Saturday, September 1, 2018

Indianapolis

On Finally Finishing Another League

Victory Field
Victory Field, 2018

Saturday, September 1, 2018
Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds) vs.
Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Victory Field
International League (AAA)
Indianapolis, IN
7:05 PM

Outside the Game:
I woke up feeling refreshed, and not having to run down to a buffet, I cooked up the breakfast sandwiches I had bought the night before in the microwave and had a civilized breakfast at my dining table on a plate and everything. I then showered up, finished packing, and checked out. I was a little worried when I checked out, as the new attendant on duty seemed to imply that he was charging my entire bill on my card (I had already paid on Hotels.com), but in the end, it worked out.

I had a fairly boring two-hour drive south through cornfields to get me to Indianapolis. With a little bit of construction to break it up, I was there with little fanfare. I went directly to the Indianapolis Zoo, because that's the sort of thing I do, and I was glad I did.

The zoo had excellent facilities, including a dolphin house where you could walk underneath their living tank, and a penguin house where they had a glass floor section where the penguins could swim to either side of the exhibit. The keystone for me was the orangutan house they had, which was just about everything I've ever wanted in an orangutan house. There was giant central building, but there were also visible climb ways where the orangutans could climb around to sit on towers or go to other play areas, all with a sky ride that went around it. The main house had large glass walls, and the curious orangutans used them as much as the guests. At any time, at least one or two were at the base of the building, hanging out with whoever was out front. Once you went up the ramps to inside, there was more glass walls for orangutans to interact with people, and vice versa. The troop inside had two babies from different mothers. One mother was watching the two climb and run and play and fight, while the other mother was off on a platform taking a nap with a blanket pulled over her head. It was very relatable.

Orangutan in the Indianapolis Zoo
Watch the kids, I'm taking a nap.

I spent a lot of time there and made a couple of visits to it again as I went around the rest of the zoo. They are my absolute favorites. The rest of the zoo was also nice, and I stopped in a cafe for some lunch before heading out to see the rest of the place before exiting through the gift shop.

I had another problem trying to exit, as I couldn't find my car. I was convinced I was in the right row, but after stomping through that row and the next, I really couldn't find my car. It is then, with great embarrassment that I realized that my car did have an auto-unlock. The technology had advanced so that my key looked like a normal key, but there were some buttons in there that remotely unlocked the door and opened the trunk. After pressing the unlock button in vain and not being able to see the lights in the harsh afternoon daylight, I just held down the trunk button, and nearly immediately, I saw my trunk pop open a row in the other direction. I sheepishly got in and drove to my hotel.

The hotel was a fancy affair, and I had to leave my key with the valet as I checked in. I got myself sorted out, but I had to wait for my key, as the valet had left, and his backup was helping another guest. He eventually got me my key back, and I drove around the corner to park in the underground garage beneath the hotel. I dragged all my stuff up to my room and unpacked and then tried to take a nap before the game. I was able to rest my eyes, but sleep never came fully before I had to walk down the street to the game and wait to get in.

After the game, I stayed for a little of the fireworks before going back to my hotel and watching the rest of the fireworks from my hotel room while waiting for some room-service second-diner of a burger and fries. For desert, I found the Swedish Fish I had brought at the zoo but forgot about in the panic looking for my car. It was then time for sleep in a bed of many pillows.

The Stadium & Fans:


Home to center at Victory Field
Home plate to center field at Victory Field

Victory Field is about as full-throated a name as you can get for your ballpark, and the imposing AAA structure pretty much lives up to its name, dropped in the middle of downtown Indianapolis near the convention center, canal, and several cultural attractions. The main façade is behind home plate, with a wall of mirrored windows staring out onto downtown, with the team store and ticket booth flanking the entrance. Another entrance plaza is behind center field, facing across to the convention center, with its own ticket booths. A smaller “cooler gate” is in right center specifically to clear patrons bringing coolers into the park, and another small entrance is at right field, which is the place to go when you want to get in quickly. The entire park is surrounded by sidewalk, with the exception of the right field-first base line, which is fronted by a staff parking lot.

Once inside any of the gates, you are out onto a main promenade that circles the entire park at the top of the lower seating bowl. Two larger plazas are on the promenade by the main entrances. The regular seats are in a single tier running from outfield corner to outfield corner. Long picnic hills run the length of the outfield, with the exception of the batter’s eye, unconventionally formed by a stand of trees. A gigantic digital video scoreboard rises in right-center field over a single-row outfield wall with an auxiliary scoreboard in the left-field corner, with a distinctive extension in the wall in dead center pushing the outfield wall further back. The downtown skyline, especially the convention center and Marriott hotel in left field, provide the backdrop for the game.

This being one step away from the majors, there is a legitimate second level rising above the lower level from outfield to outfield behind home plate. It holds a second level of regular seating, as well as luxury boxes, the press box, and some party decks. As with the lower level, a walkway runs along the top of seats, providing access to all the boxes as well as the seats below.

The Corona Party Deck is on the promenade in the left-field corner, while in right field is the Elements Picnic Area. In center, there is the PNC Plaza that houses some concessions, fan services desks, and midway games. Along with the concessions and the team store, the promenade also holds The Max Schumer Victory Bell (rung after each home win), hanging memorials to famous players who have come through Indianapolis, a flag pole dedication (from the previous iteration of the ballpark), the lineups and league standings, an IHSAA College baseball display, and—perhaps most notably—a payphone. A retired number 42 for Jackie Robinson is also on the right-center field wall.
Rowdie, a red monster-looking thing, is the local mascot. He shows up prior to the start of the game to run the events on-field between innings and carouse with the fans. Most of the entertainment is standard minor-league fare of races, contests, and giveaways. One twist on this was that they had events after the game was over. While waiting for the post-game fireworks, they had a "shirts off our back" give-away, where the players gave out their jerseys to some fans and a shrimp eating contest out by home plate.

Rowdie at Victory Field
Rowdie & fan

The crowd was a sell-out, and everyone seemed to be into this game, which was important to keeping the playoff hopes alive for the Indians, who were one game out of first and in third place with a handful of games to play. The big crowd was attentive to the play on the field in addition to the other entertainment and was suitably behind the home-team victory and subsequent ringing of the Victory Bell. That said, they also did all stay around for the post-game fireworks in big numbers.

At the Game with Oogie:


Dinner at Victory Field
Brat, pretzel bites, and souvenir soda

I walked over from the hotel just in time for the gates to open. I did my pictures and walk-around, and then grabbed a combo of a brat, pretzel bites, and a souvenir soda.

My seat was in the last few rows of the lower deck just beyond third base. They were fine seats by any estimation, especially given that it was a sell-out and I had purchased the tickets the day before. There were a couple of older ladies and a family to my left, a pair of guys to my right, and a family with a really cute baby that kept looking at me in front of me. The family to my left asked me where I got the scorecard, and I directed them to the team store. I also talked a little about the game with the guys to my right, especially about some of the more bizarre plays that came about during the game.

The Game:

First pitch
First pitch

Another day, another pennant race. The Indians were also one game out of first place with a handful to play, needing to win out to almost assure their spot in the playoffs. Standing in their way was the visiting Louisville Bats.

The Bats wasted no time establishing themselves as the spoilers, turning a leadoff triple and a sacrifice fly into a 1-0 lead. Indianapolis was only able to muster a two-out double in their half. After a hot start, Louisville went in order in the second, while the Indians got to work. The half started with two singles and a double to load the bases, but two quick outs followed. A single brought in a run, and the single after it brought in two runs, and an error loaded the bases again. The pitcher then got out of the inning with a strikeout, but the catcher couldn't get a handle on it, and the batter made it to first safely, scoring another run before a strikeout--caught this time--ended the bat-around inning at 4-1, Indians. In the third inning, the Bats got a leadoff single to third and left him there, while Indianapolis got another run on a leadoff single, stolen base, fielder's choice, and a sacrifice fly to deep left, extending their lead to 5-1.

Louisville just had a single in the top of the fourth, and the Indians went in order. The Bats went in order despite a leadoff walk in the fifth, while Indianapolis stranded a one-out double. Louisville squandered an opportunity in the top of the sixth, where a leadoff error made to second on a fly out and to third on a short single. But he tried to score on a not-deep-enough fly to right, leading to a double-play when he was nailed at home. The Indians just had a two-out walk in the bottom of the frame.

The Bats stranded a two-out walk in the seventh, while Indianapolis went in order. Louisville finally had something going again in the top of the eighth, as two walks and a single closed the gap to 5-2. The Indians struck out in order in their half of the eight, but the Bats did as well in their last shot in the ninth, securing the home 5-2 win.

The Scorecard:


Bats vs. Indians, 09-01-18. Indians win, 5-2.Bats vs. Indians, 09-01-18. Indians win, 5-2.
Bats vs. Indians, 09/01/18. Indians win, 5-2.

The scorecard was a separate $3 cardstock pamphlet that came with a roster. The scorecard is in the centerfold spread, taking up about 80% of the space, with scoring instructions and a small social media ad taking the rest of the space. It is printed on white, so there is copious space for notes, especially considering the card has a notes area for each team next to the pitching lines at the bottom of the card. The order of the teams was non-canon, with the home team on the left and visiting on the right, for some reason.

The player lines have copious space for replacements, but not enough for one for each player. I ended up having to use a lot of the space, as both teams did not use the DH for some reason, and there were a lot of pinch hitters and new pitchers. Each batting line ends with copious totals, including walks and strikeouts in addition to at bats, runs, hits, and RBIs. Each inning column ends with split innings totals. There were no pre-printed diamonds, so there was a comfortable amount of space to score in.

Two players got the golden sombrero, and one earned tassels. Again, the strikeout batter for the game obliged on his last at-bat. And there were a couple of doozy scoring plays or plays of note. In the top of the third, a line drive over the wall was called foul by the umpires, but the manager and player disputed the call should be a home run, and I have to say, from where I was sitting, they had a legitimate beef, but the call stood, and that batter ended up getting a single and being stranded at third. In the top of the sixth, an attempted sacrifice fly went wrong and turned into a DP F9-2. You don't see that everyday, either.

But the play of the game was the bottom of the second. With two outs and bases loaded, a dropped third strike on a strikeout led to a run as the batter reached first base. Firstly, I'll never, ever see that play again. I will not. Secondly, it made me thinking hard about if the run was earned, or if the batter got an RBI, because who the hell comes up with this stuff? A dropped third strike with the bases loaded. I mean, really.

The Accommodations:


Marriott Downtown
Marriott Downtown, Indianapolis, IN

Even though it was a short trip, I was splurging again on a hotel. Combined with a Hotels.com free night for just over $100, plus a Hotels.com discount, I was able to get a room in the Marriott Downtown for significantly under $100. It was within walking distance of the park, and with the bundle deal that Hotels.com was doing, I also got free parking, which normally costs about another $50. So with that kind of deal, I couldn’t really say no.

I was housed on one of the higher floors of the facility in a room that faced the stadium. It was clearly visible from my room out the window, being a block or so away. The entrance to the room passed a large closet on the left, with the bathroom entrance on the right. The bathroom had a fancy vanity, with stylish mirror lights and a fold-out makeup mirror. The only disappointment in the room was the waterfall shower which didn’t have a tub.

The bedroom further on held two queen beds with nightstands on one wall and a reading chair with table next to the dresser with built-in desk and chair under the gigantic, bottom-lit, flat-screen TV that as on the wall opposite.

I spent a good deal of time in the room and had a lot of room service, and it was an absolute delight, especially with all the pillows from both beds piled high onto one to the point that I had to burrow in to fit myself on the bed.


On Indianapolis Being Nicer Than I Expected


Kurt Vonnegut Mural
Vonnegut Mural

Sunday, September 2, 2018
Indianapolis, IN

Outside the Game:
My original plan for this day was to drive up to Gary, where an independent-league team had a game that evening. It was already going to be a long slog driving up there and then over to Detroit after the game, but a bit of research turned up that Gary is one of the only cities in Indiana that uses Central time instead of Eastern time, which means I would be losing two hours (one to get to the game, and one leaving the game) in addition to the already long drive, and the Sunday afternoon game was also at 6 PM instead of 1 or 2 PM, and that about sealed the deal for me. I'd get them when I was out doing Central time-zone teams.

Despite my nice surrounding, I had a fitful sleep, but I woke up in time for room service to deliver my stacked breakfast sandwich. I showered, finished packing, and then took a short nap to get me right. I checked in for my flight the next day, and then dragged all my stuff downstairs. As I checked out, I asked the attendant if I had to get my car out of the garage immediately, or if I could leave it there after check out. He assured me it wouldn't be a problem, so I packed all my stuff in my car and then walked out to explore Indianapolis proper.

My first stop was going to be the nearby Eiteljorg Museum of Native art, but they weren't opened until noon, so I went next door to the earlier-opening Indiana State Museum. It was a nice facility that had historic and natural history exhibits, with a lot of the later focusing on animals that got trapped and died. The history exhibits were informative to someone like myself who had no idea about Indiana at all, and it didn't shy away from the darker parts of it, including the KKK-affiliated governor they had.

A Sad Past
Oh, right, those guys.

Going through the famous Indianapolis exhibit, I saw David Letterman and Kurt Vonnegut, and then it struck me that they must have a museum to Kurt here. I quick look at the internet later, and there was, in fact, a museum, and it was open today. I changed my itinerary to visit it next, and I stopped at the information booth on the way out to get directions.

The well-meaning older gentleman at the desk informed me that the museum had moved to a new building in the tourist district from its old location just near here. He took me to the gift shop to try and find the phone number for the place, and after far more effort than was probably necessary, we found it. I went outside and called up, and the lady informed me that they were at the original location that I had on my map as the deal to move had fallen through, and I told her I'd see her soon.

Indianapolis had an old commercial canal that they turned into a lovely civic attraction. It ran behind the museums, so I walked along it. There were rental paddleboats splashing around in them, and the canal opened into a big plaza with a fountain. Along the way, I got a picture of a guy and his dog who were doing some macro photography of LEGO minifigs. Well, the guy was; the dog was just hanging out in the shade happy to be there.

A short walk took me to the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library is a small storefront museum. It has a small gift shop up front, and then an area dedicated to small exhibits about his life, with a large timeline on the wall, and a room next to it with a gallery of his art. In the back of the museum is a recreation of Vonnegut's library and writing desk, with a working model of the typewriter he used (his actual typewriter from the 70s was in a case in the front of the museum). It was an experience sitting down and typing at the thing, starting, of course, with an "*" and finishing with "So it goes." I spent far too much money at the giftshop on things I didn't need, and then I walked across town to the tourist area to get a picture of the mural of Kurt on the side of one of the buildings.

*
*

I stopped for a late lunch at a trendy "locally sourced" food restaurant, grabbing a smoothie and sandwich that, while overpriced, were still quite good. Then it was a walk back to the Eiteljorg Museum. I managed to enter through the back so I had to walk all the way to the front to enter. The first exhibit was about Westerns, old and new, which was pretty interesting, and had things such as Swearengin’s suit from Deadwood and props from Westworld. I went upstairs to the Native galleries to walk around, and I found a converted cigarette machine called the "Art-O-Mat" that would give you real art for $5. I went down to the front to get change of a $10 and came back up, carefully followed in the instructions, and was rewarded with a small painted tile. Neat.

Art-O-Mat
Art-O-Mat

I bought some things at the gift shop before heading back to my car. I packed up the trunk again and headed out. I was driving on empty at this point, and I had a touch-and-go ride to get to the only gas station on the edge of downtown, but I successfully filled up before my four-hour drive up to Romulus.

The drive itself felt really, really long, but with the exception of a little construction and some congestion, it went as quickly as possible. I got to hotel and stretched after leaving the car to go check in. You know you picked a good hotel at the airport when there are flight crews there, and I had to wait for a couple to check in, so I was feeling good about that. I got my key, went to my room, dumped all my stuff, and decided to take a run out to the airport in the early evening to drop off my car now so I would have to deal with it the next morning. I drove the short distance to the rental car return lot, dropped the car off, and got onto a shuttle back to the airport just as it was leaving. I called the hotel and had to a wait a bit for the hotel shuttle to pick me up, but I was back at the hotel in a relatively short amount of time.

I went back to my room and ordered up some room service steak and desert as I finished packing up for the last time. My food arrived, but it turned out there was a computer problem, so I had to pay in cash. Frankly, it was one less thing to deal with tomorrow morning, so I was fine with it. I ate up and I rewarded myself with a soak in the tub for a while. With everything as settled as it was going to be, I hit the hay for my last time this trip.

The Accommodations:


Delta Hotel
Delta Hotel, Detroit Airport

With all the good experience with Marriott properties so far for this trip, I decided to end up at one more. The new mid-range line of hotels from Marriott are called “Delta,” and I stayed at the Delta at Detroit Airport for my last night. It actually turned out to be literally next door to the Comfort Inn I was at the first night. With all the flight crews checking in, I knew I was at the right hotel.

The room was mid-range upscale. The small bathroom with upscale décor was to the left of the entrance, with fancy vanity, toilet, and tub, and soak I did that evening. The bedroom had a king-sized bed with night tables and a lounge chair on our wall, and a dresser/desk and luggage rack under a large flat-screen TV on the other.

Convenient, clear, quiet, and affordable. It hit all the checkboxes I needed for the stay.


On Getting Back in an Un-Laborious Manner

Detroit International Airport
Detroit International Airport

Monday, September 3, 2018
Jersey City, NJ

Outside the Game: 
I woke up at a reasonable hour, grabbed my stuff, and went down to check out and grab the shuttle. The shuttle took my half-awake self to the airport, and I managed to get dragged out of the security line because I didn't take my GPS out of my bag before sending it through the scanner. That setback aside, it was a nothing morning. I wandered over to get a breakfast platter at a diner at the airport, and then went to wait at the gate.

Surprisingly, there were no delays, and we boarded without incident. I had sprung for a really cheap upgrade to first class, so I was on the plane first and settled in for extra snacks and beverages for the duration of the flight. As usual when I was in first class, I was dozing on and off for most of it but did manage to get at least three drinks and two snacks out of it.

We landed a little early, and I hauled out to the cab stand and had an uneventful drive back to the apartment for an afternoon of laundry and more napping.

The Accommodations:
Jersey City, sweet Jersey City

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 2018 Indiana