Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bowling Green Hot Rods 6 at Burlington Bees 7 - July 14, 2010

Burlington is a small community about 80 miles south of Davenport. The drive between the two is completely without interstates, taking SR 22 along the Mississippi first. This takes you to Muscatine, where I saw more police presence in 10 minutes than I had on the whole trip so far. I then turned south on US 61 which heads straight into Burlington. I'll write more about all of these Iowa towns in a post at the end of the trip, but here's a couple of pictures from some riverside parks along the way.

Today's game featured the visiting Bowling Green Hot Rods (Tampa Bay) against the hometown Bees (Kansas City).

Community Field

Located just off US 61 in north Burlington, Community Field is perhaps the simplest ballpark in minor league baseball. There's little in the way of attractions (or distractions), just a ball field and a few concession stands.

This also might be the most affordable place to see a game. Parking is free, tickets are $7 for box seats for $5.50 for general admission. There are only 4 rows of box seats that stretch from dugout to dugout, and about 15 rows of benches. The entire seating area is protected by a screen, although there are a few benches down third base line next to a concession stand known as "Homer's on Third".

The stadium underwent a major refurbishments in 2005. The main addition was a large building which houses the ticket window on the outside and the concession stands on the inside, as well as a large canopy that covers the concourse as well as a few rows of benches. Concessions are basic but cheap, with cans of beer going for just $2.50. They even had ears of corn (this being Iowa, you know) for only $2. You can eat in a shaded area that you can see in the bottom right corner of the photo below.

Programs are only $1 and provide chances to win with stamped advertisements. I won a free entree at a local pub, which I enjoyed after the game. Game notes and rosters are included and are quite useful as they list the player's draft position.

Other than a small slide, there's not a lot for kids here. This might explain why there weren't that many young children in the crowd; people are here to watch a baseball game, not be entertained otherwise.

The park itself is asymmetrical, with 338 down left field, 403 to center, and 318 to right. The scoreboard has no video screen, just a line score. And that's about it.

Burlington provides an old-school minor league experience. The fans here are true ball fans from Burlington. They all know each other and their team. The GM is in the stands and in one case, went to chastise a fan of the visiting team for using foul language. There are a few promotions between innings but mostly just the PA guy announcing. They do play a lot of music clips and there were occasions were they tried the "Everybody Clap Your Hands" bit, but with only 587 people in the stands, this didn't work so well.

If you like minor league ball, pay a visit to Community Field in Burlington. It's the way it used to be, with baseball as the main event.

Fernando Cruz (6th, 2007) walks to the dugout

The Game

Holy Humidity Batman! It was about 92 degrees with a heat index over 100 when the game got underway at 6:35. This meant the ball would carry and sure enough, there were four homers early. The Bees' Carlo Testa (18th, 2008) got things started with an opposite-field solo shot in the first (below).

Bowling Green tied it in the second. Ryan Wiegand (25th, 2009) led off with a perfect bunt single and advanced on a groundout. After Dustin Biell (5th, 2007) singled him to third (below), Julio Cedeno got the RBI on a fielders choice.

Burlington got 3 in their half, highlighted by a 2-run double from Hilton Richardson (7th, 2007) that went down the line (below).

Cody Rogers got one back for the Hot Rods in the third on a solo shot, but the Bees replied in turn when Testa hit his second of the game in the bottom half. Burlington added singles in the 4th and 5th to take a 7-2 lead and it looked like the rout was on.

Sugar Ray Marimon was pitching well for the Bees, but he ran into trouble in the 6th. A one-out hit batsman and walk ended his evening, and Brandon Barrow, a recent free agent signing, replaced Marimon. He faced Wiegand first and yielded a 2-run double. Mark Thomas (22nd, 2006) followed with a 2-run homer and suddenly the 5-run lead was down to 1. Barrow settled down and retired Biell and Cedeno to end the inning.

By now the weather had cooled somewhat and the ball was no longer carrying. In the 7th, Canadian Mitch Hodge (above) was brought in to relieve. He lasted one inning plus a batter, giving up 2 walks and a single, but no runs. He was replaced by Ryan Dennick (22nd, 2009) who pitched the final 2 innings, giving up just a walk to earn the save. The final batter was Ty Morrison (4th, 2008) who lined to first with the tying run on second. A great ending to a very interesting game.

You can see Dennick and catcher Jose Bonilla congratulating each other beneath the scoreboard below. For what it's worth, Iowa teams are 4-0 on the trip so far.

Player to Watch

I was hoping to give it to countryman Hodge but he didn't pitch that well. So it goes to Carlo Testa with his two homers as well as a great assist, throwing out Rogers at the plate to maintain the 1-run lead in the 7th inning.

Travelers Cheques Update

If you recall, I was unable to cash my American Express Travelers Cheques at a branch of US Bank in Davenport. American Express even provides an online site which tells you where you can cash your TCs. This particular branch of US Bank was even "recommended" which is why I chose it. Didn't matter - no account, no cash.

Fortunately, Iowa is a progressive state and has casinos. So I went to one. "I'd like to cash these please." I said politely. The lady behind the counter told me that I needed a players card. "Not a problem, sign me up." So she did and I got my cash. It did take her a few minutes to process everything and I apologized to the gentleman standing behind me, but he was good-natured, telling me that I was "saving him some money".

The good news is that when you sign up you get $10 in bonus money to use at a slot machine. All you have to do is put $10 of your own money in. The first $10 that is used is the bonus money though, so there is no risk. With the payback at 91.9% according to a sign in the casino, it was a no brainer. So I went to a dollar slot and put my $10 in to activate my bonus bucks. I played ten $1 spins, winning $5 twice! Essentially I turned my $10 bonus into a $10 bill. So thanks US Bank for not cashing my TCs!

Finally I'd like to point out that America is now a country where gambling establishments are more reliable than banks. Given the whole financial crisis was spawned by utter incompetence in banks (with a bit of greed thrown in), this should not be surprising. I expect now I'll be visiting casinos wherever I go.

Chase Lambin Update

Last year, Chase Lambin was playing in Japan's minor leagues for the Chiba Lotte Marines. He is a career minor leaguer who was given a shot in Japan by Bobby Valentine, but he couldn't deal with Japanese pitching and was sent to the minor league team there. I spoke briefly with him after a game and he was still positive and friendly despite the setbacks. Well, he is now back in the States toiling for Syracuse, Washington's AAA team. He was the star in the AAA All-Star Game played last night so he might just get a call-up soon. In fact, as I was typing this, ESPN was showing highlights of the game so he gets some national recognition. C'mon Nats, call him up!

Next Up

A change of plans! I was originally going to see a game in Clinton tonight. But Shelby Miller, St. Louis' 1st round pick in 2009, is supposed to start for Quad Cities in Davenport. I missed out on my second game at Modern Woodmen Park due to Monday's rainout, so I'm going to watch that instead.

As for Clinton, they have a Monday morning game at 10 am. I was planning to drive from Minneapolis to Kansas City that day, but I'm going to spend Sunday evening driving to Clinton and then Monday we will race across Iowa after that game to see the Jays and Royals in the evening. I saw we because my roadtripping friend Sharpy is joining me from Saturday, so we'll have two drivers which makes it a much easier trip. Check back for updates!



1 comment:

  1. Sean - You crack me up. Based on your review, Burlington appears to be a stadium/game I'd like to visit. Only downfall.... "They do play a lot of music clips..." Hope it's not as bad as Coors Field. I'll add Iowa to my list of areas to visit.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!