Minor League Baseball in Ohio
By Vince Guerrieri

Minor League Baseball in Ohio

The state of Ohio is home to two Major League Baseball teams – the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds.

But it’s also home to a host of minor league teams, including two Triple-A teams: The world-famous Toledo Mud Hens and the Columbus Clippers. Triple-A baseball is the highest level of minor league baseball, so it’s common to see players on their way up, and major leaguers on injury rehabilitation, at a fraction of the cost of a major league game. The average cost for a family of four to go to a major league game is nearly $200. For Triple-A games, the cost is about $70.

The Mud Hens and Clippers play in the International League, and both have newer, beautiful stadiums.

Professional baseball has been played in Toledo almost continuously since the 19th century. The Mud Hens returned to Toledo after a 10-year absence in 1965, and for most of their existence since, they’ve been a Detroit Tigers farm team. Through 2001, they played in Ned Skeldon Stadium, a reconditioned racetrack in Maumee that served its purpose but was, let’s say, limited in its appeal. In 2002, the Hens moved into Fifth Third Field, a new downtown ballpark. ESPN and Newsweek have both rated it as one of the best experiences for a minor-league game. I’ve been to both venues, and I can’t argue with that. Fifth Third Field is positively beautiful, and the amenities around it almost ensure a good time.

Other nearby attractions include Imagination Station (www.imaginationstationtoledo.org), a hands-on science museum. There is no shortage of restaurants within walking distance of the ballpark. My wife and I are partial to Pizza Papali’s (https://pizzapapalis.com/) for its Chicago-style pizza, but there’s also a Fricker’s nearby (www.frickers.com; I’m enamored of their medium sauce) and Tony Packo’s at the Park (www.tonypacko.com). Packo’s is a Hungarian hot-dog restaurant, spoken fondly of by Max Klinger on M*A*S*H* (Jamie Farr, like the character he played, is a Toledo native, and was known to wear Mud Hens shirts on the show). The original is a short drive from the ballpark on Front Street.

The Columbus Clippers became the Indians’ Triple-A team beginning with the 2009 season, the same year they moved into Huntington Park, a new ballpark across the street from Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Prior to that, the Clippers were a farm team for the Washington Nationals, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. Previously, minor league baseball in Columbus was played at Cooper Stadium, a facility that dated back to the 1930s. Like Ned Skeldon, it served its purpose, but is no match for Huntington Park, which was named Ballpark of the Year by baseballparks.com in 2009. It’s also the host for the Ohio High School Athletic Association state championships, and has hosted the Big Ten baseball tournament, a duty it will perform again this year.

After we visited Huntington Park, we ate souped-up hot dogs at Dirty Frank’s (https://dirtyfrankscolumbus.com/), a short drive from the ballpark. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to ballpark food, and I believe no truer words were spoken than when Humphrey Bogart said, “A hot dog at the ballpark tastes better than steak at the Ritz.”

 

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About the Author

Vincent Guerrieri has been a writer for all of his professional life. He graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio with a bachelor's degree. His works include writing for newspapers in major cities, online news sources, regional publications, public relations/speech writing, and as a contributor to the Ohio. Find It Here. travel blog.