This blog is no longer regularly updated (although it all remains intact, so please browse around as you wish), but midwest ballpark coverage continues as always on KCRG.com.
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Prior to 2010 the Captains played in the South Atlantic League and considering Classic Park is about two miles from Lake Erie, it’s good that this instance of “Ballpark Geography Inaccuracy” has been resolved. Now if we can just figure out a better league name for the AAA teams in Memphis, Nashville, Des Moines, Omaha and Round Rock. “Pacific Coast” they most certainly are not.
Classic Park opened when the franchise moved from Columbus, Georgia, to Eastlake in 2003 and seats more than 7,000 fans. Interestingly enough, the other new Midwest League team, Bowling Green, also relocated to its present city from Columbus, Georgia (in 2009).
Although it is a suburban ballpark surrounded by the usual parking lots, it’s not “new” suburbia, which is what one might expect. The area it is in is older than the ballpark itself.
Speaking of those parking lots, one thing that isn’t found at other Midwest League ballparks is a pedestrian bridge to get fans from surrounding parking lots, over a busy highway, and into the ballpark safely. There’s also a bus stop built into the ballpark and the Lake County Tourism Office. The name, Classic Park, comes from the naming rights deal with a local group of car dealers, Classic Automotive Group.
Inside the ballpark the lighthouse in Center Field stands out…like a lighthouse is supposed to! Captain Tony greets fans to the park, and then stations himself on guard to sound sirens and light the lamp for Captains home runs.
The Captains are an Indians affiliate, as evidenced by the t-shirts available in the gift shop, the Cargo Hold, of course. While some teams in the Midwest League are many miles from their parent club (Cedar Rapids is 1,800 miles from Anaheim), the Captains play just 18 miles from where they hope to play in a few years, Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland.
On the night I visited Classic Park, the fans were busy worrying about a Cleveland superstar in a different sport, LeBron James. July 1, 2010, was the opening of NBA Free Agency and the Captains got into the pitch to keep LeBron with the Cavaliers.
“Please Stay LeBron Night” included the Captains renaming themselves the LeLake LeCounty LeCaptains, taking the field under a cloud of baby powder (like LeBron does), a slam dunk contest on a Nerf hoop, full page ads from a local newspaper being displayed to state their plea, the team employees wearing James-esque headbands, and many more unique efforts. In the end, it didn’t work and LeBron left for Miami, but it did make for a fantastic promotion that the crowd really got involved with.
Classic Park is a pleasant place to watch a baseball game in a major metropolitan area. It offers fans the chance to watch future players for their favorite big league team a few years before they arrive in “The Show.”
— Matt Nelson
Many cities have “Lost (Major League) Ballpark” sites. Believe it or not Keokuk, Iowa, is one of those places. In 1875 the highest level of professional baseball was played there by the Keokuk Westerns of the National Association.
Most cities don’t have a list of Lost Ballpark sites as long as Cleveland, Ohio though. “Green Cathedrals” by Philip J. Lowry lists more than ten in Cleveland and the surrounding area.
Even though most of League Park IV was demolished in 1951 parts of it still stand! The ticket booth at the corner of East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue is in very rough shape today, but is a great piece of ballpark history.
Also still standing is part of the exterior brick wall on the first base side which runs right along East 66th Street.
In both right field and left field are foul poles that mark the spots where those were located.
Best of all, there is a non-profit effort now by the League Park Society to restore the parts of Cleveland’s League Park that do still exist, while improving the entire block and giving the area a place to hold baseball games at the site where many Major League games were played through the years. You can check out their efforts here.
KCRG-TV9’s Ballparks of the Midwest is set to start airing on KCRG-TV9 Wednesday, June 30. Season 2 starts with a visit to Community Field, home of the Burlington Bees.
I’ve been on the road recently visiting Bowling Green Ballpark of the Midwest League, and making the trip even longer by traveling down to Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham is where Rickwood Field, “America’s Oldest Baseball Park” is located. It opened in 1910! I’ll have a full report on Rickwood Field later this summer as well, it is a very unique place!
Later this month and then in July I’ll be on the road to Beloit, Lake County, and Dayton. In August I’ll shoot the 8th ballpark of the year, and the 16th and final ballpark of the project in Kane County, Illinois.