Reviewing my 2016 ballpark resolutions

Like many people, I make New Years’ resolutions.  Unlike most people mine aren’t about losing weight, spending more time with family, getting organized, or any of the other most common resolutions that people end up breaking a few weeks into the new year.  Instead, my resolutions are about travel related to baseball teams.  Specifically, I tweet my resolutions about the baseball teams/stadiums I hope to visit during the upcoming year.

So as 2016 is nearly coming to a close, I’ve taken some time to sit down and look at my success of accomplishing my New Years’ resolutions.  Since 2014, I’ve written four resolutions on January 1st of each year.  So without further ado, I’ll review how I did accomplishing my resolutions for 2016.

Attending a Thirsty Thursday game hosted by the Asheville Tourists was easily accomplished as part of my trip to the Carolinas following my engagement.  It was the second stop of our trip through the Carolinas, and we did indeed took advantage of the beer specials that night (read about it here).

It’s tough for me to assess this resolution because I did not get to see all four South Carolina Minor League teams play at home, but I did make it to all four towns and had the intent of attending a game at all of the stadiums.  However, the Greenville Drive‘s home game was rained out on the night I was in town as part of my #SCMiLBTour.  So I ended up seeing the other three Minor League teams in the Palmetto State.  You can read about my experiences in Myrtle Beach (here), Charleston (here), and Columbia (here).

Since 2014, I’ve tried to see all three Kentucky Minor League teams in action, and have failed to accomplish that resolution.  Sadly, this past year was no different.  In early August, Katie and I attended a Bowling Green Hot Rods game (read it here), but we were unable to incorporate visits to Lexington or Louisville into our trip.

I hoped to make it to multiple Braves games at Turner Field during the 2016 season, but had to settle for just one ballgame before the club moved out.  However, in late May on the way back from the Carolinas, Katie and I watched the Milwaukee Brewers take on the Atlanta Braves in Turner Field.

As I’ve previously mentioned, trying to assess whether I accomplished all four of my resolutions is a bit difficult.  However, if I apply a black-or-white filter things become much clearer.  In a black-and-white world, I accomplished two of my four resolutions by attending a Braves game at Turner Field during their final season there and by attending an Asheville Tourists game on a Thirsty Thursday.  So overall I finished the year 2-for-4 (0.500 average).

If I break down the individual components of the resolutions my average climbs to 0.667 or 6-for-9.  As usual, my eyes are often bigger than my schedule when it comes to attending baseball games.  But now it’s time to consider my resolutions for 2017…

My night with the Bowling Green Hot Rods – Aug. 6, 2016

Coming into the baseball season I thought I was going to have the opportunity to visit all three Minor League Baseball teams in Kentucky.  Unfortunately, scheduling prevented me from making the trip.  However, in early August things started to come together that would allow fiancée Katie and I to make the trip to see the Bowling Green Hot Rods over her birthday weekend.

I started by reaching out to Alex Cohen, the team’s broadcasting and media relations manager, about securing a pair of tickets to the Club Level.  I also got assistance from Telia Butler with the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, who helped me find a great hotel in town.  I ended up staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, where Katie and I were upgraded to a king suite.  The hotel is only a year old and featured newer design elements, and has all the amenities people expect from the Fairfield Inn brand: a great breakfast, indoor swimming pool, and gym.  The next time I stay overnight in Bowling Green, I will definitely stay at this hotel.

After a trip to the Historic Railpark & Train Museum (photos can be seen on my Instagram account), Katie and I ended up exploring some of the local beer and liquor stores in town.  We ultimately ate dinner at El Mazatlan, which was good, but nothing spectacular.

The following day Katie and I went to Mammoth Cave National Park, ate lunch at a Bosnian café/grocery store, and had some beers at White Squirrel Brewery.  Then finally we got to the primary reason we made the trip from Nashville to Bowling Green: to watch the Hot Rods play ball.

Approaching the main entrance of Bowling Green Ballpark.

I previously attended a game a Hot Rods game in 2014, and blogged about that experience (read it here).  So this time I wanted to do something different, and thanks to a pair of tickets to the Club Level at Bowling Green Ballpark Katie and I got to do just that.

Main gate of the ballpark.

There’s a lot to explore at any ballpark, but my focus on this visit was on new additions to the stadium and specifically the Club Level.  The first difference between my visits that I noticed was the starting lineups and Midwest League standings alternating on a flatscreen TV.

Starting lineups for the West Michigan Whitecaps and Bowling Green Hot Rods.

 

Midwest League standings entering play on Saturday, Aug. 6.

After taking the elevator up to the Club Level, Katie and I got to enter the Stadium Club.

Entrance to the Club Level.

Upon entering the club there is a collection of home plates along the wall, which isn’t unusual considering it’s a baseball stadium.

Home plates in the Stadium Club.

However, upon further inspection it becomes apparent that the home plates are autographed.  Most of the home plates are not autographed by former players, but my notable guests or music performers who have been to the stadium.  My favorite home plate was the one autographed by former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods, who was best known for his touchdown celebration: The Ickey Shuffle (see video here).

Home plate autographed by former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods.

Past the home plates on the wall is the bar that serves the Stadium Club.  It looks like this…

Main bar at the Stadium Club.

As the photo illustrates, there is a full bar with a few beers on draft.  As the craft beer scene has grown in Kentucky, I hoped you find a few on draft, but that was not the case.  Instead the beers I found on tap were Michelob Ultra, Blue Moon, Bud Light, and other domestic macro beers.

While we mulled our beverage options, Katie and I went out to our seats and saw something you don’t see at many Minor League stadiums: both teams in uniform in the stands.  As MiLB.com’s Ben Hill previously detailed (read his story here), Bowling Green sits on limestone, which makes the area susceptible to sinkholes.  So when it rains the dugouts are prone to flooding, which was the case before tonight’s game.

Bowling Green Hot Rods hanging out in the stands while water drains out of their dugout.

While the Hot Rods hung out in the stands, the umpires had declared that the game must go on.  So while sitting high above home plate I was able to capture my usual first pitch photograph.

Bowling Green Hot Rods starting pitcher Jose Mujica delivering the first pitch to West Michigan Whitecaps center fielder Derek Hill.

We watched a bit of the action I captured some views of the seating in the upper level, too.

View down the first base line.

 

View down the third base line.

After awhile of watching the game, Katie and I decided we should order something to eat.  While we could have ordered anything from the main concourse and brought it back to our seats in the Club Level, we decided it was best to stick with the options available on that level.

There are two menus in the Stadium Club.  The Club Grill Menu is what I would call the usual ballpark items with chicken tenders, a jumbo hot dog, the wings basket, and other items you’d expect to find at a baseball stadium.  The Past Specials Menu is what it sounds like it would be.  It is a menu featuring a variety of specials that have been available at the club such as a Meatball Sub, a Taco Bowl, and a BLT Chicken Wrap among other items.

As Katie and I wanted to eat something unique we wouldn’t traditionally find at a baseball stadium, we ordered from the Past Specials Menu.  We decided to split the bacon mac-n-cheese bites and the BBQ shrimp burger.

The BBQ shrimp burger (left) and bacon mac-n-cheese bites (right).

Both items were undoubtedly unique, as I’ve never seen a BBQ shrimp burger at any baseball stadium.  The bacon mac-n-cheese bites are a food item that has gained notoriety recently as people experiment with ways to macaroni and cheese, but there was a unique twist with diced jalapenos mixed in with the mac-n-cheese.  Katie and I agree that we’d get both items again.

After letting our meal settle, we decided we needed something to “close our stomaches.”  We didn’t need to explore or debate any choices, as the Hot Rods had been promoting their funnel cake fries during the MiLB Food Fight.

After finishing up the funnel cake fries, we decided to watch the remainder of the game from the field level.  As we walked around the stadium, I felt obliged to take a photo of the grandstand from the outfield to provide an overall view of the ballpark.

A view of the grandstand from right field.

The amenities at Bowling Green Ballpark haven’t changed since my first visit in 2014, which is good because it is a park that has everything a fan needs.  I wouldn’t normally splurge on club level tickets, but can say from my first experience (thanks to Alex Cohen) that the additional expense is well worth it.  The food that is exclusively available at the Stadium Club was excellent, and the views were great.  Additionally, the staff at the stadium really is #FanDriven.

Final Score: West Michigan 3, Bowling Green 7
Box Score