The Brewers signed a four-year contract before this season to make the Wisconsin TimberRattlers their class-A affiliate.
Though you’d never know it, Appleton has been home to a minor-league franchise consistently since at least 1958 and has been a member of the Midwest League since 1962. Before the Brewers contract, the TimberRattlers (nee Foxes) were the Mariners’ single-A affiliate for 15 years and both David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez started their careers there.
Going to a game in Appleton is pure heaven. We’ve been to a few A level games and nowhere else has come close to beating the experience at Appleton. Maybe it’s because they’ve been doing it for awhile, but this is an area that knows their audience and produces some great, affordable, family entertainment.
I haven’t been to many minor league stadiums, so I’m not sure which team’s facilities are closer to what most teams play in, but I can see why teams lust after Fox Cities Stadium. It was as nice as the few AAA stadiums I’ve seen and I think that really says something.
Really, the best thing about the new partnership is the ability for the Brewers to send major leaguers up there for rehab. The old single-A affiliate was in West Virginia, so having this team so close has really opened up a lot of opportunities for Milwaukee. Both Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan made rehab starts their this season.
Because it wouldn’t be baseball in Wisconsin without it, many families were tailgating as we pulled up a little more than an hour before the game. There was a giveaway to the first 1,000 folks, so we wanted to get in early and didn’t linger outside, but despite that and the drizzles and 50 degree weather, there were plenty of people grilling.
The weirdest quirk we saw was the large amount of foul territory which was compounded by the bullpens right down the baselines. There were at least five outs recorded against the TimberRattlers with foul balls popped up into the bullpen area that would have been in the stands in other parks.
The selection of beers was awesome. Tons of sizes available as well as Miller Products, Leinie’s and I think one or two other micro brews. There were also some girly malted beverages and Jack Daniels mixers.
There was a huge selection of food, from your regular fare to Cousin’s subs to pizza to veggie trays from the local grocery store. There was also tons of extras like cheese fries in a Rattlers mini helmet, bags of potato chips, tons of candy choices and ice cream.
The souvenir shop was bigger than the one behind home plate on the Terrace level at Miller Park and offered Brewers and Rattlers gear galore, some throwback Appleton gear as well as hats from some of the other teams in the league. They also had the equipment for adding names and numbers or personalization to pretty much anything they sold, which was inexpensive and I’m sure a hit with children.
The worst thing fan-wise was that Associated Bank hands out a little voucher when you walk in promising you a free gift and the table is set up directly behind home plate and right as you walk into the stadium. Everyone stands in line for this and blocks pretty much the entire entrance as well as the only concourse, so if you’re walking from first base to third, you’re meeting a mob in the area behind home plate.
Another time we went, kids ate free, SpiderMan made an appearance, there were post-game fireworks and kids got to run the bases after the game. When you consider tickets are just $5-$8, I’m not sure where else a family can get that kind of bang for their buck.
There is an outfield patio area as well as two within the concourse for group parties and seating. There is open grass seating down each baseline as well as a kid’s playground down the first base line.
The thing is – I don’t have children and yet, we were still able to enjoy the game. There are plenty of adult promotions. Each game, there are three players designated – one’s the RBI guy, one’s the run-scorer and one guy on the other team is the K guy. If any of these designated guys do those things, everyone gets freebies. There are T-Shirts and vouchers and you can’t forget the Bratzooka.
Yes, that’s right, it’s Wisconsin and it’s baseball, so there must be Bratwurst. Only these are shot out of a cannon, bun, wrap, and all, into the stands.
After each Sunday game, the whole team lines up for autographs. This was done quickly and efficiently and we were able to get auto’s from one of the Brewers’ top prospects with no problem.
There have also been a number of former Brewers as well as other past major leaguers that have made appearances to do signings and throw out the first pitch.
We made the approx. 90 minute drive from Milwaukee a few times this summer and weren’t disappointed any time we went. The team is fun to watch and there’s something to be said about the ability to get so up-close and personal.