Monday morning began with a big decision to make. I got up at 6 a.m. and was working at my computer when I saw something on Twitter that caught my eye. The Cleveland Indians were playing a noon game to wrap up their series against Seattle. Hmmm. I planned to be in Akron for a 7 p.m. Aeros game, and Akron is just a short drive from Cleveland. It’d be very possible to do the Tribe game from noon to 3 p.m. and still get to Akron in plenty of time.
I sprang into action, getting changed and quickly getting my room packed up. But then I decided to put a little more thought into it. It was only day four of my 13-day road trip, and I didn’t want to burn myself out. Last spring, I did three straight days of two-city doubleheaders (two games in two cities) and was a zombie by the end. It was a fun trip, but so rushed that it was tough.
So, I regretfully decided to stay at my hotel, continue blogging and forget about visiting Progressive Field. After all, I’ll be there again next week when I visit the Social Suite!
I blogged till shortly before noon, and then drove into Cleveland to see Lake View Cemetery. I visited this enormous cemetery back in 2011, but wanted to check it out again. It’s the burial site of Ray Chapman, a former Indians player who’s one of only a couple MLBers to die after being hit by a pitch. Chapman is a member of the Indians Hall of Fame and has a big plaque in his honor at Heritage Park. I’m not normally one for visiting cemeteries, but I wanted to find his headstone and share it on here. The 285-acre graveyard is enormous, but because many of the notable people buried there are marked with signs along the road, I figured it’d be a piece of cake to find Chapman’s plot. Boy, was I wrong. I drove in circles for about half an hour until my GPS screen looked like an Etch A Sketch that needed shaking. I decided to end this little adventure without finding Chapman’s site; if you’re really curious, you can see a picture of his headstone on his Wikipedia page. The cemetery, by the way, does have some neat sights. President James Garfield is buried there, as are John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness.
Afterward, I made the short trip to Akron and checked into my hotel. I was staying at the Courtyard Akron Stow, which is just outside Akron. The hotel is next to the highway, which makes accessibility a breeze. I was checked in and relaxing five minutes after pulling off the highway. Here’s the outside of the hotel:
And here’s the room that awaited me:
This room had two queen-sized beds, a sitting area, a desk and a plasma-screen TV. It was a perfect setup, too. I sat at the desk to work on my blog and turned to TV toward me to keep an eye on ESPN. Doesn’t get better than that. The staff I encountered was extremely warm and friendly and this is definitely the hotel I recommend if you’re visiting Akron to watch the Aeros — and especially if you’re coming from Cleveland the day before.
Remember how close I said the hotel is to the highway? Look at the view out my window:
(By the way, I could barely hear the highway and it certainly didn’t disrupt my sleep; there was a card in my room saying that if the highway disturbed me, I could request to move to the other side of the building — pretty accommodating, if you ask me.)
You can also see the nice courtyard outside my window. In terms of location, the Courtyard Akron Stow is just minutes from a million places to eat and shop. It’s within walking distance of a Skyline Chili and McDonald’s, and a very short drive to the Graham Square Plaza, which has a Walmart for snacks and a Subway, Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Chipotle and a ton more options. I actually stopped here on the way to the hotel and grabbed a Chipotle. You definitely have a long list of choices.
I spent about an hour in the room before loading up and heading to Akron for the evening’s game. Canal Park is located in downtown Akron, and while the team doesn’t have an “official” parking lot, parking is readily available. In fact, parking is free downtown in any lot after 6 p.m., which is perfect. I got to the area around 5 p.m., and parked in a garage that was free for the first hour. It can’t get any better than that — by the time the second hour rolled around, parking was free everywhere. The lot I picked was just across the street from the park, and when I emerged from the garage and crossed the street, I was looking at the back of the video board:
Canal Park has a nice brick and iron design, but looks inconspicuous from the street. In fact, if you’re just walking along the sidewalk, the park looks like storefronts in certain areas. But then, you come to a spot like this:
There are even a number of gates through which you can see the field. I didn’t spend long watching the action through the gates; the Aeros were providing me with a press pass and I found the admin office and got hooked up. Thanks, Adam Liberman!
After getting accredited, I went through the office to the concourse and got my first proper look at the inside of the ballpark:
Beautiful. There was still a good chunk of time until the gates opened, so I made a huge circuit of the entire park and would up in the right field bleachers to watch BP. The video board was just to my right, and it was outstanding:
Like in Cleveland, Akron’s board was huge, full of good info and really well run. One of the neat features in this area is the stacked bullpens. I’ve seen this idea a few times throughout my travels; Lehigh Valley’s Coca-Cola Park comes to mind. The bullpen on the left belongs to the home team and the one on the right, which is a few feet higher, is for the visitors:
As BP got close to finishing, I went down to field level and captured the visitor’s dugout:
Then, it was over behind home plate to take the photos to make up this panorama:
When the gates opened at 6 p.m., I walked over to the left field corner to see a thin stretch of the Ohio and Erie Canal, which runs directly behind the park. I’ve visited some parks that have nearby rivers, but this was neat to see and the area is really well kept:
I decided to go down to field level to watch the players warming up, and en route, a ball caught my eye:
Because the park was already open and there were fans milling around, I didn’t have a moral dilemma about adding this one to my collection.
This next photo might look as though one player’s sleeping, but I can assure you he was just getting his back cracked by a teammate:
I’ve said before that I love the subtle things you notice during ballpark visits. As a trainer was loosening up Giovanny Urshela’s legs, teammate Jesus Aguilar snuck over and gave Urshela a wicked zap on the backside with stretching band. Urshela reacted as anyone would — with a wild swing at his teammate. It was all in good fun, as the two guys were playing catch five minutes later.
I watched the first inning from behind home plate and pretty much had my choice of the seats. Canal Park wasn’t exactly hopping this evening. Here’s a look at the stands along the first base line in the first inning:
The lack of people didn’t concern me, as I don’t need a huge crowd to have a good time at the ballpark. Plus, I wanted to tackle the 3 Dog Night without making a scene. The 3 Dog Night is one of Canal Park’s signature dishes, although I was really impressed with the overall choices available at the park’s concession stands. Still, I wanted to eat the food that’s most notable, so I ordered one. It’s a hot dog stuffed into a split bratwurst stuffed into a split kielbasa. When the server handed it to me, I thought, Ugh. It was enormous and as I still had to load it up with sauerkraut, onions and mustard, it didn’t look very appetizing. Heck, it didn’t look much better once I’d loaded it up:
Here’s a photo with my baseball that puts the 3 Dog Night in perspective:
I retreated to the privacy of the bleachers to devour the meal, but sat stunned for a couple minutes with the beast on my lap. I had no idea how I would tackle it. Luckily, I had a plastic fork in my backpack and the availability of the piece of cutlery gave me the courage to begin. Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed. Now, this isn’t to say don’t try the item — you might love it — but it didn’t do it for me. It was so big that I basically had to eat it in segments, and individually, those segments didn’t taste great. The hot dog tasted like a hot dog, but the brat and kielbasa just tasted like giant hot dogs. I gave it a valiant effort for a few minutes, but tapped out shortly thereafter. Next time I’m in Akron, I’ll be sampling something else.
Eating even a few bites of that meal meant that taking another walk was a good idea, so I went over to the third base seats to take some action shots. Here’s Bowie starter Tim Bascom, who went four innings and got a no-decision in his team’s 4-3 win:
And here’s a close play at first involving Bowie’s Brandon Waring and Akron’s Roberto Perez:
The game was entertaining; Akron led 1-0 but trailed 3-1 before scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth to push the game to extras. Bowie, which managed just seven hits in 12 innings, went ahead for good in the 12th to get the win.
Next up, Columbus!