My night with the Springfield Cardinals – July 25, 2013

Like my visit to Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark., I wanted to visit Hammons Field because of my impending move out of the region and I expect it would be difficult to make a trip back with the primary purpose of watching games at each stadium.  After packing up my apartment in Stillwater, Okla., I ventured toward Springfield in pursuit of my summertime goal.  Before arriving in Springfield, I explored some other sights in southwest Missouri like Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site, which allowed me to complete my trifecta of Truman presidential sights by visiting his birthplace.  However, that’s another story for another time.  I’m here to talk baseball, which was the primary purpose of the trip.

So after checking into my hotel and dropping off my bags, I headed to the ballpark a bit before the gates opened because I wanted to get the snow globe giveaway item.  I made plans to attend this particular game because the Springfield Cardinals celebrated Christmas in July and the exclusive giveaway item was a snow globe that contained a replica of the team’s 2012 Texas League championship trophy (more on that later).  So I wasn’t totally shocked, but was a bit surprised by the lines I saw when I walked up to the stadium.

Main entrance to Hammons Field.

One advantage of entering a stadium shortly after the gates open is the opportunity to walk the entire park and scope out food and drink options.  So after claiming my snow globe, I did just that.  As I wasn’t particularly hungry at that point, I visited the team store and sat down to watch the start of the game.

Springfield Cardinals right-handed pitcher Seth Blair delivers the first pitch to Northwest Arkansas Naturals center fielder Brett Eibner.

Before setting off to find food, I took a photo of the snow globe giveaway.  After all, a baseball game on July 25 practically screams to be part of a team’s “Christmas in July” promotion.

The snow globe with replica 2012 Texas League championship trophy.

It was “Johnsonville Buck a Brat Night,” which is something I’d normally indulge in very quickly.  However, I wanted to be more selective in my dinner choice.  I wanted to be sure that I experienced something unique to Hammons Field.  After walking around the concessions and debating it over, I decided to purchase my typical encased meat at The Doghouse.

The Doghouse features a variety of encased meats, but not the night’s featured “Buck a Brat.”

I’m not sure why the team offers a Chicago Dog, as the Chicago Cubs are a major rival of the Springfield team’s parent club – the St. Louis Cardinals.  I thought I might betray the home team if I ate a Chicago dog, so I opted for the Missouri Dog.

The Missouri Dog, which is a hot dog served with melted American cheese and topped with grilled sauerkraut.

I added ketchup and yellow mustard to the hot dog.  The hot dog was OK, but nothing special.  I didn’t ask what made it unique enough to earn the moniker “Missouri Dog,” but I can only presume that it’s a staple of Missouri ballpark cuisine.  Perhaps the best part of my meal was a local craft brew: Paul’s Pale Ale from Springfield Brewing Company.  The beer was a very good American pale ale, and a nice compliment to the sauerkraut on the Missouri Dog.

I saw something unexpected at the ballpark when I saw a concession stand that offered a funnel dog.  I did not inquire about why it was available, but I expect it was a specialty item on the menu because the Cardinals were hosting the Northwest Arkansas Naturals – the team that made the funnel dog famous.

I’m usually content with a hot dog and a beer, but my stomach needed more this night.  In hindsight I should’ve gotten the Texas League Dog, but instead I took advantage of the “Johnsonville Buck a Brat” promo and had a bratwurst with another regional craft brew.  For my second round, I had Urban Chestnut Brewing Company‘s Zwickel lager.  The beer was a delicious, and reminded me of the German lagers I home brewed with my dad.

Although I saw the popcorn stand and ice cream station, I wasn’t in the mood for any desserts.  So I didn’t get a mini helmet full of ice cream, and I didn’t experiment with the popcorn flavors.  Instead, I turned my attention to the game and the promotions.

While the Cardinals featured a Christmas-related give away item, the on-field promotions did not show any hint of Christmas.  A great example is the Bob Ross Paint Off, which took place in the middle of the 4th inning.  I loved watching  “The Joy of Painting” on PBS, but I don’t understand how it helped celebrate “Christmas in July.”

The scoreboard featuring the Bob Ross Paint Off competition in the middle of the fourth inning.

There were a handful of Christmas songs played during the game, but there were no unique on-screen graphics, no Christmas-themed skits, and there was no appearance by Santa Claus or his eight tiny reindeer.  When my schedule changed and I knew I’d be attending the Christmas in July game, I was excited because I anticipated a game filled with Christmas-related promotions, prizes, and more.  Instead, I had an experience that lacked almost any hint of Christmas.

I did capture photos with the team’s two mascots: Louie and Fetch.  I also made sure to vote for Louie in MiLB.com’s Mascot Mania with a post on Twitter and through the web site.

Me with Springfield Cardinals mascot Louie.

Like many teams, the Cardinals have two mascots.  On Louie’s first birthday, fans presented him with a puppy: Fetch!

A closeup of me with Springfield Cardinals mascot Fetch.

Since April I’ve become more conscious of taking a photo with the team mascot(s), so I’m happy I got photos with both Louie and Fetch.

While planning my visit to Hammons Field, I looked over a handful of online reviews.  Many articles described the experience as a “mini major,” which means that the stadium and the experience is similar to attending a major league game, but at a mini park.  In general, I’d have to agree with that critique.  The ballpark is beautiful and it feels like a Major League stadium, but a few minor league twists like the on-field, between-innings promotions remind fans that this is not The Show.  Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo., may not be The Majors, but the team shows visitors to this corner of Missouri a great time with a dash of local flavor.

Final: Northwest Arkansas 6, Springfield 0
Box Score

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