For the past few years, my wife and I have tried to get to at least one minor league game on our vacations. Actually, she hasn't really tried, it's been me.
It didn't work out in our 2008 vacation, which took us through Mississippi, Arkansas, Memphis, Branson and St. Louis. We caught a Cardinals game, but all those other great minor league teams in the area just weren't home when we were through, including three days we spent in Memphis.
Last year, we road tripped through Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and over to Minneapolis. We flew into and out of Omaha. Were the Omaha Royals home either after we flew in or before we flew out? No and No. We ended up making a Sioux City Explorers game instead, along with a Twins game in the final season of the Metrodome.
But I really wanted to see a game in Omaha, not only for its long history, the College World Series and all, but because it made the book 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out, which my wife got me for the previous Christmas, or birthday, I forget.
This year, we simply road tripped from our home in Upstate NY, back to my hometown in Eastern Iowa. My mom, a big Cubs and Ryne Sandberg fan, wanted to see an Iowa Cubs game in Des Moines. We made plans for that. Then I heard about this being the final season for Rosenblatt, way across the state. Were they home? Yes. Who were they playing mid-week? The Iowa Cubs. Perfect.
So I talked my folks and my wife into going across the state to Omaha, considerably farther than Des Moines. I wasn't planning on writing about our trip to Rosenblatt until later. Then I realized that tonight's game against Round Rock is the final game.
We attended the game the night of Aug. 25, the first of three with the I-Cubs. It was Vietnam Veteran's Appriciation Night. Everyone honored the veterans. The rendition of the National Anthem was perhaps the best my wife and I had heard. It was sung by a military man. Unfortunately, I didn't catch his name. Everyone got flags.
The tarped seats at Rosenblatt
The stadium itself was cool. We could only imagine what it was like during the College World Series. The thing seated more than 23,000 for World Series games. For the Royals, seating was reduced to less than 9,000, with the extra seats covered by tarps. Other than that, the ballpark experience was pretty standard as minor league parks go.
Even though it opened more than 60 years ago, Rosenblatt didn't look its age. My wife openly wondered why they were closing it because it still looked nice enough.
The game itself was a defensive and pitchers duel. The game went scoreless until the bottom of the 11th. That's when The Omaha Royals' Scott Thorman came up with one on. They showed the obvious reference on the scoreboard, Thor, shortly before Thorman hammered the ball over the fence for a walk-off 2-0 win. (My video of the walk-off is below)
By that time, my parents were long gone. They left in the seventh or so. It was a long drive back to Eastern Iowa, after all. But mom seemed to enjoy herself. Sandberg, mom said, looked even better in person.
The Omaha World-Herald's account of the game: Thorman's walk-off keeps Royals' playoff chances alive