On The Home Front
Matt and Carolyn LaWell are nearly a month into a summer-long baseball odyssey that won't land them back in Northeast Ohio till late July. And when they get here, they'll be ... catching a few baseball games before gassing up the Element and heading east to continue their odyssey.
Not interested in losing a chunk of your life to minor-league baseball? Take in a game at one of Northeast Ohio's three gorgeous parks, and you just might start to think otherwise. Following is a rundown of the region's three teams, including their 2012 promotional highlights — the stick by which all minor-league clubs are measured.
Born in 1980 as the Lynn Sailors, a AA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, the organization bounced from Massachusetts to Vermont before landing in Ohio. In 1989, the team became the Aeros and was scooped up by the Tribe.
A five-time division winner and three-time Eastern League champion since 2000, the Aeros are more than a breeding ground for the Indians of tomorrow — they're a perennial contender in their own right. Everyone from Manny Ramirez to Jason Kipnis to Grady Sizemore to Victor Martinez got their start down I-77.
Where they play: Completed in 1997, beautiful Canal Park in downtown Akron was designed by the same group that built Jacobs Field and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, two of Major League Baseball's most revered parks. Canal Park helped kick-start an urban renaissance that continues today.
Notable eats: The "Three Dog Night," which is a hot dog in a bratwurst in a kielbasa; and the "Nice to Meat You," a burger stuffed with a hot dog and bacon.
Notable promotions: Dollar dogs on Mondays. Dollar beers and sodas on Thursdays. Plenty of firework nights. Plus ...
Orange Cone Night: A celebration of summer, which 'round these parts mostly means detours and orange vests.
Dog Days of Summer: Bring your pup to the park. Also, bring a plastic bag.
Don Plusquellic Bobblehead Day: Take home your own mini version of Akron's longtime mayor, which you can smack around with no consequences.
Cheapest ticket: $9 advance
Learn more: akronaeros.com
LAKE COUNTY CAPTAINS
This A-level team has been a farm squad for the Indians since 1993, but it landed in Eastlake only in 2003, after years of toiling in Columbus. The talent is raw, and the Captains haven't been burning up the win column, but baseball is baseball, and these kids are hungry. A few names you might know have played for the Captains (nee: Redstixx), including Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Josh Tomlin, and Russell Branyan.
Where they play: Palatial Classic Park was built in 2003, a controversial move at the time that plunged the City of Eastlake $1 million into debt and led to reduction in staffing and police services. But hey, the sightlines are fabulous and nobody's been killed there yet.
Notable promotions: Thirsty Thursdays feature 25-cent drafts one hour prior to game time, plus an all-you-can-cram buffet of pizza and wings for 10 bucks. Mondays are Buck Night, which means soda, beer, and hot dogs will cost you only one shiny dollar.
2 for $30 Date Night Thursdays: includes a pair of suite tickets, plus food, drinks, and dessert for $30.
Feed Your Face Wednesdays: For 10 bucks extra, you get a wristband that entitles you to plow through as many burgers, dogs, popcorn, fries, chips, and soda as your body will allow.
Eating Olympics: Watch a group of brave souls tackle the gamut of ballpark food in a marathon eating competition.
African-American, Irish, Hungarian, Slovenian, and more Heritage Nights: Thankfully not all at the same time.
Plus, July 27 is Pink Bunny Skipper Bobble
Giveaway Day, whatever the hell that is.
Cheapest ticket: $9 advance
Learn more: milb.com
LAKE ERIE CRUSHERS
With no affiliation to a Major League ballclub, this Avon-based team has been knocking the horsehide for only three years — but it's already won the Frontier League championship once and was named organization of the year in 2011.
Where they play: If you're going to slap a corporate sponsor on the side of your pretty new stadium — and these days, everybody does — you earn points for going with a hometown trucking and warehousing company. Built for the club's 2009 debut, All Pro Freight Stadium is arguably the finest venue to take in a sporting event in all of Northeast Ohio.
Notable promotions: Extracurricular fun ranges from "Six Months to the Apocalypse Night" on June 13, to "Salute to Ears" day on June 28, to "Sausage Fest" on August 23. Here's hoping it involves actual sausage.
Cheapest ticket: $6 (lawn)
Learn more: lakeeriecrushers.com