Friday, July 16, 2010

Lake County Captains 6 at Quad Cities River Bandits 1 - July 15, 2010

I was originally going to see a game in Clinton last night but's mobile site shows the starting pitchers a few days in advance and I saw that Quad Cities was sending Shelby Miller, St. Louis' first rounder last year, to the hill. I had already seen a game here, but didn't have time to really tour the park as it was after the World Cup Final. So I made an executive decision and pushed the Clinton game to Monday morning and drove back to Davenport to watch the game.

The Drive

Rather than retrace the route I took the day before, I went over the Mississippi River into Illinois. I took US 34 east to Monmouth, then turned north on US 67 which heads into Rock Island, where it eventually becomes Centennial Bridge, which is the span you can see from the ballpark. This drive is mostly through farm country and there weren't any spots worth stopping for, but at least it wasn't just another interstate.

Modern Woodmen Park

Modern Woodmen Park is rather misnamed as it is not modern at all. It was built in 1931 and known as Municipal Stadium for 40 years. In 1971, it was renamed John O'Donnell Stadium after the longtime sports editor of the local newspaper. Modern Woodmen of America bought the naming rights in 2008, so the press box was renamed in O'Donnell's honour.

This might be one of the most famous minor league parks in the country. First, there is the Centennial Bridge that provides a spectacular view beyond right field. For that reason only, I recommend sitting on the 3rd base side. Most national articles about minor league include this stadium and a picture much like the one below.

The other reason Modern Woodmen Park is so famous is flooding. It lies right next to the Mississippi and for years had no flood protection. In 1993, the river flooded and the stadium was covered in water. This made national news as the team had to find another ballpark to play in for part of the season. This happened again in 2008, but since then there have been several major renovations.

First and foremost, the park has a floodwall that protects it against the ravages of another flood. The wall also acts as berm seating in left field. This is one of several major renovations instituted by new owners over the past three seasons. As you walk around, you will notice several unique features. In the left field corner is a corn field which is now high enough so that the players run out of here during introductions, much like "Field of Dreams".

You can make your way behind the batter's eye for some nice views of the river, and a good shot of the whole park from center field (below). In right field is a tiki bar along with a hot tub for groups to enjoy. There's also a children's play area down the right field line. There are a couple of other group areas, including a sky deck above third base and a series of boxes along the concourse in left field.

Tickets are $9 for the good box seats, which are up to row M. Above that are a few rows that go for $8. There are some general admission benches down the left field line.

As this is the Quad Cities, each town in the area is "honoured" with a concession stand, Moline Market or Davenport Diner are examples. Most of them serve the same typical ballpark fare, but the Bettendorf Bakery has ice cream.

The scoreboard is behind left field and includes a video screen and line score. During the game, the ball-strike-out counter was broken and the video screen was used to display the count. There's a new ribbon board along the right field fence which displays player stats, it's really quite nice and a unique feature at this level. It also shows major league scores on occasion.

Parking here is $2 but you receive the same amount in Bandit Bucks which can be used at the concession stands inside. I went on Thirsty Thursday where 16 oz beers are just $2, so as far as I am concerned, parking is $2 and I got a free beer.

There's no doubt that Modern Woodmen Park is a must-see for any minor league road trip in the Midwest. Just the view alone is worth it, but the River Bandits put on a good show and keep the fans entertained.

The Game

Miller (above) started well, striking out 5 in the first two innings. But Lake County's starter Trey Haley (2nd, 2008) was nearly as good, fanning four in his first two frames.

In the third, the Captains leadoff hitter Delvi Cid singled with one out. Argenis Martinez followed with a single of his own and then Casey Frawley (17th, 2009) drove Cid home with another single. In the 5th, the same three hitters manufactured another run. Cid, who is second in stolen bases among all Class A players, bunted for a single (above). Martinez then nubbed one down the line that hit first base for a single. Frawley followed with a bloop hit (below) to right to make it 2-0 Captains. Miller received a visit from the pitching coach but whatever was said didn't work as DH Chris Kersten (33rd, 2009) sent the first pitch he saw deep into the night for a 3-run shot and a 5-0 lead.

Miller finished the inning but the mistake had been made. He ended up with 9 strikeouts but gave up 10 hits and the 5 runs, not a great performance, but really just that one mistake that cost him.

Both teams traded solo homers but the bullpens were strong and the final was 6-1 Lake County. An interesting game as Haley outpitched Miller- who knows, they could be facing each other in the majors in 3 years.

Player To Watch

Trey Haley. He only pitched 5 innings and was taken out before I even took a picture of him. He must have been on a strict pitch count because he only tossed 61 pitches. But he was very effective, yielding just two hits and an earned run while striking out 7. Certainly on the basis of this one game, he would seem to be the prospect, so he wins the award.

Jerry the King Lawler

Pro wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler was on hand tonight as a promotion. For those of you who might not know him, he is most famous for slapping Andy Kaufman on the David Letterman show as part of a long-running "feud". Lawler did a pre-game interview and then tossed out the first pitch.

But the highlight of his appearance was during the mascot race. If you have ever been to a minor league game, you will have seen the promotion where a young child races the mascot around the bases. The kid always wins. Until last night. As the kid approached the finish line, somebody dressed in a Bandits' uniform stopped him and Rascal, the mascot, won! I was pumped to finally see a mascot win the race. But Lawler was not happy with the result and showed his displeasure by spinning the offending Bandit several times before dropping him to the ground. He then slammed Rascal as well, and gave the kid the win after all. Good fun and a nice take on a somewhat tired promotion.

Next Up

I'm in Minneapolis now where I just saw the Twins end the Chisox 9-game win streak. I'll post about Target Field and the series later, but with a whole bunch of roadtrippers in town for the series, it will be a busy weekend. Check back Sunday night for a summary of events.



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