Wisconsin baseball fans are lucky. We may have not seen a World Series pennant since 1957, which is before a majority of us were born or could remember. Our Major league team, the Milwaukee Brewers, is not steeped in lore and tradition, being relatively young at fifty years old. Yet, we have a stadium, unlike any other midwestern arena, that allows us to plan a game in advance and not fret about possible rain in the forecast. Plus, for about the last twenty years, the team has been fairly competitive, with only a few really bad years. Thank God for a caring owner and a retractable roof stadium.
Heidi made a gamble earlier this year. There is a promotion that British Petroleum has participated in partnership with the Brewers for a good number of years. That promotion being, after a certain number of automobile tank fill-ups, you are entitled to a terrace reserve ticket to your choice of a few selected home games. Heidi chose a late September game, that happened to occur during the Friday before my birthday.
Why is this a gamble? Basically, by late September the distinction between contenders and teams eliminated from the postseason is defined. If your team isn’t in the hunt, the crowd is sparse and not as lively. Also, and probably more importantly, September is the month where major league rosters expand due to minor league call ups. If you’re team isn’t that good, they’ve probably traded away all of their upcoming free agents and are trying out a borderline minor league prospect in the vacant position. What I’m trying to say is, that if you’re team is in it, you’re going to root for a much better brand than if the season is lost. So Heidi gambled….
We’re peering out windows of the Hyatt Regency Hotel from the 14th floor. I’m anticipating a great Brewers outing as I’ve challenged myself to find ten church steeples in the sprawling city before me. Heidi joins in on the challenge and we find twelve. I marvel at the number of old Christian structures adorning this metropolitan area that sports quite a bit of Flemish Renaissance Revival styled buildings.
We’ve got a plan in mind and as it’s only four o’clock, step one is about to take place. If we grab a bite to eat or drink at certain establishments downtown, we can catch a free ride to the stadium via a shuttle. This eliminates many headaches. We’re going to need a meal anyways so it doesn’t hurt. Catching a shuttle means we don’t have to pay twenty dollars for parking and takes out the chaotic drive back to the hotel. So we chose the Milwaukee Brat House, which is literally a five minute stroll on a street that passes the hotel property.
We make it there, enjoy a gourmet bratwurst and a couple beers and catch the first shuttle that leaves at 5:10. The shuttle, which sports comfy leather seats, runs until the second inning and starts taking people back at the bottom of the seventh. My only cause for alarm is the notification from the driver that last pick-up is only twenty minutes after the final pitch.
To answer the question those not from Wisconsin are probably wondering, after a season that left the Brewers hovering around mediocrity, the Crew has made a post season push and find themselves on the cusp of a play-off spot. Their last three series are against sub par opponents, which bodes well for the boys in blue. It also means tons of people are going to root for the home team.
We arrive several minutes before the gates open. So, we meander the grounds and snap a few photos of me in front of statues honoring Milwaukee baseball greats. We have our digital tickets on our phones which, since I forgot the actual tickets on my TV stand at home, turns out to be a good failsafe.
When we enter, we discover there’s all sorts of stuff to check out. We peruse the team store which includes apparel and knick-knacks. We also stumble upon the Authentic Shop which sells autographed bats, jerseys, game balls and bases. It is said that the food at Miller Park, the home of the Brewers, is the best in the Majors. I haven’t mentioned the name of the homefield venue before now because its title will soon change.
We make our way to our seats, which are nosebleeds. That’s ok, they were free. Besides, if you forgive the partially blocked view of left field, our view is great. We sit down about an hour before first pitch and watch the crowd slowly filter in. By the time the home team grabs a three nothing lead in the first inning, the crowd has swelled to forty three thousand people. There are very few vacant seats. And those supporters are treated to a 10-1 drubbing of Milwaukee’s chippy rivals, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Not only is the game exciting, there’s between inning fun also. The iconic Sausage Race tops the bill. I bet on the Chorizo sausage and won. For those that don’t know, the Sausage Race is a race around foul territory with contestants dressed in mascot like sausage costumes. It has been a fan favorite for years, and many knockoffs occur in other stadiums around the league.
By the bottom of the eighth inning, we realize that its pointless to watch the game. Pittsburgh, considering their watered down lineup, poses no real comeback threat. So, we head down and catch the shuttle back to downtown.
A police officer is polite enough to warn us that there are two different Brat House destinations. We wait for the downtown shuttle and hitch a ride. The scene is absolutely raucous! Most of the riders are younger and intoxicated individuals. They shout along with the songs playing on the PA, incite cheers for not only the Brewers but the Green Bay Packers also and toss can coozies at one another. When we return to the Brat house I tip the driver five dollars. There’s no way I could have drove out of that packed lot with a boisterous group creating all sorts of distractions.
But hey, what do you expect? It was a huge Brewers win!
What’s the moral of the story? It’s simple. Like anything rewarding in life, there’s a little risk factored in. True, a midseason win would be fun. But a near capacity stadium, a meaningful win during a push for the postseason and an absolutely jubilant celebration afterwards makes the venture of purchasing tickets to a late September game in advance definitely worth the roll of the dice!