Last Sunday my ballpark tour came to an end as I headed down I-71 to see my final game of the season and check off #30 in Cincinnati. I spent most of the day at my friend Kappa’s place watching football and eating LaRosa’s pizza, which I highly recommend to all visiting the Queen City. We headed down to the park about two hours early to take in the scene and pick up our tickets. Dodgers’ photographer Jon Soohoo was generous enough to provide tickets for this game to us as his way of keeping me on a budget (very appreciative!). We parked near Paul Brown Stadium for $5 and that is probably the cheapest parking you’ll find unless you score a meter. As we walked closer parking went up from $10-$17, so your call on how much you’d like to spend. We stopped at the Holy Grail Tavern and Grille across from the park for a beer and mingled with the locals a bit. Cincinnati has really built up the area next to Great American and along with this bar, there are a few others including the Moerlein Lager House that I’ve had lunch at- delicious. If you’re looking for a more low-key bar/area, I suggest O’Malley’s in the Ally which is a couple of blocks over. After our beer, we headed over to Will Call to pick up our tickets and explore around the park.
The entrance behind home plate in between the ticket office and Reds’ Hall of Fame is by far the most popular and crowded way into the park. In front are a couple of statues of former players and flags with pictures of the current roster. There are plenty of other gates into the park, but none have the grandeur of this one. The ballpark’s façade is simple white steel bowl with windows and concrete in a distinct bowl. There’s no doubt that this is a sports venue in its construction. The park does incorporate some brick along the side that faces the street and houses the front office. Along this walkway are flags saluting important dates and players from this team’s storied past. You can walk all the way around the park, but the area next to the river drops significantly and is mostly just a concrete base and parking garage. After our loop around the park, we entered the ballpark and proceeded to bump into all of Kappa’s friends.
Seriously, I was with Mr. Cincinnati! We couldn’t go more than 10 feet without seeing one of Kappa’s friends or coworkers. And here I thought I was the only one! Since our seats were near the field, I suggested we check out the concourses and other levels first before heading down- a bit of a mix up from my previous trips. We headed through the main concourse towards right field, walking by a few mosaics and a floor emblem commemorating the Reds as the first professional baseball franchise. The main concourse is slightly narrow but very high with white steel beams holding up the stands above. Along the sides above the concessions are pictures of important teams and dates. There are also flags hung along the beams with Reds’ history highlights. The concourse incorporates both the main and suite levels, though the latter is open to ticket holders only. As you near the outfield, the concourse widens allowing for standing room behind the lower level seats. Both baselines have this set up with a full-service bar and tables and counters for fans to use. There was also a small picnic area called the Highlight Zone with a large television allowing fans to watch multiple games at once. Would be handy to keep track of the other teams had the Reds not clinched the night before!
As we rounded into the outfield, the concourse narrowed again and we passed a large fence that allows you to look down upon the Reds’ bullpen. This is also a good area to watch the game from if you don’t mind the fencing. Continuing on you pass through a simple concrete walkway behind the batters eye to center field and a small home run deck below the dual PNC Power Stacks. The 14 baseball bats around the tops are a subtle tribute to Reds great Pete Rose. This area gets a little crowded, so get there early if you want a good spot. The walkway behind this deck has a great view of the river and you can watch the river boats go by or just admire the Newport/Covington skylines that look very beautiful lit up above the water. Right field houses more concessions, the visitor’s bullpen and gives way to a large picnic area with plenty of activities to keep the kids busy during the game. Just on the other side of this concourse is an escalator to the upper levels, so we hopped on.
We skipped the suite and club level and made our way up to the 400 and 500 level concourse just in time for the anthem and pre-game festivities. There is a big chunk of stands missing to the left of the press box area to afford views of the Cincinnati skyline. We stood here for the first inning enjoying the view of the field and the company of some of Kappa’s friends before moving on. The High 5 Grille is on this level and serves up $1 hotdogs, peanuts, popcorn, and ice cream cups. The lines for these items were fairly long, but worth the wait if you’re feeding the whole family! Other than the area cut out from the stands, the upper concourse doesn’t provide very good standing room areas, since people’s heads block the views. You’re better off just going to your seats or heading down to the main level. Once in the outfield, you end up in a labyrinth of sorts going down the steps to The Machine Room, a restaurant that’s open to all fans. There is inside and outside seating and the views from the tables of the field are pretty nice. Following the outfield maze, we walked up to the “riverboat” in center field but found it was closed off to private parties. This is too bad since it’s pretty cool looking and has a nice view of the field! We walked down the steps behind it back to the main concourse and all the way back to our seats, pausing in some standing room behind left field long enough to see the Reds get on the board.
Our seats ended up being in the section behind the Dodgers’ dugout, so we had a good mix of both fan bases. There were definitely some ladies there for Matt Kemp and I will admit I was excited to see him in person since he was injured when I visited Dodger Stadium in July. Our view of the field was awesome, though we could have the same great view from the standing room behind us for less (had we actually paid for the tickets). Looking around the park all lit up and full of excited fans, I felt a new appreciation for this ballpark that I definitely didn’t feel the last time I visited. For how simple it is on the outside, it definitely packs some character on the inside. The whole outfield sports the riverboat theme nicely and I really liked the smoke stacks shooting up fire for every Reds strike out. We had quite the pitchers’ duel going on between Bailey and Kershaw (Sunday night baseball has its perks!), but Adrian Gonzalez was able to hit a pair of home runs keeping my streak of seeing a home run in every game this summer alive. I wasn’t happy he hit them, but I was happy to see the Dodgers go ahead since I like Bobby Abreu and Don Mattingly. I tend to root for teams with the most former Yankees and it was fun to tease Kappa, a huge Reds fan. After the mascot race in the sixth I was getting a little stir crazy so suggested we walk around the park again.
There is some great standing room behind home plate and we hung out there for a bit before checking out the views from the first baseline and right field. We sang “God Bless America” (glad this tradition is catching on around the league) and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” before circling around again to our seats. The Reds looked like they might make a comeback in the 9th, but the Dodgers held them off winning 5-3. That’s when it hit me- I had visited all 30 MLB parks this summer. I did a few high kicks and some spirit fingers (I’m quite the bad dancer) in celebration. For this trip, I spent $30 on gas and $5 on parking ($35 in all). Nice way to end my journey- cheaply! I feel very blessed that so many people came to games with me and that I had such a great support team back home (a thank you post is coming!). As for Great American, I am happy I gave it another shot- it’s a fantastic baseball venue!