Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fort Wayne TinCaps 8 at Lake County Captains 1 (7, Midwest League) - August 23, 2017


The Lake County Captains began play in 2003 when the franchise moved from Columbus, Georgia. Based in Eastlake, a suburb of Cleveland, the team spent seven seasons in the South Atlantic League, which was a travel nightmare as the closest team was 256 miles away in Charleston, West Virginia. When another Columbus-based team moved, this time to Bowling Green, Kentucky, minor league baseball reorganized by moving the Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods to the Midwest League. Even then, the team is a bit of a geographic outlier, lying easternmost in the circuit, and over three hours from Dayton, where we saw a game Tuesday. With a noon start, we had to drive two hours after that tilt, and completed the journey on Wednesday morning.



We arrived at Classic Park an hour before the game and turned into the parking lot next to the stadium, only to be surprised by the hefty $8 charge, the most I have seen at this level of minor league ball. There is another lot across the street and you can use the pedestrian bridge to get over the stadium, but it also charges $8.



The naming rights are owned by a local car dealer, which leads to a bit of a misnomer as the ballpark opened in 2003 and is really not classic in the traditional sense of the word.



At the top of the stairs is the Road to the Show exhibit, which is a series of plaques organized by year, with every former Captain that made the majors that season listed. I appreciated this display, as it is more permanent than some of the others I have seen around the minors.



All tickets on game day are $10, with the exception of some high top chairs on the concourse behind home plate, which are $15 and come with beer vouchers. The visiting team was the Fort Wayne TinCaps, and broadcaster John Nolan was kind enough to put us on the pass list, for which we are very grateful. That's the view from our seats above.



As we made our way around the nearly empty concourse, I noticed that each year in the Captains history was commemorated with a banner signifying a major accomplishment that season.



I also happened upon a couple of self-serve beer machines, though they did not seem operational. We couldn't have used them anyway and we signed up for the designated driver program (very rare at this level), which was ideal for us, as we had to drive to Toledo after the game.



I took my customary lap around the ballpark. There is an upper deck that seems to be reserved for suite holders, but I was able to take a quick look and snap a shot from there.



The scoreboard sits atop right field and includes a video board above the linescore. Just next to it are some Adirondack chairs that are tied to a fence. When the park is busy (there were only 1,710 on hand on this day) I guess these would be available for use.



You can see the full stadium structure from out in centerfield.



As you move around the outfield, there is a small rise behind the left field fence.



As you can see, this is a fairly typical layout for a park at this level. The blue seats remind me of the stadium in Ottawa; I have never counted stadiums by seat colour, but blue is probably second behind Kelly green.



Many ballparks promote a walking tour, as a lap is generally about 1/3 of a mile. Here a local health concern marks the tour with Captains trivia along with a health tip. Back in 2009, the team had a nickel beer night on Cleveland Sports History Night. I wish I had known.



The team uses the nautical motif throughout the ballpark, with the ushers wearing captains hats, the team store dubbed the Cargo Hold, a lighthouse in centerfield (not sure if it lights up when the team homers)...



...and a cute way to name the restrooms.



It was a day game, so I was able to take the shadow selfie that has become the rage of the Internet.



Overall, Classic Park is a decent stadium that might need a bit of a refurbishment after 15 seasons. It seemed a little worn in places, with stickers peeling and some areas in need of a paint job. It is still worth a visit, if only to have a chuckle at the Poop Deck, but remember to bring some cash for the parking lot.

The Game



The Captains had been rained out the night before so two 7-inning games were scheduled. The TinCaps (San Diego) sent Reggie Lawson (2nd round in 2016, Padres #27 prospect, above) while Lake County (Cleveland) countered with Micah Miniard (8th, 2014, below).



After a quick first inning, Miniard ran into trouble in the second, giving up three singles, a double, and a triple as Fort Wayne took a 4-0 lead. In the third, Hudson Potts (24th overall in 2016, San Diego's #23 prospect) led off with a homer and after a walk, Jorge Ona (Padres #11 prospect, out of Cuba) followed with a 2-run shot to make it 7-0.



Kyle Overstreet (14th, 2015) added a solo shot in the top of the fourth, while Logan Ice (2nd, 2016, Indians #21 prospect) replied with his own for the Captains, breaking Lawson's shutout in the 5th. But that was all the scoring as Fort Wayne won easily 8-1.



Notes

This was active minor league ballpark #157 out of 160. The end is finally near!

As I was working at the night game in Toledo, we had to leave after the first game, which Fort Wayne won 5-3.

Best,

Sean

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