Sunday, August 22, 2010

Racing the Wrecking Ball at Rosenblatt

Rosenblatt Stadium
1202 Bert Murphy Ave.
Omaha, NE
Visited August 10, 2010

Beer selection: Pretty pathetic and over-priced

Food: Ditto

Ah, minor league baseball.

It is one of my Suit757 philosophies that if you want to get the best feel for a true cross-section of a place, go to a minor league baseball game.

You’ll see the families with the cotton-candy smeared kids. The die-hard score-keeping baseball fans. Teenagers on wholesome date nights. And the rowdy town drunks heckling the opposing pitcher incoherently.

If you are lucky enough to be in town on dollar beer night (usually designated “Thirsty Thursday”), you’ll get the added bonus of 20-something coeds prowling the concourses in skimpy little halters looking for love.

Yes, a minor league baseball game is a perfect slice of Americana.

It’s always at the top of my to-do list on those rare occasions my plane touches down before 6pm and there is a home game at the old ballpark.

Tonight was just such a night.

I was especially excited, because Omaha and Rosenblatt Stadium are synonymous. Rosenblatt was built in 1948 and has most famously hosted the College World Series since 1950.

A lot of history has been made between the lines at Rosenblatt. But its days are numbered.

The last College World Series game ever played at Rosenblatt took place on June 29 when South Carolina took the National Championship over UCLA.

Rosenblatt has also been home to minor league baseball for most of its 62 years.

The final Omaha Royals game will take place in three weeks, after which the wrecking ball will mark the historic stadium’s demise once and for all.

In a typical ridiculous display of taxpayer funded waste, the NCAA and the Omaha Royals couldn’t agree on sharing a new stadium.

So what are the politicians in Nebraska doing to solve the problem?

You got it. Build two different brand-new baseball stadiums in Omaha.

One for the College World Series at a cost of $130 million for an event that takes place two weeks out of the entire year. And another one for the Omaha Royals, at a cost of $40 million.

But I didn’t want thoughts about the actions of idiotic politicians to bum me out. I was looking forward to checking out an historic baseball shrine in one of its final games. I felt like a lucky man.

I wish I could say I was impressed.

The stadium just doesn’t have that old-time throw-back minor league feel you get at other historic ball parks, like Jackie Robinson Ballpark (1914) in Daytona Beach, or Ray Winder Field (1931) in Little Rock, or Bowen Field (1939) in Bluefield, VA.

Those places have that cozy nostalgic feel as you contemplate all the decades of baseball fans and famous and not-so-famous players who have trod their rickety wooden stands. Those old ball yards could come straight out of a scene in “Bull Durham”.

But not Rosenblatt.

That’s probably because the stadium has been thoroughly renovated multiple times over the decades to accommodate the surge in popularity of college baseball.

So Rosenblatt just looks and feels like a soulless 25 year old throw-back to the 80s that needs a good scrubin.

There’s a fine line between nostalgic and shabby. And Rosenblatt falls on the wrong side of that line.

That impression is just reinforced when you make your food and beer selections.

Beer options are Bud Light, Miller Light or Coors Light. That’s like choosing between lethal injection, electrocution and hanging. And at $6 for 20 oz., that’s a bit steep for minor league baseball.

I did stumble upon a lonely guy selling Leinenkugel drafts for $6 for 14oz. Highway robbery, but at least there is another option.

Since this is Omaha, the food options include some items from hometown corporate mail-order giant, Omaha Steaks. You could get an Omaha Steaks burger or steak sandwich.

The steak sandwich wasn’t ready yet. And after watching the guy take a chisel to a giant block of frozen burger patties, somehow I lost interest in Omaha Steak products.

I opted instead for the bratwurst with peppers and onions and a hot dog.

The brat ($6) looked and tasted like it had been cooked hours or days ago. The vegetables were the same.

The tiny little hot dog (three dollars!!!) was quite possibly the worst I have ever had in my life. It had obviously been turning on the little hot dog rollers behind the cash register for days.

With food and beer choices this bad, no wonder less than 1,000 people bothered to show up for this titanic struggle between the Omaha Royals and the Tacoma Rainiers. Of course, to be fair, it was Tuesday night and literally 99 degrees at game time. It dropped all the way down to 91 by the last out.

But did the over-priced beer, lousy food and griddle-like temperatures get me down? No way!

I mean, what else would I rather do on a steamy summer night than kick back under the Nebraska stars with a cold beer in hand and watch some baseball?

Eating Taco Bell off the stain-covered bed spread back at the Best Western while watching reruns of “Entourage” just isn’t that appealing to me.

Plus, I was there to take in the last moments of a place that has hosted decades of baseball history.

And watch some baseball.

Oh yeah, the game.

One of the nice things about AAA (the level just below the big leagues), is that most fans who follow the game moderately will usually recognize a couple players in any given AAA game. These are the players who go back and forth between the minors and the bigs on a regular basis.

Tonight, I saw recognizable big leaguers like Mike Carp, Justin Smoak, Matt Herges and Scott Thorman, who hit the game winning home run in the 5th.

Also playing for the Rainiers was Dustin Ackley, one of the top prospects in all of minor league baseball.

So despite the fact that the place seems to deserve the wrecking ball, I enjoyed my evening at Rosenblatt. I saw a good game, recognized some big leaguers, drank some beer and left with the ability to say I’d seen a game at one of the most historic ballparks in America.

I’ll take that over the Best Western bed spread every time.

Rating: Would Wear the Shirt if They Paid Me

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