I went to see a Drillers game downtown for the first time this month and overall, it was a good experience.
Some men from my Sunday school class decided to buy tickets for a Friday night game and I went along.
As a boy, I went to many baseball games at the old Oiler Park, which was on 15th Street at the Fairgrounds. I was there during the exhibition game in 1978 when part of the grandstand collapsed (no one was seriously injured, as far as I can remember).
Oiler Park was less than three miles from my house. I sold “popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks” in the stands at home games.
It was fun to see the games for free and I made $3-4 on average.
When they built Driller Park on the southwest corner of 15th Street and Yale Avenue, it was one of the nicest minor league stadiums in the country. I probably went to a handful of games at that location.
Driller Park is now being disassembled and sold for scrap metal. That’s a shame. It was still very usable.
But some of the bigwigs downtown wanted a shiny new ballpark – built with taxpayer funds – and they got the new park thanks to city officials and property taxes from unwilling property owners downtown.
I went to the game this month about an hour early. I hate going downtown, especially at night. I never feel very safe and I always worry that my car will be vandalized (or maybe stolen).
I didn’t want to pay for parking and I drove around the one-way streets for 30 minutes and everything was full. If they had built the new stadium at the Fairgrounds, they would have had plenty of free parking. My ticket cost $15 and parking near the stadium was at least $10. That means a family of four would pay typically $70 for decent seats and parking.
Before the game, I looked on the Drillers’ website for help on parking and it wasn’t very useful. I finally drove to the OSU-Tulsa parking lot on the other side of the freeway and parked for free. Fortunately, there was an underpass right there and I had about a three-block walk to the stadium. To be fair, I have walked a lot farther to see college football games in Norman, Stillwater and even at TU.
There were a lot of people with kids who brought lawn chairs and sat near the outfield in grassy areas. The weatherman had predicted rain but it was just overcast and not too hot.
The game was at 7 p.m. I expected to pay a whole lot for food at the game and again, the website wasn’t helpful (although apparently there is a $28 buffet you can eat at the game).
I got a hamburger with curly fries for $9.50, which is about what I expected. That’s cheaper than the junk they sell at the fair and the food at OU home football games. And they had a good variety of hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, salad, Mexican food and even nachos (served in an upside down plastic Driller helmet).
They are trying to speed up the game because people just don’t have the patience to watch a slow game anymore. Each batter and pitcher has 30 seconds to get to the plate and to deliver a pitch.
Now, the only guy who walks through the crowd selling food is the beer guy. I don’t drink but I know many folks think beer and baseball have to go together. I didn’t notice anyone who had too much to drink and that is good in such a family atmosphere.
The game was exciting. The Drillers were behind by two runs in the bottom of the ninth and came back to win by one run. The team rushed the field and the crowd went crazy.
Major League Baseball lost me as a fan in the 1990s when the players went on strike. The players and the owners are both greedy.
I grew up as a fan of the New York Yankees in the 1960s. Mickey Mantle, an Oklahoma native, was my favorite player. The Tulsa Oilers were a farm club for the St. Louis Cardinals and I liked the Cards growing up. (My brother Bill was and still is a big fan of the Cincinnati Reds).
I might go to another game because I have some friends who are big baseball fans and my wife is a big Yankee fan. She has not been to the downtown stadium. We were in Florida one spring and went to see the Yankees play an exhibition game (it was boring).
The game wasn’t sold out. I have to think the Drillers would have even better attendance had the stadium been built in a better location and had more parking options.