Category Archives: cincinnati reds affiliates

Ballparks currently used by minor league affiliates of the Cincinnati Reds.

Dehler Park, Billings, Montana

Dehler Park, Billings, MONTANA

Number of states: still 32
States to go:  still 18Number of Games:  1
First game:  July 4, 2013 (Billings Mustangs 6, Missoula Osprey 2)

Click on any image to see a full-size version.

On a hot 4th of July–the 10th anniversary of the first of my minor league travels–I

arrived at Billings with family in tow.  There, I found an absolute jewel of a ballpark nestled against the Rocky Mountains.

Dehler Park passes the main test I have for all ballparks: the is-there-any-question-where-you-are test.  The instant one walks through the home-plate gate, one is faced by what Wikipedia tells me is the “Rimrocks,” a 500-800 foot cliff that skirts Billings’ north and east sides.  It’s a flat-out gorgeous view that occupies my mind during slow points in the baseball.

On top of that, Billings does incredibly well with its baseball history.  The Mustangs’ 40-year affiliation with the Reds certainly helps.  Dehler Park seemed to focus a bit more on recent Mustangs

 than more distant ones (I saw huge tributes to Jay Bruce and Joey Votto prominently displayed), but not exclusively: the program celebrated more distant history.  Dave McNally’s statue greets fans as they enter the stadium, and the plaque lists his accomplishments as a Billings Little Leaguer more prominently than his Major League exploits.  I like that.  There is also significant love for Ed Bayne, a legendary local American Legion coach from the middle of the 20th century.  I love that these two locals are treated as practically equals, and that my 4-year-old could literally shake hands with the Bayne photo (Bayne also gets a good deal of love in the Billings American Legion Hall of Fame inside the stadium).

Lineups were prominently displayed, which came in handy for Steven as he wrote down the lineups before the game (this always gets looks).  More importantly, Billings has what I most like at any level of ballpark: the ability to circumnavigate the park without ever surrendering the view of the field.  Some locally appropriate fare was available (but no thank you to Rocky Mountain oysters, okay?), and those mountains…oh, yes,

those mountains.  I liked how the ballpark kept standings for the Pioneer League on a flagpole in center field, much like at Wrigley Field or (horizontally) at Safeco Field.  Keeping an eye on your own league and taking pride/focus in the minors, rather than just the majors, scores points for me.  And the concourse was popular on this particular afternoon.  Some of this was that people were gathering back by the concession stands’ edifices to get a little shade.  My wife remarked, however, that people past the left-field wall were awfully good-looking to be gathered in one place: that the Mustangs seemed to have created a pretty cool place for beautiful people to gather for a holiday.

I think this might be related to my very small quibble with the park: it was run a little too slickly for my

 tastes, at least in the very-low minors.  There were no on-field promotions that I recall, and everything in the design was out of central casting for the gleaming-new-minor-league-ballpark-of-the-early-21st-century that has popped up everywhere.  I’d like for them to let their hair down a little—a little—and allow  themselves to celebrate a little wackiness every now and then.  I wondered a little bit whether Billings’ status as the largest city in Montana required them to show a little more reserve than their competitors in Helena, Great Falls, and Missoula.  And make no mistake: anything (including an anesthetic-free root canal) is preferable to the abomination of volume and horror that was Missoula.  But I feel like the Mustangs were reserved to the precipice of stuffiness.  I would like to see them embrace just a little more of a low-minors “what the hell” attitude.

But this is a quibble.  If I could make all 38 games here every year, I certainly would.  As it is, I will have it on the short list of ballparks to return to if ever I’m zipping across I-90.  You should have it there as well.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional Feel:  9.5/10

Total home run here.  The Mustangs celebrate Montana baseball history unabashedly and enthusicastically.  They look back on the history of their team with passion.  And man oh man, but that view of the Rimrocks is fabulous.

Charm: 4/5

Gorgeous, but a little too slick for a perfect score.

Spectacle 2.5/5

I remember no promotions.  In a way, I like that, but in a way, I miss it.

Team mascot/name  2.5/5

Couldn’t find Homer in the crowd, but here he is anthropomorphized into a bouncy-house.  I don’t mind the Mustangs name, but Homer would be the #1 Mascot name on Family Feud, so I can’t go too high here.  That and, again, I didn’t see him.

Aesthetics: 5/5

Gorgeous inside and out.

Pavilion area: 4.5/5

Plenty to walk to, and around, and all without losing sight of the field.

Scoreability:  3.5/5

Minor glitches.

Fans: 3.5/5

Granted, it was July 4th, but even with that, I thought there was a tad too much casualness for my tastes

Intangibles: 4.5/5

A great, if rather hot, afternoon.  I will be back.

TOTAL:  39.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I SAW HERE:

Ty Washington’s second-inning triple gave the Mustangs the lead they wouldn’t give up.

Jose Guzman pitched 5 1/3 shutout innings, followed by 1 2/3 of perfection by Scott Brattvet (including two strikeouts and a double-play).

Written July 2013.

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KENTUCKY

Number of states:  19
States to go:  31

Number of games:  2
First game:  July 30, 2006 (Toledo Mud Hens 6, Louisville Bats 1)
Most recent game:  June 11, 2013 (Louisville Bats 8, Durham Bulls 5)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

First of all, check out that picture up there.  Seriously.  Do not Windex your screens.  Have you ever seen such a damn hot place?  The heat practically busts through your screen.  Temperatures for this

late-afternoon game–a 5PM start on a Sunday in July–were in triple-digits. Public service announcement: THE THIRD BASE SIDE IS THE SHADY SIDE. SIT THERE.  I was on the first base side, and therefore, my recollections of the place are going to be as hazy as that picture. Everything I remember will be, to say the least, impacted by my broiled brain.

That’s a bit of a shame, I think, because under other circumstances, I probably would have liked Louisville Slugger Field more than I did. The park has a lot going for it. First, and most notably is its location. It’s just off the river and a not too far from downtown, and both are visible from the seating area (although the Ohio is on the other side of a wide road–the bridges are more therefore more visible than the water). It’s a nice ballpark of the new generation, with all the positives (nice location, good amenities, ability to see the game while getting food or desperately-needed water) and negatives (a bit similar to others of its generation, a few too many sponsors and sponsorships, and a damn

carousel…no ballpark in the universe should be permitted to have one).

I give the team credit for a good name for its stadium and team. “Louisville Slugger Field” is a nice means of getting both sponsorship money, local color, and baseball history worked into one name, and “Bats” is a decent play off of that. I seem to recall the team was named “Redbirds” in my youth, but with the Cardinals long gone, it’s totally reasonable to junk that and to have a more locally-appropriate name.

Local color was noticeable throughout the ballpark as well. The “Kentucky Baseball Hall of Fame” is housed on the premises. There are Cooperstown-style plaques for particularly noteworthy Kentuckians (Pee Wee Reese, Rube Waddell, and Jim Bunning were three that stood out

to me). There’s also a lengthy bit of Louisville minor league history, focusing on decade-by-decade rundowns of local teams. I’m always glad to see who’s passed through a particular town on their way to stardom, and what teams happened to come together to see success along the way.  The Bats seem to get the appeal of that.

Louisville itself, which I had no impression of prior to my arrival, impressed me. I got into town at what I thought was three hours before game time to spend a little time at the Muhammad Ali Museum.  Immediately upon my arrival in Louisville from Nashville, I discovered that, even though I had driven more or less directly north, I had gone from Central to Eastern time.  So I didn’t have the time to enjoy the city that I would have liked, and that’s too bad. The Ali Museum looked lovely, but I only arrived about a half hour before closing.  Oh well–worth checking out the Louisville

Slugger factory/museum, right?  Closed for a private party. The main drag of what looked to be old downtown looked like a place to have a good time, but by the time I’d stepped into two closed or closing museums, I was too hot and annoyed to care. But I won’t hold a grudge; Louisville looked like a fine place to go.

Quick guess: who’s the subject of the sculpture outside of Louisville Slugger Field?  Sorry–wrong.  It’s Paul Hornung.  Yeah, I didn’t guess it either.  It was probably the only non-sequitur in a place that otherwise did a fine job of respecting baseball.

I encountered this funny situation in my pregame circumnavigation of the field.  I spotted two kids faced with this very intimidating sign at the bottom of the left-field berm (or, to put it another way, on the spectator side of the left-field wall):


This is, of course, quite a bummer for any kid who’s at the ballpark and wants to play catch. No throwing of any objects?  OK.  So I watched two kids roll a baseball along the cement path by the wall. On the third roll, the ball hit the crack in the cement and bounded upwards, over the fence, and onto the field of play, leaving two perturbed kids with very little idea what to do next.

The heat did not prevent the Bats from pulling out all stops to put on a decent show.  For starters, the Indianapolis Colts’ cheerleaders made the drive down I-65 to do some dancing for us all.  Under most circumstances, I would take a look at their skimpy uniforms and think “Gosh, how alluring and pleasant.”  On this occasion, however, I thought: “How practical.” I’d have dressed that way myself if I felt that I could pull it off.  I doubt it, though…I don’t have the chest for it.  Also, the Bats had a wacky pre-game deal where they would send a dog out onto the field with a bucket of baseballs for the umpires.  At first, I felt for the dog and was ready to call the ASPCA on the spot.  But then, later in the game, the dog provided the umpires with cold bottles of water.  That’s very, very kind of the Bats.  And of the dog.  Good dog!

I sat next to some very friendly (and very, very rural) folks for a few innings, and enjoyed talking to the guy.  He’s a Reds fan who takes his kids to one game a year. I just wish the kids had wanted to watch the game: after the hundredth time running in front of me and making me move my feet so he could run by, it got rather old.

So, even though the weather conspired against

me this time, as it would for subsequent games in Peoria and Pittsburgh, I can see through that and be complimentary towards Louisville Slugger Field.  The best part of the game, I will have to admit, was the part where I was ordering a Sprite and water (not mixed together) and peering at the game over my shoulder. But even beyond that, I was able to sense that this was a nice ballpark with fine fans and a decent atmosphere in a city with a good deal of character.  I’ll be back.  I hope it’s in April or May, when I can likely enjoy it more.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel: 8/10
Sure, the place is a cookie-cutter, but you can’t argue with that river or that downtown view.

Charm:  4/5
Not too bad here.

Spectacle:  4/5
Pretty good–not overbearing.

Team mascot/name:  4/5


Here’s Buddy Bat getting the snot beat out of him at a kid’s party.  I like both Buddy (maybe a tad commercial?) and the punny name Bats.

Aesthetics:  5/5
Gorgeous place with a nice view.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5

Scoreability:  4/5


From the Technologically Advanced Does Not Mean Better Department:  The Bats put the lineups on a readerboard in the concourse.  I thought it was a cool thing to do…until I realized there was no way I’d be able to write them all down (the screens weren’t on nearly long enough). This was countered by the nice, updated scoring and such they had on their scoreboard.

Fans:  5/5
The fact that people showed up at all on this miserably-hot day means they earn the maximum score.

Intangibles:  1/5
Sorry, Louisville fans, but the intangibles for me were that I felt like I’d been trapped in a closed tanning bed with hot jelly donut filling poured over my body–for nearly 3 hours.

TOTAL:  38.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Josh Phelps’ three-run homer in the ninth puts the game away for the Mud Hens.

Chad Durbin pitches eight innings of three-hit ball to pick up the win.

Chad Bentz (pictured) pitches an inning and a third for the Bats. I notice something about him from my angle…and realize that he does not have a right hand, and has a delivery which includes him slipping a glove onto his pitching hand, much like fellow one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott.  Unfortunately for Bentz, he’s the pitcher who gives up the home run to Phelps.

In 2013, Wil Myers hits a home run for Durham only a few days before he is called up (I assume for good) by Tampa Bay.  But he is overshadowed by the Bats’ Neftali Soto, whose 4th-inning grand slam puts Louisville ahead for good.

(Written December 2006.)