A day after my exciting time in Fort Wayne, I faced another lengthy drive. This time, I’d be driving about four hours east to Cleveland. Just to the east of Cleveland is Eastlake, home of the Lake County Captains. The Captains are another Midwest League team that I could cross off my list on this trip.
I checked into my hotel about 3 p.m., chilled for a little over an hour and headed to Classic Park, home of the Captains.
When you arrive at Classic Park, you may quickly notice a parking lot for permit holders only. So, where does the average fan park? See the foot bridge over the road? There’s a giant — and free — fan lot on the other side of it:
I was one of the first cars in the lot, so the pavilion in front of Classic Park wasn’t overly crowded as I bought my ticket for a seat right behind home plate:
This is the biggest Minor League Baseball ticket I’ve seen so far.
Waiting for the gates to open, I milled around the stadium entrance …
… and found a good-natured sign:
Today’s game was supposed to start at 7 p.m., but because the Captains were making up a previously rained out game against the West Michigan Whitecaps, this would be a doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. Lots of baseball to watch.
Upon entry to the ballpark, I took a quick browse through the team store and bought a $10 T-shirt. I was tempted to spend another $15 on a game-used bat (the best price I’ve seen so far), but didn’t bother. Instead, I donned my new gear and went to the right field corner, where I could see players leaving the clubhouses and heading toward the field.
Last summer, I visited Eastwood Field, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. One of this stadium’s best features (for autograph seekers, anyway) is the conjoined clubhouses. If you want to get signatures from both teams, you don’t have to run back and forth — you simply wait outside the clubhouses and get the guys to sign as they come by. Well, the same is true for Classic Park.
The players leave their respective teams’ clubhouses (the building in the background) and make their way down this walkway to the field:
There are plenty of opportunities to catch guys for autographs along the route.
At this point, the concourse was still fairly empty:
My guess was that with a doubleheader scheduled, many people would arrive later, and that’s exactly what happened.
I took this panorama of Classic Park from the right field corner …
… then went to check out some sights. There’s a nice grass berm in right field:
And a historical area behind it, which was closed due to a fireworks setup:
I wasn’t able to see who’s represented on those plaques, but the Captains’ notable alumni include CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez and Kevin Kouzmanoff.
The Captains dugout is on the first base side, so their bullpen is in the right field corner. The cement walkway is high above the pen, so you have a neat vantage point:
There’s a shingled roof and eavestrough to the rear of the bullpen, and my eye caught a ball in the eavestrough. Unfortunately, it had seen days, weeks or months worth of water, so it wasn’t one I wanted:
I watched Lake County warm up for a bit:
(This isn’t as awkward as it looks.) Then started to make my way around the stadium to see the sites. I like the scoreboard here — reminds me of the one at Progressive Field, in a scaled-down sort of way:
What do you think?
I also noticed that Classic Park offers Bertman’s Ball Park Mustard, just as is available at Indians games:
Outside the team shop (appropriately named the Cargo Hold), the team displays some game-used bases and the trophy from its 2010 Midwest League championship:
Remember the parking lot and bridge across the road? Here’s a look back at it from the ballpark:
West Michigan was warming up in the left field corner, and I went up to the suite level and took a panorama to capture the park:
From up here, I could look down to the party deck in the left field corner:
As you can see, there’s a pitching game here, but an extensive kids play area is behind the left field bleachers:
Here are the bleachers themselves …
… and here’s the view from this area:
Lake County’s Jordan Cooper got the start in Game 1 (which was resumed four innings in) and I watched from above as he warmed in the pen:
When the game started, I found my seat directly behind home. I was between the guys doing some filming/radar gun and a handful of MLB scouts. This was the view:
I love sitting behind home plate, as you get a really accurate appreciate of the movement on pitchers’ pitches. Even at the Single-A level, these guys bring it.
A few innings later, I found Classic Park’s “must-try” item, the pulled pork nachos. There are a ton of toppings on these beauties, and I definitely recommend ’em. The only area in which they fell short was cheese — after the lady asked if I wanted grated (real) cheese or cheese sauce, she put neither on my meal. I didn’t notice until I was a few bites in, so oh well:
I ate my nachos from a picnic area down the first base side, which was free of crowding and had a great view.
After dinner, I continued walking around, pausing to notice this sign:
Most ballparks allow backpacks, but Classic Park seems to have an anti-backpack policy. I had mine on, but didn’t get stopped, so I’m not sure what the deal is.
The Captains won Game 1, and the teams took a 30-minute break to change uniforms and allow the grounds crew to prep the field for Game 2. Between contests, I took this photo of the lit-up scoreboard as the evening grew darker:
I watched the first part of Game 2 from the left field bleachers, then toured the ballpark a bit more before departing a little early, as I was exhausted.
One stop left on my first trip — Jerry Uht Park, home of the AA Erie SeaWolves.