Our Hall of Fame Tour officially opened Sunday, July 3rd and we have been busy bees welcoming baseball fans into our mobile museum for the first time. Little did I know, Davenport is home to the #1 MiLB park, multi years running- Modern Woodmen Park. With games going on all week, we have had fans by the droves stopping in our exhibits before going across the train tracks to the ballpark. The owner of the team, Dave Heller invited us to a game Tuesday night and after all the hype (Iowans have been raving about it), we were eager to see the stadium ourselves.
Following the conclusion of my shift, I headed over to the game ready to be impressed. To enter the stadium, you walk up a couple flights of steps that lead to a wide open concourse bustling with concession stands and team shops. The River Bandits are a Class-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, so obviously, the place isn’t huge (think Spring Training park size), but it has a stunning view of the Mississippi River and a beautiful bridge in right field and every amenity you would expect at an MLB park. They even have their own beer, just like the Milwaukee Brewers, called ‘Bandit Brew’ made by Great River Brewery. It’s a chocolate blonde ale and the local brewery is just down the street from the park. We hit it up one of the first nights in town and really enjoyed our flights and the bar’s atmosphere. Totally worth a visit if you’re in town.I found my roommate Jess with our Hall of Fame curator, Andy (Cardinals) in the sit-down restaurant/bar behind home plate. The three of us got drinks and looked around a little, as there were some cute ballpark art and an array of arcade games before heading over to the third baseline bleachers to join up with the rest of our group. We were able to sit in the first row and peer into the Bandits dugout. I’ll be honest, minor league ball does nothing for me. It’s just like college football recruiting, no matter how much I try, I still can’t get into it. Once the player is actually on my team, I’ll follow him until he leaves. If I really like the player, like say, Curtis Granderson, I’ll still follow him even if he’s playing for the other New York team. Ryan, on the other hand, loves MiLB and was telling us about the prospects with enthusiasm. He was a little wealth of knowledge and helped peak my interest significantly.
The game was moving at a nice pace and it really was the perfect night. Modern Woodmen Park has a great ambiance to it with the small town feel and I was in good company watching my favorite sport. Around the fourth inning, I talked my coworkers into riding the large Ferris Wheel that’s chillin’ out in the left field concourse. It was a major distraction for me, much like the merry-go-round in Comerica Park- there would be no peace until I’d taken a ride. On our way over we stopped to look at the home “bullpen.” Like a few MLB parks, there isn’t a separate area, the pitchers warm up along the field. What makes it unique, is it’s lined with corn. Iowa loves itself some corn! I wonder if the players walk out and ask each other to “have a catch” before warming up. Doubt it, but it’s fun to speculate.
There aren’t stands in the outfield, just grass and a few families had chosen to spread blankets to watch the game. We paused to watch another inning from this view before (finally!) buying a ride on the Ferris Wheel. It was $20 for all five of us, which felt a little expensive, but the game was free, so it was justified. Totally worth it, my favorite part of the ballpark by far! We were on top of the world, looking down on the river, the field, and the city- it was beautiful. Once our ride came to a conclusion, we rather reluctantly departed and walked back to the stands. On our way over we ran into David and his wife, June and thanked them for inviting us to a game.
We ended up staying until the bottom of the 7th as I insisted we needed to sing during the stretch. It was a very quiet rendition of ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ as most of the crowd had vacated the park already. Despite being July, it was a chilly night and even worse- mayflies were everywhere! Plus, by this time with no horse in the race, most of us were a little over the game. Ryan decided to see it through, but the rest of us went back to the hotel, very satisfied with our little night out. It was a great way to enjoy the city and scratch the baseball itch. The ballpark is quaint, affordable, and very family friendly. If I lived in Davenport, I’d totally attend games nightly when the team was in town. Definitely glad I had the opportunity to visit!
Picture from Kevin E. Schmidt/QUAD-CITY TIMES
Bonus: The Mississippi River floods in the spring when the snow melts and can sometimes engulf the park. Despite the high water, they are still able to hold games. Pretty cool, right?!