August 3rd 2019: Akron, OH
The last road trip of the year was hastily prepared for the 1st week of August. Our target was Ohio and western Pennsylvania, adding two new Eastern League stadiums to our collection, as well as a return to a Cleveland for the first time in almost 20 years.
Departing central NJ early on the morning of August 3rd, we covered the distance to Akron Ohio in about 6 hours. Fortunately, the weather was good, and the traffic fairly light. The only stops along the way were for lunch in central Pennsylvania (a quick stop at a chain restaurant, rather than a local diner) and a fill up of the tank.
After a quick stop at the hotel, we headed out for the park. Arriving later than desired left little time to catch the first pitch. The home of the Akron RubberDucks is Canal Park, a ballpark nestled in downtown Akron. Parking is scattered around the park, and the task of finding suitable parking has hampered by extensive construction around the stadium. Arriving later than expected, we barely had time to find our seats before the National Anthem and the first pitch.
The stadium was packed for a Saturday night game, which featured the RubberDucks taking on the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (the AA affiliate of the New York Mets, our favorite MLB team). Typically, we conduct a quick tour of new ballparks before the game, soaking in the feel of the place, as well as take pictures. Since we arrived later than usual, we had no time to take in the ambience of the park. However, a quick look around the place showed that it was a beautiful ballpark, complete with a nice scoreboard and an urban vista over the right field wall. Being Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, the RubberDucks wore uniforms reminiscent of the ones worn by the Cleveland Browns.
As for the game itself, the Rumble Ponies offense mustered only four hits, as the Akron RubberDucks beat the Rumble Ponies 3-0. Though we were rushed on our first encounter at Canal Park, we would get another chance to explore tomorrow afternoon.
August 4th 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame
With the RubberDucks game scheduled at 205 pm, we decided to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton. We’d visited the Hall once before, in September 2009, on our way out to Detroit. The Hall of Fame Game had been played the night before, so we expected the Hall to be relatively quiet. However, the protocols for Hall of a Fame weekend were still in place, meaning we had to take a shuttle bus to the Hall from a nearby racecourse.
While wandering the Hall, I noticed two buses pulling up to the front of the Hall, and a few dozen men poured out of the buses. It was clear they were football players. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that it was the world champion New England Patriots. Not being a Patriots fan, I gave the team little notice, until sections of exhibits were closed to accommodate the players. Apparently, they were partaking in a tour of the facility, something unbeknownst to us (and based on the reactions of the other patrons, almost everyone else). Closing of exhibits with very little notice interfered with the visit, causing consternation among those in attendance.
Overall, this visit was not as satisfying as the 2009 visit. Aside from the inconveniences, the displays were not as impressive, and there were seemingly fewer of them than a decade ago. However, this is must see for any avid football fan.
August 4th 2019 Canal Park
Following lunch, we traveled to Canal Park for the RubberDucks 205 pm game versus the Rumble Ponies. The warm afternoon was perfect for baseball. While parking was once again difficult, we arrived well ahead of game time. This allowed us to explore the area around the park. The construction that hampered our parking efforts appeared to be part of a revitalization project.
Once inside the park on this warm and sunny day, we explored from foul pole to foul pole. Like many urban ballparks, Canal Park took advantage of its surroundings to enhance the experience. The result was a beautiful ballpark, more like a park we might see in a AAA town. The layout was somewhat like that of BB&T Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, dominated by cityscape in right field (though the vista is more impressive there).
Before the start of the game, we visited the team store. It contained the standard fare for minor league ballparks, at reasonable prices. Interestingly, a team photo was slipped into my shopping bag along with my purchases. It was a nice gesture, but it seemed odd to be given something, especially without asking first. Still, it WAS a nice picture, and I hung onto it, though I’m not sure why.
A visit to the concession stand was next. Visiting the stand on the first base side of the park (just above the section of our seats), I purchased hot dogs. Most ballparks serve fried hot dogs, and Canal Park was no exception. However, these dogs were particularly greasy, leaving me with an upset stomach. In fact, after this gastronomic experience, I have not had a single hot dog since.
As we have discovered to be typical, the crowd for the Sunday matinee was light, much less than for the Saturday night game. Our seats were better for this game, near first base. The seats were sun drenched, but fortunately it was not oppressively hot, as it can be in early August. Much like the night before, the anemic Rumble Ponies offense was shut out, this time on four hits. Losing two games like this is bad enough, but the more distressing thought (for Mets fans, anyway) is that there is but one blue chip prospect (SS Andres Gimenez, who had the day off) on the roster. This bodes poorly for the Mets’ future, with major league ready help still years away.
Following the game, we made the short trip to Cleveland for the next part of the road trip, staying in a hotel in Independence.