With the May 28 double bill between the Midwest League’s Lake County Captains and West Michigan Whitecaps in the books, I had one last stop of my first multi-game roadtrip of 2011: Erie.
Erie is home to the AA Eastern League’s SeaWolves, affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Today, the SeaWolves (which is a slang term for ‘pirate,’ if you’re wondering) were hosting the Reading Phillies.
Though my trip was coming to a close, I was excited to see this game, particular for the opportunity to watch Erie’s starter Jacob Turner. If you don’t know him, he’s a former ninth overall draft pick who came into 2011 ranked #15 on MLB’s list of its 50 top prospects. His signing bonus, for those keeping score, was $5.5 million.
Anyway, I drove a couple hours from Cleveland to Erie (continuing to listen to people complain about LeBron on Ohio sports radio) and got to town a couple hours before the 1 p.m. game. Erie’s Jerry Uht Park is in downtown Erie, so there are a lot of parking options. I found a covered lot for $3 less than a block from the stadium:
Jerry Uht Park has one of the most nondescript entrances I’ve seen. Actually, I think it IS the most nondescript I’ve seen. I kept looking for a big sign with the stadium’s name, but there wasn’t one:
There was this guy, however, whose eyes are so big that he’s wearing ballcaps on each one:
I took a quick tour around the ballpark, noting the surrounding area is rather nondescript:
(That building behind the ballpark is Louis J. Tullio Arena, home of the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters.)
With no stadium sign under which to photograph my ticket, I took my usual shot in front of the gates, and I think the guy to my right thinks I was photographing him:
When the gates opened, the first thing I noticed was the team shop. It’s not really a store — there’s a kiosk out in front of a cubby area, but there were some neat things for sale, including a bunch of game-used bats and jerseys. The SeaWolves were selling team warmup shirts (you know, the shirts with the small logo at the neck?) for $35, which is a good deal. I thought about buying one, as I haven’t seen a better price, but I wasn’t sure about wearing something with a pirate/wolf on it.
One of the neatest features at the stadium is the giant “The Road to the Show” board, which has the names of every SeaWolves player whose made it to the Big Leagues. There are a ton of recognizable names, including Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson, plus newer Tigers such as Alex Avila and Brennan Boesch:
(Click on the image to bring up a huge version so you can see all the names.)
Jerry Uht Park is unique. Most of the concession stands and other booths and displays are in the concourse behind home plate, giving the area an exciting, happening feel.
Perhaps as a result, the third base side concourse can be dead at times:
At the end of the third base concourse is the fun zone, which has a variety of inflatable attractions:
And beside that kids area is a picnic section with a clear view of the field:
Though telling time isn’t difficult, I liked the team’s countdown to first pitch:
Unlike many MiLB parks, here you can venture beyond the outfield fence in left field and left-center to a cement concourse between the ball field and the hockey arena:
It’s a home run porch-type of area, but the only knock is that smoking is allowed, so you have that to contend with if you’re not a fan. And to get there, you have to go through the stadium’s smoking area, which is located in the left field corner (oddly, right next to Erie’s bullpen):
The ballpark has a great set of standings and stats posted behind home plate:
For the next little while, I took a wander around the stands looking at the different sites and checking out viewing angles. Down the first base line, there’s an elevator that allows people in wheelchairs to get to the field. Next to the elevator, I saw this:
A ball jammed against the fence! It was well out of my reach, and unlike last year’s excursion under the cover of darkness into the elevator in New Hampshire to retrieve a ball, I didn’t have to guts to go for this one. Sigh.
Nevertheless, I pressed on and climbed to the upper deck to take in the sight:
Up behind home plate, I took my usual panorama from this area:
When the SeaWolves came out to stretch, they were wearing pink jerseys that they’d auction off at the end of the game. I quickly made my way over to the home run porch area over the Erie bullpen to watch Turner throw:
When the game began, I found a front-row seat in an open section down the third base line. It was, I figured, prime foul ball-snagging territory. I was sitting right behind the Budweiser signs in this photo:
And in the top of the third inning, I was proved correct:
This ball was pitched by Turner and came off the bat of Reading catcher Tuffy Gosewisch. It’s in great condition, perhaps because Gosewisch led off the inning. It’s got one dirty area where it bounced in the dirt, but otherwise, it’s nearly pristine.
Having accomplished my mission of getting a ball here, I took another walk around, partly to get out of the intense sun in the area. I decided to take in a few innings from the home run porch after seeing third- and fourth-inning home runs blasted into this area. Up here, there’s a nice view of the field:
And here’s what my free SeaWolves cap looks like. The team was giving away these hats because it was anti-breast cancer day:
After a few innings of seeing nothing close to a home run, I relocated down the third base line to a lone row of seats behind the railing above the lower seating level. From here, I had a perfect view:
I had the opportunity to take some decent action shots in what ended up being an exciting game. Turner ended up with a no decision, but went seven strong and fanned eight Phillies. Though Erie led most of the game, the R-Phils scored two in the ninth the push the game to extras. But back to my photos for a second. Here’s Jordan Ellis:
And Chance Ruffin, who blew the save opportunity:
And Canadian Phillippe Aumont:
Aumont was part of the Cliff Lee deal, but struggled in his 0.2 innings of work. Still, I’m rooting for him because he’s Canadian! With Aumont on the mound in the bottom of the 10th, the SeaWolves got runners on the corners and walked off after a Adam Calderone single:
After the game, fans were invited onto the field to play catch:
I took the opportunity to go look for that ball over by the elevator, but it was gone. So, I took one last shot to prove that I was indeed on the field — look how perfect the grass is — then hopped back in the car and drove home.
One roadtrip down, three more to go!
As I write this, I’m still debating going to Syracuse in the morning for the Chiefs game against Rochester at 2 p.m. It’s a big driving commitment, but I’m anxious to get one game under my belt in 2011. Plus, as you may have read here, I’d like to get a bit more information about Alliance Bank Stadium before I write its official guide for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.