A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Memphis Redbirds vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Finally! I attended my first game of the season! I feel better now.

I made it down to Memphis to catch the 1st of 2 exhibition games between the St. Louis Cardinals and their AAA team, Memphis at the spectacular Memphis Autozone Park.

Memphis is an impressive drive. We spent Thursday night in Nashville, after driving several hours in rainy stormy weather.

This was my second trip to Memphis within the last year. Memphis is an impressive town on several levels. It has attitude and history. The town is intense.

We made our way downtown a few hours before the game. We walked around the park and the Peabody Hotel next door. Many St. Louis players were walking between the hotel and the park. To me it seemed to have a pretty cool vibe, in general. There were about 20 fans trying to get autographs. Players were generally accommodating. I must say that the staff from the ballpark seemed the only downside to the whole situation. I saw staff get pretty rude with discouraging the autograph seekers.

We had to go in to the Peabody to say hello to their ducks. There is no reason to go to a Memphis game and not walk across the street to the Peabody to see their ducks. They enter the hotel lobby at 9am, and leave at 5. They come and go from the elevator, and a red carpet is put out for them.

The Peabody was very active. The basketball Mavericks were in town, and we road up the elevator with one of their players, and we road down with one of the Cardinals, which was pretty cool.

We made our way to the game after walking around a little. The game had a good crowd, but was far from a sell out. There were still plenty of seats. There was a booth set up to promote St. Louis travel and they were giving out draw string bags and travel guides.

This was my 1st trip to this park to see a game (I was here last year, but my game was rained out). This park is very nice. It has its own personality for sure. The big batter logo over the front entrance is a real trademark for the team and the city. The walkway around the park enables you to walk the entire way around the field. I wish all parks had this. I recently read that this park was rated #1 in a recent poll of parks in the minors. It is beautiful on the inside and outside.

The park is built into their downtown, so people in many of the surrounding buildings could watch the game from a balcony.

There was a great selection of food items too. For $6.50, you could get a huge hot dog, covered in cheese, chili, and a couple of onion rings. I put relish on mine.

The Clydesdales were there! This was very cool. They made a lap around the field and they looked great.

Fridays game saw the AAA Birds get beat up by their parent team. It was very exciting to see Pujols do his thing. I was also excited to see Ryan Ludwick. I saw him play with the Mud Hens a few years ago, and love his story. The guy has had potential and bounced around. He is starting to get some deserved recognition.

This is a cool stadium, in a cool area. I found out later that Friday Night Fights was going on down the street too! Memphis has so much going on, it is easy to miss out on some stuff.

The only minus about this park and this stadium is the security. It seemed like annoying staff were everywhere telling people what not to do. One guy in the row in front of me complained very loudly about something (I am not sure what) and one of the staff at the stadium came over several times to apologize for the situation. This staff person literally blocked my view of the game for about 10 minutes.

I was telling a friend about how bad the staff there seemed. I compared the situation to security and staff at Lexington's Rupp Arena. I am at Rupp for many sporting events through the year. Their staff is very casual and helpful. The few times I have seen them escort someone out, or hassle someone, it has been very justified and quick.

In defense of the staff at Autozone park, my friend pointed out Memphis can get rough at times. Also, this was a bit of a Major League event. They may have added some to their security because of that.

Still, even with annoying staff, this was a fun game, and this is a great park. I did not get to go to Saturdays game, though I listened to some of it. Jose Oquendo took an at bat for the cardinals, and Memphis manager Chris Maloney took an at bat for his team.

On the way back home, we stopped to see a couple of parks. We stopped briefly in Jackson TN. to look at Pringles Park, home of the Diamond Jaxx. It was gated up, so we didn't get a good look. I did see a game here last year, and this is a great place (with very friendly staff) to catch a game.

We also stopped briefly in Bowling Green to get a look at the new park where the Hot Rods are scheduled to begin play. With only a couple of weeks left until opening day, there is a lot of work still needed on this stadium. I am glad the town has a team, but the stadium looked far from finished. I am not sure about game day parking either.

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