MILLER PARK.

7:35am LGA to ORD, pick up the rental car, fight traffic, pick up some speed, and we’re passing the Cheese Castle by 10:30 and Miller Park greets us through the windshield by 11am. The parking lots are not packed, but they are full of people who have clearly been there for hours in the hot sun, with their grills and their deep friers and their tents – on a Thursday afternoon. As we make our way through the parking lot, we are gently heckled: “METS fans? Oh, no.” or “You’re not tailgating?” It’s a RELIGION in that state, I tell ya. My significant other swore that, even wearing a Mets jersey, if we wanted to hang out people would feed us. But we are hot, and want to get inside, so we forgo any attempts to socialize with the natives.

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We entered via the home plate entrance, which was not particularly spectacular. It did, however, put us at immediate proximity to our seats, which were six rows behind home plate and *are* particularly spectacular. This also meant that our section was right in the sunlight. We decide to wander the stadium, get some food, and return closer to game time. Day game after a night game meant no BP, so there was little incentive to roast unnecessarily for an hour and a half before the game started.

The seats acquired by my charming companion on this adventure, the lovely Coop of My Summer Family gave us admission to the .300 Club (their version of the Diamond Club) which was very very nice, but not very baseball. However, it was air conditioned and the bathrooms met our quality level.

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I had a brat, while Coop opted for the timeless Miller Park classic Cheese Fries in Helmet. (No, she did not keep the helmet.)

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I completed my sausage doll collection with the acquisition of Mr. Chorizo, although we missed the sausage dolls walking out just after we’d gotten inside.

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We circled the ballpark:

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Miller Park is definitely beautiful, and nice enough, and made a wonderful first impression. But it’s almost too new, and not reflective enough of the wackiness of that part of the Midwest. It just didn’t feel like it had any lasting character, and felt too much like the suburbs. I know the parking lots are vital to the fans in that region, but something to tie the park to the city and its vibe was lacking. It was comfortable and attractive for sure, and the food menu would only be found in Milwaukee. I also did not like that the field level was not a true open concourse, because that’s blocked by luxury boxes. A lot of the field level is open, but the charm of the modern ballpark is the ability to walk around the entire park and still be able to see the game.

After our tour, we returned to our seats and settled in for the game. Now, Coop and I have not known each other that long, but our sense of humor is very compatible, and our opinions on the Mets very similar. She refers to Moises Alou as “Mr. Contribution,” while I made a reference to having a rock in my backyard that is faster than Moises Alou and the animated .gif I have to make some day with a boulder and a shot of left field at Shea. Our banter went on for not longer than an inning before I felt the need to apologize to the Brewers fan to my left, a woman with a pronounced Norwegian accent (which I recognize from my years in Seattle, also a hotspot for Scandinavian culture, believe it or not). She was a season ticket holder and followed the Brewers around, and she thought we were hysterical. After we savaged a girl who arrived in the middle of the third inning, wearing a pink hat, pink tube top, and talking on her pink phone, I leaned over and said, “I’m sorry. We’re not very nice people.” “No, no. You’re funny,” our seatmate insisted.

I had a great vantage of the dugout, and when my camera behaved, the players in the on-deck circle. Reason 345 I need a new camera is that there is no manual override for the focus, so when I’m behind the screen, it focuses on the screen unless I can trick it to focus beyond it. Sometimes that worked, sometimes that didn’t. Reason 346 I need a new camera is that I don’t have a zoom lens so much as an extender, which means once it’s on I can only take photos zoomed out, without physically removing it from the camera. That works okay when I’m at Shea in the hinterlands, not so well when I want to take photos of things around me or when I actually have great seats.

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While I am a big fan of representing my team when at another ballpark, I think we need to make a collective decision that we will hold off on the Jose chants until Jose actually does something in a particular game. While I realize that at this point the Jose chant in New York is becoming like the “Yankees Suck” chant in Boston – whenever something good is happening, break out the chant – it’s just obnoxious if he’s going 0-4 in a game to break out the chant. Brewers fans, though, were a sedate bunch who barely even heckled, although the ballpark was packed full for a Thursday afternoon game. I asked if this was normal or because of the Mets, and was told, “No, it’s because the Brewers are actually good this year!” People wanted to talk to us about New York City, and we tolerated a long line of questions about Yankee Stadium ticket prices, and rants against the horrible Shea Stadium ushers. I was fine until the woman behind me wanted to talk about 9/11 and her trip to ground zero, but luckily the Mets picked up a few more runs which ended the conversation.

Brian Lawrence, welcome to the Mets. I’m not exactly ready to write home about him but it wasn’t a horror show by any stretch of the imagination. When we found out earlier this week that he was going to be starting on our day in Milwaukee, Coop’s reaction was, “It’s too bad that it’s so early, and that we’re driving, because otherwise, I’d be drinking.” We did, however, wish we could have been drinking to celebrate that inside-the-park home run from Damion Easley in the 6th inning, even if it meant that Moises Alou actually did something.

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We spent a lot of time trying to come up with nicknames in the vein of “Mr. Contribution” for the likes of Delgado and Green. Mr. Futility? Mr. Mediocre? Mr. Passable? Mr. Frustrating? Mr. Disappointment was the best name I could come with for Delgado, and before you all start telling me that “he’s doing okay” I’ll remind you that he’s hitting .251 and that number only went up very recently.

When Coop and I originally planned this trip, we had the games, and then we were going to play it by ear. I had imagined that we were going to see the game, come back to Chicago, return the car, and then go out for a nice dinner. And then Pearl Jam decide to play a fan-club only pre-Lollapalooza warmup show at a very small theater in Chicago Thursday night, and I manage to get tickets for myself and Ms. Coop. So instead of a languorous afternoon of baseball and a leisurely drive back to Chicago, I am getting irked around 3:30 when the game is nowhere near done. All my Chicago-area friends warned me about the horrible traffic just south of the state line due to the terminal construction going on. I was gravely warned that I should be on the road at 4pm if I wanted to make sure I was at the venue by 8. I tell Coop that we have to think about the unthinkable, getting up at the second out of the 9th inning so we can watch the last out from the top step of the section and sprint out of the park to beat the traffic. After all, we were up 12-3…oops. After Prince Fielder hit that solo home run in the 9th, Coop nods towards the stairs, and we make our way out. Happily, there is no significant traffic, and we’re at the venue by 6:30. (The relevant baseball-related content for that part of the story can be found in this post.)

We make it to our hotel by 12:45am, and crash hard, knowing we have to be up early on Friday to get to Wrigley as soon as the gates open!

You can read Coop’s account here.

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