I made a nearly last minute decision to take a trip to Eastlake, OH (just outside of Cleveland) to see the Lake County Captains of the Midwest League take on the Bowling Green Hot Rods. To be honest, I knew nothing about either team, other than the Captains are one of three Single A farm teams of the Cleveland Indians (the others being the Lynchburg Hillcats of the Single A Advanced Carolina League, which I visited in April and I STILL need to do a write up on…. and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the short season NY-Penn league) and that the Hot Rods are a farm team of my old hometown Tampa Bay Rays. What I discovered, though, is that the Captains have some of the friendliest fans and staff of all the teams I’ve visited, and I was very moved by the pre-game festivities with a Rolling Thunder type demonstration by the local bikers as part of Operation S.T.A.T. Truly impressed!
First and foremost, the fans were awesome! With the exception of a few unruly college aged players sitting next to the Hot Rods dugout, everyone was incredibly friendly. (Note to these guys: if you harass and harangue the players, don’t be disappointed that they don’t throw you a ball after between inning warmups! haha). I’d like to thank my section mates for some great local conversation about baseball and the Cleveland suburbs. And yes, they were also laughing with me at the above mentioned boys whenever they didn’t get a ball, which was every half inning! Thanks Randy, Eden, Steve, and Doug for an enjoyable evening!
Second shout out, and equally impressive, goes to the local bikers as part of Operation S.T.A.T. Per their website, “Operation: S.T.A.T. (Standing Tall for American Troops) was originally called Operation: NEVER FORGET. Operation: NEVER FORGET was started on September 11, 2011, the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America.” This local group showed up in force, over 100 strong, escorted a group of Vets from the local VA to the game, and rolled up on the warning track prior to the game, and stayed until the National Anthem was over. I chatted with Janna, Don, and Renae before the game, and they say they have done it once a year for the last few years. They echoed the sentiments of another couple I chatted with who said it’s the least they could do for our vets. So hat’s off to them!
Local members of Operation: S.T.A.T. line the warning track:
During the National Anthem:
At the end of the game, one of the Bowling Green players was chatting with a nice couple, and I ended up taking a group picture for them with their camera. Afterwards, I asked them how they new this player, thinking maybe it was a host family. Turns out it was his REAL family! The parents of pitcher Kenny Rosenberg, Deborah and Ken, came all the way from California to follow their son on his recent road trip. I had a nice chat with Deborah and Ken and it turns out that not only did they come from CA to see Kenny on his road trip, they are also celebrating their 29th anniversary today (the day of this post, June 11th). Deborah joked that 29 years ago, just before they were married, Ken took her to a San Francisco Giants game and she never thought she would be a baseball fan! Just a few short years (28!), their son, Kenny, was drafted in the 6th round out of UC-Northridge and would be playing pro ball in the Rays organization! Happy anniversary Deborah and Ken!
As everyone knows by now, my passion for minor league baseball centers around food! Classic Field isn’t lacking in its concessions, and every time I ventured up to the mezzanine level, I never saw a long line. They had had their standard fare of dogs, chicken sandwiches, and pretzels. And quite a few choices of local brews. All fine and dandy for the casual fan, but…. I needed something special….
This is what I REALLY wanted!!! Sadly, it’s enough to feed at least an entire section of the park, if not, at least a small refuge family for a month. As much as I wanted to order it, I refrained. Had I known I would run into Eden, Doug, Steve, and Randy from above, I would have ordered it for them and just indulged with my camera! As Ben from Ben’s Biz Blog does for every game, I would have recruited them as designated eaters. Eden, Doug, Steve, and Randy, if I ever make it back to see a game, this one is on me!! I mean, who couldn’t love 2 pounds of hamburger, half a pound of cheese, half a pound of bacon, plus all the fixings?!?!
I stopped by the Captains Grille and asked about this monstrosity. I had a nice chat with Jaime and Jerico. They did say it was available, but when I asked Jerico how many he had served up, he said only one on his watch. As much as I wanted to order one, I couldn’t see throwing away so much food! I opted for the the burger of the month – the Cavalier Champs Burger! (note to self: I guess I should see if the Cavs can come back in the finals this week!) It’s a burger with swiss, honey ham, sauteed mushrooms, special house sauce, lettuce, tomato, and “championship” onion rings on a craft beer bun. He had me at burger and swiss!
And yes, it was worth it!! Can you believe this was only $7??? It’s worth twice the admission price!!!
I’ve been reluctant to ask for a press pass this year, since MLB has done away with its amateur blogs on its site. My old site, all-things-ed.mlblogs.com (which now redirects to this site) probably afforded me some level of credibility that I didn’t mind asking for press credentials, which would allow me access to not just the press area, but the club level, where I could take photos of the great food that the, uh, upper echelon, get to taste. This is one dish I wish I could have enjoyed: jalapeno quesadillas!
One thing I DID indulge in was the deep fried Twinkies. I’m originally from the deep south, so anything that has deep fried in its title piques my interest!! I found these along the 3rd base line. I will be brutally honest: not that great. I was fortunate to try deep fried Oreos with the Salem Red Sox last year, and those were awesome!! But these? Maybe you need to be a Twinkies fan? I was able to finish one before going into angioplasty shock!! One was enough, two was way too much!! But hey, go big or go home, right?!?
The Captains also offer a full service bar, the Castaway’s Bar, which offers every libation you could think of. I thought about trying the Captain’s Fishbowl, and while I was spending the night in the Cleveland area, I decided to pass. But it dd look good!
Finally, on the food and drink experience, the Captains have some self service draft beer walls. Pretty cool! You buy a pre-loaded card and pour your own beer. You can pour a whole beer or sample several of the eight craft beer offerings. Again, even though I was spending the night, probably a good idea I didn’t sign up for this!!
In game experience
I have to say the in game experience was great. I’m a big fan of the between inning games that minor league games provide, but grow tired of the same old, same old, such as the dizzy bat game, etc. The Captain’s team did a great job of balancing the games with the actual game. I admit, I was on the wrong side of the field for a few of the games, but they did a really good job and it definitely didn’t feel like overkill! Some highlights included:
The sponge splash, trying to fill a bucket of water over your teammates head with water. Probably a welcome relief on warm days!
The Skippers Run, where kids and their families get to dash across the field. I liked this when I saw that two policemen participated in the run. Not sure if they had kids, but glad to see the boys in blue getting into the fun!!
Mascot Skipper has one of the best seats in the house!
Views within the stadium were great. Not a bad seat in the house! From the general picnic area to the sunset views, it was a great place to watch a game!
How far to the next team?
Where do I hit the head??
Sunset over the stadium:
During the 7th inning stretch, since it was Military Appreciation Night, they had a video showing members of the armed services overseas leading the singing of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. A very fitting touch!!
Bowling Green players during the 7th inning stretch and God Bless America:
One thing I should mention about the in game experience, and I hope you have read this far. Mid game, a line drive was hit hot into our section, just beyond the third base side. The ball came in HOT, and was just over my head. A few seconds later, we realized a fan took the ball directly into her face. A VERY scary situation!! I tried not to look back, as I heard there was blood involved. My guess is she took it directly into her face, possibly breaking her nose and possible breaking her cheekbone. Play was stopped for approximately 20 minutes. The police and stadium staff were involved, and there was some discussion whether to bring the ambulance onto the field or try to transport the injured spectator up the stairs. Players were called off the field. There was quite a bit of discussion in my section about extending netting in ballparks. I noted that almost all minor league parks have extended the netting to the end of the dugouts, but Classic Field had not done this. In full disclosure, the extended netting would NOT, I repeat, have NOT prevented this. It happened outside of where extended netting would have prevented injury. But let this be a reminder to ALL baseball fans to heed the warnings provided at games about balls and bats flying from the field, and that they can be dangerous!
First responders talking about whether to delay the game or not:
Manager Larry Day of the Captains discussing the situation with Manager Reinaldo Ruiz of the Hot Rods about delaying the game.
My only comments on the whole situation, to be brutally honest, was that there was a lack of emergency responders at the park. The time it took to get this fan out and receive medical care seemed like a long time. The only blemish on a wonderful experience.
The bright side was that the catcher for the Hot Rods found a new fan to play catch with during the delay!
I have to be honest, after the above mentioned incident, I was a bit gun shy in concentrating on photos, especially with left handed hitters. Suffice to say, it was a back and forth game, with the Captains coming out ahead, 9-2. Lots of dingers and a few mishaps on the field, but overall, a fun game to watch!!
In the end, the hometown team won 9-2!
Since I was in Cleveland overnight, I decided to run the Slavic Village Pierogi Dash 5k. Tons of fun and a great way to cap off a fun weekend. Get out and see the Captains play, it’s a great little stadium with awesome fans!!
Breakfast of champions!