On the Road: Knowing the Score in Louisville
Today’s dispatch finds us in Louisville, the home of the International League’s Louisville Bats (Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds). This marked the second time I’d been in Louisville over the span of one year, as I visited this past October in order to attend the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. I wrote quite a bit about that visit, from the ballpark and otherwise; all of those posts are cataloged HERE.
So when I arrived at Louisville’s Galt Hotel, the same establishment that hosted the Promo Seminar, it was with a not inconsiderable sense of deja vu. I checked in, leaving my bags in the car, and immediately began the short walk to the Bats’ home of Louisville Slugger Field.
Or at least it should have been a quick walk to the ballpark. A combination of haste and misplaced confidence regarding my knowledge of downtown Louisville led to me walking right past E. Main Street, where the ballpark is located, and into parts unknown. Pro tip: if you’re walking to Louisville Slugger Field from the Galt Hotel, and you see the Ahrens Vocational School. then something has gone horribly wrong.
Pee-Wee Reese, Louisville native, is there to greet all comers.
Pee-Wee played shortstop. Here’s the view from the hot corner.
If Louisville Slugger Field looks like it has a unique ballpark exterior, that’s because it does. This building, in its previous incarnation, was a rail depot. Hence, an enclosed entrance way so wide that one could drive a train through it.
This, also taken during the Promo Seminar, illustrates how the converted depot area can be used as an offseason event Also, fans of foreshadowing should take note of this image. Depicted therein is an individual who will soon play a prominent role in this post…
Here’s one final photo from the Promo Seminar, taken from the suite level. Louisville Slugger Field is located on the banks of the Ohio River.
Upon arriving at the stadium and making my way to the press box, I learned that the Bats’ approach to my visit was of the hands-off variety. While there’s no right or wrong way to handle a Ben’s Biz intrusion, this caught me off-guard simply because my previous four ballpark visits had included participation in a World Record attempt, a karaoke battle against wrestling royalty, in-depth history-minded ballpark tours, two ceremonial first pitches and stints as a racing cow, hot dog, and bearded Sun King brewer. Full-to-bursting ballpark agendas had begun to feel like the new normal.
The cool reception was kind of a relief, as it was nice to know that I could take a break and set my own pace. So goodbye, Bats press box, I hardly knew ye. It was time to wander.
One of Stevo’s ballpark rituals is to purchase “mystery cards” from a concourse souvenir stand, for $2 a piece. One was enshrouded in pink, the other enshrouded in blue. “Which one do you want?” asked Stevo.
Receiving a Nick Adenhart card was bittersweet, to say the least, as he was killed in a car accident on April 9, 2009 at the age of 22. I wrote a news story about this tragedy later that day; speaking to his teammates just hours after they had heard the news was one of the most difficult things I’ve done as a professional journalist.
Stevo had a good vantage point for that evening’s game against Columbus. This was the scene as we rose for our National Anthem.
Later in the evening I interviewed Stevo about his scorekeeping history, techniques and tips. I’d highly recommend reading it, which you can do so by clicking HERE.
Of course, one of the joys of scorekeeping is that its practitioners can indulge their idiosyncratic whims. In the below photo, the parenthetical “FLS” in the box next to Lindor’s name indicates a “Flying Louisville Slugger.” (As in, Lindor had lost control of his bat at some point during his at-bat against the Bats.)
— GeöSpringerDethPünch (@yoshiki89) July 22, 2014
That accomplished, I took a lap around the ballpark. The shark fin-looking thing sticking out above the stadium is…a building. I forget what building it is, but it’s distinctive.
This isn’t just some random corporate sponsorship. KFC is based in Louisville, and Louisville is home to the first, and thus far only, KFC Eleven.
That’s Stephanie Fish, on the left, and Shannon Siders, on the right. These women, independently of one another, contacted me about being the evening’s designated eater (you know, the individual recruited to eat the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits). That’s not the only thing that Stephanie and Shannon have in common with one another, however, as they are both former Minor League Baseball front office employees who now work for a Louisville-based sports entity.
Stephanie, formerly of the Lexington Legends, now works in an administrative role with the SkillVille Group. The SkillVille Group’s roster of touring ballpark and arena performers is highlighted by the Zooperstars!, meaning that a big part of Stephanie’s job is keeping the likes of Harry Canary in line. Shannon, formerly of the Reno Aces, now works in marketing and communications for Louisville Slugger. She does not have to deal with anthropomorphic inflatables on a daily basis.
Our tour guide for this portion of the evening was Jason Betts, concessions manager for Centerplate food service. Betts can be seen in the below photo, looking pensive while ordering pork chop sandwiches from this center field kiosk.
Have at it, ladies.
.Louisville Bats designated eating time. Pork chop sandwiches. https://t.co/angfFidoYW
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 22, 2014
“That’s a big piece of meat,” declared Stephanie, after careful deliberation.
“I don’t think I can follow that comment,” said Shannon. “It’s delicious. Better than salad.”
Next up was a visit to the “Nacho Cantina,” a concession stand so popular that it even has its own Facebook page.
“The nachos are all a la carte, so the lines can get pretty long,” said Jason. “People get up there like ‘Uhhhhhh…..’”
.Louisville Bats visit to the nacho stand. Like the nacho stand on Facebook. The nacho stand is a quality n… https://t.co/32iQqWr8lW
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) August 19, 2014
As opposed to tortilla chips, Shannon opted for the house-made potato chips. But, regardless, this dish is very much a nacho dish and this photo is suitable for framing.
“Aside from $1 beer night, this is the happiest that I’ve ever been at Louisville Slugger Field,” said Shannon. “Does that make me an alcoholic?”
— Shannon Siders (@ShannonSiders) July 23, 2014
“I wish I had a napkin,” added Stephanie.
“This is a salad in a wrap,” said Stephanie. “That’s my quote. That’ll work.”
Betts said that the team sells 150 cheesesteaks per ballgame, a number which can increase to 300 on weekends.
“I’m not sure why it’s on a bun, because you can’t pick it up,” he said. “There’s too much stuff on it.”
Stephanie and Shannon eventually came to the conclusion that this Vine video should be called “Two Girls, One Cheesesteak.”
Cheesesteak love Louisville Bats https://t.co/gw2RKxIygR
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 23, 2014
Finally, mercifully, we have reached the dessert phase of the evening. Blue Bell brand ice cream — cake batter for Shannon and strawberry for Stephanie.
Stephanie really liked the strawberry.
Upon parting ways with Stephanie and Shannon, I made a brief pit stop at an eerily desolate relief station.
Number one radio broadcast in the country. https://t.co/yCcP1fpSF8
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 23, 2014
Throughout all of this, there was a game going on. There always is.
“I’m a Cubs and Royals fan, and to see an ex-Cub (Donnie Murphy) hit a home run off of an ex-Royal (Kyle Davies), that’s amazing,” said Stevo. “You never know when you’re going to see something like that.”
The Columbus Clippers defeated the home nine, by a score of 8-5.
Meanwhile, my next trip begins in two days. Here’s the itinerary (an asterisk next to the name means that a designated eater is still needed at that location). Get in touch.
August 22 — Batavia Muckdogs
August 23 — Rochester Red Wings*
August 24 — Jamestown Jammers*
August 25 — Erie SeaWolves*
August 26 — Buffalo Bisons
August 27 — Syracuse Chiefs
August 28 — Auburn Doubledays*
August 29 — Tri-City ValleyCats
August 30 — Hudson Valley Renegades*
August 31 — Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders