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Great American Ball Park

JULY 2, 2011 — The second of thirty Major League stadiums on our list was the home of the Cincinnati Reds, Great American Ball Park. About four hours from Murfreesboro, eight hours from Atlanta and nearly 1100 miles round trip, the GABP may be the last of our trips to be accessed entirely by car. The Florida stadiums are a possibility but in no way a certainty.

Great American Ball Park

Great American Ball Park gets a very high grade in my book. It was spacious with plenty of room to move around, yet it didn’t feel like behemoth of a structure. It was friendly and accessible all at the same time. Food was reasonably priced and parking is a breeze. Located right on the Ohio River, very affordable parking garages abound within walking distance in all directions. You could park in Kentucky and walk across one of several bridges without breaking a sweat.

There were very few superfluous annoyances around the park, which enables fans to focus on the game they came to see. There is no grating PA announcer and the mid-inning gimmicks are tasteful and enjoyable. The only real complaint I had was the brutal heat (mid 90s all game) but our seats were directly in the sun, and there were numerous “Cool Zones” with misting fans and water to keep fans cool.

Speaking of fans, the Reds fans impressed me immensely. The crowd was solid, well informed and well behaved. I don’t think I heard a single curse word the whole afternoon which may be a baseball game first for me. Certainly they were more involved than Atlanta fans, more hospitable than Cardinal fans and more numerous than Royal fans.

The baseball experience doesn’t begin and end with the product on the field, but it incorporates many more elements. TJ and I enjoyed a well-played and entertaining game in a venue that was both accommodating and comfortable.

We ended our long weekend trip with by swinging through the Louisville bat factory in Kentucky. A cheap and fascinating way to spend an hour or two, ten bucks gets you into the museum and through the factory where millions of bats are produced each year.

GABP from the Roebling Bridge

Field view from inside

The Great American Scoreboard

View from our seats - Section 141, Row A, Seats 18-19

Joba Chamberlain

They’re my notes and I can talk about whatever I want to. This one should be far less controversial, unless i blame Joba’s failures on him being partially Native American.

ESPN analysts and baseball experts across the country are split as to whether the Yankees should get (eventually) 200+ innings from the great Joba Chamberlain or around 75 innings from him.

Sure, he’s valuable as a set-up man, but that’s not what he’s done his whole life. The Yankees have plenty of hot young arms in their system that can do what he’s done. JB Cox and Mark Melancon (that’s Muh-lan-son) for starters.

Joba was a starter in high school college and in the minor leagues. And he was a great one. An ace. But, out of immediate major league need, the Yankees shifted him to the bullpen late last year. The move was also partly based on the fact that he had an innings cap so as if to avoid a Mark Prior like career.

Let’s look at the closest case that I can come up with, because this is rather unprecedented. Adam Wainwright was a stud starting pitcher prospect in the Braves organization. He was traded to St. Louis (I believe in the JD Drew deal) and remained a starter. However, the Cardinals closer was hurt, so, out of need, they shifted Wainwright to the bullpen and won a World Series. However, after that need passed, Wainwright was returned to the rotation and has been St. Louis’ best pitcher since.

So there’s no doubt that Joba Chamberlain belongs in New York’s starting rotation. He’s 22 has three plus pitches and a much-improving changeup. That’s the kind of arsenal that makes a pitcher ace material.

Is he going to be a Cy Young contender right away? Of course not. There are aspects of his game that he needs to improve, being more economical with his pitches being up there.

Steve Phillips commented how he made it only through two and a third innings in his first major league start. Steve, he was on a pitch count. No, he wasn’t economical but he did what he needed to do. Also, after reviewing the PitchFX graph, I’m even more impressed with what Chamberlain did.

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A PitchFX graph shows where every pitch a pitcher threw was in relation to the strike zone. There were three pitches called strikes that should have been balls, and there were ten pitches called balls that should have been strikes. That’s a seven pitch swing. Chamberlain allowed only one earned run despite being sufficiently squeezed all night by the home plate umpire.

The Yankees tried Joba in the bullpen and it worked. Now they’re trying him in the role he’s known all his life and a role that is more valuable to the team. This has been the plan all along and you don’t alter your plans simply because Kyle Farnsworth gave up a home run. He’s gone after this year anyways.

And oh yeah. My boy Johnny Damon’s sporting a .310/.378/.498 line this year. Not too shabby for a guy that everyone wrote off as dunzo.