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Miller Park
Milwaukee, WI
Minnesota Twins at Milwaukee Brewers
June 22, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

Wow!  I have to say that I was blown away by Miller Park.  I didn't expect much from this ballpark, but was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer.   As soon as you get to the parking lot you can tell that things are a little different in Wisconsin.  As usual, we got to the stadium over two hours before game time, but this time there were a lot of people already in the parking lot, but not in the stadium.  There were tailgaters all over the lot on this Sunday afternoon.  I'm not sure if this was just because it was Sunday and they are used to getting up early to tailgate for Packer's football games or if this is their standard tradition.  Although we did not get to sample any of the food, you could smell all the sausages, burgers, and dogs on the grills as we walked by to make our mouths water. Considering that tailgating seems to be a tradition here, the Brewers have made it a little easier for the fans in Gantnor's Gardens, where there are plenty of picnic tables available for the tailgaters to be comfortable. Note that the parking lot is sectioned off by Major League Baseball team names instead of the more customary A, B, C, etc.  We parked in the Dodger section, but if I had known this before, I would have made sure we were in the Mets section.

Also, in and around Gantnor's Gardens on your way to the main entrance, you will find plaques honoring Hank Aaron's career accomplishments from beginning to end.  This may seem strange considering Hank only played his last two seasons with the Brewers, but he did spend much of the early part of his career playing for the Braves at County Stadium in Milwaukee.  In fact he won his only World Series in Milwaukee in 1957.  County Stadium was the home of the Braves from 1953, when they moved from Boston, until 1966, the year they moved to Atlanta.  Therefore, County Stadium was without a Major League team until 1970, when the Pilots left Seattle after one year to move to Milwaukee as the Brewers. The Brewers have not only honored their own history in and around this ballpark, they have made sure to include Milwaukee Baseball history as well.

The Brewers haven't forgotten about County Stadium either.  In it's place now stands Helfaer Field, which is a youth size Baseball stadium that is available to groups for a fee, but open to all for Sunday afternoon games. When we got to the field there were various people playing catch on the field and eating at the picnic tables inside this miniature stadium.  All around the field you will find plaques honoring Milwaukee Baseball history on a decade-by-decade basis, and there are even large monuments outside the front entrance commemorating Milwaukee's championship teams.  And, of coarse, they have not forgotten to have a commemorative home plate at the spot where home plate at County Stadium actually stood.  The kids can even play out in Bernie Brewer's Dugout Playground that is just beyond the outfield fences of Helfaer Field.

I'll note here that this is the only place where I've had the pleasure of seeing a game at a stadium that no longer exists.  I went to a game there two years ago while Miller Park was being built and got to experience one of the older ballparks.  I thought it was kind of rickety at the time, but still pretty interesting from behind the stands.  This is where you walk into your seats you could see all the catwalks that took you from the ramps to your seats at the various levels.  On the inside it reminded me a little bit of Shea Stadium with its relative plainness, but it appeared to be a good place to see a game and enjoy some bratwurst!

Outside the main entrance to Miller Park you will notice a few more things. The first is the larger than life statues of the three workers that died in an accident during the construction of the Park, which is called "Worker's Walkway".  I think this is great that the Brewers did not forget the hard work and tragedy that went into completing this stadium.  In front of both Worker's Walkway and the entrance to the stadium you will find the Brewer's Walk of Fame, which honor's the members of the Brewer Family that have made their Hall of Fame with plaques on the floor in the shape of home plates. Finally, you will find the Statues of Hank Aaron and Robin Yount, which have clearly been the two biggest Baseball stars in Milwaukee, by the main entrance.  I had to take a picture of Paul by Yount, because that is one of his favorite players.  For some strange reason (I guess Yount and the powerful 1982 Brew Crew team), Paul has been a Brewer fan (from New York?) for a long time.  Therefore, the actual game is likely to be more meaningful for him.

Notice that I've had a lot to say and I haven't even entered the inside of Miller Park yet.  I'll go into the inside in a bit, but what I like best about that is that you can enjoy all the extra non-game things before the game, and then when you enter the ballpark you can focus on the game (and the bratwurst)!  Clearly, once you get inside you have to have the Bratwurst with onions and their special sauce. If you don't like bratwurst you can always try the Italian or polish sausages, or even the plain old hot dog, but the bratwurst and the special sauce is what this stadium is known for. In addition, you might as well sample some Miller beer while you here in the spirit of the park's name.  Note I had to mention food, because it is my sister Jacki's favorite part of my articles, and I don't want to disappoint my few fans.  OK, they're all family members, but they're still fans.

I did get to notice a few other gems on the inside of the ballpark.  Inside the main entrance you will find two "Walls of Honor" to honor Negro League, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and Major League Baseball stars that are from Wisconsin.  There is also a replica Miller Park built with Lego in the main souvenir shop that is worth taking note of.

Going into the stadium, I expected to get that uncomfortable "Indoor Baseball" feeling considering that Miller Park has a retractable roof. However, the concourses inside the stadium are all wide open with glass walls on the outside to give you an airy feeling to the park, instead of claustrophobia.  When you take this walk on the concourse, make sure you look up and around.  All of the beams and air-conditioning ducts are left out in the open as part of the décor for the stadium.  I personally love this unfinished-finished look to the stadium.  In addition, the non-glass part of the exterior is brick, which gives this park that combination of both a classy old-style look on the outside with modern art on the inside. I think they did a good job of making a semi-retro park, while not forgetting that we are living in more modern times.

Since today was a beautiful day, the game was thankfully played with the roof open.  I've said nothing but good things about Miller Park to this point, because my experience here was good.  However, I have heard from others that when it rains outside and the roof is closed, that it is not airtight and that some fans (and players) can still get wet during the game. This is unfortunate, because I like everything else about this park.  I'll also have to note that there is the typical "new-stadium" kid area in centerfield, but for some reason it doesn't seem to distract from the game.  And you can't finish talking about the Park without mentioning the Brewers mascot Bernie Brewer.  He has his own section called "Bernie's Dugout", where he slides down the slide after every Brewer's home run (which Jenkins enabled me to see today), and he has a K corner where he keeps track of the Brewer's pitchers strikeouts.  Bernie's Dugout was brought over from County Stadium because of its popularity with the fans.

Unfortunately for the Brewers' fans today they lost 8-3 to the Twins. Unfortunately for me, I got to see Kenny Rogers pitch on consecutive starts during my trip.  Remember, I am not talking about the country music singer that my friend Joe Bedics goes to see in concert on a regular basis, I am talking about the guy that walked in the winning run to end the Mets season in 1999.  Enough whining!  The Twins got off to an early start with a 2-run homer by Corey Koskie in the 1st that the Brewers never recovered from.  The game was then temporarily delayed when home-plate umpire, Rick, Reed, had to leave the game after the top of the 1st due to dizziness.  They had to continue the game with only three umps from there.  Geoff Jenkins drove in a run in the bottom of the inning with a single to temporarily keep the Brewers in the game.  However, the Twins kept pecking away with single runs in the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th innings to get their 8 runs.  The most memorable run though was when Dustin Morneau hit a 460-foot shot off the scoreboard in center field that left the crowd gasping.  Jenkins was involved in every run the Brewers scored on his 3-5 day.  He singled in a run in the 1st, homered in the 4th and scored on Wes Helms sacrifice fly after doubling in the 6th.  Hocking was the brightest spot for the Twins, going 3-4 with a triple, a home run, a walk and 3 runs scored.  My buddy, Kenny Rogers managed to get the win while Matt Kinney took the loss.

During the game, I got to see the famous sausage race between Bratwurst, Italian Sausage, Polish Sausage, and the Hot Dog, with the Bratwurst coming out victorious.  (Note that this took place prior to the Randall Simon incident.)  This is always part of the fun of going to see a Brewers game because, as you know, this race is not shown on the scoreboard, Brewers' employees wearing costumes compete in an actual foot race.  Also, during the 7th inning stretch they add some Milwaukee flavor by singing "Roll Out the Barrel" after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" while changing "Home Team" to "Brewers".  Finally, there is also a life preserve in right center field, where a fan will be awarded $10,000 if a Brewer player hits a home run through it (note that it is over 400 feet away).

In general the Brewers fans appeared to be into the game rooting for the Brewers even though they have played lousy baseball for so many years.  Note that the sausage race still get the most cheers.  Due to the proximity of the two cities, lots of Twins fans made the 5-hour drive to see the game and were noisy and happy with the outcome of the game.  Oh yea, I almost forgot, this was an Interleague game as well, pitting these two local rivals together.  I guess I forgot about that because the Brewers were in the American League for most of their existence, so playing the Twins seemed normal to me.

Bottom line - So far this is my favorite amongst the new ballparks that I have visited.  So make sure you get there early on a nice day to see all the artifacts on the outside and so you don't get rained on while inside.  Don't worry, the ballpark is worth it even if the play of Mr. Selig's (I'm sorry, his daughter's) Brewers are not.

Basic trip facts:
* Stadium # 8
* Old Stadium Sites visited - County Stadium (Total - 4)
* Miles traveled - 389 via Car (Totals: Driving - 3,262, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total - 6,478)
* States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through - Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa  (Totals: States - 14, Provinces - 0, Commonwealths - 1)
* Seats -Section 216, Row 7, Seat 2 - Loge Level right near Home Plate
* Prices: Parking - $6.00, Beer - $4.75, Bratwurst w/special sauce - $3.50, Wrigley Pig - $3.50, Program (including pencil) - $4.75, Souvenir Soda Cup - N/A (This threw off my plan so I bought a Brewers Mug)
* Credit Card giveaway - 1970 Brewers T-shirt
* First Pitch -  1:07 PM
* Attendance - 25,320
* Results - Twins 8, Brewers 3,  W -Kenny Rogers, L -Matt Kinney, S - None
* Home team record to date - 5 wins, 5 losses
* Record of "team I was routing for" to date - 3 wins, 7 losses
* Lodging - Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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