After a seven-month hiatus, I am pleased to announce the return of the”Why I Love” series of blog posts. The premise is simple: Each post is written by a Minor League Baseball fan, in which they explain just what it is that they love about their favorite team and why. Today’s guest writer is Sarah Lukowski, an Ohio State University graduate student. The Buckeyes won the College Football National Championship last night and today is a day of celebration at OSU and throughout the state of Ohio. But, soon enough, it will be time for sports fans in the area and nationwide to turn their attention to baseball. In this post, Lukowski makes the case for her beloved Columbus Clippers.
Why I Love the Columbus Clippers, by Sarah Lukowski
It’s a beautiful evening, one of those summer evenings that seem to last forever. And if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Columbus, Ohio, on such an evening, there’s no better way than to spend it than at Huntington Park. Or, really, any other kind of evening…or afternoon, or morning. You get the point. That’s almost certainly where you’ll find me if the Clippers are in town.
Huntington Park, a gorgeous stadium, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. What’s not to love about a beautiful diamond? If you sit on the outfield grass on those long summer evenings, you’ll inevitably see a beautiful orange-purple sky as the sun sets behind the first base side of the ballpark. Nights like these are absolute perfection, reminding each and every person in the crowd why they fell in love with the game of baseball. Children roll down the slight incline of the lawn and hope that a home run heads their way.
Or, if you are like me and want to get closer to the action, you can situate yourself a few yards away home plate. It’s a cliche, but there truly isn’t a bad seat.
I have always loved watching sports because of the people and the Columbus Clippers game experience is no different. The staff is always friendly, the fans in the crowd are the type of people you want to hang out with and the guys on the field are the type of players it is easy to cheer for.
And, while you never want guys to get hurt or get sent back down from the Cleveland Indians, it is a part of the game. In recent years I have seen both Michael Bourn…
When you think “Minor League Baseball season ticket holder” I am probably not who you would imagine. I am a 24-year-old grad student who, while growing up in rural Michigan, fell in love with the game of baseball by cheering on the Battle Cats/Battle Creek Yankees/Battle Creek Rays/Southwest Michigan Rays (the name and affiliation changed frequently). In Columbus, from time to time, curious passersby will ask with some incredulity, “So Sarah, you come here every game?!” To which I always reply with a smile, “Yes, I just really like watching baseball.” This is true, but the full truth would be that the Clippers organization creates an atmosphere that I have loved from the time I arrived in Columbus.
When I moved to Columbus I knew that I wanted to be a season ticket holder and am grateful that the long-time season ticket holders — shout out to first few rows of Section 9! — have welcomed me with open arms. They tell me stories of the Clippers’ past as a Yankees affiliate, and we chat about Cleveland Indians players past, present and future. Such closeness has allowed generations to grow side-by-side over their mutual love of America’s pastime, a closeness that is truly at the heart of Minor League Baseball.
One person in particular that makes the Columbus Clippers unique is team historian Joe Santry. I can always count on Joe to tell me an amazing story of Columbus’ baseball past whenever I ask. Joe is one of the true gems of Minor League Baseball and if you haven’t met him yet, I highly recommend making a point to find him at the game. He can be hard to track down, as he is typically documenting the various events that make each game special, but if you do run into him, just ask him for a story. He never disappoints.
Beyond the people, if great eats are your thing, the Clippers do not skimp on the budget-friendly ballpark meals. I buy hot dogs for 10 cents on Mondays, dollar rib bones on Tuesdays, wings for 50 cents on Wednesday, and celebrate the beginning of the weekend each Friday with music, delicious pulled pork sandwiches, and discounted drinks. I could easily gain 10 pounds each summer feasting on all these ballpark treats. And, as if you needed an added bonus, visiting the various parts of the ballpark where they are sold give you all-new vantage points from which to take in the game.
Finally, I would be remiss to not mention the entertainment. You can always count on 2013 MiLB Mascot Mania champion Lou Seal to make his way through the crowd. Children shyly approach to give him a high five while their parents look on, camera in hand. The in-game entertainment brings the always crowd-pleasing hot dog race, among tons of other antics and promotions that often define the MiLB experience.
There is something new happening all the time. But my favorite, from childhood and until now, will always be the Zooperstars! Admittedly, the Zooperstars! are not special to the Clippers organization; they travel to various ballparks throughout the summer. The games are already worth it, but they make it even better. Look them up and if they are at a park near you, YOU MUST GO! Seriously, missing a Zooperstars! game is criminal.
If you’re a resident of the Columbus area and haven’t gotten to a game, I’m not sure what you could be waiting for — get yourself to the game! If you’re from out of town, it is well worth the trip. To the Clippers organization: Thank you for making each game memorable. I can’t wait to see what the next several years have in store.
Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to write this and, again: if YOU would like to submit a post for this series, then send an email to the address below. In the meantime, here’s my “On the Road” post detailing my Columbus Clippers experience during the 2014 season.
On Friday, July 18, I visited a Double-A team (the Akron Aeros). On Saturday, July 19, I visited a Class A team (the West Virginia Power). On Sunday, July 20, I visited a Triple-A team. That team was the Columbus Clippers, an International League entity affiliated with the Cleveland Indians.
Welcome to Columbus.
That’s not a particularly good photo, but it’s the first one I took upon beginning my walk to the ballpark after checking in to a downtown hotel. Getting in to Columbus proper was a struggle, as half of the city’s roads seemed to be closed. I felt like I was driving in increasingly smaller circles, yet never actually able to make it to my destination. (A metaphor for the futility of human existence? It just might be.)
Some of the roads were closed due to construction, but others had been cordoned off in order to accommodate that day’s Jazz and Rib Fest. The fest was taking place on an the expanse of greenery located beyond this archway.
Transportation issues aside, there is a lot going on in downtown Columbus and I got the sense that it would be a good place to spend some time. The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets play nearby, and there is a concentrated conglomeration of concert venues as well. In fact, as I was arriving at the stadium, people were lining up nearby for that evening’s Neutral Milk Hotel show at the Lifestyles Community Pavilion. That is a weird name for a band, and an even weirder name for a venue.
One does not need to travel In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in order to reach Huntington Park, and one does not need to be Jeff Mangum, PI, in order to find it. It’s right here, in the heart of downtown.
A view from the outside, as I made my way around the perimeter of the facility. The guys on the field were fantasy camp participants.
I was met at the gate by Josh Samuels, the Clippers director of web communications, and he and I were joined by director of media relations Joe Santry. It was time for a tour.
There is plenty of room to move at Huntington Park, especially in the outfield portion of the concourse.
There is so much room, that even this gargantuan sculpture doesn’t get in the way.
This is the Victory Bell from the Clippers’ old home of Cooper Stadium, a facility that hosted more Minor League games than any other facility, ever. The bell was originally used by the Columbus fire department, during a time when fire wagons were still pulled by horses. “The horses were exercised daily outside of the fire station,” reads the plaque. “When a fire broke out, the bell was rung from the fire house tower to alert everyone to return with the horses to the fire station.” The bell was eventually donated to the Columbus Jets, who stationed it near the press box and rang it after each victory.
The above tidbit is indicative of the Clippers’ commitment to preserving their history. Santry also serves as the team historian, and as a result of his tireless efforts Huntington Park is laden with interesting photos and exhibits related to the long history of baseball in Columbus. I wrote a story about this on MiLB.com, and I would exhort — yes, exhort — you to read it.
Excuse the glare, but here is a picture of an upstairs display dedicated to Derek Jeter’s stint with the Clippers (he played there at the end of 1994 and the bulk of 1995).
The display includes a looping video of Jeter’s first hit with Columbus, which occurred some two decades ago.
In the display case, one can also find a glove once worn by “Cotton Top” Terry Turner, the Indians’ all-time games-played leader and Nap Lajoie’s double play partner. Per his SABR bio:
“The quintessential utility player, the 5’8″, 149-pound Turner was, in the words of sportswriter Gordon Cobbledick, ‘a little rabbit of a man with the guts of a commando.'”
In this photo, his glove his being worn by an increasingly fat muskrat of a man with the guts of an insurance adjuster.
“Rooster’s Roof,” featuring bleacher seating modeled after Wrigley Field, is a very cool spot to watch the game. Rooster’s is a local wing establishment, and on Wednesday’s the wings can be had for 50 cents each. This is a bargain comparable to Tuesday’s “Buck a Bone” rib deal, but not quite in the same pantheon as Monday’s “Dime a Dog” promotion.
The staircases are adorned with team portraits, which were done annually by the Columbus School of Art and Design. This team had a few memorable names. I mean, who can forget 6’7″ pitcher Dave Pavlas, who turned 52 this past Tuesday? Happy birthday, Dave Pavlas.
A brief foray past the batting cages yielded this bit of info from Samuels: the logos of all 14 International League clubs are presented alphabetically by city…
until they aren’t.
The journey through this subterranean labyrinth was fruitful, as it led us to the light. This is a really beautiful ballpark.
A one-armed raccoon was there to greet us.
Lou Seal was unable to repeat as Mascot Mania champion, however. This time around, a shark is king. (Yes, just as in nature, a seal was defeated by a shark.) But how about this? Last season, Buster Douglas just happened to be at the game when Lou Seal received his championship belt. Photo op!
While Lou Seal was gloating, I took the mound and delivered the worst ceremonial first pitch of my ceremonial first pitch career. Luckily, this seems to be the only photo evidence of my offering, which landed a couple feet in front of the plate and then burst into flames.
As the game began, Santry stayed near the field in order to take pictures of rehabbing starting pitcher Justin Masterson. Samuels and I continued wandering. This concession area is called the “Grand Slam Station.”
City Barbeque, a Columbus-area restaurant, has this in-stadium location.
The Indianapolis Indians and Columbus Clippers were exceedingly familiar with one another by this point, as July 20 marked the 10th consecutive game that the two teams had played against one another over a span of eight days (!!!) The first six games were played in Indianapolis (including a pair of doubleheaders), and the next four in Columbus. The teams ended up splitting this mega-series, 5-5.
After rejecting the opportunity to get a haircut, Samuels and I wandered to the press box. I’m often making hyperbolic statements on this blog, regarding the biggest this and the best that in Minor League Baseball. Well, here’s a new one:
The Columbus Clippers have the quietest press box in Minor League Baseball.
The vast majority of Minor League press boxes I have been to have been lively places, characterized by snarky, mile-a-minute gallows humor banter. But these guys were still, and solemn, and there was nary a sound to be heard. It was like a church. I was afraid to even speak.
And wouldn’t you know it? It was while I was in this soporific sanctum that one of the best defensive plays of the year occurred. I didn’t even see it happen, standing at the back of the press box. I, like you, only saw the replay:
That catch was amazing, one of the best to have ever occurred at a game at which I was in attendance. But not the best, which would be this. (Shout-out to my friend Ted, who missed it because he was waiting in line for a hot dog.)
Tony Barron turns 48 on Sunday, August 17. Happy Birthday, Tony Barron. I will never forget your name.
I will also always need food to survive. So how ’bout some City Barbecue ribs? Word on the street was that they were gluten-free. And who am I to doubt the street?
Ribs, slaw and a decent vantage point. Can’t beat it.
I really enjoyed these ribs, tender and a little crispy on the edges. I would definitely get them again.
For the record:
Also, for the record, the Clippers would like you to know the following information regarding their time at Huntington Park.
Here’s something that you don’t see very often: the Clippers broadcast team of Scott Leo and Ryan Mitchell work in the open air. No booth needed.
Food and beverage can be found in abundance here at the Hall of Fame Club. The bar includes a photo of nearly every player who ever played professional baseball in Columbus, in chronological order.
Joe Santry had rejoined Samuels and I at this point, and he had great stories to tell regarding many of these photos. I wish I had time to relay these tales, but time is at a premium during these dog days of summer. All I can do is refer you to my aforementioned MiLB.com piece and move on. In the offseason, this is a topic I would be happy to re-visit.
But, hey, here are a few pictures presented without context. That’s better than nothing, right?
1884 Columbus Buckeyes:
Old Judge cigarette card of manager Jimmy Williams:
Here, we have memorabilia from the movie A Little Inside, which was filmed at Cooper Stadium. Santry is not a fan of this movie. I doubt that I would be either.
At the center field entrance, one finds this statue of long-time team owner Harold Cooper, who, per Santry, got his start in baseball by wiping the mold off of hot dogs with a vinegar-soaked rag.
My esteemed hosts, Joe Santry and Josh Samuels.
What happened next was like a dream. Samuels and Santry disappeared.
I blinked, only to open my eyes and find myself in a dimly lit corridor…
which led to the field. Oh, and did I mention that my body had been replaced with a hot dog?
Victory was mine.
With the sounds of the bell echoing in my ears, I opened my eyes and found myself back in Biz Blogger mode. My camera was in my hand, and with it I took this photo.
This is a cool way to display the speed of a pitch.
A beautiful Sunday afternoon had turned into a beautiful Sunday evening. Funny how that works.
I think I was feeling a little woozy by this point in the evening. At any rate, the Clippers lost to Indianapolis by a score of 7-5. The 10-game ultra-mega series between the two teams had finally, mercifully, ended.
Maybe everyone was feeling a little woozy at this point, as a post-game run the bases degenerated into a post-game “just do whatever you feel like doing on the field.”
Meanwhile, my next trip begins in just over a week. Here’s the itinerary (an asterisk next to the name means that a designated eater is still needed at that location). Get in touch.
August 22 — Batavia Muckdogs
August 23 — Rochester Red Wings*
August 24 — Jamestown Jammers*
August 25 — Erie SeaWolves*
August 26 — Buffalo Bisons
August 27 — Syracuse Chiefs
August 28 — Auburn Doubledays*
August 29 — Tri-City ValleyCats
August 30 — Hudson Valley Renegades*
August 31 — Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
Introductory paragraphs within this blog forum can sometimes be needlessly circuitous, steeped as they are in obscure references and acute self-consciousness. But not today. Today, we cut to the chase:
What follows is a comprehensive round-up of Harlem Shake videos produced by Minor League teams.
Yes, you’re probably sick of the Harlem Shake at this point. I am too. But let’s take the long view, as historians with an interest in baseball history, viral fads and the intersection of the two will no doubt delight in stumbling upon this post at some at some unknown moment in the distant future. I am doing this for you, future historians! I always am. For it is you who will ensure my legacy.
Plus, you’ve gotta admit — Minor League teams, with their easy access to supply closets full of banana suits and inflatable ponies, make better Harlem Shake videos than most. So here we go! In no particular order, here are two dozen Harlem Shake videos produced by professional baseball teams in possession of a formal affiliation with a Major League club.
Frederick Keys — Apparently a big-headed reincarnation of Francis Scott Key regularly sits in on front office meetings:
Columbus Clippers — Warning! Includes bear-on-frankfurter violence that may be unsettling to younger viewers:
Bowie Baysox — A toothbrush can’t dance? I bristle at such a notion:
Lexington Legends — Mister would you please stop punching that pony? WATCH ON FACEBOOK.
Vancouver Canadians — As if any proof was needed that this was an international phenomenon:
Fort Wayne Tincaps — A solitary pothead gives way to a banana who loves the queen of hearts.
Lake Elsinore Storm — Yes that is an upside-down squirrel hanging from the dugout, and yes he is happy to see you:
Corpus Christi Hooks — Can’t a man bike through the office in peace? WATCH ON MILB.COM
Tulsa Drillers — Hey, no dogs in the swimming pool!
Gwinnett Braves — Team store? More like surreal fever dream store!
New Hampshire Fisher Cats — Fungo and friends “rose” to the occasion:
Lehigh Valley IronPigs — Give peas a chance. WATCH ON MILB.COM
Buffalo Bisons — Vest-wearing gentleman on the right is my favorite individual to appear in any Harlem Shake video:
Charlotte Stone Crabs — What’s to stop the Incredible Hulk from wearing a sombrero?
Fresno Grizzlies — Forget this faddish viral bastardization. Parker knows how to do the REAL Harlem Shake. WATCH ON VINE.
Louisville Bats — This takes place in multiple dimensions simultaneously. It will blow your mind.
Bowling Green Hot Rods — I guess you could say that Axle rose to the occasion.
Delmarva Shorebirds — The Shake so nice they did it twice.
Springfield Cardinals — You know what? This is probably the best one out of all of ’em.
Round Rock Express — All bobblehead version!
Connecticut Tigers — Shout it from the rooftop!
And, finally, there are the State College Spikes. The first Minor League team to post a Harlem Shake video, and the last to be featured in this post:
Two latecomers have entered the fray!
Orem Owlz — Holly, the Owlz pregnant mascot, wisely sat this one out.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Fans of multi-colored crustacean triumvirates rejoice!
And that’s all she wrote, folks. “She” being me, of course. I am a man. A 34-year-old man. A man who is perhaps too old to be providing you with diversions such as the above. But yet I do, and yet I did.
Do not forsake me, future historians! I do not want to believe that this has all been in vain.
For today I would like to draw attention to the “Around the Horn” ticket package, which is being offered by the Cleveland Indians and four of their Minor League affiliates. Here’s how it works:
The Around the Horn Ticket Package has been created to allow local fans the opportunity to enjoy a baseball game at each of the Cleveland Indians affiliated professional baseball venues in the region at a discounted price and with exclusive benefits.
Packages will be sold by the Cleveland Indians and their Northeast Ohio Minor League Affiliates, Akron Aeros, Lake County Captains and Mahoning Valley Scrappers as well as the Columbus Clippers in Central Ohio.
The Indians are one of several big league clubs who in recent years have taken steps to consolidate their Minor League operations, so that affiliates are located as close as possible to the Major League facility. This practice, sometimes called “clustering”, is beneficial for several reasons. It provides the parent club with an increased ability to monitor the farm system, while prospects have much fewer travel hassles after receiving promotions or demotions. And, most importantly for the purposes of this conversation, it gives fans the opportunity to actively root for the entire farm system.
In this particular case, it means that those who live in Ohio’s northeast quadrant can easily experience five levels of Indians baseball (out of six overall, with the lone exception being Class A Advanced Kinston). The “Around the Horn” offer is the first attempt I’ve seen to explicitly make clear the fan benefits of “clustering”, and I hope it’s not the last.
A few other obvious candidates include Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York (both Mets and Yankees), Boston, and Pittsburgh. Click HERE for a list of Minor League teams grouped by MLB affiliation, and start plotting your own organization-specific 2010 itinerary.
In other news…Over the past week, we here at MiLB.com have been continually updating our story on how Minor League teams have been pitching in to help with the Haitian relief efforts. Today, reports have come in from both Albuquerque and Everett on how their efforts fared. Check it out HERE and HERE.
Finally, today’s Gameops.com blog post raises an interesting possibility for Minor League teams: fan-created ad campaigns. Click HERE for more info.
And, apropos of nothing, I’ll close with this excellent Conan O’Brien quote from Friday’s farewell show. Words to live by, in 2010 and beyond:
Please do not be cynical…Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.