Tagged: Quad Cities River Bandits 2015

On the Road: Weather Changes Moods in Quad Cities

To see all of my posts from this May 2015 visit to the Quad Cities River Bandits (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.

On Sunday, May 24, I visited the Quad Cities River Bandits’ home of Modern Woodmen Park. I spent several hours at the stadium, enjoying many experiences, but one experience I did not experience was the experience of experiencing an actual ballgame. Instead, I experienced a rainout. C’est la vie, sure, but nonetheless my failure to have experienced an actual Midwest League baseball game at Modern Woodmen Park really stuck in my craw.

The following afternoon, I took in a 1 p.m. doubleheader in Clinton between the LumberKings and Burlington Bees. You might think that two games and 14 innings of Midwest League Baseball is enough for one day, but if you thought that then you thought wrong. Upon the conclusion of the Clinton twinbill I drove to Modern Woodmen Park, where the River Bandits were taking on the Peoria Chiefs in a doubleheader of their own (start time: 4 p.m.).

I arrived at Modern Woodmen Park just as the second game begun, meaning that I would be able to witness River Bandits baseball after all. Immediately, my craw became unstuck.

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The players were playing, the Ferris Wheel was spinning. The Centennial Bridge was spanning its usual distance betwixt Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois. All was right with the world.

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Well, not all the players were playing. Some were just sitting around like a bunch of lazy jerks.

056The Ferris Wheel is the most prominent of the River Bandits’ ballpark amusements, but there are also zipline rides, the Drop ‘N Twist and Space Camp. Although I would’ve loved it when I was younger, I could not bring myself to attend Space Camp.

But the Ferris Wheel? Of course I’ll ride the Ferris Wheel, in all of its 105 feet of glory. This was to be my second Modern Woodmen Park Ferris Wheel ride in as many days.

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You say you want a revolution?

Along for the ride was none other than River Bandits owner Dave Heller, the man responsible for the Ferris Wheel’s purchase and installation.

IMG_1261The Ferris Wheel is open during all ballgames, as well as Friday and Saturday evenings, weekend mornings (in conjunction with a nearby Farmer’s Market) and special events.

“It’s a different way to think about the ballpark,” said Heller. “This is a wonderful way to maximize our gorgeous venue all Spring and Summer long and well into the Fall.”

This, clearly, was the view to the west.

IMG_1260Downtown Davenport:

IMG_1263Meanwhile, back on the ground, the views can still hold their own. Check out these two guys, staring intently into the back of the batter’s eye.

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Vantage point from the right field deck.

061This scoreboard is also a relatively new addition to the ballpark. I took a picture of it because Blake Drake was up to bat at the time. You’ve to got to love Blake Drake.

063As mentioned in my previous River Bandits post, one of the next major projects for the team is to expand the concourse outward and on to this rooftop area.

“We never stop improving,” said Heller, who is among the most passionate team owners I have ever met. “Every year, there’s something new.”

067Day’s transition into night was accompanied by lights.

In this photo, the River Bandits outfielder is not fielding a batted ball. Rather, it is between pitches and he has rushed over to the warning track in order to retrieve a ball that kids had dropped onto the field from the berm. These kids were really sloppy in their catching and throwing habits. I was kinda hoping, all Grinch-like, that they wouldn’t get their ball back.

071With the ballgame in its waning moments, I hurriedly delivered my groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the evening.

The seventh inning began with the River Bandits holding a 3-2 lead, just three outs from victory. But victory was not to be theirs, as the Chiefs scored four runs in the top of the frame and went on to win by a score of 6-3.

This disappointing conclusion to the ballgame was followed by the ceremonial throwing of tennis balls onto the field. (And, yes, that is a washing machine stationed just past the second base bag.)
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The Ferris Wheel lights were then shut off for the evening, a symbolic conclusion to a day in which I had seen three games totaling 21 innings at two Midwest League stadiums. (I then drove right on over to another Midwest League city, Peoria, as I would be seeing the Chiefs the next day.)

076Good night from Modern Woodmen Park. I’m glad that I was able to see a game here, after all. Everything works out in the end.

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On the Road: Eating in the Rain in Quad Cities

To see all of my posts from this May 2015 visit to the Quad Cities River Bandits (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.

If you read the previous post in this series, then you know that the Quad Cities River Bandits game I (attempted to) attend at Modern Woodmen Park was rained out. But while rain stopped the ballgame, it didn’t stop my designated eater! (You know, the individual recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.)

At Modern Woodmen Park, that individual was Dean Birkhofer.

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Dean, a retired math teacher, husband, father and Beatles fan, grew up in Wilton Junction, Iowa (“Junction” has since been dropped from the town name) and now lives in North Davenport. He was motivated to become a designated eater after receiving pressure from his daughter and son-in-law. (That son-in-law, Paul Worley, is a reader of this blog who contributed a “Why I Love” guest post this past February.)

Dean is a lifelong baseball fan, particularly of the Brooklyn-turned-Los Angeles Dodgers. So how did a kid from the Midwest come to like the Dodgers?

“I think I finally figured it out,” said Dean. “My Dad played softball. He threw right and played center field….I think I came to associate him with Duke Snider. [My Dodgers fandom] solidified when I was six. I made a bet with my uncle on the ’55 World Series, that I’d get a nickel if the Dodgers won. They won, and a couple weeks later I had to send him a letter. ‘A bet’s a bet.’ He sent me 27 cents, which was probably all the change in his pocket, and of course I changed that into 27 baseball cards.”

Fortunately for Dean and I, the River Bandits were willing to whip up a few special concession stand offerings despite the fact that the game had been called and the concession stands were closed.

We started with the “Pit Boss Burger” — an all-beef burger, cheddar cheese and in-house smoked BBQ pork.

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Here’s Dean, sauce all over his face, enjoying this delicacy.

“Oh, it’s awesome,” he said. “Really good barbecue sauce. Tangy. It’s going to be on my list when I come back for a game next year.”

Dean then wiped his mouth with paper towels that he had brought from home. Dean was nothing if not prepared.

Dean was also prepared for the next item presented for his consumption: the Midwestern delicacy that is the pork tenderloin sandwich. Believe it or not, this thing is on a bun. It’s just that the bun is obscured by the meat.

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Have at it, Dean.

080Dean opted to consume the the pork tenderloin sans condiments, remarking that “I’m a meat eater. Don’t ruin it.”

But first, the sandwich needed to cool off a bit. Dean, once again displaying an admirable level of preparation, passed the time by asking baseball trivia questions. One such question went as follows:

Who was the first player to hit two pinch-hit home runs in the same World Series?

I’ll provide the answer at the end of this post.

As for the tenderloin, Dean said that he’s a big fan of this sandwich in general and the River Bandits’ iteration in particular. As for why he’s a fan, he had a bit of trouble articulating.

“There’s a taste. I don’t know how to describe it. Yeah, I don’t know,” said. Dean. “This one’s really good though.”

Good? Yes. But the River Bandits don’t make the area’s best, according to Dean. That honor goes to Tc’s Point After in Dewitt, Iowa.

Meanwhile, Dean complemented his sandwich consumption with a beverage housed in a collectible cup. Yep, it’s time for a #cupdate!

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082But wait! Dean wasn’t done yet. In addition to arriving at the ballpark with his own napkins and trivia questions, he had a also brought me a gift.

084For those not in the “know,” the above mini-helmet depicts the logo of the awkwardly-named “Swing of the Quad Cities.” The franchise was known by this name — which referenced Bix Beiderbecke and the Quad Cities’ jazz legacy — from 2004-07. The River Bandits moniker, which had been in use from 1992-2003, was readopted in 2008 and the team hasn’t looked back since.

In fact, current River Bandits general manager Andrew Chesser was downright offended by Dean’s mini-helmet offering.

“I’m a little sick to my stomach,” he said.
083I, for one, like the mini-helmet. I wear it every day here in the office.

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And that’ll do it for Dean and his Quad Cities River Bandits sandwich-eating experience. I’d like to express my thanks to both him and the team for being Designated Eating pioneers, as never before had the eating been done after the ballgame was postponed.

“It was awesome,” said Dean, when all was said and done. “I just wish there was baseball to go with it.”

Trivia Question Answer: The first player to hit two pinch-hit home runs in the same World Series was Chuck Essegian, who accomplished the feat in 1959 as a member of the Brooklyn Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thanks for playing.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Riding in the Rain in Quad Cities

To see all of my posts from this May 2015 visit to the Quad Cities River Bandits (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.

My May 2015 Midwest road trip began on a beautiful Saturday night in Geneva, Illinois, home of the Kane County Cougars. The following day’s destination was Davenport, Iowa, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits.

Whereas Saturday was beautiful, Sunday was gray, wet and altogether kinda depressing. But the show must go on.

After a car ride spent listening to episode #997 of “Floydian Slip” on 103.9 The River, I arrived at the River Bandits’ home of Modern Woodmen Park. This stadium was built in 1931, making it one of the oldest in Minor League Baseball. Through the years it has undergone extensive renovations, however. It certainly doesn’t feel 83 years old.

Parking lot views.

048To my left, I could see the left field Ferris Wheel installed prior to last season.

049 While, behind me, a flock of birds had made the decision to get outta Davenport.

050To get into the stadium, one must cross train tracks that are still frequently utilized by the Canadian Pacific Railroad.

051The Ferris Wheel is the crown jewel of an ongoing effort by River Bandits’ ownership to create a carnival-esque atmosphere at the ballpark. But as I arrived on Sunday morning, these amusements were not yet in use. It had recently rained, and it sure looked like it would rain again.

The Zipline was folded over, sitting in the shadow of the Centennial Bridge (which crosses the Mississippi River, connecting Davenport and Rock Island, Illinois).

052The Space Camp ride had not achieved liftoff.

053The Drop ‘N Twist was not dropping. Nor was it twisting.

054The tarp was just about the only thing in use. Even on a gloomy day, Modern Woodmen Park remains beautiful.

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Rain or shine, the show must go on. River Bandits general manager Andrew Chesser gamely led me on a tour of the facility, showing off some of the latest improvements to Modern Woodmen Park along the way. (This is a team that is always improving. Main Street Baseball ownership group, led by Dave Heller, has shown a nearly messianic zeal in this regard.)

This room, located on the concourse down the third base line, used to be a storage closet. Now, it’s a Birthday Room. Video games are forthcoming.

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Further down the third base line, one finds this soon-to-be rooftop party deck.

“We’re sandwiched by the Mississippi River, train tracks and historic parks on both sides of the stadium,” said Andrew. “Building up is the only option we’ve got.”

060The River Bandits have three full-time staff members who only deal with non-baseball events, 150 to 175 of which take place every year. One key component of the non-baseball side of the equation is weddings. In fact, there was a wedding scheduled for later in the day. (Yes, it was Sunday. But it was Sunday of a holiday weekend and, thus, a Sunday in name only.)

061Here, we visit the Sears Manufacturing Suite. Note, once again, the view of the Ferris Wheel.

062This is the “Budweiser Champions Club,” a multi-purpose room in which wedding ceremonies are sometimes held. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get married in a room called the “Budweiser Champions Club”?

065My tour went on hiatus at this point, as Andrew had to take part in some weather-related manager and umpire consultations down on the field. In the meantime, I spoke with a trio of long-time season ticket-holders: Frank (89), Shirley (the youngest-seeming 86-year-old I have ever met), and Douglas (I’m not sure of Douglas’s age. What I can tell you is that he’s a Cardinals fan who was mighty disappointed when the River Bandits switched affiliations to the Astros).

066Frank, whose last name is “Wulf”, has been attending games at this ballpark for 70 years. His late wife, Dorothy, was named the team’s “Fan of the Century” in 2000. Dorothy attended the first game ever played here (in 1931, when it was called Municipal Stadium), and remained a fixture until her death in 2008.

Dorothy is memorialized at the ballpark with this outfield-area plaque.

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With the tarp still on the field, River Bandits players appeared on the concourse for a 20-minute autograph session. There were plenty of River Bandits to go around.

068Speaking of going around, it was time for my first-ever ballpark Ferris Wheel ride. My entire life had all been a stilted, uneventful prelude to this moment.

069I rode the wheel along with River Bandits assistant general manager of amusements Mike Clark, who I believe is the only person in Minor League Baseball to have such a job title. Clark told me that a ride on the wheel lasts for 12 rotations — approximately four minutes.

More views from the Ferris Wheel:

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IMG_1228In which I insert myself into the narrative:

IMG_1230Shortly after the ride ended, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: Today’s Midwest League contest between the River Bandits and visiting Peoria Chiefs would be postponed. It was 1:04 p.m. — 11 minutes before the game’s scheduled start time. This may sound like a premature time to have bagged it, but the radar wasn’t looking good.

The view from a deserted press box.

085Game or no game, I still had work to do. After a post-postponement meeting with my designated eater (this will be chronicled in a separate post), I resumed my ballpark tour with general manager Andrew Chesser.

We strolled past the extensive Quad Cities Sports Hall of Fame…

087and eventually made our way down to the home dugout.

More Centennial Bridge views!

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More Ferris Wheel! 090This might be Class A, but nonetheless the Houston Astros organization puts together some really detailed scouting reports on the opposition. These were still hanging in the dugout after the rainout. I’m going to assume that they aren’t confidential.
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I’m just the dude who writes about ridiculous promos and dresses up as various racing food mascots. I can’t begin to make sense of this stuff.
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Walking back toward the home clubhouse, I noticed that the walls displayed evidence of a thorough punching. That’s life in baseball for you.

095Maybe those wall markings were caused by the Rock, in a fit of rage. The Rock oversees the trainer’s area.

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Back on the concourse, we stopped by the Cornfield Seats.

098That patch of dirt, on the far left, is indeed a corn field. The corn will be “knee high by the Fourth of July,” at which point the River Bandits will use it as a Field of Dreams style pre-game entrance area.

A brief detour to the team store soon followed.

099Hats! Hats! Hats! Hats! Hats!

My afternoon with the River Bandits ended back outside, right where I started. See those brick pillars?

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See these rectangular base plates?
101See this sidewalk to nowhere, roped off by a small length of chain?

103Well, all of these things are integral to Modern Woodmen Park being able to withstand flooding from the Mississippi.

Read all about it HERE, in a piece I wrote for MiLB.com. It is truly fascinating. This picture was taken last season, just prior to a ballgame taking place as scheduled.

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Believe it or not, there is still much more to come from Modern Woodmen Park. And good stuff, at that.

The show must go on.

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About Sunday Afternoon: Quad Cities River Bandits, May 24, 2015

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 will provide the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us! 

May 24, 2015 — Modern Woodmen Field, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits (Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros)

Opponent: Peoria Chiefs, 1:15 p.m. start time

Modern Woodmen Park, from the outside:

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Modern Woodmen Park, from the inside: 

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Culinary Creation: Pork Tenderloin Sandwich (bun obscured by oversized meat patty)

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At Random: My first ride in a ballpark Ferris Wheel

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: Postponed! In it’s place, enjoy this Vine video displaying the River Bandits’ myriad cap offerings.

It’s All Over: Well, this one never began. The ballgame was rained out.

085(Spoiler alert: I was able to make a bonus, top-secret return to Modern Woodmen Park the next day. Stay tuned next month for full coverage.)

Next Up: 

5/25: Clinton LumberKings

5/26: Peoria Chiefs

5/27: Cedar Rapids Kernels

5/28: Omaha Storm Chasers

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