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Huntington Park......Incredible

April 18, 2009
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I was at the opening of Huntington Park today and the official beginning of Cleveland Indians baseball at the Triple-A level in their home state's capital.

Wow, what a day. What a ballpark. The only downer on this day was the final score with Columbus on the losing end 3-1. But the real winners today were the Indians, the city, and especially the fans. Not only has the Indians affiliation re-energized the fanbase, but this ballpark is absolutely breathtaking.

The ballpark is very intimate where it only holds 11-12,000 people max, which is small for a Triple-A stadium, but you would never think so when you are there. There is no second deck other than the club and press level, which is an amazing area unto itself, but the way the lower level stands sprawl from foul pole to foul pole makes every seat in the house a great seat (and very affordable).

The highlight of the place, to me, is the design of the park. It has a Camden Yards feel with the buildings in the background and old style, but the two big things to me is the left field and right field areas. In left field you have a large bleacher area, and right behind it you have a large three story building that has the team shop on the first floor, the team Hall of Fame and Museum on the second floor, and the third floor is an open rooftop with seats and risers for people to sit. It looks very much like Wrigley Field with the stands on top of the buildings where people can view the game from the second story balconies outside of the museum or on the rooftop. Sweet!

The other cool attraction takes some of what reminds me of McCovey Cove in San Francisco's ballpark where the right field wall has large square see through sections where fans on the sidewalk on the other side of the wall (Nationwide Blvd runs parallel to the right field wall) can see all the game action. The wall is about 20 feet high, maybe higher, about the same as left field at Progressive Field. The cool thing though is a two deck viewing porch above the wall!

I can't do the new park justice writing about it. I will have pictures and video of the place which I will post when I get home late on Sunday (forgot my cords to upload the pics and video). So, hopefully sometime Monday or Tuesday I will have some video and good pictures to share to bring the Huntington Park experience home to the fans.

If you have any chance to get there this year, you have to go. You won't be disappointed....and you'll remember why baseball is such a treasure and why the experience of watching games at the ballpark can be so special.

Some random notes about the game itself today:

- Lots of people with the Indians were in attendance today. Farm Director Ross Atkins and Special Assistant Tim Belcher were in attendance, but with their families and looked more "off the clock" just soaking the whole place in.

- Paul Dolan was up in the club area directly behind homeplate taking part in a special VIP party before the game. One of the unique features of the ballpark is the upper area where the press box would normally be is completely open with a huge bar and food area up there. Amazing. TV booths are off to the first base side, and the print media is off the third base side. Another interesting feature is the radio booth is RIGHT IN THE BAR AREA and in the open air. Really cool.

- The Clippers pulled out all the stops for the pre-game festivities with Super Joe Charboneau, Lenny Barker, and Bob Feller in attendance, and even John Adams and his drum was in the left field bleachers.

- As for the game, Jeremy Sowers got hit around in the first and somehow caught a screaming liner that was hit right back at him to end the 1st inning. I have no idea how he caught it and how he avoided getting seriously hurt on that play. In any case, he settled down from there and was awesome his final five innings of work only surrendering three hits and no runs in those innings and striking out eight. He also had a few pitches hit 93 MPH on the gun.

- Joel Zumaya of the Tigers was pitching for Toledo, and according to the radar gun at the stadium he hit 101 MPH three different times. I thought maybe the gun was juiced, but Ryan Edell the next inning was right at his normal velocity, so who knows. Anyway, wow was that fastball amazing, and the players even commented about it after the game.

- Valbuena was at shortstop today. Looked good over there. I tell you, this guy is a player. Nice trade by Shapiro last December to pick this guy up who should be a fixture in the Indians infield soon and for many years to come.

- When I got to the park earlier in the day, Chris Gimenez took me on a personal tour of the clubhouse. These guys are living like kings now. Wow. They have a big kitchen area separate from their locker area, but the cool thing for them is the presence of a ping pong table, foosball table, and shuffleboard table (the thing you slide the pucks across the long wood alley with sand on it ). They even have a big TV suped up with every game for any game system. The weight room is state of the art, the two interior batting cages have all the latest equipment, and even the pitcher's mound on the field has a Batter's Eye machine that comes up out of the ground!

- Speaking of Gimenez, I got to talk to him for about 45 minutes or so and will have a piece on him soon. I told him before the game the hot hitting Aubrey was taking all his hits since he was often behind him in the batting order. Well, Aubrey sits today and Gimenez gets three hits. Hmmmm.

- I also talked to Jordan Brown and will have a feature on him soon. I will talk to David Huff on Sunday for a feature and a few other players for at least some nuggets for Minor Happenings this week. So I will be busy when I get home from this visit, but well worth it.

By the way, way to go Tribe. 22-4? Isn

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