle from the parking lot.
Not realizing that the Sunday night game was the home opener for the Bengals for the 2004 season, we found securing seats to be difficult. Since pickings were fairly slim, we settled on seats in the lower level of the southern end zone. While hardly ideal for viewing the game action, the seats did allow us to be part of the experience, which was enhanced by the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Because our seats were less than desirable, we didn’t get many good pictures of the action. Instead, we enjoyed the action and environment of the NFL contest.