Rolling to the Woodchucks!

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Photo Credit: Wausau Woodchucks
Photo Credit: Wausau Woodchucks

Ever since I was 3 years old, I developed an intense passion for baseball.  I lived in Milwaukee, Wi back then and my parents would take me to the Milwaukee County Stadium to watch the Brewers.  I was still living there when it became the Miller Park.  We went so many times that we became friends with an usher named Bob.  In the early days, I would take my wheelchair to the seat and then Bob would then put it in a storage closet after I was transferred into the seat.  I could not do that now, but Miller Park now has wheelchair accessible seating. 

Back in those days my favorite part of the going to the games was the Jumbo Tron, which I used to refer to it as the “Big TV”.  Some of my favorite Brewer players back then was Mike Matheny (Currently coaches the Cardinals), Fernando Vina (He is currently a broadcaster for ESPN), and Bob Wickman.   My all time favorite player at that time was BJ Surhoff(His son has autism and used to go to the same Physical Therapist as I did)  When I went to a Brewer Game back then I always had to order a Hot Dog, Peanuts and Nachos.  I usually ended up a cheesy mess, which my dad had to clean up.

Photo Credit: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=57860
Photo Credit: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=57860

Since moving back to Wausau, I have only made it back to Miller Park one time.  I hope to be able to go more in the future.  However, the past two years my mom has bought me tickets to go see The Wausau Woodchucks, which is considered a farm team.  Several players have made it to the major leagues including former Brewer pitcher, number 37, Wes Obermueller.  Other major leaguers include, Ben Zobrist (Cubs), Pat Neshek (Astros), and Sam Freeman (Former Rangers and just acquired by the Brewers).

Over the past 2 years, Athletic Park (home of the Wausau Woodchucks) has undergone a major renovation, carried out in 2 phases.   This was a 6.5 million dollar renovation.  Including some renovations that improved accessibility for those in wheelchairs.  Some of the renovations included 2 elevators, Bar Rail Seating with shelter from rain and sun, Luxury boxes that have limited accessibility, a community park, improved bathrooms (including family bathrooms) and a full service concession stand

***Mom’s perspective: As a single mom and primary caregiver of Hunter, I can not treat him to major league games as I would like to.  However, Hunter loves the Woodchucks games and I can afford to buy tickets for a few games every month of the season.  I love the ease in which I can buy tickets.  I call as soon as possible every year and purchase the Bar Rail seats.  Every year I am so impressed with the helpfulness and the politeness of the ticket operator.  I always explain the situation with the wheelchair and we always get great seats.  The bar rail seats are priced higher than the bleachers and general seating, but still affordable.  I do not have to worry about Hunter being in the direct sunlight or his chair being in the rain as these seats are covered.  Also these seats provide a server, so I never have to worry about leaving him alone to go get food and drinks.  I really appreciate the Woodchucks organization for allowing me to continue to provide Hunter with an opportunity to experience his passion.

Adam and I enjoying the game!
Adam and I enjoying the game!

My most recent experience at Athletic Park was on June 7th.  I went to the game against the Thunder Bay Border Cats.  I went this time with my friend/caregiver, Adam.  We had to follow my mom to the handicapped parking because it is on the backside of the stadium and hard to find.  There are four spots and we have always been able to find one.  If they were all full, there is a huge field on the backside of the stadium where we could also park.  The gates into the stadium are nice and wide.  There are assistants at the gates and the elevators to help visitors.  There is a really nice community park with lots of stuff for families and kids to do before and during the game.  I rarely stop to enjoy this area, as I am usually not into loud crowded areas.   

Riding the Elevator with Woody!
Riding the Elevator with Woody!

I take the elevator to the second level to the Bar Rail section.  This time I got to ride the elevator with Woody the Woodchuck, the mascot!  He was nice enough to take a selfie with me!  He also held the elevator open for me.  Woody the Woodchuck is very popular with the kids and is usually taking pictures and signing autographs during the game.  I can only imagine how hot that costume gets in the dead of summer! 

The seats were great seats.  I can see entire playing field.  I like to be able to see every play if possible.  Although we had a server, Adam and I grabbed our food ourselves before the game started.  I had the chili dog (minus the bun) and Reds Apple Cider to drink.  The dog was good, although the heartburn was not! 

This is the second or third time I have watched the Border Cats paly the Woodchucks.  The Border Cats are a Canadian team, so they play the Canadian National Anthem, O Canada, first out of respect and then our National Anthem.

During the inning breaks, they have fun activities for adults and kids.  This can be anything from dressing up in Sumo suits to spinning around a bat and trying to race dizzy!  I really enjoy these fun activities because it prevents getting bored while the players are getting ready.  In the times I have been there, no games or activities are designed for disabled adults or kids.  It would be nice to have something like that to appreciate all their fans.

A nice guy gave me the foul ball he caught!
A nice guy gave me the foul ball he caught!

About the sixth inning, a fan who happened to catch a foul ball during the game came over to talk to me.  We talked about baseball and then he handed me the ball he caught!  This really made my night!  Random acts of kindness help make anyone’s day a bit brighter.  The last time I got a game ball was on April 6th, 2001 when the Rockies were playing the Brewers.

My splitter grip is still supreme!
My splitter grip is still supreme!

*** Side Note:  My mom types most of my blogs for me as I can only use one finger.  As I was dictating the part about the last time I got a game ball she looked at me like I was a freak.  She asked “How could you possibly know that date and who was playing”  I replied “You never forget the last time you got a ball”!  My mom still thinks I am a freak!

During the seventh inning, they have the seventh inning stretch.  I can’t fully participate in the stretch part but I can sing along with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.  I like these traditions because it reminds me of my times at Miller Park singing “Roll out the Barrel”

Sun setting over Athletic Park
Sun setting over Athletic Park

The game ended with the Woodchucks winning 5-2!!!  It is always a bonus when your team wins.  I miscalculated and thought it was the 8th inning because I could no longer see the scoreboard after it got dark!  This is a reminder that my eyesight is not what it used to be 15 years ago!

I did have to use the bathroom this time.  However, in my past experiences the new bathrooms on the second level are awesome!  They are family bathrooms and perfect for my chair and my caregiver to fit into.  The safety bars are sufficient and it definitely makes it possible for me to attend these games! 

I will be writing another Woodchucks blog after I attend the Fourth of July Game!!  I will include pictures that I missed taking this time.

I am giving Athletic Park and the Woodchucks Organization 4 wheelchair stars.  Despite some inaccessible areas and the hard to find parking area, the experience and the staff far outweigh the negatives.  I never had an issue and it is a wonderful experience for the entire family, both abled and disabled.

THANK YOU WAUSAU WOODCHUCKS!!!

4 Stars!!
4 Stars!!

References: http://northwoodsleague.com/wisconsin-woodchucks/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

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