SPORTS

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July 11, 2003

American Ballpark Reviews with Dan Ankeles

In this world there are things that can stand on their own but reach their full potential only when combined with something else. Peanut butter and jelly, summer time and ice cream, barbeques and the Fourth of July -- there's no denying these perfect pairs.

But sometimes these couples aren't quite as obvious as, say, drinking beer and watching sports. Take it from the people of Milwaukee, who are famous for their sausages and their beer but are slightly less famous for the hometown Brewers.

Milwaukee is a city that will combine sausages with just about anything. There's a rumor that even the local MacDonald's franchises have more sausage items on the menu than the rest of the country.

Most baseball fans have had the opportunity to sample Italian or Polish sausages in just about any ballpark, but only a precious few parks serve the famous bratwurst (best pronounced with a harsh Midwestern accent).

Thankfully the folks at Miller Park, the Brewers' snappy new stadium, have united baseball and the brat in a way that brings out the best in both of them. Brat stands are located everywhere, and the condiment stations feature both sauerkraut machines, excellent mustard, and something called "stadium sauce," which is a savory cross between ketchup and barbeque sauce.

In the late innings, Miller Park even holds the famed sausage races, where fans dress-up in costumes representing the many kinds of sausages and then "run" around the park until someone wins. Normally this is a much-anticipated event enjoyed by all, but recently Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman, Randall Simon, spoiled the fun when he took his baseball bat and bopped the young fan dressed as an Italian sausage on the head.

Aside from sausage issues, however, Milwaukee natives know all too well that having a terrible ball club requires a more-than-adequate facility to sit and watch a game. The reason for this is that fans need to find a way to enjoy themselves despite the scant likelihood of victory.

Luckily for them Miller Park is nearly ideal. Featuring a retractable roof and an abundance of windows that let in light from all angles, last year's All-Star game venue is cheerful and spacious. The park's many sections and levels allow fans to view the game from just about any angle, and the many seats in the outfield make it more likely that a fan will end up with most of the homerun balls hit. The best part of Miller is that it lacks the kind of steep inclines that make fans feel that they are too far away from the on-field action.

Tickets are more than affordable, and there are even special $1 Euker seats named after the famed Brewers' radio broadcaster (called Mr. Baseball by many) who is known for his pivotal role in the movie Major League.

In the pantheon of Midwestern ballparks, Miller Park stands out as one of the elites. If you are planning a visit, however, make sure that you are a fan of the opponents, because they will probably hit a fair amount of moon shots over the course of the game.

Also keep an eye on Brewers rookie centerfielder Scott Podsednik, who is a bright young star in the running along with Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis for the National League's rookie of the year honors.