Wednesday, August 17, 2016

South Bend Cubs 3 at Bowling Green Hot Rods 2 (Midwest League) - August 16, 2016

The Midwest League has one team that is actually in the south, namely the Bowling Green Hot Rods who call Kentucky home. I am planning to complete this league next season, but with Bowling Green just an hour away from Nashville, I decided to visit the Hot Rods on this trip to avoid a long drive next year.

The franchise moved here in 2009 from Columbus, Georgia and were members of the South Atlantic League for one season before moving to the MWL along with Lake County.

The team took up residence in a brand new ballpark that has so far been immune to the corporate naming disease. Sure, Bowling Green Ballpark isn’t catchy, but it beats any company moniker that gives you no idea of where the stadium is actually located. The Hot Rods appellation is due to Bowling Green's association the automotive industry, with the National Corvette Museum and a General Motors factory located here, as well as Holley, a company that boasts of being the world's largest maker of hot rod parts, as you can see on the banner celebrating those Hot Rods who have made the majors.

BGB is situated at the corner of 8th Avenue and Kentucky Street in downtown Bowling Green, though I use the term "downtown" loosely as I saw little in terms of development while driving around the very narrow streets. There is a free multi-level parking garage on right next to the ballpark that was empty when I arrived an hour before the game. From here it is about 30 seconds to the main entrance.

Outside the park is quite nice, with a few things worth noting, including the mural illustrating how to bat.

There is a small development attached to the parking garage known as Stadium Park Plaza (below) which has a large sports bar, known as 6-4-3. This turned out to be a godsend as it started pouring as soon as I bought my ticket and I needed to find cover quickly. While I relaxed with a pint and a snack, the rain stopped rather suddenly. The grounds crew must have done a bang up job getting the field ready, because first pitch was only 10 minutes later than originally scheduled and I had to scramble to get back to the stadium in time.

Tickets start at $7 for seats in the left field corner (Kroger Korner, so corporate sponsorship does exist), which is a great area for foul balls. Box seats are $11 or $13, and club seats are available for $24. All these prices (except the Kroger Korner) are for game day purchases during the week, ou can save $2 buying in advance, and you will pay $2 more for Friday/Saturday games. On this night, there were so few fans that you could sit anywhere, so naturally I bought the cheapest ticket.

With the storm clearing so quickly, I didn’t have much time to tour the place, though frankly, having been to so many ballparks, there was little here out of the ordinary. A single seating bowl with an open concourse behind it and suites above. The suites overhang the lower bowl, thus a few rows were dry and I spent my time there.

The press box is along third base, a not uncommon sighting these days as new ballparks reserve the best seats in the second level for suites or lounges. It is mildly amusing when the home plate umpire signals changes to the third base side instead of behind home plate is as customary.

There is a bar here that serves craft beer at $7 per pint (above), but you really can’t watch the game from here, though nothing is stopping you from bringing your beer to your seat. There is also a kid's zone with a carousel down the right field line, but it didn't seem to be operating on this night.

The scoreboard is quite nice for this level, and even shows the draft position of the home team, something that should be more prevalent in displaying player statistics.

The slogan this season is "Fan Driven", a great play on words, though not something I could verify with most fans staying away due to the rain. The team store is named The Body Shop to continue with the car concept.

I really liked the overall experience here, with the 6-4-3 sports bar a decent spot for before or after the game (though note that it closes at 11 between Monday and Wednesday). Free parking is always welcome, and the team clearly tries to make a game night a fun time for all fans. It is too bad that the weather kept so many fans away; I'd like to see the place on a warm weekend evening when the neighbourhood is a bit more happening.

The Game

The South Bend Cubs were in town to take on the Hot Rods (Tampa Bay). Ryan Kellogg (5th round in 2015, from Whitby, Ontario, below) started for South Bend, opposed by Eduar Lopez. The Cubs got things started in the second when Vimael Machin (10th, 2015) singled and Roberto Caro tripled him home. Lopez then struck out Connor Myers (27th, 2016) on a wild pitch that allowed Caro to score. To make matters worse, catcher Brett Sullivan (17th, 2015) threw wild to first and Myers scampered to second safely. Carlos Sepuvleda then singled to score Myers to make it 3-0. Bowling Green got one back in the bottom half when Peter Maris doubled home Manny Sanchez, but the next four frames were scoreless.

In the bottom of the 7th, Zacrey Law (23rd, 2014) led off with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch (one of 7 total on the night), scoring on a Sullivan single. The Hot Rods got two runners on in the bottom of the 9th to make things interesting, but Sullivan flew out to deep center to end the game as South Bend held on for the 3-2 win.

My Player to Watch is Bowling Green middle reliever Elias Torres, who was the only pitcher to not walk a batter or throw a wild pitch. The game took 3:02, due to the dearth of quality pitching. Fortunately, I just made last call at the sports bar, though the kitchen was already closed.


This was my 8th active Midwest League Park, with 8 left to visit next year.



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