Four down, three to go.
Brett and I have been going non-stop for the past three days on the first leg of our Great Ohio Ballpark Tour. Truth be told, yesterday evening was the first time we’ve had off. We almost caught a foul ball (not really), we narrowly avoided a rain-out, and we found ourselves in a run-down karaoke bar in the middle of Ohio; yup, the first few days have been pretty eventful. Let’s get you caught up!
Game 1: Toledo Mud Hens vs. Louisville Bats at Fifth Third Field
Game Recap: The matchup between the Mud Hens (Triple-A affiliate of the Tigers) and the Bats (Triple-A affiliate of the Reds) started off with a classic pitchers’ duel between Toledo’s William Cuevas and Louisville’s Asher Wojociechowski (who we referred to as “Wojo”). Omar Infante (yes, that Omar Infante) got the scoring started in the bottom of the 5th with a solo shot to left center. The Mud Hens added another run in the 6th off an RBI base hit from Steven Moya that brought home Jason Krizan to run the score to 2-0. The Bats evened up the score in the next inning with Chad Wallach’s two-run homer. The Mud Hens responded in the bottom of the seventh with three runs, punctuated by Efren Navarro’s 2-RBI triple. Daniel Stumpf came on to relieve Cuevas in the 8th, and had help from his defense with a big 4-6-3 double play to get out of a bases-loaded jam. Arcenio Leon closed the game out in the 9th for a 5-2 Mud Hens victory. Final Line: Toledo: 5–9–1; Louisville 2–8–1.
Scott’s Thoughts: The first ballpark on tour was a good starter; not too outstanding, but solid in almost every way. I like the fact that the concourse runs around the full park, allowing for easier exploration of the stadium. Food options were a bit underwhelming (the only option I had for beer was Bud Light. Ugh.), but that may have been the product of a 10:35 start; most of the beer stalls were closed. Brett and I had standing room seats in the outfield down the third base line, giving us a pretty good view of the ballpark. Fifth Third Field is a good ballpark, one that Toledo fans should be proud of. I would not consider it, however, a must-see destination for any baseball fan.
Brett’s Thoughts: Overall, I loved the feel of the park. It fit right in with the rest of the neighborhood and you could see how they tried to have the stadium reflect old Tigers Stadium. They had the corner seats in left field and drink rails around the entire outfield. The food and beer options were limited (most likely due to it being ‘education day’ at the park) so I settled for Bud Light and pizza at 10:35 in the morning. While it was not my favorite park, I would love to return for a night game for a different atmosphere and try some of the rooftop seating that is offered just across the street.
Game 2: Cleveland Indians vs. Tampa Bay Rays at Progressive Field
Game Recap: Someone must have moved the fences in for this game, because nothing would stay in the park. Indians starter Danny Salazar gave up four solo home runs in his 5+ innings of work; he also had nine (!!) strikeouts. Shawn Armstrong came on to relieve Salazar in the fifth…and promptly gave up a two-run homer to Tim Beckham. The Indians’ offense tried to respond with a three-run sixth inning, capped by Edwin Encarnacion’s sixth home run of the season. That was all the damage the Tribe could muster, as their bats were shut down in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings by Rays’ relievers Jose Alvarado and Alex Colome. Final Line: Tampa Bay: 6–10–0; Cleveland: 4–8–0.
Scott’s Thoughts: I’ve been to this park many times in my few years in Ohio, and over time it’s become one of my favorites. We got seats in the District Section in right field, and staked out prime real estate on the drinks rail from which to watch the game. The tickets come with a free drink, but we discovered that the drinks came in “fun sized.”
Progressive Field has a great selection of different locally-produced food items–I’d personally recommend the Slider Dog, though it is a weird concoction. And Cleveland fans are always a fun bunch to be around–even if they show up to the game three innings late. Definitely a fun place to take in a ballgame.
Brett’s Thoughts: As someone from a family with Indians season tickets, this park is a personal favorite. While normally we sit behind the on-deck circle, I enjoy getting a spot on the rail from the Right Field District. Instead of going to our assigned seat, we decided to watch the game from the second floor of ‘The Corner,’ the best bar in the ballpark. With many craft beers on tap and food literally right next door, I have found myself wandering away from my normal seats and out to the standing room sections in right. If you have never been to Progressive Field, it’s a must.
Game 3: Akron Rubberducks vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels at Canal Park
First of all, can we just appreciate Minor League team names?
Game Recap: The Squirrels got the scoring started early in this one, as Brandon Bednar came around to score on Dylan Davis’s double in the second inning. The Rubberducks responded with two runs of their own as Eric Haase and Dorssys Paulino came home to score on a single from Jo Sever and a bases-loaded walk from Mark Mathias, respectively. Yu Cheng added another run for Akron in the third, and Mike Papi’s three-run blast in the next inning gave the Rubberducks a commanding 6-1 lead. The Squirrels wouldn’t go away, adding four runs in the fifth off starter Luis Lugo, but the Rubberducks relievers shut them down the rest of the way, allowing only one hit and striking out two. Final Line: Akron 7–11–2; Richmond 5–8–0.
Highlight moment: Whatever this is.
Scott’s Thoughts: If you like ballpark food, Akron is your Mecca. May I present to you the Three Dog Night: a hot dog…inside a bratwurst…inside a kielbasa.
If that’s not your scene, maybe you’d prefer the Nice 2 Meat You Burger, a burger with over a pound of meat topped with chunks of hot dog. There’s also the Notorious P.I.G., a pulled-pork sandwich where pork tenderloins serve as the buns. If that’s not enough, you can finish with dessert: The Screamer is a full-on ice cream sundae, complete with 21 (!!!) scoops of ice cream.
The rest of the ballpark is great too. It has a small-town feel, giving it a more-welcoming atmosphore than a park like Fifth Third Field. The number of seating options cater to every type of fan, from families to 21+ year-olds like us. Canal Park is one of my favorite ballparks I’ve ever visited; though I’m not still sold on the Rubberducks name (what can I say, Aeros just has a great ring to it!)
Brett’s Thoughts: This was my first time to Canal Park and we decided to sit in the Homerville, a party deck where all of the seats are swivel seats and you have a rail to place your food and drinks. What was my ulterior motive for selecting these seats? It was ‘education day’ and the school I have been subbing at was in attendance. With the shades on and a ball cap on, I was incognito. These seats were absolutely fantastic and I would love to sit there again. The ballpark has its small town feel to it with Akron Children’s Hospital looming in Left Field. This is a park I would love to revisit in the evening. The Rubberducks own a restaurant attached to the park called ‘The Game Bar & Grill’ that has tons of memorabilia. It opens two hours before game time, so I would love to visit again to try the food.
Game 4: Columbus Clippers vs. Indianapolis Indians at Huntington Park
Game Recap: After a brief rain delay, we got this one going, and Yandy Diaz came to play for the Clippers, leading off the game with a solo home run. Indians starter Drew Hutchison settled down after that, only giving up one more run (a solo homer from Eric Stamets). Working with the early cushion, Clippers starter Shawn Morimando twirled a gem, going seven innings without allowing a run. Unfortunately, reliever Neil Holland wasn’t able to hold onto the lead, as the Indians took the lead off Austin Meadows’ three-run blast to make the game 3-2 in the top of the eighth. Edgar Santana and Dan Runzler shut the door on the Clippers to seal the Indians’ 3-2 win. Final Line: Indianapolis 4–10–0; Columbus 2–6–2.
Scott’s Thoughts: Huntington Park is a versatile venue situated right in the heart of Columbus’s Arena District. Brett and I had seats in the front row down the third base line, but we also wandered into the upstairs bar and restaurant in left field. Huntington also has a party deck out to right field which Brett swears is a fantastic place to watch a game (but we weren’t allowed up there). There were also a number of excellent Columbus-based breweries with stands in the ballpark. But oddly enough, for me there was something missing here. The whole thing felt too sterile, too symmetrical, like it was designed to be a perfect ballpark. I missed the little quirks and personalities that other ballparks have. Huntington Park is still a nice place to watch a game, and Columbus is a great sports town, but perhaps the facility was designed with too much precision and not enough of a caution-to-the-wind mentality.
Brett’s Thoughts: This is my second most visited ballpark besides Progressive Field and I love this park personally. This was my first time going to the bar on the second level in left and it has its own menu of food and beer. What we learned is that if you want to eat up there, you have to reserve a table before you visit the park. Lesson learned. This was my first time sitting down the line and I loved the seats (minus the fact that my seat was literally the only one in my row without a cup holder). There is a wide variety of food and beer and my favorite part is how many seating options there are. I have sat in the outfield grass, the left field bleachers, right field line, left field line, the Party Deck in Left, and the drink rails. The rails run all around the park (including behind home plate). There are still places in the park I have yet to sit. Every single spot in the park gives you a different feel and a different experience. Even though it is a minor league park, I am still constantly finding new foods to try and new places to take in a game. The park is a personal favorite and I highly recommend you add it to your list.
Where to next?
Up next starting tomorrow, May 19, we will be taking our journey to the single-A home of the Lake County Captains. We will then travel to Dayton on May 20 for a game with the Dayton Dragons at Fifth Third Field (not to be confused with the Fifth Third Field in Toledo) before wrapping up in Cincinnati at Great American Ballpark on May 21. This part of the tour will be especially interesting because single-A ballparks do not have all the spinning rims that higher-affiliated teams and major league parks have. What will set Lake County and Dayton apart will be the simplicity and the charm of just good old fashioned baseball. We are halfway there, but the fun is only starting!
Scott is the guy you see at the ballpark with a loaded hot dog in one hand and a marked-up scorecard in the other. He’s been following baseball since 2006, when his beloved Tigers made the World Series. Scott is an expert in baseball film trivia, a connoisseur of ballpark food, and a firm believer that pitchers should have to bat (I’m looking at you, Bartolo Colon).