The previous post in this “Return to the Road” blog saga covered the first half of my May 2015 trip through the Midwest. This post finishes the job, detailing my non-ballpark wanderings as I moved from Peoria to Cedar Rapids to Des Moines to Omaha.
I arrived in Peoria on the night of May 25 and thus had some free time in the early afternoon before attending May 26’s Chiefs game. When I have a small window of free time in a city that I’ve never been to, I find a record store to visit. It’s just what I do, as I’m a creature of habit.
This is Ribbon Records, a hybrid record and vintage clothing shop which, according to this blog post, is in a building formerly occupied by Murray’s Department Store.
Richard Pryor: “Wanted” (he is a Peoria native, after all)
Hank Williams: “Sings ‘Kaw-liga’ and Other Humorous Songs”
Motley Crue: “Too Fast for Love”
Nancy Sinatra: “Movin’ with Nancy”
That Nancy Sinatra LP is produced by Lee Hazlewood, and if you ever see Nancy and Lee’s names together on the same album then do not think. Just buy!
The only other things I can tell you about my time in Peoria, outside of the ballpark, was that I ate lunch at Lorena’s….
It is obscene how much I enjoy pork cracklins.
The cover art is inexcusably awful, but this is a well-curated and thoroughly enjoyable set of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s truck-drivin’ country songs. “Giddyup Go, Daddy.”
I spent the evening of May 27 with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, leaving the city early the next morning. Cedar Rapids, I hardly knew ye.
May 28 was devoted to an Iowa Cubs matinee in Des Moines and then an Omaha Storm Chasers game in the evening. The next morning, before flying out of Omaha, I stopped at Almost Music. I somehow failed to take a photograph of this establishment, so here’s one from the Yelp page.
Almost Music, while small, was well-organized and featured a lot of off-the-beaten path kind of stuff for the heads and weirdos in your life. I picked up an R. Stevie Moore record (“Delicate Tension”) as well as a CD from local emcee Macey Yates (I had asked the guy at the counter to recommend an Omaha artist completely removed from the Saddle Creek universe).
And then? Then I went home. There are a lot of things I like about living in New York City, but you don’t get to see nearly enough bird’s nests. Thanks, Midwest, for the memories.
To see all of posts from my May 28, 2015 visit to the Omaha Storm Chasers (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
Shortly after May 28th’s Omaha Storm Chasers game began, I rendezvoused with a fan by the name of Paul Biler.
But Paul was not just any fan. Paul was that evening’s designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). I picked the right man for the job.
Paul is “from Toledo by way of Utica,” but has lived in Omaha since 1997. His family made the move to Nebraska after his wife got a job as a private investigator for a health insurance company. Paul now works for Mutual of Omaha, but he also has an extensive background as a radio deejay. His most recent work in that regard was for Omaha oldies station KGOR, but for the majority of our time together his mouth would be used for the consumption of food. That, in a nutshell, is why Paul volunteered to be designated eater in the first place.
“I can eat,” he said.
Our journey began with the “Cor-dog-o”, a new addition to the Werner Park concession menu. It is named in honor of general manager Martie Cordaro, who became enamored with it after it was originally served as a Nashville-inspired “Eat Your Opponent” specialty item. I’ll defer to the press release:
OMAHA, Neb. – This season the Omaha Storm Chasers are bestowing their President and General Manager Martie Cordaro with the highest honor a Minor League Baseball team can give: naming a hot dog after him. The “Cor-Dog-O” is one of many new food items fans can try this season from Ovations Concessions at Werner Park.
A concession item that was long overdue, only the “Cor-Dog-O” can truly reflect the “interesting” personality and style of Martie Cordaro. The specialty item consists of two hot dogs, pulled pork and coleslaw wrapped in a tortilla shell, one of the only hot dogs at Werner Park that is not served in the traditional hot dog bun.
A closer look:
“Oh, that is good,” said Paul after his first bite. “I only got the dog side of it, but I can definitely taste barbecue sauce.”
He then took another bite, leading him to declare that “the pulled pork is wonderful.”
When informed by Storm Chasers executive chef John Schow that the barbecue sauce used was local favorite Cookies (a molasses-based sauce), Paul was enthused.
“If you’re having a party, put a pound of Vienna sausages in the slow cooker and then throw some Cookies on it,” he said. “Cook it for four hours, and then it’s perfect.”
Next up was an item that can be procured at “Poldberg’s Philly Grill,” named after Storm Chasers manager Brian Poldberg.
Oh, man. Let’s take a closer look.
“The corned beef is nice and lean, and there’s a good zing from the dressing,” said Paul. “Definitely, a heart attack in a bun.”
We then moved on to the Champ Burger, created by Schow in 2013 after the Storm Chasers won the PCL Championship. It consists of three 1/3 pound patties, bacon, ham and onion rings.
Schow was enamored with Paul’s eating efforts, and eventually told me “I want a photo with that guy.” So, here you go:
“It’s a sweet gig,” he told me. “I mean, killer.”
And, clearly, he’s doing killer things with it. Hopefully not in the literal sense, but items like this will certainly accelerate one’s path to the boneyard:
This is the Midwest delicacy known as the “Frenchee” — American cheese on white bread, deep-fried.
“Of course it’s Rotellas,” replied Schow.
These two were definitely on the same wavelength.
“Say a prayer for me,” added Paul, overwhelmed by the amount of food he was now dealing with.
“Sir, I have a couple times already,” replied Schow.
If you want a Frenchee outside of the ballpark, Paul mentioned that local restaurant Don and Millie’s is known for them.
“It’s hot, definitely something you want to break open and let cool for a while,” said Paul. “It could use more cheese. Mostly I’m tasting bread.”
But that was a rare criticism of what was clearly a fantastic culinary experience.
“The food here is great,” said Paul. “I’ve been to a lot of ballparks where the food is pedestrian, but here there’s a lot of stuff that’s unique to the Omaha area.”
I’m writing this post some three weeks after visiting Omaha, but for all I know Paul is still at the ballpark making his way through what was a most prodigious dinner. He sure had his work cut out for him.
Oh, and for the record: I would like to commend the Storm Chasers for offering gluten-free hot dogs at the ballpark. I enjoyed one later in the ballgame.
To see all of posts from my May 28, 2015 visit to the Omaha Storm Chasers (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
Okay, so where was I?
Oh, that’s right. I was at a Minor League Baseball game. A Pacific Coast League Baseball game, to be exact, though I was nowhere near the Pacific Coast. Welcome back to Werner Park, home of the Omaha Storm Chasers.
I was accompanied by general manager Martie Cordaro throughout these wanderings. He pointed out that the scoreboard shoots flames after each home run as well as after each Storm Chasers victory. See those propane tanks hooked up in the back there?
I made it a goal for the evening — to take a photo of the flaming scoreboard. I’d already missed an opportunity in the third inning, when I was otherwise engaged with Mr. Biler, when Francisco Pena hit a solo shot.
Beyond the scoreboard is an impressive array of flags.
The blue flag on the far left celebrates the American League champion status of the Kansas City Royals, but it should not be overlooked that the Storm Chasers have won back-to-back Pacific Coast League championships. Here’s Martie modeling his 2014 PCL championship ring on one finger, and a giveaway replica ring on the other. Can you tell which is which?
I was gonna be all snarky about the sponsorship, like “Yeah, of course, because nothing says “backyard games of Wiffle ball” like a jewelry retailer. But I’m slow on the uptake — this is a diamond company sponsoring a diamond. Genius! (Yes, genius. This is the internet, where hyperbole reigns and words have lost their meaning.)
The field is real grass; the Storm Chasers have already replaced the sod twice. The blue metal poles in the sign seen above were taken from the team’s previous home of Rosenblatt Stadium.
Picnic area, coming soon!
With the ballgame winding down, I paid a visit to section 118. Jerry Strawn, a well-known figure at the ballpark and in the Omaha community, passed away suddenly during the offseason and his fellow fans paid tribute with a seat bearing his catch-all catch phrase. Read all about it on MiLB.com.
Jerry Strawn, in his signature Cubs/Storm Chasers jersey.
In honor of Jerry Strawn. Hey Buddy!
The Storm Chasers scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to knot the game at 5-5. Time for extra innings on this, the last day of what had been an exhausting road trip. At this point no fewer than four Storm Chasers had hit home runs, and I had yet to capture an image of the flaming scoreboard.
The Storm Chasers won it in the bottom of the 10th. Orlando Calixte doubled to lead off the inning, advanced to third on a sac bunt and scored on a Lane Adams single. This marked the second PCL walkoff victory I’d seen that day, the Iowa Cubs in the afternoon and the Storm Chasers at night. Let’s review:
And, hey! Flaming scoreboard. My night was a success.
And that’ll be all from Omaha. I had a great time, and I’m not lion.
To see all of posts from my May 28, 2015 visit to the Omaha Storm Chasers (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
The last time I was in Omaha was September of 2010, attending the final game at Rosenblatt Stadium. The city’s Pacific Coast League team, then known as the Royals, was slated to move to a new stadium in the nearby town of Papillion the following season. As part of this 2010 visit, I swung by the stadium construction site and got a sense of what this new facility would look like.
The stadium, now known as Werner Park, is home to the Omaha Storm Chasers. If nothing else, the parking is ample.
The area surrounding the ballpark still possesses a rural feel. However, Storm Chasers general manager Martie Cordaro reports that 150 houses are under construction in the immediate area, as well as additional commercial and recreational development.
The home and visiting clubhouses are located in left field, with a ramp leading across the concourse and down onto the playing field. The Storm Chasers clubhouse is on the right, as in toward center field.
Six seconds of Stormy https://t.co/PsoNndaZR5
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) May 28, 2015
This is Stormy. He’s anemometer-ically correct.
It was a gray Thursday night, decent but far from ideal conditions for baseball. Martie told me that, the day before, the team had experienced what he deemed to be the best weather in Werner Park history. And, on top of that, the team had staged a star-studded “Salute to the Kansas City Royals” promo in honor of their long-time parent club.
“You should have been here yesterday,” said Martie, echoing a sentiment that has been expressed to me by Minor League general managers across the land.
But it wasn’t yesterday. It was today. In the next post of this Storm Chasers saga, I’ll cover the today that was in further detail.
This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!
May 28, 2015: Werner Park, home of the Omaha Storm Chasers (Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals)
Opponent: Tacoma Rainiers, 6:35 p.m. game time
Werner Park, from the outside:
Werner Park, from the inside:
Culinary Creation: The “Reuben Philly” (chopped corn beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing, rye hoagie bun)
At Random: Minor League Baseball, summarized
Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day:
Your groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the day https://t.co/JRkAjIGPj6
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) May 29, 2015
It’s All Over: Thanks to a cameo appearance at Principal Park in Des Moines en route to Omaha, I saw two Pacific Coast League victories in the same day.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) May 28, 2015
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) May 29, 2015
5/29: Travel Day, return home to cat yelling at me
5/30: Seeing the Who in Forest Hills, Queens
5/31: Sleep for 37 hours consecutively