Alternate Title: Not So Great American Ballpark
After today’s heartbreaking 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds pushed the Brewers back to 15-24, the last thing anybody here needs to read is another recap of how bad Trevor Hoffman is or how disappointing it is that a team with the talent of the Brewers is underperforming like they are.
Instead, I’d like to sum up Disciples of Uecker’s trip to Cincinnati for Monday night’s game against the Reds.
Part 1 – Is Everybody Wearing Red Tonight? Oh Wait, Those Are Just The Seats
We rolled into Cincinnati around 6:40 PM eastern time, about 25 minutes before first pitch. The Great American Ballpark is situated in a beautiful spot on the Ohio River, right next to Paul Brown Stadium, the Cincinnati Bengals stadium. The park, built in 2003, has all of the amenities you would expect in a new park. Decent bathrooms, nice seats, a jumbotron.
The only thing the park seemed to be missing were butts in seats. We managed to pick up 8 seats for only 12.50 each, and they were in a great location, just two rows back at field level in left field. There were maybe 30 people in our section when the game started, and even though some people began to fill in towards the 2nd and 3rd innings, the attendance was overall disappointing. Some of that can surely be attributed to some ominous looking weather, but still. It was a night game against a division opponent and the Reds had just moved into first place. It didn’t seem like the city or state was excited about the team in the slightest. Official attendance was just over 12,000; I’d be surprised if over 8,000 people were there at the start of the game.
Part 2: Innings 1-6: Jonny Gomes Doesn’t Respond Well To Criticism
Brewers fans travel better than I expected. There was a quite noticeable amount of Brewer Blue around the home plate seats and me and my friends were not the only ones cheering while the Brewers lineup was announced. Given how empty the stadium was, a couple of other Brewers fans who had heard our raucous cheers for our boys came and joined us in the good seats in left field. According to them, there is no tailgaiting at Great American Ballpark – we came in too late to even try – something that just seems utterly ridiculous to Brewers fans. With the number of Brewers fans in our mob increased from 6 to 8, we were ready to take on all comers.
By the time that the Reds took the field, our goal for the next two and a half hours was clear: yell at Jonny Gomes. Incredibly, Gomes was a rock. Never once did he turn and acknowledge our jeers and jests. Not even shouting “Gomes sucks!” or shouting “Jonny! Jonny!” over and over again could encourage him to turn around. Not even chants of “Bats! Bats! Bats!” – the name of the Reds’ AAA affiliate in Louisville visibly riled him up. Still, we clearly affected his performance at the plate. Through the first six innings, Gomes was 0-2 with a walk and a big strikeout with bases loaded in the bottom of the 6th
Also of note: in the first inning, Dusty Baker bunted with Brandon Phillips, the #2 hitter and one of the better hitters on the Reds team. The end result of the inning was no runs scoring after a double play off the bat of Scott Rolen. Dusty Baker is not a good manager.
One of the best parts of Miller Park is that the park itself seems to have so much soul. Much of this is from the Sausage Race, but there are so many things at Miller Park that just make it a fantastic baseball viewing experience. Great American Ballpark didn’t seem to have any of those things – everything on the jumbotron seemed uninspired, fan involvement was minimal, and just general excitement at the park was low. It just didn’t feel like a game involving a first place team. Well, we made our own atmosphere.
Part 2 – Innings 7-9 and postgame: Jonny Gomes Responds Well To Criticism
The beginning of the seventh inning meant the Brewers had to go to their bullpen, as Yovani Gallardo, who pitched a good but not great game, had already thrown 121 pitches. Todd Coffey entered the game for the Brewers. The few Reds fans around us apparently had not forgotten his time in Cincinnati. With the Reds, Coffey posted a 4.62 ERA and was terrible in three out of his four seasons. Coffey’s implosion – five runs on five hits – was completely predictable to all the Reds’ fans in the building, and given the Brewers’ struggles to date, it was quite predictable for us as well.
The cherry on top was Jonny Gomes smacking a home run to essentially put the game out of reach after we really got into him for his strikeout. It would be naive for us to think that our ribbings had any effect on Gomes, but as fans, we like to think that we can have some impact on the games that we love and love to watch. As the Reds had already taken a 3-1 lead by that point, Gomes’s poor performance so far was all we had. That all came crumbling down as Gomes’s blast landed about 50 feet away from our seats in left field.
Unfortunately, Baker didn’t let Gomes come back to left field, as he was replaced by pinch hitter Chris Heisey as part of a double switch. We certainly weren’t ready to give up, and so Heisey soon became the butt of our jeers.
The Brewers put in Jeff Suppan to pitch the 8th inning. Suppan no longer has my support nor does he have the support of much of the Brewers fanbase. What I found particularly annoying was how Suppan didn’t take any responsibility for his expulsion from the rotation, seemingly blaming it all on management. Naturally, Suppan threw a 7 pitch 1-2-3 inning, keeping the Brewers in the game for a near comeback in the 9th inning, in which Ryan Braun flew out as the tying run.
Overall, the game was a great time – the game was close most of the way and I was with great people and had a fantastic view of the game. Yes, the Brewers lost, but winning isn’t everything. What is everything, as we continuously reminded the Cincinnati Reds fans as we exited the field, is a stadium with a retractable roof. They can never take that away from us.