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2022 OKC Baseball Trip
In July, I went to the Oklahoma City (OKC) to see some baseball with good friends Larry Roth and Mary Lynch. Over three days, we were able to squeeze in some good meals, a few sites & the following games:
July 5th: Oklahoma City Dodgers vs. Las Vegas Aviators
July 6th: Oklahoma City Dodgers vs. Las Vegas Aviators
July 7th: Oklahoma City Dodgers vs. Las Vegas Aviators
The weather was blistering hot with daily high’s ranging from 102 to 104. My early morning flight on Southwest got me to Will Rogers World Airport by mid-morning. I took an Airport Shuttle to Homewood Suites adjacent to the ballpark in Bricktown, an entertainment district just east of downtown. In addition to the ballpark, the 50 square block area includes a navigable canal that provides transportation by way of water taxis to nearby shops, restaurants and nightclubs.
After settling into the hotel, I went to the Rendezvous Pizza, casual spot in the heart of Bricktown. I had NY pizza by the slice and Ice Chest, a sessional IPA locally brewed by Coop Ale Works. This popular micro-brewery supplies both the ballpark and many close restaurants. I would become very familiar with this beverage over the next 3 days.
Larry and Mary made the 4-hour trip by car from Arlington, Texas and arrived at the hotel about 3:00 PM. We visited for awhile before getting ready for the night game.
July 5th – Las Vegas Aviators (A’s) vs Oklahoma City Dodgers at the AAA level
Considering the high temps, the 1-block distance from hotel to Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark was a welcomed relief. Approximately 480,000 bricks make up the exterior of the ballpark, which mixes retro charm with modern amenities such as a 10-foot-tall, 185-foot-long LED video board. Statues of legendary baseball players (Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, and Warren Spahn) with Oklahoma ties grace the ballpark's three main gates. Since its opening in 1998, the 9,000-seat ballpark has received numerous accolades which include being hailed one of the top minor league stadiums in 2013.
Once inside the park, I was greeted with the gracious hospitality of mascots, Brooklyn and Brix, to whom I made an immediate connection. These mascots were selected by fan vote with inspiration drawn from the role dogs played in leading cattle herds over long stretches of the Chisholm Trail. The energy and playfulness of these animals made them ideal candidates for mascots.
The Dodgers’ losing streak reached a season-high five games with an 8-3 loss to the Aviators. Vegas starter Collin Wiles (2012 1st round draft pick) improved his season record to 8-3 with 6 scoreless innings. Dodger Zach McKinstry finished his rehab assignment, going 2-for-5 with a 9th inning home run into the RF upper deck. Zach would be called up to the Dodgers the next day and be traded to the Cubs on July 30th.
July 6th – Las Vegas Aviators (A’s) vs Oklahoma City Dodgers at the AAA level
The next morning, I had breakfast with Mary at the hotel and mapped out a strategy to get a glimpse of the downtown area before lunch. OKC is the capital and largest city of Oklahoma with a population of 687,000. The OKC Streetcar provided an easy means to get a quick site visit. The 4.8-mile system connects the Central Business District with Bricktown, and the Midtown District using modern, low-floor streetcars. The system has two routes, with a downtown loop covering the full line for a fare of one dollar.
Considering the heat, the close Bricktown stop and air-conditioned cars were duly appreciated. We took the full loop and along the way saw many sites, such as the NBA Thunders Arena, the Myriad Botanical Gardens, City Hall, and the Memorial & Museum to honor those affected by the 1995 bombing. During the ride I was impressed with the cleanliness of the city and the rich variety of architectural styles ranging from ornate Victorian to sleek contemporary.
Based on Mary’s crafty beer research, we headed to Oak & Ore, a boutique beer hall offering 36 rotating taps and sandwiches in an industrial-chic space. I had the popular Cubano sandwich and an IPA. The restaurant is in the Plaza District, named after the historic Plaza Theater. The gentrified neighborhood retains just enough grit to have a quirky feel among the bars, galleries, and funky restaurants.
We also made a quick stop to view the National Memorial & Museum. An Outdoor Symbolic Park stands on the now-sacred ground where the events of April 19, 1995, took place. On the footprint of the Federal Building is the Field of Empty Chairs, representing the 169 killed and a Survivor Wall, representing the 600 seriously injured. Back at the hotel we had a reprieve from the heat before our next game that night.
The Dodgers’ 10-7 win against the Aviators snapped their five-game losing streak in this offensive-minded contest. The hitting hero was Dodgers 1st Baseman Ryan Noda who hit two home runs and a triple, while racking up a career-high seven RBI.
Hats must go off to Jared Koenig, starting pitcher for the Aviators. He persevered 5 long innings while giving up 6 runs in 100-degree heat. His bumpy road in professional baseball includes time with 4 teams in 3 independent leagues during 2017. In 2019 he played Auckland Tuatara in the Australian Baseball League. The long journey became worth it when Jared became the 1st player from Cal State Monterey to make the Big Leagues, debuting on June 8 with the Oakland A’s. Congrats to Jared!!
July 7th – Las Vegas Aviators (A’s) vs Oklahoma City Dodgers at the AAA level
Adjacent to Chickasaw Park is the Jim Thorpe Museum & Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. The museum was thankfully just a short walk from the hotel. Established in 1986 to originally honor Jim Thorpe the museum has expanded to celebrate great Oklahoma athletes at high school, college and professional levels. The front space is devoted to the Jim Thorpe Gallery and features a short film on his life. The rest of the rooms honor the 180 inductees to the OK Hall of Fame. I was fascinated by the completeness of the biographies on each plaque. Some of the legendary winners have more prominent recognition with artifacts, uniforms, and other memorabilia. The inaugural class includes BB Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell and Mickey Mantle plus all-American Jim Thorpe. Viewing this display of top athletes brought back memories of when I saw many of them in action. One could easily spend a couple of hours in this sports time machine.
We decided to have an early dinner at another restaurant that featured local craft beer, Republic Gastro Pub. This beer-centric (50 taps) eatery has no shortage of other thirst-quenching options (wines and specialty cocktails) to pair with their modern takes on classic pub food. I had a stacked turkey burger and Coop Ice Chest sessional IPA and was more than satisfied. The upscale sports scene with plenty of large TV’s is an ideal place to watch a sporting event.
Due to 100 game-time temperature Larry opted to watch some baseball on TV. I went to our last game with Mary who was able to handle the heat for 6 solid innings. I decided to stay a little longer for a very good reason.
The Oklahoma City Dodgers hit four home runs, including two by Eddy Alvarez, beat the Las Vegas Aviators 11-2. Veteran minor leaguer Eddy Alvarez has become a favorite of mine and I was very pleased to see him have a career day going 4 for 5 and batting in 5 runs. What a treat!!
Back in 2016 I first saw Eddy play for Birmingham Barons and met his parents. At that time, Eddy had already won a silver medal in speed skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics. I learned from his parents that he wanted to resume his baseball career at the age of 25. His long stay out of baseball and rigorous training in a completely different sport made this a very daunting transition. On August 5, 2020, he reached the Majors with the Miami Marlins and became the first person to win a medal in the Winter Olympics and play in the Major Leagues. His ambition to become a Major League could not be denied.
The next morning, I was on my way back to Chicago. Despite the torrid temperatures, good baseball and good company added up to another successful minor league gathering.