Ten days of care-free baseball travel are coming to an end. For the past week-and-a-half, our band of 32 has gotten up each morning facing only three important questions: 1) Do I have a bus to catch? 2) Who is playing today? 3) What t-shirt and/or hat should I wear?
On the final day of our trip, we left Kansas City at 8:30 a.m. – after enjoying the Country Club Plaza’s breakfast buffet – headed for Des Moines and the 1:08 p.m. Iowa Cubs/Memphis Redbirds tilt.
BLEACHER BUMS XXXIV – What we did, as a group and on our own.
– Our trip took approximately 230 hours and covered 2,500 miles.
– We saw nine baseball games (one rainout) in seven cities in four states in ten days.
– We tok in Independent-ball, A, AA, AAA and major league
– We visited barbeque joints, breweries, Irish pubs, blues bars and honky tonks.
– We enjoyed the Negro Leagues Museum, Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum and more.
– In addition to our Sugar Loaf coach, members of our group traveled via horse-drawn carriage, hotel shuttles, Uber and taxi.
– We ate, drank, shopped and celebrated on/in Beale Street, Printers Alley, Westport, 18th & Vine and the Honky Tonk Highway.
– In the ball parks, we enjoyed fireworks, Elvis Night and zombies – and even a spirited game of Jenga.
– Our ball park food ranged from hot dogs and brats to Fried Moon Pies and “The Bacon Explosion.”
– We set up on-board Bloody Mary and Mimosa stations.
– While traveling our “baseball highway,” we shared Chex Mix, Chicago Mix, cookies, candy, chips, cheese and crackers – and lots of baseball stories.
– “In port,” we ate everything from Crawfish Etouffee to barbeque to oven-fired pizza.
– Meals in our on-the-road lunch stops covered everything from meatball sandwiches to Maid Rites (and more, even Chinese at one stop).
– We guessed how many runs would be scored, answered a baseball trivia quiz and played the cup game.
– We purchased nearly every souvenir imaginable … lapel pins, jerseys, hats, bats. You name it, we bought it, and now we have to store it.
– We even took part in a baseball book exchange.
– We renewed old friendships and forged new ones.
– We had FUN, FUN, FUN!
Our Sunday morning bus ride included a rest stop at an Amish store that included a Maid Rite restaurant. For those of you unfamiliar with Maid Rites (called by some loose-meat sandwiches), they are basically seasoned, crumbled hamburger on a bun – delicious and increasingly difficult to find. (Unless you are on a Ballpark Tours bus.) Even though I had enjoyed a multi-plated breakfast buffet, I couldn’t resist a junior Maid Rite.
We arrived at Principal Park in Des Moines about 45 minutes prior to game time. The park is located at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers – and you get a great view of downtown and the gold-domed state capitol building beyond the outfield fences.
On entering the park, I was pleased to find a bar serving Bloody Mary’s right near the gates. Check one item off the BBRT list. The Bloody Mary was $8.00 – and just average. A good, pre-made Bloody Mary mix, but no added condiments or spices.
We had great seats – between home plate and third base. All the seats in the park – which holds 11,500 – appear to be close to the action. The weather, by the way, was as good as the seats – mid-70’s, sunny with a light breeze, perfect for the last game of our tour.
The scorecard ($1) was one of the best on the trip. It included a handout that provided: team rosters and numbers; the day’s starting lineups; full stats on each player; current PCL standings; the upcoming schedule; and “News and Notes.” Kudos to the Iowa Cubs.
A bit more about the ball park before I get into the game itself. The scoreboard is a unique blend of old and new. It has a large, clear video screen that provides plenty of information on each hitter (including their Twitter addresses), as well as replays of key plays. Beneath that is a set of center field bleachers and an old-school, inning-by-inning line score (you know, the kind where you post the runs, hits and errors by hand) that labels the two teams ”OUT OF TOWNERS” and “LOCAL BOYS.”
Principles on Display at Principle Park
Some of our group thought the park should be named Principle Park, since the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is proudly displayed as you enter the ballpark. The sign, I learned, was the idea of the team’s majority owner Michael Gartner – a former journalist.
The concessions earned approval from our group as a whole – in particular the juicy Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, the massive Pork Tenderloin Basket and the Bacon Explosion (summer sausage stuffed AND wrapped with bacon). The walk-in beer cooler – fans can walk into the cooler and select their cold brew – is thought to be the only one of its kind at a ball park.
So, how about the game?
It was a close contest (2-1 after seven innings), eventually won by the Memphis Redbirds 4-1. The Redbirds got to Cubs’ starter Jake Buchanan early, scoring twice on a single and two doubles in the first inning. He then settled down and held Memphis scoreless until giving up an unearned run in the seventh.
Mike Mayers, who started for the Redbirds, went a solid five innings – giving up just six hits and one earned run, while walking one and fanning eight. (In his last three starts, Mayers has walked just one and fanned 21 in 17 innings). Overall, the game featured 18 strikeouts – eleven by four Redbirds’ pitchers and seven by three Cubs’ hurlers.
If I had to name offensive stars for the game – offense was pretty light – they would be the Redbirds’ SS/leadoff hitter Breyvic Valera and Cubs’ 3B/cleanup hitter Jeimer Candelario. Valera had three hits (all singles) and an RBI. It was his seventh three-hit game of the season and he ended the contest hitting .363. Candelario had two of the Cubs’ seven hits (all the Cubs’ hits were singles), giving him a nine-game hitting streak and a streak of 28 consecutive games reaching base.
We did see a nifty 6-4-3 double play, a couple of running catches in the outfield, a leaping catch at the centerfield wall, a nifty bunt single and a single on a lazy fly lost in the sun (We all thought it should have been scored an error).
Let the Pitchers Hit
As regular BBRT readers know, I am not a fan of the Designated Hitter. Well, in the Iowa/Memphis game, the pitchers came to the plate. The rules dictate that if either team is affiliated with an American League team, the DH is used. However, if neither team is affiliated with an AL squad, the pitchers hit. Memphis and Iowa are Cardinals’ and Cubs’ affiliates, so we got to see the pitchers take a few swings. Overall, the hurlers went two-for-five and – as you will read in the Cup Game aside – that worked out pretty well for me.
All in all, a well-played game – although fielders did have trouble with the high sky and there were some adventurous plays on fly balls and pop-ups.
The Cup Game and an Unlikely Win
Every so often, our touring group likes to add a little excitement to the contest with “The Cup Game.” It goes like this – a cup is passed, in a specific order, among the participants (we had nine this time) – changing hands with each new batter. If the hitter at the plate does not get a hit or a walk, you put in a quarter and pass the cup to the next participant. If your batter walks, you pass the cup, but put in no money. If your batter gets a hit, you get the contents of the cup, and then pass it on. If your batter hits a home run, you get the contents of the cup and an extra quarter from each participant. Finally, whoever has the cup when the last out is made, gets its contents.
For most of the game, I found myself receiving an empty cup and passing on one with my quarter in it. Then in the ninth inning, the cup came into my hands with about $3.50 in it. Unfortunately, Memphis pitcher Dean Kiekhefer was at the plate. Of course, it would be a pitcher. Well, Kiekhefer hit a slow roller down the third base line (How hard do pitchers usually run on these plays?) – and he hustled down the line to beat it out for an infield hit (and a pocketful of quarters for me). I say again, let the pitchers hit.
I should add that the Iowa Cubs are not long on promotions between innings. They do fire a lot of t-shirts into the crowd, and there was a costumed hamburger race (featuring youngsters from the crowd who were really competing). Most of the remaining between-inning activities consisted of fans (youngsters) answering questions about agricultural products and production. (This is Iowa after all.) It was actually refreshing not to be bombarded with one between-inning contest after another.
Alas, when I got up this morning, there was no ball game to get to (but a blog post to write). Life is so routine. I think I’ll take in a Saint Paul Saints Game tomorrow.
By the way, Ballpark Tours still has a September Chicago/Milwaukee trip and a December Cuba adventure planned. Click here to get to their site.
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Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.