The Cincinnati Reds unveiled their brand-spankin' new baseball-only facility, the Great American Ballpark.
Two visits to the Ballpark in the past week saw the Reds losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but pulling out a victory over my beloved Chicago Cubs. The Ballpark has a lot of great qualities to it. The first one being that it is not Riverfront. That in itself is a significant upgrade. It also has a few drawbacks, nothing major, but a few things that keep it from climbing into the upper echelon of the new ballparks.
The first question should be, "How does it look?" Well, despite the criticisms of different architects in local Cincy papers (architects mind you, whose plans were rejected), the Ballpark looks nice and clean. Very clean. This is probably due to the fact it is so new, but watching the interaction of people and sanitation workers, you notice something. The general cleanliness was noticeable to everyone, so nobody wanted to be the guy to leave trash lying around. There was a noticeable lack of cups and nacho trays littering the seating areas. After eating some Skyline chili, the tray went under my seat, and then, feeling guilty, I picked it up and walked it to the nearest trashcan. Others did the same. Although this trend won't continue, it would be a nice change of pace.
Besides the lack of litter, The Ballpark has a different feel than Riverfront. To be honest, the first thing is how reminiscent it was of a minor league stadium, such as the Lexington Legends's Applebee's Park. They have managed to make a 40,000-seat facility feel cozy. The actual playing field is a lot smaller than Riverfront, the seats down the right field and left field lines jut out into the field, and the dimensions are 328 to left, 404 to center, and 325 to right. The 325 to right is the smallest Major League Baseball will allow. This was supposed to be to the benefit of the Reds' star player, Ken Griffey Jr., but continuing a disturbing trend of bad luck beginning with the moment he left Seattle, Griffey injured himself diving after a ball and will be out of the lineup 6 to 10 weeks. Still, the short porch should benefit other Reds, such as Adam Dunn, not to mention provide the platform for the team to score a lot of runs, something it must do to win because their pitching is horrible.
One of the nicer things about taking a stroll around The Ballpark is the fact you can take a stroll completely around. Riverfront did not offer this. Right field opens up to the Ohio River and provides a nice view of Northern Kentucky. It is kind of odd they offer this view, instead of a view of downtown Cincy, but hey, they also put the Cincinnati Airport in Kentucky, so who knows. When you take your stroll, be sure to stop out in dead centerfield, underneath the riverboat smokestacks that celebrate Reds home runs and victories. This "Batter's Eye" vantage point is open to all ticket holders and offers a unique view of the game. The food stands are plentiful and varied. While the Reds may be offering a minor league feel, they are definitely charging major league prices. Thankfully, many of the stands take credit/debit cards.
The Machine Room is the sports bar/restaurant that sits down the left field line. This place is nice, and offers terrace seating that makes you feel like you are in your own little luxury box, except for the drunk guy yelling inappropriate things about certain players and their sexual preferences. They offer a menu similar to that of Trump's or any other sports bar, and since they are not an "official" concession stand, they can circumvent the "No beer sales after the first half of the seventh inning" rule.
It was a great experience, but there were some problems, many that will probably be solved over time. Parking is not good. Due to the fact that a lot of Riverfront is still standing, you are required to park more than a few blocks away. They offer some shuttles to and from Covington, so that could be another option. The other major problem is their revamping of the Mr. Reds race. This scoreboard favorite featured three Mr. Reds racing across the scoreboard. It was nice and simple, not very flashy, but still a favorite scoreboard game. Well, it has been updated to feature a Mr. Red, the current mascot, a Mr. Redlegs, an older fella, and Rosie Red, a girl. That's right, a chick. Listen, women in the workplace is cool, but not during a MISTER Reds race. Did you catch that key word? MISTER! Much like Greedo shooting first, this "improvement" destroys a childhood memory.
For a brand new ballpark, this place already has a few nicknames, mostly relating to its rather modest dimensions. "The Great American Small-Park" and "Coors Light", after Coors Field in Colorado, are two of the more clever ones. The one that stands out, however, and best describes the new home of the Reds is "The Pretty Good American Ballpark." While it is nice, and clean, and is a huge improvement over Riverfront, there is no one thing that jumps out at you. There is no "Wow!" factor, as people like to say. That does not mean it is not worth a trip up north to catch a ballgame. Baseball played at its highest level, the Major Leagues, is always worth a trip. Seeing superstars such as Sammy Sosa, Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey Jr. (when healthy), and superstars in the making like Lexington's own Austin Kearns, are the kind of memories we will tell our children about while watching ESPN Classic in 20 years. The beautiful thing about a baseball game is that it is always someone's first time. Young or old, boy or girl, they will witness the Smokestacks, the view of the river, maybe the new Mr. Reds race, or they just might simply enjoy some nachos. Either way, memories made at The Great American Ballpark will hopefully last awhile.
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