Monday, May 31, 2010

Huntington Park review

After seeing Target Field for the first time and being slighlty underwhelmed I wondered to myself if I had somehow started to become jaded with ballparks. I mean after awhile you have to develop some type of tolerance level to incredible scoreboards, diverse food selections and great views. I rated it as an above-average park, but still didn't think it was that incredible. This goes in contrast with what other people I have talked to have said about Target Field since they have absolutely LOVED it. Since my final grade of the park was a B- I wondered if my judgement was off. I wondered if I had become too cynical and would be too tough of a critic from now on.

The reason that the above paragraph is in past tense is because I went to see a Columbus Clippers game at Huntington Park and absolutely loved the park. My fears of being too cynical are unfounded for at least a little while longer since I thought this park is just barely short of being a perfect minor league park. I am not just writing that because former Minnesota Twins 3rd baseman *Brian Busher (pictured below) won the game in the 11th inning on a 2 out walkoff single to give the Clippers a 4-3 win over the IronPigs.

*I might be the only Twins fan who was a big supporter of Brian Busher. My reasons were the high OBP% (last year it was .360, which was better than Cuddyer and 50 points better than Brendan Harris or Matt Tolbert), high pitches per plate appearance (tops on the team at 4.26) and the fact that I always thought he put together quality at-bats. When he was annouced I stood up and started cheering wildly for him. And yes I am proud of that. One final quote from the Clippers manager sums it up - "Thanks goodness for Brian Busher."

Scalping/Ticket Prices: A-
I blame wedding planning on turning my brain into mush. My ability to reason and think is severly compromised thanks to hours and hours of analysis and overthinking every little detail about 6.5. Who sits where? What do they eat? Will they be offended if the electric slide does or does not get played? It is amazing I am even able to write a few complete sentances on this post. How does that have to do with ticket prices? Well yours truly didn't want to stand in the long line for tickets, so I just went up to a scalper and got what I thought were $25 tickets for $20. It turns out that the most expensive ticket to the game was only $10, which means that I paid double for our tickets. The funny thing is that M was pretty sure I was paying too much, but didn't say anything because of my supposed expertise with scalping. I spent the rest of the game kicking myself for my obvious mental blunder.

Aesthetic Appeal: B+
Huntington Park doesn't look like much from the outside since it is a small ballpark in the Arena District of downtown Columbus. It kind of sneaks up on you when you are driving downtown. However, once you get inside you are treated to a great view of downtown Columbus. Also, the red brick and the way the ballpark is presented is all very well done. The scoreboard is large enough and displays all relevant stats.

Fans: B -
Fans at minor league games are a different breed than fans at major league games. A lot of fans go there hoping to have a good family outing. Whether or not the home team comes out a winner is usually a minor concern. The fans at the Clippers game weren't more or less into the game than Mississippi Braves or Durham Bulls fans. M did complain about the people sitting behind us talking about strange things, which is the reason the grade went down from a B+ to B-.
Buzz: C
Again the buzz at minor league games is different than in the major leagues. It is usuallly true
that the buzz is at its highest during mid inning events and promotions. I graded this as average since there was an average amount of buzz for a minor league game. Maybe this would have been higher during the years of Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Columbus Clippers ring your bell song?

Food: A
Very impressive food selections. We went up to outfield rooftop bar and I got some cheese fries ($3) and chicken wings ($6), which were both excellent. M was able to get a fried bologna sandwich for only $3. It wasn't gourmet food, but it was definitely better than a Dome Dog at the Metrodome. Besides that there were local chains represented like Donatoes, Bob Evans (no country biscuits and gravy though), and City Barbeque. M and I were both impressed with the food at the park.

Fun things to do besides watch the game: A-
Besides the food I liked the fact that the park was very family friendly. There was a grassy spot in the outfield where families could sit and watch the game from their blankets.

Also, there was a fountain where kids could play in. Overall I was just impressed with the layout of the park and how it was really easy to walk around and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. Maybe this is too high of a grade, but I am feeling generous.

Overall impression: A-
Minor league games (especially at the triple A level) can sometime be a tough thing to brand. The primary focus should be on watching baseball since almost all of the players are one injury away from making it to the majors. However, there is a reason why they aren't playing for the big league club just yet. Maybe they are too old and are on the downswing of their career, but normally they are young prospects who need a little extra work. The thing is that once they get that extra work or are determined to be really good then they don't stay on the triple A team. For example Derek Jeter didn't play for the Columbus Clippers for 5 years. That is why it can be a tough to figure out minor league games. It should be about baseball (since the quality of baseball is really good), but for the most part the average fan is going to the game to have a good time, get out with the family or something that has little to do with baseball. Baseball in that sense is just the excuse or the distraction. That is why you might see so many promotions for minor league games that has nothing to do with baseball. The focus is on having a fun time and maybe catching a little of the game.

I think Huntington Park does a great job of providing reasonably priced seats to an incredible ballpark experiance. Also, there is enough to do that a not so avid baseball fan like M could make it through 11 innings. The views are great and as evidenced by my A grade the food is excellent. There is a reason why this ballpark won the 2009 ballpark of the year.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Great photos! This was a really fun park! So much fancier than The Coop (the olf Clipper Stadium). I liked this a lot, dare I say it, the smaller scale and plethora of food options sold me...