I made my first-ever visit to Cincinnati’s Great America Ballpark on Thursday to catch a Cardinals-Reds matinee. Good times all around.

We cruised down I-74 and arrived in Cincy just in time to hook up with some friends who just happened to have a pocket-full of extra tickets. I’m pretty sure you can’t beat $20 for three tickets on a day when you can pick your seat. With only about 13,000 people in attendance, we were able to sit with our friends who had front row seats down the right field line. We got some good natured hassling from an older usher, but as soon as he saw we had friends with legit tickets in his section, he began ripping his supervisors for making him check tickets on a day when the ballpark was roughly 1/4 full.

It was an overcast and cool day, but each time the sun popped out, we toasted our good fortune for being at a major league baseball game on a weekday.

The stadium is nicer than I expected. It’s still fairly new, but was never hailed as an architectural wonder like some of the other parks that have gone up in the last 20 years. I’ve watched plenty of Reds games since we moved to Indy and never got a good feel for the park on TV. It is much more attractive in person. It is compact and has some old-timey qualities that make it feel like it’s been there forever. There are plenty of amenities, but it doesn’t feel like you’re at am amusement park. It fits Cincinnati’s personality nicely.

The game was solid, a pitchers-duel that ended with a Reds walk-off home run. I was in a mixed group with a couple Reds fans, one Cardinals fan, and a couple neutrals. Our host in the good seats is a bit of a loud mouth and was drinking liberally. Throw in his familiarity with the ballboy, security guys, and groundskeepers because of his season tickets and we had a recipe for a good time. He spent most of the day heckling the Cardinals’ right fielder, the guys in the Cardinals’ bullpen, and anyone else who he thought deserved some choice words. After the game, as the Cardinals bullpen staff was walking back to the dugout, one pitcher even stared him down and faked tossing a ball his way. We all lost it at the psych-move, which the Cardinals pitchers seemed to enjoy. Good times.

Great America was only the sixth big league park I’ve seen a game in. With the easy road trip and plenty of day games to choose from, I’m hoping to make it back again soon.