Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Road Trip-Eastlake

The 2017 barrage of August road trips began early with a hastily scheduled trip alone to Eastlake,Ohio for another Cleveland Sports Night.

The ballpark to your right is NOT the home of the Lake County Captains and yet it was still special to me for a few reasons that I'll write about later,but for now-you'll have to wait a bit for that!

The Lake County Captains always do a great job with this annual event with one small problem-they wait until the very last moment to announce their guests!
This creates several problems-the first is that both Cherie and I have to gamble on the guests being worth going for and get the days off work.
The second is that you have to hope that you can find items quickly to be signed.
The end result for this year's event meant I drove to Cleveland alone,which had its own style of fun,but I did miss some company,although this is something to be said for lots of time to think on the road.
I needed a Browns helmet badly as I didn't want to use my "two bar" helmet,but it was looking like I may have to use it,but I had a bounce go my way as a trip to Rocky Ridge found a Browns helmet for 7.50 signed by a one year Brown running back-journeyman James Jackson.
Rather than paying 20 or 25 dollars for helmet in Ohio (and the time spent running around trying to find one),I bought this and a few swipes of the Staedtler eraser later,Jackson's signature was gone and the helmet was ready for Eastlake!

I left after Cherie went to work and drove out with just one stop,so I arrived around three o'clock for a gate opening of six.
That's way too much sitting around for my taste,but the more money that I could save the better as I have so many trips coming up and need to get budgets under control.
Fortunately,I caught a break and the Captains learned from past events with the lines for the guests and opened the gates at FIVE for the seven o'clock game against the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers Low A) .
Due to this decision and a tip to go to a side entrance for the Francisco Lindor bobblehead,I was sixth in line and in the stadium far earlier than expected!

CSN featured Len Barker of 1981 perfect game fame from the Indians,former Browns Greg and Mike Pruitt (no relation),Cavalier announcer and center on the Miracle of Richfield team Jim Chones and forward Campy Russell,who I had gotten two years ago and a few others that I didn't need.
You were supposed to be limited to one each,but I was able to get Mike Pruitt on three cards in the parking lot (he parked a car down from me) and when Len Barker saw one of my Kellogg's cards,he seemed to like it.
I asked if he had it and he said no,I told him he could keep it,if he did all of my stuff and he was happy to do so.
Greg Pruitt signed two cards and my helmet and Jim Chones signed both of my cards as I waited in line for Len Barker (Chones table ran right by the line for Barker).
Chones was the chattiest of all as we talked about his time playing for Larry Brown in the old ABA with the Carolina Cougars and his memories of the Capital Centre in Landover,Maryland.

It was quick as the lines moved fast and everything was so well done and I had time to work on the West Michigan Whitecaps or rather the one player that I wanted on their team-former first rounder Derek Hill,who had a 2015 Top 100.
I've written in the past about Lake County's graphing being in the air and space is at a premium.
I didn't try to squeeze in for Hill among the throng,because I didn't want to be "That Guy" from out of town that didn't respect local protocol.
So I went to field level for Hill-He signed two for others and left,so I went to the other side of the field and tried-no dice "Gotta stretch".
Now,I'm getting desperate as I need him plus I wanted to get Kendall Morris' Top 100 and Mike Landucci's baseball for his collection too.
I like to help the people that help me,but I was alone and things weren't looking good.
Hill walked by after his stretch and I asked him to sign two cards,which he did,but when I asked for the ball,"Naw,man got you two".
I asked a kid next to me if he would run to the far side of the dugout and get him on the ball,would he for five bucks?
I don't like doing that,but the ball won't be for sale anyway and I needed to get the ball done for Mike.
It worked out,the kid made five bucks and Mike got his ball for his collection,so all's well that ends well.

After leaving and getting a few hours of sleep,I was up and on the road before 6:30 AM.
Why so early? Had to get home for the annual IFL Draft and I wanted to be back in plenty of time to hang out with the guys.
I tried a twist on what we call the "back way" home from Ohio.
It's about an hour longer,but avoids the PA Turnpike and more importantly keeps 25 dollars in my pocket and not in the state of Pennsylvania's!
The twist was arriving at I-77 at a different point and that allowed this-As I looked over the area,I saw baseball lights,which always triggers something,
I wondered briefly and quickly thought,"I wonder if"...
A two stoplights and a turn or two later,I arrived at Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium in Canton Ohio and the gate to the parking lot was open!

I turned in and saw the stadium gate was open as well and started snapping pictures as I figured someone could tell me to leave at any time.
I took field pictures and stepped out on the field for more and then the groundskeeper asked what I was doing.
I explained and he said all was fine,just asked that I not step on the dirt and then told me what the former home of the Eastern League's Canton-Akron Indians (now the Akron Rubber Ducks) was up to.
The stadium now hosts college league games and the Ohio senior league and the field itself is still in very good shape-I'd rate it better than Hagerstown Municipal's playing surface for sure,even I wouldn't from the fans perspective.

Thurman Munson Stadium (named after the native late Yankee catcher) was built in 1989 for the AA Indians and was a basic structure intended to bide time until a better stadium was finished.
Canton wasn't willing to do so,Akron was and after the completion of Canal Park in 1997,the team moved to the neighboring city.
Honestly,you can understand why the team seems more of a 1940's field than a 1980's and it might not have more amenities than Hagerstown.
I always made time to see Canton-Akron during their run in the EL with Hagerstown and one of my favorite pictures of Ryan as a little boy has him wearing the cap of the Canton-Akron Indians.

For those sentimental reasons,I was thrilled to add this stadium to my list and as a trip bonus.
I had a nice time and after Munson,drove straight through and made it to the Holiday Inn in plenty of time to spare..

Glad I was able to get this trip in at the last minute and had a nice time.
I will be back over the next day or two with the sad news of the passing of Glen Campbell and my trip to Bristol and Salem VA to complete my set of ballparks in the state of Virginia!!!

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