I spent most of last week in Cleveland for a work-related Snow & Ice Symposium. The show went well and so did the host city as I really enjoyed my time in Cleveland. The hotel was downtown, which afforded me the opportunity to sight-see during down time and there were many nice spots to walk around in. Of course, the big attraction is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and it indeed was a great place to check out. Also, all of the city’s major league facilities are within relative walking distance and I took an exterior look at all three (Progressive Field, Quicken Loans Arena and FirstEnergy Stadium). The Indians were on the road, but luckily there are a couple of minor-league options nearby and I fortunately had Thursday Night free to venture to one. The town of Eastlake is about 20 minutes east of Cleveland and it is home of the Lake County Captains, a single-A team in the Midwest League. Rush hour was not crazy and that afforded me time to see the Boulevard of 500 Flags. After a quick walk through that, I grabbed a dozen donuts for later from local favorite Biagio’s and then went over to Classic Park. I averted the ridiculous $8 parking lot by utilizing n a $5 private lot that was just as close.
Before giving a brief review, I must preface that with how Classic Park came to be, because it’s not good. Long story short, in the early 2000s, former Mayor Dan DiLiberto strongly pushed ahead with the building of a ballpark to bring a team to the area. He lied to citizens in saying that this would not involve taxpayer money. Surprise, surprise, it did. To the tune of the entire project costing over $30 million, which put Eastlake in significant debt, resulting in the city cutting services and jobs, not to mention creating a significant distrust between citizens and local government. This is a story that plays out many times across America, no matter how many times it happens in other places.
It is unfortunate, but this is a stadium review website and we’ll mostly stick to that. I feel really crooked in saying that the money spent resulted in a beautiful ballpark, but it did as there were no shortcuts here. I really liked this facility. The brick and sand exterior gives off a towering presence and then inside, the blue seats go well in an intimate seating bowl. The concourse is at the top and protected overhead by the suites and the walkway continues on to go around the outfield, which has some nice open spots. Given their proximity to Lake Erie, the team is called the “Captains” and several touches on the nautical theme give the ballpark some character. There’s the Lighthouse in the outfield, the human mascot Captain Kenny and of course, calling the bathroom, the “Poop Deck”. There are a few things I didn’t like (which will be noted in the forthcoming review soon to be found on the right), but overall, Classic Park is a good one. This Thursday game featured a relatively low number of fans and that’s too bad as they missed a good game. Lake County was cruising until the 8th inning when Jalen Washington hit a towering two-run shot for Fort Wayne that tied the game. We went on to extra innings, where I saw the new format that the minors are using. A runner begins the inning at 2nd base, in an attempt to limit the number of extra innings. If a side goal was to reduce game-time, I don’t see that helping since this added element adds more strategy and slowed delivery. Both teams put the run across in the 10th and then the TinCaps got two in the 11th. They finished off the Captains with a rare 6-3-5 double play. I will say that the game was nicely fast-paced before extra innings and I even thought there was a chance we’d finish this 7:00 start in daylight (Ohio is in the western part of the time zone and the time of year was near Summer Solstice). Check back later in the week for the full review.