August 21 - At The Ballpark: Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Louisville Slugger Field opened in downtown Louisville in 2000, replacing Cardinal Stadium, the
team's former home at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds a few miles south. The site features the
scenery typical to most cities' downtown areas, as well as a few additional trappings.
Can the Reds' AAA home turn their really nice surroundings into an excellent ballpark experience?
Let's find out.
The concessions at Slugger Field are not really designed by “out of the
box” thinkers, as the typical ballpark fare (hot dogs, cotton candy, funnel
cakes, etc.) is sold here. The prices are about average, and the
nachos were stale and fries starchy, but the food was still passable
enough. The one good thing is that there are plenty of places to get
food and drink around the ballpark, so you'll never go hungry or thirsty
Between-innings entertainment: C
I give this grade because the Bats had Jake the Diamond Dog in the ballpark on this night, and he is
a treat to see. He takes water to the umpires between innings, fetches frisbees in the outfield, and
chases foul balls. He even took flowers to a woman in her seat. Everything else was pedestrian,
with the usual mascot race and other typical minor league promotions. One interesting thing was a
woman rolling dice out of a bucket, and if all five of them landed on the local jeweler's logo, she won
$50,000. They did not – but she did win a $250 watch. The final thing that knocked down this grade
was the constant commercials between innings. They showed ads for Humana Hospital, the
Louisville Slugger Museum, and Jim Beam, of all things. As I said about Chattanooga, we can watch
commercials at home.
Sight lines: A+
I moved all over the ballpark during this game, as all areas of the
ballpark are accessible from the main concourse. I sat in the right
field corner, the Home Run Terrace in center field, behind the left field
fence, and several other areas around the park, and never once had a
bad seat. All of the action is easily seen, even from the bleacher seats
that rise above the concourse behind the right field wall. This is a
well-designed ballpark for the spectator.
The aforementioned Jake the Diamond Dog was in attendance, and he was good for quite a few
laughs. He was the good part...the post-game fireworks, not so much. The park has a really clear
view of downtown and a neon-lit bridge behind the left field wall, but they chose to set off the fireworks
behind the center field wall, which is mostly obstructed by the scoreboard. I had to maneuver around
behind the general admission seats to see the fireworks show, and even then, it was not even close
to being as impressive as the others I've seen, such as Nashville. Make the show better and change
the location, guys.
Season-ticket holders rule the day at Slugger Field, as they have free parking in their own special lot
(more on season-ticket holders later), and most of the rest of the spectators are shuffled off into other
downtown garages or a surface lot across the street from the outfield entry gates, where the price to
park is $5.00, and the spaces are barely wide enough to maneuver your vehicle into. Traffic seemed
to funnel out of the area pretty quickly, but this situation was far from optimal.
Player accessibility: A
The players seemed to be ready and willing to sign for fans, and there was the same level of access
here that I have seen in most other minor-league parks.
Quality of baseball: C
The homestanding Bats defeated the Yankees' AAA affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, 7-2. Let not the
score fool you, however, as the game finished in only 2 hours and 12 minutes. Former Padre
lefthander Darrell May started for Columbus, and got clobbered. Most of the scoring came off May,
and the bats (pardon the pun) of both sides were relatively quiet otherwise. One particularly good
performance was turned in by second baseman William Bergolla, who hit the ball hard several times,
as he did in his earlier stint with the Reds this year.
Overall grade: C-
I've never seen a ballpark experience that was so two-sided. The
scenery is great, but the parking is terrible. The atmosphere is great
(including an interior entry to the ballpark that shows some of
Louisville's rich baseball history), but the prices in the gift shop are
outrageous ($30 for a team hat).
The other problem with this park is the way season-ticket holders are
treated. They get their own free parking (as I mentioned before), and
all of the seats between the first and third-base dugouts are reserved for season-ticket holders. I
know that clubs want to reward those that buy season tickets, but this is ridiculous. The single-game
ticket buyer never gets to sit in the best seats in the park, and never gets to park for free. Add to this
the fact that the season-ticket seats were easily 40% empty, and this became even more
maddening. There are ushers at the top of these sections to keep fans from venturing into these
seats, even though there were whole rows of seats that were empty in these sections.
Loosen your reins, Louisville, and quit trying to nickel-and-dime your fans. You really could have a
great little baseball experience in your city.