Ohio Ballpark Tour Part II: More Broke Than We Were Before

The Ohio Ballpark Tour has come to an end, Scott has returned to Maine, and we are even more broke than we were earlier in the week. During the first part of our tour, we went to one Major League park, two triple-A parks, and a double-A park. Each one of these parks had its own unique feel, and you could see how each park become more grand as you work you way up towards the big leagues. This part of our tour, however, was to single-A parks and one major league park. Single A is where it all begins. These ballparks rely on charm and the simplicity of baseball rather than overwhelming you with the technology and specialty fan experiences that have become the norm at bigger ballparks. We finished the our tour in Cincinnati, where we got to go to one of the best ballparks in the country and go to the Reds Hall of Fame, where we we able to view the artifacts of one of America’s most storied sports franchises. With that, lets review where we have been:

Game 5: Lake County Captains vs. Western Michigan Whitecaps at Classic Park

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A view from the grass hills in the outfield of Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio.

Game Recap: On a cold night in Eastlake, Ohio, it was the Whitecaps who struck first in this one; Blaise Salter hit a double to lead off the second inning, and came around to score two batters later. Jacob Robson’s two-RBI double an inning later drove the score to 3-0 in favor of the Whitecaps. You could blame it on the cold, or the rain (which started in earnest in the 6th inning), or you could blame it on the fact that only one Captains batter came into the game with a batting average above .240 (Li-Jen Chu, at .300), but the Captains offense couldn’t get anything going. They only registered two hits against Whitecaps starter Austin Sodders, and it wasn’t until the 7th inning that they got a runner to second base. That was the best the Captains could do in this one; the Whitecaps pitching staff rolled over Lake County en route to a West Michigan victory. Final line: West Michigan 4–9–1; Lake County 0–3–0.

Brett’s Thoughts: For me, this park ranks number four out of the seven parks we visited. There were no glitz, glamor, or skyscrapers in the background. There was a pizza shop and a McDonald’s past the outfield wall. That was the view and I loved it. It felt like you came to the game for purely baseball and there weren’t any of the other distractions in the park to keep you from the game. In terms of seating, there are a few options. You can get standing room only, where you can sit in the grass in left and right field, the party deck in right, and then the traditional seating around the infield. Nothing too fancy.

Tickets are CHEAP. We sat down the first base line for $9 a seat. The food is pretty basic. You can get burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders. They do offer one specialty food behind home plate every game that rotates, but none of the crazy ballpark food that you would expect. For me, what set this park apart was the beer. We found that the lines can get pretty long and makes it hard to get a drink sometimes. Behind home plate, you can buy a beer passport. You can pay $15 to $25 for a card and can self serve yourself to 8 craft beers of your choice. The money is drained off your card as you pour from the draft and it can be reloaded. In simplistic terms, $15 gets you 3 craft beers and $25 gets you 5. Overall, the park is simple and quaint. While it might not seem like an exciting place to watch a game, I loved it. This is a park I would definitely revisit.

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The Draft Serve systems that you can buy a preloaded passport card.

Scott’s Thoughts: Classic Park felt very quaint to me, in both good and bad ways. It was a park that emphasized community and not spectacle. The number of kids and families at the ballpark is a testament to the atmosphere created by the Captains. The prices are cheap, and while the action on the field may not be top-notch, a trip to Lake County is certainly enjoyable. The food is fairly good for a park of this size, though the lines can get ridiculously long. This park evoked memories of summer vacations in upstate Michigan for me. Enjoyable times in a small-town atmosphere, yes, but isolated and distant from the rest of the world. That can be enjoyable, but there’s a surrealism about it that made me a bit uneasy. I would visit Classic Park again, but it’s not a must-see minor league park for me.

Game 6: Dayton Dragons vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods at Fifth Third Field

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Game Recap: Well, let’s start with the big news from this one: NO-HITTER ALERT. Scott Moss went 6 no-hit innings for the Dragons, giving up only three walks and a HBP. Carlos Machorro pitched two perfect innings in the seventh and eighth (adding 3 strikeouts to boot), then the closer Brian Hunter pitched a one-two-three ninth to complete the no-hitter. The Dragons only put up two runs in the game (Cassidy Brown scored in the second, TJ Friedl in the third), but thanks to their pitching staff that was all they’d need. Final line: Dayton 2–8–0. Bowling Green 0–0–0.

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The score board after the combined no-hitter!

Brett’s Thoughts: This was an impressive park for a single-A team. The park is located in the heart of Dayton and offers plenty to do around the park before a game. We were not incredibly impressed with the food options when we looked online, so we decided to get food outside the park and stumbled upon the Dayton Brewing Co. This local brewery was fantastic and there is a pizza place attached to it so you can order pizza, drink while you wait, and then they bring it over to you. They had over 25 beers on tap and while we had to get to the game, I could have spent hours there.

The park is incredibly modern. There are video boards around the outfield wall and the jumbotron has two dragons on it that blow smoke out any time the Dragons get a run or a win. There are plenty of seating options with standing room, the outfield grass, and around the infield. For me, however, this is where the park loses it. Because Dayton attracts pretty large crowds, they have shifted to the specialty seating. There are so many places that you can’t go, causing the rest of the park to become over crowded. Your group can rent out green space that is normally standing room. When we went, two green spaces were rented out, which caused the last green space in the park to become overcrowded. The Dragon’s Den and the picnic area in center were specialty seating as well, so it seemed like you could hardly move because there were so many people in the outfield wandering around with nowhere to go. While this was a great park and I would love to visit again, I felt like this park did not capture the grit and commitment to the game that single-A baseball players go through. I felt like it was more about fan experience and less about the game itself (as most fans failed to realize that a combined no hitter was thrown).

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The view of the jumbotron from the right field standing section.

Scott’s Thoughts: Fifth Third Field (not to be confused with the park of the same name in Toledo) was one of my favorites. It’s in the heart of Dayton, in a neighborhood that has a bit of grit to it; it felt honest and genuine, not manufactured. The fan base was excited and supportive, if admittedly unaware that a no-hitter was in progress. It was a fairly high-tech park for Single-A, with impressive scoreboards and modern, clean facilities. Dayton had some solid food options as well — I’d definitely recommend the fried Oreos out in right field. Fifth Third Field was a great combination of honesty, fan amenities, environment, and baseball; for me, it was one of the top parks on the tour.

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Six parks down, one to go!

Game 7: Cincinnati Reds vs. Colorado Rockies at Great American Ballpark

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Game Recap: One thing was for certain about the Reds coming into this season: Billy Hamilton was going to steal bases. He had two–in the first inning–to help put the Reds on top early. Rockies rookie pitcher Kyle Freeland settled down after that, and helped himself at the plate too by going 2-2 with a double and a solo home run. DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Pat Valaika added solo shots of their own to put the Rockies on top 6-1. Joey Votto tried to get the Reds back into it with a three-run bomb of his own in the 6th inning, but the dominant Rockies bullpen proved their stuff again. Chris Rusin, Adam Ottavino, and closer Greg Holland combined to pitch 3.1 innings of shut-out ball to clinch the rubber match for the Rockies. Final line: Colorado 6–11–1; Cincinnati 4–8–1.

Brett’s Thoughts: This was my favorite park on the entire trip. This park has a very unique style and identity to it. The history of this organization can be seen when you go to the Reds Hall of Fame. While it was annoying that there was a cost to go in, it was well worth the price of admission and the exhibits were a combination of displays with artifacts and touch screens where Reds players told you about different skills and how to master them.

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You can also practice pitching off the mound to a simulated batter that tracks your pitch velocity. Scott may need a bit of work.

You can also jump into the broadcast booth and try your hand at calling the most infamous moments in Reds history.

The stadium has a beautiful setup and there are tons of seating options to it. In terms of food, you can’t really go wrong with lots of local options. With the Ohio River in the background and the river boats in sight, this is a fantastic sight for any baseball fan. My only complaint with this park is price. Scott and I spent over $25 to sit literally at the top of the ballpark. While the bleachers are cheap, this was our next cheapest option. The beer and the hat I bought were over priced (because I got the same things in Cleveland for $5 less). Overall, however, this is a must see stop of any baseball fan. Just make sure you bring some extra cash with you.

Scott’s Thoughts: If you love baseball, go to Cincinnati. It’s one of the best baseball towns in America, and it has the ballpark to prove it. The Reds Hall of Fame is a must-see for baseball fans, though it does at times have the appearance of a shrine to Pete Rose. Inside the park, the view of the Ohio River out over right field is Cincinnati at its finest, and the fans are always in good spirits (even if the team is as poor as they are this year). There are a variety of different food and beer options–though I must admit, the Skyline Chili Dog is a bit overrated. My one complaint with Great American Ballpark is the price: everything was about 20% more expensive than it should have been. Still, if you’re a baseball fan, you’ve got to get to Cincinnati.

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So where do these parks rank for us? Here are the results:

Scott:

  1. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati
  2. Fifth Third Field, Dayton
  3. Canal Park, Akron
  4. Progressive Field, Cleveland
  5. Classic Park, Lake County
  6. Huntington Park, Columbus
  7. Fifth Third Field, Toledo

Brett:

  1. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati
  2. Huntington Park, Columbus
  3. Progressive Field, Cleveland
  4. Classic Park, Lake County
  5. Canal Park, Akron
  6. Fifth Third Field, Dayton
  7. Fifth Third Field, Toledo

So what now? While the ballpark tour is over, our work with this blog is not. Scott and I will be blogging from Ohio and Maine this summer, which means I will be going to Indians and Clippers games while he goes to Portland Seadogs games. Both of us are going to Fenway Park this summer, so tune in to each of our trips to Boston. We will give you our fresh takes on the baseball news all summer and plan to each write a few articles a week. Our final goal is to have a podcast every few weeks. So grab a spot by the drink rail and catch a game folks. Summer is finally here.

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