Watching Baseball at the Ballpark
Milwaukee County Stadium 2000
Watching Baseball at The Ballpark
How I miss going to the ballpark to see Major League baseball! It has been years since I last saw a baseball game. Although I have watched many games on television and on the Internet, the experiences have not been the same as they have been at a live game. There always was something magical about going to see a game in person. From the size, smell, sounds, and sights of my first game at old Milwaukee County Stadium to the adventure of rooting for my Milwaukee Brewers at old Baltimore Memorial Stadium, attending a ballgame was a very special and enjoyable outing. From the perspective of a long-time fan, I make my case in this article that Major League baseball is better at the ballpark then seeing it on TV or the Internet.
Baltimore Memorial Stadium 1991
At The Ballpark You Can See And Almost Hear Everything
By watching a televised baseball game, you will always get an excellent view of the pitcher, catcher, and batter. What you are missing, however, is what the other players and coaches are doing when the pitcher is throwing to the catcher, After a ball is hit, it is often impossible to follow the exact flight of the ball from the bat to the player who fields it. If you attend a game live, you can see and almost hear the following:
1. Positioning of All Players And Coaches on The Diamond
In most modern day ballparks, any seat will give you a panoramic view of all players and coaches positioned on the field during the game. The best seats obviously are elevated and in the vicinity of back of home plate. From a vantage point here, you can see the positioning of all infielders and outfielders while the pitcher is delivering the ball to a hitter. The positioning of infielders and outfielders will obviously change from batter to batter.
2. Players in The Dugout, Bullpen, And On-Deck Circle
The dugouts are the places where the players sit when they are not on the diamond. The managers, coaches, bat boy, and ball boy also occupy the dugouts. In a few older parks like Wrigley Field in Chicago, you will also be able to watch relief pitchers warm up in the areas of the right and left field corners. In the two on-deck circles just off of and behind home plate, you can see the on-deck hitter taking practice swings while another hitter is at the plate.
3. Coaches Flashing Signs to Players
A few yards off of the first and third base foul lines near the bases there are coaching boxes. Coaches stand in these areas and give signs to players when they are either hitting or running the bases. The signs will usually include when to swing away or take a pitch, when to try to steal a base, and when to stop and not take an extra base when running.
4. Players and Coaches Chattering And Hollering
During a game it is natural for players and coaches to give each other encouragement. If a manager, coach, or a player disagrees with an umpire's call, he will sometimes vociferously dispute the call on the play. These arguments which aren't heard on TV can be very loud at the ballpark.
Bryce Harper Gives a Fan a Bat at Great American Ball Park in Cincinatti
Milwaukee County Stadium
Bryce Harper Signing Autographs at Turner Field, Atlanta
Pre-Game Activities at The Ballpark
Many fans and I like to arrive at the ballpark very early so that we can take in and enjoy the following activities:
1. Tailgate Partying
In tailgate partying, a group of fans usually traveling together to the game by car will set up a portable grill in back of their vehicles in the parking lot of the ballpark. They will then barbecue and eat ribs, chicken, or hamburger before an evening or afternoon game. In addition to the food, there will also be a lot of beer to drink.
2. Buying From a Vendor Outside The Ballpark Gates
Whenever I arrived at Memorial Stadium, I would always buy a program and scorecard from a vendor after buying my ticket. The vendor also sold pennants, baseball jerseys, and ball caps of your favorite team. I never purchased these because I always wore my Brewers cap and jersey to games.
3. Finding and Getting to Your Seat
After I purchased my ticket at the gate, it was always an adventure making my way to the assigned seat. This was especially exiting when I had to scale several ramps to my upper deck nosebleed grandstand seat high off of the first base foul line.
4. Watching Batting Practice
I always arrived at the park early with my glove when I wanted to watch batting practice which started two hours prior to game time. The best seats were in the left field and right field bleachers if you wanted to catch a home run hit during batting practice. It was also possible to get close views of the outfielders and sometimes talk to them.
5. Watching Infield Practice
After batting practice concludes, both teams take infield practice. Coaches hit grounders to all of the infielders who then throw the ball to the first baseman. At times it was amusing seeing this when catchers like Johnny Roseboro were taking grounders at the shortstop position.
6. Watching Fungo Hitting
In fungo hitting, a coach stands behind the first base or third base foul lines and hits high fly balls to all of the outfielders. I remember Frank Howard as a coach of the Milwaukee Brewers hitting some real towering flies at a game in Milwaukee in 1978. During fungo hitting, other players are usually playing long catch or doing sprints on the outfield grass.
7. Getting Close to Players Signing Autographs
A few players from both the home and visiting teams will sign autographs before games. At a game between the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles in 1990, I can recall seeing Ruben Sierra of the Texas Rangers signing his autograph to scorecards and baseballs.
8. Watching The Grounds Crew
After infield practice is finished, a member of the grounds crew of usually 5-10 persons operates a small tractor which pulls three or four drags to smooth the infield dirt. Individual grounds crew members will also smooth the dirt on the pitcher's mound and also the dirt around the home plate area. Other members will chalk out the batters' boxes and also put chalk down the the first and third base foul lines. Still other grounds crew members will water down dusty areas or dry grass areas.
Sausage Race at Miller Park
Watching Baseball at the Ballpark
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Fan Activities Experienced During a Game
During a game, you can only experience the following activities which wouldn't be possible watching at home on TV：
1. Cheering For Teams or Individual Players
A ballpark can be an exciting and electrifying place when you have tens of thousands of fans cheering for their team players as they are being introduced prior to the game or as they come to bat during the game.
2. Making Special Cheering Noise During a Game
When I attended my first Milwaukee Braves game in 1953, many people would bring cow bells and ring them often during the game. Fans would also stamp their feet in unison in the stands when the Braves were mounting a rally. At old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, there was a man who would continually beat a drum during Indians games. The most electrifying noise I can remember came from Baltimore Orioles fans when Wild Bill Hagy would stand on the Orioles dugout and lead cheers with body movements spelling out O-R-I-O-L-E-S during the Orioles magic years of 1979-1983.
3. Doing The Wave
The wave first became popular at football games, but was later done at baseball parks starting in the 1990s. I remember doing it at Miller Park in Milwaukee during a game in August of 2005.
4. Going After A Foul Ball Hit Into The Stands
If a person sat along the first or third base side of the field, he or she would have a chance at a foul ball hit into the stands. I had a chance when I watched the Orioles play the Rangers in 1990. It was very frightening, though, because Julio Franco fouled off a fastball thrown by Curt Schilling, and sharply lined it like a bullet to a spot right in front of where I was sitting. I was lucky I wasn't hit by the ball.
5. Seventh Inning Stretch
It is said that the seventh inning stretch in which the home fans stand before the start of the bottom of the seventh inning originated with President William Howard Taft in 1910. The story goes that Taft who was watching a game in Washington got up to stretch his legs. Fans who thought he was leaving the ballpark got up as a sign of respect to him. While Harry Caray was announcing Chicago Cub games, he would lead Cub fans in singing "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch.
6. Watching Bernie Brewer
One can only experience this at a Milwaukee Brewers game. After a Brewers player hits a home run, Bernie Brewer, Milwaukee's mascot, will go down a long slide and into a mug of beer.
7. Sausage Races
If you take in a game at Miller Park in Milwaukee, The Brewers management will provide you with sausage races once a game. Three people decked out in bratwurst, sausage, and hotdog outfits will race around the bases after the sixth inning, I believe. If you haven't had a bratwurst at the ball park, you don't know what you have missed.
Although the shots of pitcher, batter, and catcher are great on TV, nothing can compare to seeing a major league baseball game in person. There is so much excitement before and during the game that this must be witnessed by everyone at least once during their lifetime. I haven't been to the ballpark since taking in a game with my brother and sister in 2005. The Brewers are a better team now, so I plan on seeing another game at Miller Park very soon.
Watching Baseball at the Ballpark
© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn
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