Baseball and The Open Road, Part 8, U.S. Cellular Field
By Paul Pleiss
Finishing up our pre-All-Star Game half of the road trip, Grant and I visited the Chicago South Siders at U.S. Cellular Field (The Cell) to see the White Sox take on the Toronto Blue Jays on the 8th of July.
We parked about 4 blocks away in lot G and paid our highest parking price of the road trip to date, $23. $23 seems to be pretty steep for any parking that’s not right across the street from the stadium. Heck, in Atlanta parking across the street from the stadium was an even 10 bucks. But this is Chicago, and we paid what we paid and continued on into U.S. Cellular Field. The nice thing about parking on the South-side of Chicago is that you can tailgate. If there was a little more room in my vehicle to stash a small grill I would have loved to have tailgated at several of the stadiums visited along my way, but my cruiser is packed full of moving stuff.
So far on the trip we have visited 6 different stadiums, “The Cell” makes seven. Visiting so many stadiums in such a short period of time makes it easy to notice the little things that make a good stadium great or a bad stadium bad. U.S. Cellular offers very little awesomeness to the fan. The stadium is located in a less than awesome part of town and other than the Bicardi at the Park bar/restaurant directly across from the field, there is nothing in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, no where for you to go to grab a pre-game adult beverage or two.
We arrived on Sunday the 8th, and the White Sox were celebrating kids day, however there seemed to be very little going around outside the stadium to celebrate. There was, however, a band of what appeared to be 10-15 year olds playing 80’s rock music, and that was pretty awesome.
For the first time on the road trip Grant and I got upper deck tickets, using Stub Hub I was able to find $6 seats in the upper deck along the third base line. A couple of my friends came to the game with us and bought game day tickets in the same section for $26, which is exactly why I couldn’t pass up a $6 seat. Upper deck seats at U.S. Cellular are 500 level tickets, and lower level seats are 100 level tickets. Having arrived early to the game I had hoped to walk around the stadium and see everything that the stadium had to offer. We were quickly greeted by ticket checkers who let us know that only 100 level tickets gave you access to the main concourse. Grant and I then took the long walk up the ramps to the upper deck and checked out the concourse up high. There wasn’t a lot going on up high. About half of the food vendors were closed, and the team store was about the size of a small bathroom. There were, however, plenty of places to buy beer/alcohol to soothe my growing disgust for the Cell.
Everywhere I’ve gone on the road trip I’ve tasted the basic hot dog available at the field for future comparison to all the other stadiums. Chicago presented a unique challenge. I went to get a hot dog, for $5.25, and the lady asked me “pork or beef?.” I wasn’t ready for this option, both were the same price, and I decided the only way to be unbiased in my analysis was to get one of each. The pork dog looked better, definitely a larger hot dog, however the beef frank was considerably more tasty, but neither hot dog was terribly awesome. I’d eat either one again, but would get the beef frank over the pork if given the choice again.
All around the mid-west stadiums they have had Leinenkugel’s beer stands, Chicago’s Leine stand had something a little special. They offered several different mixes of Leine’s, not just the standard flavors. I started the day with a Honey Bear, 4/5 Honey Weiss and 1/5 Berry Weiss. It was crisp and refreshing, a fantastic summertime treat when you’re sitting directly in the sun at a ball game.
Chicago’s U.S. Cellular field is not a bad place to watch a ball game, it is also not a great place to watch the great American past-time. As I walked all over the upper deck to check out different seating locations I didn’t find any truly terrible seats, and most of the upper deck seats were actually pretty good, arguably better than some of the outfield bleacher seats that I’ve had at other parks. However, U.S. Cellular has nothing AWESOME going on. There were no parts of the stadium that I thought were neat or cool or interesting. It had a pseudo-warehouse feel, just a big structure holding a baseball field on the inside. The architecture was fairly plain and no one took any risks when they made the stadium. I don’t think this is so much a knock against U.S. Cellular as it is just a result of the year in which the stadium was built. Newer stadiums are much more fan friendly, are aesthetically pleasing, really capturing the feel for the town or state in which they have been built.
The White Sox were wearing their throw back 1970’s red pinstripe uniforms which had my mind spinning, just a bit. Kevin Youkilis who was on the Red Sox got traded to the White Sox who actually wear black sox, but today he was wearing Red Sox and playing for the White Sox. Go figure? Baseball is fun.
The baseball between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Chicago White Sox was fast paced and high scoring. The Blue Jays scored 4 in the first on two walks and two home runs and I thought the Jays were going to walk away with this one, but the White Sox answered back with 2 runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Both the Jays and the Sox would keep the scoring going throughout the afternoon, the 8th and 9th innings were the only frames in which no runs were scored. Chicago was never able to take the lead, but every time they would cut the lead down, the Jays would strike back. The game ended 11-9 in favor of the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays hit 4 home runs, and Alex Rios for the White Sox had 4 RBI. It was a fun game to watch, and although the pitching was bad (combined total of pitchers used: 11, neither started pitched more than 4.1 innings), the high scoring affair was fun to watch. It seemed that every time I looked up there were more runs on the board.
Both Grand and I had a good time at the Cell. This was my first trip back to U.S. Cellular since I was 15, and although I don’t have any plans to head back anytime soon, I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity if it came my way.
The Cell was our last MLB stadium before the All-Star break, but the trip continues on the 13th when I head up to Miller Park in Milwaukee to see the Brewers host the NL Central leading Pittsburgh Pirates.
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