This weekend, I headed over to St. Louis for the Futures Game. St. Louis is a six hour drive for me, so I wasn't going to drive 12 hours just to see that game and a celebrity softball game. I wanted to see either the River City Rascals or the Gateway Grizzlies play (both of the Frontier League), but both of those teams were out of town on Saturday. They both play in the St. Louis suburbs and were the closest minor league teams to St. Louis. So, I went to the next closest city that had a home game- Burlington, Iowa.
I woke up Saturday morning and was on the road by 9:50. Seven hours and twenty minutes later, I was in the parking lot of Community Field, home of the 2008 Midwest League champion, Burlington Bees. It was another twenty minutes until the gates opened, so I walked around and took some pictures. Here is a picture of the ballpark.
As soon as the gates opened, I was down by the field and ready to get some autographs. I guess that I forgot that I was at a minor league game because there was no one on the field. So, I went to the team store and picked up the 2009 Burlington Bees team set. After that, I went down to the visiting side to see how the setup of the field was. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as the last minor league park I was at (Principle Park). This old park was set up more traditionally and the clubhouses were under the stands and they led directly to the dugout. When I found that out, I had a choice to make. I could stand on the visiting side and try to get the five cards I brought with me signed. Or, I could go to the home side and try to get the ten cards that I had brought and the team set signed. Did I mention that the Bees were a Royals affiliate? So, needless to say, I went to the home team side.
But, I did leave my dad on the visiting side. He hates to get autographs since he doesn't know who is who. So, I hastily introduced him to a couple of the other people trying to get signatures from the visiting team (Lansing Lugnuts) and showed them who I needed and asked them to help my dad out as best that they could. They ended up being very helpful and my dad was able to get two of the cards signed for me (you've got to start somewhere).
When I got over to the home team side, I ended up standing next to one of the Burlington regulars. I saw his stack of cards and asked if this was the place to be. He said that it was and we talked for awhile until the Bees started to come out of the dugout. Once they started to come out, he was telling me who was who so I didn't have to look them up on the roster.
The first player to come out was the starting pitcher, Tim Melville. Tim just happened to go to high school three hours south of Burlington and there was a small crowd of people from his home town waiting to see him. I went over to the crowd and waited patiently as he signed for all of them. As soon as they all had their stuff signed, I got my team card signed and went back over to my spot by the local. When I got there, he had sorted my team set so that all of the players that were no longer on the team were separate from the rest. I thought that that was a real nice gesture.
The generosity didn't end there. This guy helped me get quite a few autographs. I would have a player that I called over signing a card or two for me as another player went by. This guy would call that player over and get him to sign for me as soon as the other guy left. At other times, he would call over players just so they could sign my team card. There was also a Dominican pitcher that just stood at the edge of the dugout with an unusual first name (Manauris). I asked him how the name was pronounced and he said "we're still trying to figure that out, but I'll get him over here for you". A few minutes later, Manauris happened to be looking in our direction and the guy waved him over. Sure enough, he came right on over and signed for me. It was a pretty good night on the autograph front as I ended up getting all ten cards that I took with me signed. Plus, I got another fourteen signed from the team set.
After the game started, we ended up seeing a great ballgame. It was a pitching duel for the first seven innings. In the top of the 8th, Lansing's Ken Wilson hit a home run to give them the lead. But, it was short lived as the Royals 2008 first round draft pick (third overall), Eric Hosmer, hit a two-run shot in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead back. The very next batter also hit a homer to increase the lead to two and that was more than the Bees needed to win the game 4-2. Here is a picture of Hosmer from earlier in the game.
After the game, we ended up driving halfway to St. Louis. There, we got a hotel room and called it a night. I will do a post about the Futures Game before the All-Star game.
Here are a few extra pictures of the ballpark in Burlington.
The first thing you notice about the ballpark when you get there is the sail-like roof. Here is a side shot of that. It is hard to believe that it is a free-standing structure.
Here is a picture from the third base line looking toward home. Needless to say, it wasn't a full crowd, but we still had a great time.
This last photo was taken just before the last out and shows the tail-end of a great Midwestern sunset and the old light poles that are still used at the ballpark.
Overall, it was a great first day to the trip and I came out with 28 autographed cards.