It was a great crowd, great event and great time at Werner Park, as the Omaha Storm Chasers hosted a sellout crowd of 9,023 fans in the First National Bank Triple-A All-Star Game last night.
We hadn’t been to Werner Park since it opened, and that’s certainly our loss. It was such a Midwest ballpark when it opened — tasteful, a little understated — and since then it’s aged remarkably well. We’ve been talking a heartland ballpark, with an emphasis on the resources you’d find in the region: lots of stone and natural finishes. Much of the supports for the grandstand are visible, with the use of rocks for accents and larger cut stones for concourse seating highly appropriate. The concourses, by the way, are more than wide enough to handle most crowds — including last night’s sellout.
The ballpark features three buildings in the grandstand, with openings to a concourse featuring team offices and concessions. A kids’ play area ($5 buys all the rides kids would want) is in the left-field corner, wile a mini-golf course has been installed down the right-field line. Between all the family-friendly offerings on the 360-degree concourse, including a wiffle-ball field and a basketball court, the large berms and the open bullpens attracting plenty of youth wanting to be close to their favorite players, this may be the most family-friendly ballpark in all of Minor League Baseball.
The team also pays appropriate homage to its former home, Rosenblatt Stadium, with chairs reclaimed from the facility as well as other signage down the first-base line in an area dubbed Rosenblatt Way.
Speaking of an appropriate homage: signage down the first-base line also honors former Omaha Royals and Storm Chasers retired numbers. Former Omaha Royals/Storm Chasers manager Mike Jirschele — a mainstay in the community before being called up to the majors last season as a coach with the Kansas City Royals — is honored with his own retired jersey.
And the game? It was great. We arrived right as the doors opened and watch the sellout crowd stream in, perhaps a little slowly after forecasts of inclement weather earlier in the day. At no time were the lines unbearably long, no long waits for those great burgers or Nebraska Brewing Company draughts, and Storm Chasers President/GM Martie Cordaro deployed a battalion of troops to ensure a smooth game-day operation. If anything, some of the VIP areas were a little underused, as virtually everyone at the park was interested in actually watching the game.
For good reason: the game was a great one, as the International League rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to defeat the Pacific Coast League. The PCL held a 3-1 advantage heading into the ninth, but with the bases loaded Kyle Roller delivered a two-run single up the middle to even the score. After a pitching change, Lehigh Valley’s Tyler Henson singled home Indianapolis’ Alen Hanson for the go-ahead run. Before the late rally, the game was a pitchers’ duel, with the PCL and IL pitching staffs combined for 21 strikeouts on the night, one away from tying the record set most recently in 2012.