Oh Captains, my Captains
Jonathan here. I spent the day in Eastlake, Ohio on Wednesday and wanted to let everyone know about my experience.
First off, you’re not going to find a better park in the South Atlantic League than the Lake County Captains’ Classic Park (I haven’t been to West Virginia yet, so I suppose I should reserve judgement, but that’s the beauty of blogs, no?). Built in 2003, I hope the players — many of whom are just starting out in pro ball — realize how good they’ve got it by calling that brand-spanking new facility home. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, it can seat over 7,000 (large for the SAL) and they’ve got the usual assortment of entertainment for the kids, etc. It will be the site for the 2006 SAL All-Star Game in June.
One of the things I like is that they don’t overdo it there. The temptation is to load up so much on the between-innings promotions and games/rides that the actual game of baseball or the beauty of the park becomes almost secondary. This is a new park, but there is a retro feel to it. As much I like Dayton’s ballpark, it’s almost too modern for a Midwest League park, what with the outfield fence-video board thing. Classic Park in Eastlake looks new, but there’s an homage to the old-style Sally parks, in my opinion.
They’ve got two mascots for the Captains these days. One is a green, fuzzy dude named "Skipper." He’s a relative of the Indians’ Slider, a nondescript monster that has noting to do with the team logo. Still, they’ll be able to market him to kids and I’m sure eventually, they’ll have a Mrs. Skipper and the wedding will be a huge promotion. This year, they’ve also added a 9-foot inflatable Captain (they have this whole nautical thing going because of the proximity to the South Atlantic….ok, maybe not. But it is less than a mile from Lake Erie).
The level of play is, well, first year pro ball style. Some greatness, some sloppiness. Remember, guys at this level are just learning how to play the game. The Captains don’t have any super prospects, though I will be writing about their second baseman, Matt Fornasiere, who won’t wow anyone with tools, but just goes out and gets the job done.
On the other side, the Lexington Legends were in town. I was a little disappointed that Brian Bogusevic didn’t pitch and even more so that Eli Iorg (Garth’s son) wasn’t in the lineup. But I did get a good look at Koby Clemens, Roger’s kid. Obviously self-assured, he is devoid of any kind of entitlement attitude. He knows he needs to earn his way up the ladder and that it won’t be given to him because of his last name. It was refreshing to see that. As for his play, he looked like a teenager just getting started in a lot of ways, but he looked like a seasoned vet when he went the other way for an RBI single during the Legends’ victory.
All in all, a very productive trip (helped greatly by the Captains’ staff, one of the friendliest and most helpful I’ve seen), and keep an eye out for an "Around the Minors" video show based on the visit on MiLB.com soon.