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.

059

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.

058

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.

070

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:

075

IMG_1227

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!

089

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.
092

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.
093

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.

096

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?

100

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.

flooded_ballpark_4fnp1kzn_dx6m7mpf

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.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: