ARTICLE OF THE DAY

Baseball Pilgrimage
by Brian North
7/6/05

While waiting for football season to roll around, I decided to take a baseball pilgrimage to the Midwest. I started in St. Louis to catch a game at Busch Stadium before it is blown up at the end of the season. The new stadium is in the shadows of Busch and can't be completed until Busch Stadium is razed. But my question was why would they want to get rid of their current home field?

Busch Stadium was part of the cookie cutter stadium boom of the 1960's, but recent renovations over the last 10 years have made Busch unique and an enjoyable place to watch a game. This history is evident from the statues outside, to the championship banners inside. The concessions were tasty but pricey. I am sure the new stadium will be incredible, but I am sentimental and like to see historical places stick around. The Cardinals are running away with the NL Central and should make a few more post season memories before the old stadium is put to rest.

The other major league stadium I visited for the first time was the Metrodome in Minneapolis. I expected a dull sanitized environment, but was pleasantly surprised by the Dome's playing field and atmosphere. It certainly isn't as nice as one of the newer stadiums dotting the landscape of Major League Baseball, but it wasn't as bad as Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The infamous white roof didn't seem that tough to track fly balls against, and you can see where the place can get really loud when a full house is going nuts (like in the 1987 and '91 World Series). The food was bland, but parking was cheap and the baseball was good. There are plans in Minnesota to build a new outdoor stadium, and the local fans are all for imploding the Dome, so it probably won't be missed, but I am glad I was able to watch a game there.

Then there is Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. Home to the college World Series since 1964, this jewel in the Midwest continues to grow and be the center of one of the finest events the NCAA puts on. Built in 1948 and home to the Omaha Royals, the stadium has old school charm, additional bleachers that seat over 24,000 crazed fans, and an atmosphere second to none. The traditions range from tailgating and smuggling in beach balls to bat around the outfield stands (until security confiscates them), to cheering or booing the balls girls depending if they are able to catch foul balls that roll off the back stop netting. I have been the college world series three straight years, and look forward to going back every year for the environment. I am looking forward to the day when ECU gets to play on the hallowed grounds for the first time. But I encourage anyone to attend this event if they ever get the chance.

Some people call me crazy for taking vacation time to go view more sports, but my annual summer baseball pilgrimage is one I look forward too every year, and I can't wait to get started on planning next summer's excursion.

Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com