Wisconsins Morning News

Gene's Blog: Milkmen deliver, even in a loss

A visit to Milwauikee's other pro baseball club

These were the choices Sunday: Cubs/Brewers, 90 miles away at secondary market prices that made the Friendly Confines downright ornery...

,,.or, Texas AirHogs/Milwaukee Milkmen about a mile from where I was creasing my couch in my Hales Corners home. Who can resist the renewal of the ages-old tussle between Swine and Bovine, one played so near and at working man's prices, to boot?

Sunday's was the second-to-last game of the Milkmen's inaugural season at Franklin's Routine Field, a spiffy new venue that opened a month late because of rough winter weather that delayed construction. 

It was worth the wait.

Parking is easy in/easy out, paved and free. Tickets are cheap--my single seat ten rows up from the first base duguout cost $16. You have a bunch of options, from a few bucks for a spot on the lawns along the line or in the outfield to something with a fixed back. If you're so inclined, Routine sports a couple of patio areas that include all-you-can-eat/drink priveleges. Not a bad choice as the concession stand lines were dauntingly long, at least during the early innings. A 16 ounce can o' Miller High Life was a friendly $6 in the much-shorter beverage queue.

Aisles and concourses are wide, bathrooms clean/plentiful.  The place is build to hold something like 3,500 and sported 3,208 for the game I was at, doing so comfortably.

The Milkmen successfully morphed their creative, quirky online pre-season presence onto the field where the lactose-based personality soaks the proceedings from the first pitch on. Fans are encouraged to yell "Moo!" instead of "Charge" when the in-house prompt sounds. The scoreboard takes gentle rips at opposition batters with photos of "celebrities" like Napoleon Dynamite used in place of the player's team-issued picture. Van McNeil serves as both P-A announcer and game host, jobs done in full 1940's milk man attire (wonder how many kids were asking their parents, "What's a milk man?"). Cow humor flavored the proceedings as did between-pitch music and contests featuring children taking hacks at water balloons instead of baseballs, racing the bases in adult-sized uniforms and my personal favorite: a toddler getting to choose between several candy offerings and a crisp new $50 bill. As of the end of play Sunday, the participant had yet to take the money all season long, a string that's expected to last when Labor Day's season finale is in the books. 

The on-field product was solid--the AirHogs and Milkmen played crisp ball with Texas hurler Zech Lemond taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Milwaukee second-sacker Garrett Copeland stroked a double for what would turn out being the home club's only base-knock of the day, as the AirHogs ruled the proceedings 4-1. 

To those who haven't been to this part of Franklin for a while, the transformation may come as quite the jolt: what many used to know as the landfill transformed into Crystal Ridge ski bump is now The Rock, a thriving sports/entertainment/commerical district that's still fleshing in. Some see it as the city center Franklin never had, a year-round development that backers hope becomes a regional destination. It took a couple of tries by lead man Mike Zimmerman to make it happen. His first Franklin effort a few years ago fizzled. Then, Oak Creek spurned his pitch. Back to Franklin he went, where he and city leaders were able to craft a plan that they hope works for all involved. 

Can't speak for the rest, but it looks to this fan like the baseball apsect is hitting on all cylinders. 

After this holiday, it's nine more months until cries of "Moo!" once again fill the air at Routine. A lot of snow will fall and a polar vortex or two will pass before another toddler gets to make the choice between a lollipop or a crisp, new $50 bill. The Milkmen had a losing record on the field this season but seemed to be winners in the seats in their inuagural campaign, one that saw the club develop a great game-day presentation with a personality that makes it udderly different. 




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