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Thursday, August 05, 2010

"A Night With The Timber Rattlers"

Today, Kelli and I were invited by my aunt Judy to join her, her husband, and my cousin Tim and his wife at the local ballpark in Appleton, WI. For those unfamiliar, this would be Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium, home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class A minor league affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers). We were invited to join them and their church group for some tailgating (grilled brats, Mmmmm!), and then a night game followed by fireworks.

As it just so happens, I've never been to a Minor League baseball game. I've been to a number of Major League ballparks -- mostly those in the Upper Midwest, but never a Minor League park. So for me, tonight was a first.

When Kelli and I arrived, we joined the church group (40+ people) around their grill, and socialized to the aromas of Wisconsin's very own Johnsonville brats cooking over the coals. Many in the group also brought additional food (aka, pasta salads, fruit salads, chips, pickles, cookies, brownies, that sort of thing). So, there was plenty to eat. And good food at that!

Tonight was also "Thrivent Financial for Lutherans" night, so, in addition to my aunt and uncle's church group, there were thousands of people in bright neon green t-shirts who were there for the annual Thrivent client picnic. It was fun to look around the ballpark and see the sea of neon green, which, ironically, had nothing at all to do with the Timber Rattler's team colors (aka, red and black). You don't see that very often.

After everyone had eaten their fill of meaty goodness, and the grill and tables were folded up and reloaded into the appropriate cars in the parking lot, we joined the sea of green flowing through the front gates of the stadium. Our group's seats were located about five rows directly behind home plate. Excellent seats in any baseball stadium! In a Major League ballpark, those would be the REALLY expensive seats -- far too expensive for me! But here... not a problem. The tickets were actually free (the church group had two extra seats, and my aunt invited Kelli and me to use them). But man.... great view of the action!

Over the course of the game, though, the Timber Rattlers didn't produce much. The Peoria Chiefs (Chicago Cubs minor league team) crushed them 13-1. The game may have been a bust for us Wisconsin folk, but it was exciting just being in the minor league setting. There were entertaining fan contests on the field between each inning, plenty of free giveaways, and a chance for us to see some of the future stars of the Milwaukee Brewers. You never know, some day I might be able to say... "Kentrail Davis? Oh, yeah... I saw him play in the minors. Good kid. Good kid."

All-in-all, it was a great experience. And, after the blowout game came to an end, the lights in the park were shut off, the field went dark, and the nearly 6,000 fans in attendance (almost all of them in neon green t-shirts) were treated to a fantastic fireworks display directly above us. How often do you get to sit in a professional baseball stadium -- behind home plate, and see a fireworks display exploding directly above you? Not often. First time for me I think. Very cool, though! Very cool!

After the fireworks finale ended, and the sea of green flowed back toward the adjacent parking lot, Kelli and I bid farewell to our companions, and set off for home (Brillion is 30 minutes east of Appleton). When we got home (around 11:30pm), we were both pooped. It's surprising how tired a day at the ballpark can be!

Not a bad way to spend a Thursday, though! Baseball, brats, and good company. Now that's what I call fun! When I lived in Milwaukee, Miller Park (home of the Brewers) was only 40 blocks away from my apartment. Here in Brillion, Fox Cities Stadium is the closest professional ballpark. Since I love baseball, and I love the Brewers, I have a feeling I'll be getting to know the Timber Rattlers a lot more too.

I tell you, the longer I live here in Brillion (and the surrounding area), the more I find to become passionate about. Maybe Kelli was right... Brillion fits with my personality far more than I realized. Honestly, I'm starting to believe her.

-Jon

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Jon Baas

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