From the air and with its retractable dome closed, Miller Park looks like a giant turtle. It squats on the outskirts of Milwaukee — in the wrong place, because it should be downtown. Instead, it stands alone, next to an interstate and surrounded by surface parking lots. A Wisconsin friend explains that former owner Bud Selig insisted on this location because it allows the Brewers to gobble up parking revenue.
Inside, Miller Park embraces its Milwaukee-ness. The fans make a pretty big deal out of the sixth-inning sausage race. During the seventh-inning stretch, after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” they sing the polka “Roll Out the Barrel.” The bratwurst, a regional specialty that ought to be a highlight, is typical ballpark fare: overpriced and forgettable. The “special stadium sauce” is the mystery meat of condiments; it tastes like ketchup with a pinch of spice.
The grass is natural and looks like the turf of an outdoor park. The dome is a dull greenish-gray, which means that players can track fly balls and pop ups against its background — they don’t lose the ball the way they sometimes did at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. A big new HD scoreboard includes a welcome innovation: It displays on-base percentage and slugging percentage more prominently than batting average. They are of course more important as stats, but baseball clings to its habit of treating batting average as the fundamental number for hitters. I’m generally a traditionalist, but our national pastime is overdue to give batting average the heave-ho. It’s nice to see Miller Park already making the transition.
Ultimately, we go to baseball parks to watch baseball games. The one I saw on Tuesday night was a gem, with the Brewers beating the Atlanta Braves for their first win of the season. It was the Yovani Gallardo show. He pitched a two-hit, complete-game shutout and scored the game’s only run. To the extent that any pitcher can win a game singlehandedly, Gallardo did it. (I suppose you could grumble that he didn’t hit a homer; he hit a single and needed a teammate to knock him in. But still. The dude’s a pitcher.)
All in all, Miller Park is a very nice ballpark. I’d like to see it again with the dome open.
I’ve now gone to games in 14 MLB parks, including 11 that are currently in use.