They’re still getting used to this whole “baseball thing” in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The franchise now known as the Bowling Green Hot Rods moved from Columbus, Georgia, prior to the 2009 season, and into a brand new ballpark near downtown, Bowling Green Ballpark. The fans have been turning out at a rate of about 3,000 fans per game in 2010, but the Hot Rods have been working to increase that.
Just days before my visit to Bowling Green the team hosted “Super-Mega-Prize-A-Thon.” This giveaway involved giving away random items in large quantities. One person took home (well actually, they distributed them to fellow fans) 1,000 popsicles. Another took home live hissing cockroaches. All in an attempt to catch people’s attention and get them down to the ballpark.
My visit to the home of the Hot Rods came during a 13 game home stand. It also came during a 13 game campout. Kyle Hanrahan, who runs the team store, “The Body Shop,” is also the Hot Rods Community Affairs Dude. Yes, that is his actual title, it’s on his business card. He decided since he’d be at the park so much during that home stand that he’d just camp out and raise money for charity, namely the Hospitality House. Hanrahan says it’s along the lines of a Ronald McDonald House. His tent was set up on the first base concourse, complete with a view of the video board in right field. Hanrahan noted that it’s tough to get sleep at the ballpark. The cleaning crews wrap up their duties around 2am and by 4am the birds are chirping.
As for the ballpark itself, Bowling Green Ballpark is a nice new park to watch a game in, but it doesn’t break any new ground. The park has a nice brick exterior and the interior is similar to the design of most new ballparks. There is a gap in the outfield though so fans can’t walk all of the way around the inside of the park.
The outfield is pretty unique. The team clubhouses are in Center Field so fans can watch the players enter the field from out there, kind of like the Giants and their opponents used to do at the old Polo Grounds in New York. Also, the Right Field fence curves in towards the field because it runs so close to the street that is just beyond it.
One thing that members of the media take note of is the location of the press box. At Bowling Green Ballpark it’s actually down the third baseline which is a little different. The suite/press box level of the ballpark includes a bar/restaurant as well as suites and other group seating areas. I visited on a Tuesday night, but it was a pleasant Tuesday night in June, and that level was really being underutilized for that game.
The Hot Rods nickname comes from the fact that Bowling Green is home to the General Motors plant that makes the Corvette, and there is also a drag race track in the area. The Corvette is the official sports car for Kentucky.
Now the question can be asked, “How is Bowling Green part of the Midwest?” Well, it’s not, really, but the team moved over to the Midwest League in 2010 (as did Lake County) from the South Atlantic League. Bowling Green’s nearest league opponent is Dayton, and that’s still more than 250 miles to the north.
South Atlantic. Midwest. It doesn’t matter to Hot Rods fans and Bowling Green. They’re just happy to have a minor league baseball to watch.