Saturday, April 24, 2010

No Cell

An electronic sign at U.S. Cellular Field declares its namesake as the exclusive cellular provider of the Chicago White Sox. Little did I know that meant my service, purchased in a market that U.S. Cell doesn't compete in, would be rendered useless. While I can't say for certain that they're actually blocking other carriers, or if it's just that my cell provider doesn't cover the area as well as, say San Francisco, it seems pretty suspicious.

But, I digress. Not only was "The Cell" the third park KJ and I have visited together in our one-year history of traveling to baseball games as a couple, it was the 10th current park I've visited more than once (Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Rogers Centre, Progressive Field, PNC Park, Wrigley Field, AT&T Park, Oakland Coliseum). If not for the Twins leaving the Metrodome in favor of Target Field, that would have equaled the number of current parks I've yet to visit.

When Brian and I visited what was then called New Comiskey back in 1998, we weren't terribly impressed with the aesthetics of the park. That opinion hasn't changed 12 years later. Don't get me wrong, this is no Veterans Stadium, but opened one year prior to Camden Yards, it's just not as nice as its contemporaries.

U.S. Cellular Field

While the photo may not give you enough of an impression, you'll have to either take my word for it or see for yourself. The place just doesn't have a lot of character. But, that doesn't tell the whole story either. The sight lines could be significantly improved if the seats were turned about 15 degrees towards the on-field action, something that has worked well with other parks built in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

There were positives, however. The rows in our section, and those around us, were only 8-10 seats wide. As a result, there was only one time during an entire nine-inning game that we had to get up to let our fellow patrons pass. If you've ever been to Fenway, you certainly would understand the importance of this factor.

Also, there were numerous concessions options beyond the standard fare. Of course, my mind was fixated on Chicago-style hot dogs, and I wasn't disappointed in the foot long I found, which was topped with sweet pickle relish, tomato wedges, pickle spears, sport peppers, mustard and onions. KJ opted for the smaller version, but I think she ended up regretting that decision. We were both surprised there was only one stand in the entire park that sold these wonderful creations, but we quickly figured out why once we sat down to eat them. A photo would have been a nice idea here, but you'll have to use your imagination to understand how difficult it was to eat a hot dog that looked like it had been "dragged through the garden."

The beer selection was comparable to that at most Midwestern parks. That is, the options were mostly of the American lager variety—Chicago’s proximity to Milwaukee makes it clearly a Miller town—with a couple of decent, if not spectacular, micro-brewed choices as well. We opted for the Wisconsin-brewed Leinenkugel's Classic Amber, which was solid, but nothing special. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a single beer brewed in Chicago available at the game, leading me further to the conclusion that this is not a craft beer city. I may or may not be correct in that assumption, but the following day I would discover the place that, in the very least, is the exception. More on that in a later post.

The White Sox were hosting the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that was fresh off a Patriots' Day weekend sweep of a four-game series in Boston. Apparently, a masterful performance from John Danks is what it would take to slow down the hottest team in baseball. The Chicago lefthander shrugged off a first-inning solo homer by Carl Crawford, then proceeded to hold the Rays hitless for the next 5 1/3 innings until Crawford's swinging bunt single in the 6th. His impressive outing (8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO) was more than enough to lead the White Sox to a 4-1 victory, in a game that lasted just two hours and 22 minutes with none other than Joe West behind the plate.

John Danks

 A few other items worth noting from Tuesday night's game:
  • It was immediately clear that it was Jackie Robinson Day at U.S. Cellular Field, this being the Sox first home game since April 11. A group of kids spotted outside the stadium, wearing White Sox shirts with #42 on the back, was our first clue.
  • The White Sox are one of those home teams whose dugout is on the third base side. I believe I've already written about how much KJ dislikes this.
  • We laughed at the song that was played every time Gordon Beckham came to bat: "Your Love" by The Outfield. I'm not sure why we found it so funny to hear "Josie's on a vacation far away, come around and talk it over," over and over.
  • Baseball lesson of the day: "One from the mound, two from the field," is the common phrase used to remember how many bases are allowed on a throw that goes out of play: one base if the throw is by the pitcher from the rubber, two if the throw is from any other fielder, including the pitcher while off the rubber. All base awards are from the time of the throw.  

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