Batter Up! It’s Baseball Season
When it comes to baseball, Ohio is blessed. The Buckeye State boasts bats that swing in Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A leagues, not to mention the big boys in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Single game tickets range anywhere from the Reds’ $230 home plate-hugging box seats all the way down to $1 general admission tickets to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Grab your ball cap, mitt and rain gear (it is springtime in the Midwest, after all) and head to any one of the beautiful ball parks that make Ohio a field of dreams for baseball fans.
Consistently ranked among the very best Major League parks, Progressive Field is, of course, home to the Cleveland Indians. Opened in 1994 as Jacob’s Field, the downtown gem feels significantly more intimate than a 40,000-seat stadium. The fan-friendly park features comfy seats, roomy legroom and chairs that are pitched toward home plate for killer views. The team plays 80 home games here between April and September. Fans hoping to snag a Grady Sizemore or Travis Hafner autograph should head to Sections 125-134 and 169-175 about 45 minutes before first pitch. Tickets can be purchased at the Progressive Field box office, though Ticketmaster, or from scalpers who prowl the streets before every game.
Suggested side trip: Get your kicks with the Burning River Roller Girls, Cleveland’s very own roller derby dames. Bouts are held through July. Check website for location, times and ticket info.
In the opposite corner of the state is the charming Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds. For over 30 years, Reds fans suffered the less-than-hospitable Riverfront Stadium, which was shared by the city’s NFL team, the Bengals. In contrast to its cavernous predecessor, GABP is a snug baseball-only park that accommodates just over 40,000 folks. As a nod to the riverboats that made their way up and down the nearby Ohio River, the park features two massive smoke stacks that, occasionally, spew fireworks. Brandon Phillips fans eager for an autograph should head to Sections 111-113 and 133-135 before the end of batting practice. Tickets can be purchased at the park’s box office or though Ticketmaster.
Suggested side trip: The Cincinnati Red Stockings claim the title of Pro Baseball’s inaugural team. Fans of the team — and sport — can relish the largest collection of Reds memorabilia at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.
AAA (Triple-A) League
There is newfound enthusiasm for Minor League Baseball sweeping across the land, and nowhere is that more evident than in Columbus. While other cities pour millions (even billions) into pro stadiums, Ohio’s capital just christened a brand new home for the Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. This sparkling urban field was deemed “Pro Ballpark of the Year” by BaseballParks.com its first year out (besting new Yankee Stadium in the process). Tucked into the booming Arena District, this 10,000-seat stadium leads the Minors in average game attendance. The Clippers play 72 regular season home games here between April and September. Ticket prices range from $6 to $15 and can be purchased at the Clippers box office or through Ticketmaster.
Suggested side trip: When it was built in 1999, Columbus Crew Stadium was the country’s first major league soccer stadium. The regular season runs all the way to October.
Folks outside Northeast Ohio likely know of the Toledo Mud Hens solely thanks to Jamie Farr’s character on M.A.S.H. A native of Toledo both in truth and fiction, Farr routinely spoke fondly of his hometown Hens. Like the Clippers, the Mud Hens play in a righteous new park, this one built in time for the 2002 season. Fifth Third Field is a cozy 9,000-seat stadium in the heart of downtown Toledo. Soon after it opened, Newsweek named it the “Best Ballpark in Minor League Baseball.” The Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, the Hens play 72 regular season home games here between April and September. Ticket prices range from $9 to $15 and can be purchased at the Mud Hens box office or through Ticket Return.
Suggested side trip: You might as well do the “Full Klinger” and hit up Packo’s at the Park, home to Jamie Farr’s beloved Hungarian hot dogs.
AA (Double-A) League
While technically a notch down in the pro baseball hierarchy, Double-A baseball still sees its share of players destined for the Bigs. Ohio’s best (and only) AA League team is the Akron Aeros, a Cleveland Indians affiliate that plays at picturesque Canal Park. Designed by the same firm behind Progressive Field and Camden Yards, Canal Park is a sharp 9,000-seat urban ballpark boasting one of the largest free-standing scoreboards in minor leagues. Families in search of a fun and affordable night out would be hard pressed to beat an Aeros game. Tickets are cheap (as low as $1 on some nights), giveaways are frequent, and most Friday night games feature a post-game fireworks display. Get your tickets at the Aeros box office or through Ticket Return.
Suggested side trip: Considering that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is just 20 minutes south of Canal Park, true sports fans are pretty much powerless to resist.
Year in and year out, the Dayton Dragons attract some of the largest crowds in all of minor league baseball, selling out every game since the 2000 opening season. The team, affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds, plays at roomy Fifth Third Field, an 8,200-seat ballpark that is on par with many Triple-A stadiums. While not an easy score, tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster.
Suggested side trip: Eat like a local at Golden Nugget Pancake House (2932 S. Dixie Dr., 937.298.0138), home to one of the best breakfasts in Greater Dayton.
Den of the Lake County Captains, affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, Classic Park was completed in 2003 at a cost of $20 million. Though the stadium officially seats about 7,000, a grassy area beyond the outfield wall boosts that figure above 10,000. Because the ballpark is closer to Cleveland than its AAA and AA affiliates to the south, it isn’t uncommon to see big leaguers completing their rehab stints here. Tickets can be purchased at the Captains box office or online through its website.
Suggested side trip: Enjoy a scenic stroll at Chagrin River Park, a lush 200-acre reserve along the Chagrin River.
Short-Season A League
The aptly named Short Season A Leaguers play a schedule that is roughly half as long as their minor league colleagues. That means that the Mahoning Valley Scrappers play just 38 home games at Eastwood Field, a compact 6,000-seat ballpark. The youngest and greenest players in minor league, Short Season As are fresh out of college and looking to make their mark. Tickets can be purchased at the stadium or online through the team’s website.
Suggested side trip: History buffs should hit National McKinley Birthplace Memorial, a museum and library devoted to all things President William McKinley.
While still deemed professional baseball, Independent leagues operate outside of Minor League Baseball and are not affiliated with a Major League team. As a member of the Frontier League, the Lake Erie Crushers play 48 home games a year. Their lair is All Pro Freight Stadium, one of the newest pro baseball diamonds in the country. This 5,000-seat park must be lucky because the Crushers claimed the Frontier League Championship in their very first year of existence.
Suggested side trip: Beef eaters will want to make the short trip to Strip, a contemporary steakhouse set inside a 160-year-old Dutch barn, which was moved to its current site.