When the City of Akron announced it would be building Canal Park to attract the Canton-Akron Indians for the 1997 season there were assurances that the architecture would accommodate expansion should an AAA team become available. The collective egos of city residents are like that – always seeking something that seems bigger.
I have never regretted that the RubberDucks, nee Aeros, never made the step up in class.
Many years the Indians have more collective young talent in Akron than down the road in Columbus. I say young because much of the talent at the AAA level is older and on the way down, not up. The Clippers had 15 players age 30 or more last season. Yes, they are names fans might remember. Who can forget Russell Branyan or Kyle Davies (you are not required to answer that!)
That is not to say a trip to Huntington Park is anything but a joy or that AAA baseball is somehow deficient. It would be fun to watch the Clippers and Ducks battle it out to see who is left floating.
The charm of minor-league baseball is that each level has its distinct attractions. At AA you see a team’s brightest young stars who are enervated by having made perhaps the biggest jump in class next to heading to the Big Show. Remember, each team has as many as six rookie or A-level teams. There is only one AA team and it is the first step from which players have a realistic chance to get the call from Cleveland on a moment’s notice.
Asdrubal Cabrera had just over 200 at bats in Columbus before being called to Progressive Field. Danny Salazar only made 13 starts for the Clippers; Kyle Crockett 8 innings pitched and Cody Allen 31 IP. So if you want to catch a rising star, you probably should visit Akron.
The stadium atmosphere is different at AA. Call it corny if you like, but the RubberDucks’ promotions cast an entirely different mood. If going to a major-league park is a bit like going to a disco, an AA park is more like going to Chuck E. Cheese. You can get something of a respite from the noise by sitting behind the plate or down the foul lines to avoid the kids and the loudest speakers. The Ducks also have an outdoor bar and special seating in right field.
If you want to see the between-inning skits, sit behind one of the dugouts. If you want to participate in the skits go to the customer service window in the concourse behind home plate and sign up. Your chance to perform the spinning bat competition might be just weeks away!
Canal Park has a new scoreboard and it’s a bit easier to get game information than in the past, but you still might find it helpful to listen to the radio broadcast. Otherwise it is easy to miss the name of the current pitcher etc. Also, the MiLB phone app keeps fairly up-to-date box scores. It’s also smart to look at the rosters online before leaving home to get familiar with prospects on the opposing team. You might even see and major-leaguer rehabilitating.
No matter whether you want to concentrate on the players, the game or just the atmosphere, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes just taking in the total scene at the ballpark. You probably will find it more relaxed and light-hearted than you are used to.
I also enjoy introducing myself to the fans sitting nearby. Good conversation makes the game even better.