Day 4: U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago

August 31, 2011

Twins 7, White Sox 6. W: Scott Diamond. L: Jake Peavy. S: Joe Nathan.

The Stadium:

This is the first stadium that I really didn’t like so much. The Rogers Centre was depressing and there was too much concrete, but that might have been circumstance more than anything (mediocre team, poor attendance, getting clobbered at home). Perhaps at a better time it would have been a better experience. This stadium felt like it had some real flaws. The first problem is that ushers check your tickets before you’re even allowed to enter the field-level promenade. This is completely unnecessary and makes upper-deck fans feel like they’re not wanted. There is plenty to do on the lower promenades that just isn’t available in the upper decks and denying people entry to the concourse seems like a slap in the face. Check tickets when people try to sit in seats, not before. Bad form, White Sox.

Second, the stadium just plain faces the wrong way. The White Sox are the team of the South Side of Chicago. This means that they’re located a few miles outside of downtown in an area with mostly low buildings. It seems to me that the logical choice would be to have the stadium face the famous Chicago skyline so that the fans could look at it during the game. Instead, the stadium faces southeast (I think) so you only get a look at the skyline when you’re leaving your seats to go home (or I think in a few seats in the upper deck in right). The view is great when you’re leaving; why shouldn’t this be the view the whole game? Perhaps there is some reason I’m not thinking of, but this seems like a mistake to me.

Perhaps the view is a bit far, but it's better than facing nothing.

Third, the stadium has pretty antiquated jumbotrons like Comerica Park. Here they’re worse, though. Not so much because the technology is outdated as because of the fact that the three screens are spread out in left, center, and right. This means that if you want certain information you have to look all over the field trying to find it. It actually got pretty annoying as the game went on, especially because I keep score. Even the scoreboards themselves aren’t well made as they have a lot of dead space on them. I’d almost prefer ads. At least there’s space to expand the size and quality of the screens.

Too many different screens to look at.

The Experience:

After three stadiums built right into the downtowns of their respective cities, U.S. Cellular Field is the first one that actually has some space around it. And with space comes parking lots. And with parking lots comes tailgating. Wesley and I struck up a conversation with three steel-mill workers who were putting back a few beers before a Wednesday day game. We charmed them a bit and they were nice enough to give us a couple beers before the game. Their assessment of north-side Wrigley Field: “A hole. But great if you like peeing into a trough.” They might not be the most impartial judges. Stadiums built right into downtown are definitely a good idea, but there’s something to be said for pre-game tailgating.

Once in the stadium, though, the experience tailed off quite a bit. We had upper deck seats behind home place, which are usually great for watching a game, but were completely exposed to the sun in 95 degree heat. The other downside is that the stadium is built so that there is no overhang between the tiers. This is nice for people at the back of the lower tiers because it eliminates the obstructed view of high fly balls. But it’s a real bummer for upper deck fans because it means that even the first row of seats feel like they’re in the next county. I’m not sure you’d even be able to tell you were at a baseball game if you were in the last row of the upper deck down the lines.

Although the game does have some pop-music accompaniment, most of the game’s music is provided by an organist. According to Sean, the White Sox had a long-time organist who was excellent and who retired only recently and there have been some rough patches adjusting to the new organist. I’m not sure if there were rough patches in the game necessarily, but there definitely was an odd selection of tunes. During the pre-game, we heard the theme song to Super Mario Brothers. And during the game, it was definitely strange to hear Lady Gaga and Journey from an organ. But I’m a bit of a traditionalist and I thought the heavy use of the organ to be a nice touch.

Hey! There's the organist!

No fun bullet points this time; there isn’t all that much to report. But the White Sox do have their own team song. It’s old-timey sounding and uses phrases like “middle west” and “Chicago’s proud of you” in it. Pretty enjoyable. Here’s the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dErnlyApjmM. They played it in full in the eighth inning, but it wasn’t clear that the fans really knew the words.

The Game:

This one looked like it was going to be our second blowout in four games but ended up being pretty entertaining. Jake Peavy started for the White Sox and after getting the first batter out he gave up three doubles (Plouffe, Mauer (who was a first today), and Cudduyer) and a home run (by Jason Kubel) in a row. Out 2 was followed by a single and a home run (Luke Hughes), meaning the score was 6-0 Twins before the Sox even came to bat. Slowly but surely, though, the Sox came back. They put up two in the third on a Brent Lillibridge homer, then one in the sixth to make it 6-3.

After Jason Repko hit solo homer in the seventh, the White Sox put up one in the eighth to make it 7-4 going into the ninth. The White Sox got guys on second and third with 1 out and then decided to pinch-hit Adam Dunn for Lillibridge. That dude has been awful this year. And, as has been typical for him, he struck out in a big spot. Big free agent signing and he’s hitting around .170 for the year. That is just awful. Paul Konerko hit a two run single with two outs to make it 7-6. This was really a great at-bat. Konerko fouled off a bunch of pitches and then lifted a little blooper over the first baseman’s head and into right field in a place where nobody could get it. Really impressive. Konerko has had a great year. Anyway, Alex Rios struck out to end the game and Joe Nathan got the save. Rios hasn’t been nearly as good this year as last. Missed seeing Carlos Quentin and Justin Morneau, who was scratched just before the game.

The Food:

Chicago is big on sausage, and there was a lot of it around. Polish, Italian (sweet and hot), brats—lots of sausage everywhere. Also had a stand for Hebrew National hot dogs, which apparently used to be the official hot dog of the stadium. They also had the king of all nachos: nachos in a helmet. Tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños, salsa, all served in a helmet. This was too intimidating for me. Way too many nachos. I couldn’t even get close enough for a picture.

And not one of those dinky size helmets that ice cream comes in. Real helmets.

Walking around the stadium, we came across a booth selling nothing but Asian buns of various kinds. Being a big time dim sum fan, I decided it would be a good idea to go for the steamed roast pork buns. To put it bluntly, they just weren’t very good. The dough tasted off and the BBQ pork wasn’t very tasty. Should have known better. I do appreciate the effort, though, White Sox. Not sure I would have found these anywhere else.

 

Shockingly, these were not very good.

Wesley felt like she needed something that wasn’t completely unhealthy (definitely understandable, see other posts) so she decided to go with the deli-style sandwich. She got turkey on some sort of cracked wheat bread. The execution appeared to be pretty good, but the sandwich just wasn’t that great in the end.

A sandwich. They actually do sell things that don't come in buns.

Because we were in Chicago, I decided to go with the bratwurst. I got one with everything on it (onions, peppers, and marinara sauce). Again, it was kind of underwhelming. The marinara was bland, the brat wasn’t particularly great, and the bun completely fell apart into mush before I got back to my seat to eat it. If you find yourself in U.S. Cellular Field sometime soon, go for the helmet nachos. Can’t screw those up.

Disappointing for a Chicago specialty.

This was my least favorite stadium so far. The stadium was not friendly (even a program vendor yelled at me for asking for directions) and the game presentation was a little weak. The Sox set off fireworks after the Lillibridge homer, but even that looked silly given that it was a day game. Lesson for stadiums: fireworks look horrible during the daytime. The stadium is undergoing some changes to add a bigger team store and some other things but I’m not particularly optimistic. Sorry, White Sox fans. Not impressed with your home.

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2 comments

    • baseballandbbq

      Fair point, although this doesn’t really explain the stadium orientation. Downtown is north of where U.S. Cellular Field is. Currently the stadium faces southeast. If it faced northeast, which, incidentally, is the same direction as Wrigley Field, a good number of the fans could have a shot at checking out downtown Chicago. As it is now, you need to be in the way upper deck in right field.

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