One of the highlights of vacation was a trip my father and I took to Miller Park in Milwaukee. (I was told by fans that the letter "l" in Milwaukee is silent by 'native speakers.') Having been to the new Target Field in Minneapolis earlier in the year, I was interested to compare it to Miller Park. Miller Park is relatively new, as it opened in 2001. I was surprised to learn it was almost 10 years old. It still feels new, at least to me.
Miller Park is a case of "First Impressions can be deceiving." As you can see in the slideshow, Miller Park is truly bizarre looking from the Interstate when you approach it. It looks like a gigantic beetle with metallic back braces. This is because it has a retractable roof. More precisely, it is a flat roof, not a dome.
Despite its bizarre appearance from afar, when you walk up to it after parking in the expansive parking lot (paying the extra 13 dollars for preferred parking is worth it, as its a short exit right onto the Interstate after the game), Miller Park has an excellent "retro ballpark" feel. It is similar on the outside to Camden Yards in Baltimore: a lot of brick work, arches, and bronze sculptures. You would never know it has a weird roof when you are right next to it. The big parking lot has a lot of tailgating. Kids were running around playing catch. Unlike Target field which is very metropolitan and downtown (a few blocks from the red light district), Miller Park was really a great pre-game atmosphere.
We got there right when they opened the gates; so, we watched batting practice with the roof closed. I don't think they had the full lights on for batting practice, as you can see in the slide show of pictures. It was rather dark, so it felt like we were watching warm ups in a warehouse. After walking around for a while, we got some mediocre bratwurst dogs and sat down in our seats. Somehow, my father finagled seats right behind home plate. (I guess that's not too hard if the team is playing sub-.500 baseball.) Just as we sat down to eat, the roof started opening, which you can see in the next few clips. It opened slowly, probably took 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish, but it was neat to watch though. I had never seen a roof on a ballpark retract before.
I have to it was neat seeing the roof open. My one gripe was that since it was not a true dome, the opening was more of a triangular shape, roughly congruous to the baseball diamond itself. It was open, but still had a touch of roof hanging just outside your field of view. It just struck me as a bit odd. I liked it, but it was just unusual.
I liked the family atmosphere of the park, as I mentioned before. There were kids catching balls out in the bleachers during batting practice, and several youth activities to do out behind the outfield wall. I was impressed that a few of these did not necessarily have to break the bank. You could take pictures with some cutouts of ball players or the Milwaukee Wieners (more on that in a moment) for free, provided you had your own camera. It felt safe, and the fans and workers at the park were very friendly.
I think that is the primary reason I would consider going back to Milwaukee for a game. In fact, Miller Park was one of the friendliest ballpark experiences I have had at a game in the Majors. It almost had a down home, minor league game feel to it that was quite appealing. The venue did not really feel like a mega-sports Colosseum like some ball parks do. Some people like those soulless venues that have all the amenities, but those make me feel like I am at a mega-movie cineplex or something.
There were three other items about the ballpark that caught my attention. One was the monument outside the stadium to the three workers who were killed in the major accident when they were building the roof. I thought that was particularly well done, as it incorporated not just those three workers but all blue collar workers who work hard to build major structures.
Another of the items that caught my attention was their careful tribute to the Milwaukee Braves. The Braves franchise now in Atlanta was in Milwaukee for a good many years before relocating again. (They were originally in Boston, believe it or not.) All time home run king Hank Aaron (Barry Bonds is illegitimate in my book) had a nice statue outside the stadium as well as his number retired by the Brewers. There was also a nice walk of fame inside the stadium dedicated to all the Hall of Famer Milwaukee Braves.
Being a Braves fan, I thought that was particularly nice because there was some hard feelings in Milwaukee after the Braves bolted for Atlanta back in the 1970s. Those Milwaukee Braves teams were incredibly talented, with players like Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, and Hank Aaron. I thought that tribute to the shared Braves franchise heritage was simply classy all around.
And then, of course, there were the Milwaukee Wieners.
Truly, they rank up there with the hilariously classic mascots like the Phillie Phanatic and the San Diego Chicken. They have a race around the infield, I think it was in the 6th Inning. It was truly a riot. I have a video clip of the race, which I may have to add in a subsequent post, as I am about to hit my bandwidth limit for blogger.com blog entries. I thoroughly enjoy the Milwaukee Wieners. That, if nothing else, makes it worth while to attend a Milwaukee game.
Overall, I much preferred this experience to the one I had in Minneapolis. Granted, my experience of the new Target Field was a bit skewed because I was forced to endure the game in the midst of a bunch of drunkard yahoos in the outfield. The new Twins stadium is nice, but never caught me with the retro feel. I certainly would think twice before ever taking my daughter there. I would take her to a Milwaukee game.
Nice facility, nice fans, and beer tap style mustard and ketchup dispensers. What's not to love?