On the Road: How It Plays in Peoria

To see all of my posts from my May 26, 2015 visit to the Peoria Chiefs (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.

Last year I visited the Rome Braves, which afforded me the opportunity to use the obvious but irresistible “When in Rome” headline. And now, one year later, I have the pleasure of utilizing another no-brainer blog headline.

On May 26 I attended a Chiefs game at Dozer Park. Yep! That meant that it was now time to see how it plays in Peoria. (The little things in life. They bring me such pleasure.) Just like in Clinton the day before, the sky was huge and blue when I arrived at the stadium.

001

002Dozer Park opened in 2002 with the name of “O’Brien Field.” The “Dozer” name is the result of a naming rights deal with Caterpillar, the Peoria-based machinery and construction corporation that makes “Dozer” bulldozers.

Dozer Park is pretty on the inside.

003

And, once you look past the construction barriers, the outside views of downtown are pretty nice as well.

009

In the early days of my “On the Road” coverage, players interviews were done quite frequently. In recent years, however, they have been more or less an afterthought. Don’t take it personally, players, it’s just that I already have way too much to keep track of on these increasingly action-packed stadium visits.

But in Peoria, I made an exception. Prior to the ballgame, I spoke with “athlete-scholar” Nick Thompson and soon wrote a feature on him for MiLB.com. (Specifically, this feature was written in an Omaha-area hotel room two nights later with Littleman playing on mute.)

Dennis Sievers/Peoria Chiefs

Dennis Sievers/Peoria Chiefs

Thompson wasn’t in the starting line-up on this evening, at least in part because rehabbing St. Louis Cardinal John Jay was. As I walked around the stadium prior to the ballgame, I noticed that Cardinals fans were everywhere.

006And many of them were desirous of an autograph from Mr. Jay.

015These Chiefs, lacking autographs to sign, instead engaged in an elaborate game of charades.

010The view from out there:

011But out there I could not remain, for I was scheduled to be a guest on the Chiefs’ on-field pregame show, hosted by Midwest League broadcasting legend Nathan Baliva. Along the way I stopped to use the restroom, which I am mentioning because of this:

IMG_1272The Chiefs have flat-screen video ads above each urinal. The future has arrived in Pee-oria! They’re #1!

After a thorough hand-washing (I am nothing if not hygenic), I arrived on the field.

Cue the Monkees: “And then I saw his face. He’s Nathan Baliva.”
012After interviewing shortstop Oscar Mercado, Baliva turned his attention to me.

Homer enjoyed the interview. Really, that’s all that mattered to me.

013I then threw out a ceremonial first pitch, my second in as many days. It was, of course, a perfect strike. (If anyone has evidence to the contrary, then please get in touch.)

Oh say can you see?

016And then, of course, it was time to “Play Ball!” This young fan receives high marks in her “Play Ball” declaration efforts, largely for her committed effort to run away from the mic as quickly as she possibly can.

The scene, consider it set. The next post in this Peoria series will Chief-ly be concerned with what took place during the game itself. We’re going to keep on playing in Peoria.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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