I spent the 4th of July weekend in Washington D.C., taking in a pair of games at Nationals Park. I have always enjoyed pitting Great American Ball Park up against the multitude of other stadiums I have visited, and while I was in our nation’s capital, I began to realize that GABP has a number of unique and distinctive aspects that sets it apart from—and above—many of the major league ballparks.
Opening Day: Without a doubt, there isn’t another city in Major League Baseball that gets more into Opening Day more than Cincinnati. The city treats it as an unofficial holiday, buzzing with activities downtown. The parade wraps around the city and the grand marshal is usually a former player who gets the crowd energized. The scene of fans flooding into the ballpark is always spectacular.
The Banks: I have been to several ballparks that are very nice (including Nationals Park) but that do not have the quality of nearby entertainment. I remember going to games at old Riverfront/Cinergy Field, and the area around park was pretty much dead. Now, there is a tremendous vibe in the air. Making baseball games more attractive certainly can’t hurt the city and the team.
Fireworks Fridays: Not much needs to be said about the spectacle that is a Rozzi fireworks show. Combine them with an always-entertaining soundtrack and it makes for a very enjoyable Friday evening. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better fireworks display in the MLB.
The view: The Reds stadium boasts a tremendous view of the Ohio River and the Roebling Bridge. In terms of the history of Cincinnati, baseball and riverboats are an integral part of the city’s culture.
The Scoreboard: I feel that the Reds have the second-best high-definition scoreboard in baseball, with Yankee Stadium taking the cake. The Reds utilize the jumbotron very well. Everything is precisely organized and laid out well for fans to enjoy. Also, the introduction video that plays before the Reds take the field does a great job of intertwining the city and the team.
Reds Hall Of Fame Museum: The Redlegs adjacent Hall of Fame features new and old exhibits that continue to preserve the rich history of the club, and anything that highlights the Big Red Machine is a good thing.
Fan area and rose garden: The ballpark has a great area for fans to hang out before the game, complete with picnic tables, live music, and various dining options. Every time I attend a Reds game, the fan zone is bustling with people. The garden, located below the fan zone and dedicated to Pete Rose, is a tad quieter than the congested fan zone, and offers pretty scenery with a multitude of—wait for it—roses.
Food: Great American is the best ballpark I have been to in terms of bringing outside and local food into the stadium experience. I often stop at Skyline and munch on cheese coneys during the game, though if Skyline’s not your fancy (which would be a poor decision), there are a bevy of choices ranging from Mr. Reds Smokehouse, a Food Network hot dog bar, and Frisch’s Big Boy.
FREE PIZZA: LaRosa’s has added a new dimension to Cincinnati Reds games the past two seasons: If Reds pitchers strike out more than ten batters, every ticket stub is worth a free individual pizza at your nearest LaRosa’s location. And anytime it happens (which is more frequent than you might assume), the crowd goes bonkers. Chants of Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! echo throughout the ballpark. It makes for a very enjoyable atmosphere, especially if the game is dismal.
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